With regard to your editorial, ‘The powers at war’ (SN, Mar 23), President Obama does not want the US to become embroiled in another Middle East war in an Islamic state. As it is, the US is stretched thin in Afghanistan and Iraq and the American public does not have an appetite for more foreign involvements.
Thus, Obama has been wary about the US taking the lead in moving the UN or NATO or the Arab League to seek preventive actions to protect civilians from Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s forces killing people indiscriminately. It was France and the UK that took the lead in initiating discussions at NATO and at the Security Council (SC) of the UN to stop Gaddafi from massacring his own people.
And at any rate, the President would have recognized that any move by the US at the UN would be countered by vetoes from Russia and China, both of which are wary of US hegemonic designs on the Middle East and the perceived control of Arab energy. Thus, the President allowed the French and British to take the lead with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton giving public backing to their plan. As a student of American foreign policy, the President would have given the assurance of America’s backing in private conversations with his NATO allies.
I had noted in previous letters that any request to take military action against Gaddafi would be met by opposition from Russia and China, both allies of his. Both major powers would have to buy in to any actions against Libya and this would have to be done in quiet, behind the scenes agreement. Both major powers could have blocked UN action against Gaddafi’s forces and I had expected such moves when the matter was brought for a vote last Thursday.
But they abstained. Anyone who studies international politics and the workings of the SC, would know that public agreements (resolutions) are usually agreed behind closed doors among the Big Five powers before they show agreement on the open floor. There is usually an informal agreement among them on what actions will be allowed and how far military action can go in most resolutions. Otherwise, the veto is invoked. In this case, France, Britain and the US would have informally agreed to limited actions against Gaddafi in order to get Russian and Chinese tacit backing.
And clearly, regime or leadership change does not appear to be part of the agreement. In fact, both China and Russia have begun condemning the actions of the western powers calling on them to stop the bombing. Thus, it is unlikely that the western allies will go all the way in toppling Gaddafi.
Also, it will be difficult to justify the toppling of the Libyan tyrant when so many other tyrants, allies of the US, France and Britain, are unleashing violence against pro-democracy protesters.
Gaddafi should go, but so should all the other Middle Eastern leaders who have denied their people full democratic rights – to choose their own government, enjoy freedom of expression and religion, and end absolute monarchy.
In this democratic age, regime change ushering in democracy throughout the region would not be a bad outcome. But as a serious student of international relations and understanding the concept of political realism, the West does not desire such an outcome for it will not serve their interest.