Jackson Doughart
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NATO should depose Gadhafi

The Charlottetown Guardian, 05 March 2011

Over the last two weeks, the world has watched with intent as mass uprisings have challenged the rule of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. Gadhafi is currently the world’s longest-serving leader, having seized power in a 1969 coup d’état, and is the third despot in North Africa to find his regime under siege in 2011, as Tunisia and Egypt previously forced their autocratic leaders from power.

While attempts have been made to control dissenters in several Arab countries, Gadhafi has taken the unprecedented step of ordering air strikes against protesters in Libya, particularly in the region surrounding the capital city of Tripoli, which remains under the control of pro- Gadhafi forces, including large numbers of foreign mercenaries. These raids and other methods of violent suppression, including open fire on unarmed civilians, have resulted in thousands of deaths and casualties.

These developments should be of particular concern to the international community, given Libya’s extensive resume of human-rights abuses and Gadhafi’s willingness to use violence to quell his dissenters. While the pure kleptocrats in Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia eventually surrendered to widespread protests, it is difficult to believe that Gadhafi, who is often mocked for his capricious and eccentric behaviour, will relinquish power and retire in exile.

For the same reason, it is also necessary to point out that tension in some Arab countries may lead to internal reforms, which may in turn keep the existing regimes in power. This has already happened in Jordan, where King Abdullah II dismissed the prime minister and introduced a new government. However, Gadhafi’s insistence on maintaining absolute rule at all cost has rendered such an endeavour impossible. While the future of the country is uncertain, it is clear that there are no longer any realistic prospects for the Gadhafi regime in Libya. Doubtless the period leading up to the fall of Gadhafi will be marked by unspeakable violence and human-rights violations, resulting in even more unnecessary civilian deaths.

These considerations justify international intervention by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an intergovernmental military alliance of which both Canada and the United States are members. NATO forces should invade Libya, depose Gadhafi, and move him to The Hague to be tried before the International Criminal Court for his use of heavy weaponry against his own population.

In some respects, this case is analogous to the NATO bombing campaigns in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 and in Serbia and Montenegro during the 1999 Kosovo War. In the latter case, NATO intervention forced Serbian troops to withdraw from Kosovo, where such troops were later found to be responsible for crimes against humanity. Later, the president of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, was captured and sent to the International Criminal Court to stand trial.

The NATO intervention in the Balkans established a precedent that unilateral military intervention is permissible without the consent of the United Nations Security Council. This is important because, as was the case in 1999, it appears as though Russia would veto a Security Council resolution supporting such a mission. Russia has already condemned the actions of the pro-Gadhafi forces, though it has refused to support the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, which would prevent further air strikes against civilians.

In addition to his violent means of suppression against protesters, Colonel Gadhafi’s extensive record of criminal behaviour as a statesman should immediately disqualify him from any favours from the international community. We must remember his direct involvement in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, his harbouring of international terrorists for decades and the nuclear weapons program which he abandoned in 2003 amid fears that his regime would succumb to the same fate as the Ba'athists in Iraq.

While deep-seated problems such as income disparity and social unrest will certainly be challenges for the successor regime in Libya, the dire humanitarian crisis caused by this lunatic and criminal is immediate and cannot be met with reservation by the international community and especially by the United States, whose tepid response to this conflict has been embarrassing. It is imperative that the citizens of Libya be allowed to move on to develop their own political institutions and civil society for themselves in a post- Gadhafi period, for which they should have unequivocal support.

Jackson Doughart jdoughart (at) gmail (dot) com