Responsibility to Protect: A moral case for the U.S and its allies in Libya

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Because somebody has to stand up against tyranny and oppressive governments, I disagree with the several African leaders who have parochially condemned the international military coalition aimed at deterring Muammar Gaddafi’s forces and mercenaries who are violently crushing civil protests against an iron-fisted, corrupt and tyrannical regime in Libya. Agreed, military intervention has its pitfalls, but the chaotic international system needs the services of physical security, commercial regulation, financial stability and legal alternative in a backdrop of universal human rights.

While the leaders of Uganda, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe raise legitimate concerns about U.S-led air-strikes in Libya, they fail to admit or recognize the need for an international system that checks and balances governments whilst upholding the 1948 universal declaration of human rights. The African leaders criticized the coalition air strikes against Gaddafi’s strongholds, suggesting they were part of a “regime-change doctrine”, they accused the West of double standards, saying the conflict is really about control of Libya’s oil wealth, and they have rejected any foreign intervention, whatever its form.

While the concerns are genuine, especially as Bahrain, Yemen and Ivory Coast remain volatile given the several political paradigms needed to be considered, these leaders fail to address the fact that the international system needs some level of policing, and right now only the United Nations, the United States and its Western allies can offer such a burdensome service. Granted, the American appetite for oil is questionable and its interests – as would any nation in its position are mandatory, its services along with those of its Western allies; in their efforts to enforce, maintain, and uphold basic human rights and its indispensable stabilizing power cannot be ignored. Admittedly there have been failures, but there have also been successes.

As observed, the peaceful protest that began in Libya against Gaddafi’s regime soon turned into a civil war as Gaddafi hired mercenaries, and employed his forces to wipe out those who had risen against him. Land and air attacks ordered by Gaddafi on protesters constituted crimes against humanity. Dialogues, sanctions and diplomacy failed to tame the erratic leader.

In 1994, 1995 and 2002 the international community suffered attacks on its morality, ethics and integrity for standing by during human atrocities in Rwanda, Srebrenica and Darfur. In 2011, the international community led by the U.S has taken a difficult approach after much deliberation in line with The International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect Project which created the new international security and human rights norm to address the international community’s failure to prevent and stop genocides, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Michael Mandelbaum, professor of American foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, pulled aside the curtain of diplomatic civility to expose the crude and obvious reality that everyone prefers to ignore, at least in public in an article published in a New York Times article in 2006: “The case for Goliath.”

Mandelbaum states that the network of military alliances (like NATO) and trade pacts (like the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and international organizations (like the United Nations and World Bank and Group of 8) that the United States was mainly responsible for has become an American-led global management system that has kept the world a somewhat decent shape as it is familiar, inclusive and fairly unobtrusive.

Agreed, this international system is silhouetted to operate to American comfort and profit, while securing compliance by sharing security and prosperity with others. Without it, however, the world could arguably be worse off. Many experts agree that there is no convincing alternative to the American role as linchpin and guarantor of the global system. Mandelbaum argues that nobody else has the political will, the military and economic thump and the ability to generate sufficient international consent.

After 42 years of dictatorship, Libyans have risen up against a tyrant. Rather than respect the will of the people, Gaddafi turned against his very own with violence and disregard, threatening the elements that lie beneath the universal declaration of human rights. African leaders who are criticizing the international coalition against a regime that has failed to see that its people must always come before a single leader are out of place especially when their arguments offer no feasible solvency and regard for a world order. Leaders can’t be allowed to do as they please especially when dialogue and sanctions fail.

The African Union, which has Gaddafi as its biggest financial contributor has also called for an end to the military intervention in Libya. But the United Nations (UN) Security Council should be powerful enough to take immediate action after exhausting every other diplomatic means, to protect populations at grave risk of mass atrocities in Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Yemen, Bahrain, and in any part of the world.

Mandelbaum in his no-hold-barred analysis of the international system and the need for a policing unit argues that three things could happen if the U.S-led international police force gave up its role: “They [Leader’s antagonizing the U.S role in enforcing a world order] will not pay for it; they will continue to criticize it; and they will miss it when it is gone.”

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