Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Okay, Libya and international intervention.  There's enthusiasm for the concept and the situation is, I think, more than grave enough to merit it.  I'm in favour theoretically, provided somebody in authority has some answers to these questions.

I know nothing about public opinion in Libya, beyond the fact that Gaddafi is obviously hated by a vast swathe of the population.  How popular will international intervention be?  I imagine "very", but I don't know whether there's any local animosity towards potential actors.  The French, for instance, have quite a bad rep in many parts of north Africa.  Would an incoming government have greater legitimacy with or without outside assistance?*

Who's going to enforce no-fly-zones or other measures?  I gather the French have some planes in the area, and the Americans could have a carrier there within a few days.  Do we have sufficient resources available and do we seek UN approval, or invoke an international emergency and wing it?

Will international intervention make the Libyan armed forces more or less inclined to turn on Gaddafi?   If Gaddafi digs his heels in and pressure starts to mount for an active support role for the intervening force, what are we prepared to do to get rid of the regime? 

What happens if an intervening force accidentally rubs out a load of innocent people? What happens if we instantly get a worst-case, Black Hawk Down scenario, with dead American pilots being paraded by Gaddafi's forces?  You'd better believe that the Obama admin will be under massive pressure to unleash the maximum smackdown in that eventuality.  

Has anyone planned this one out?  Do we have contingency plans for stabilising a state after a violent round of repression and revolution?

That's enough to be going on with for now, and I think it could be boiled down to Has anyone actually thought this through, or are we still in "Somebody must do something" mode?  

*This is no small quibble - remember, we're not just talking about this week.  Libya and the Libyans will still be there in five years, a hundred years.  Anything planning should include some detailed long term projections.

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