Leading article: The West must act quickly to save Libya from Gaddafi

Share
Related Topics

Iraq, the Balkans, Zimbabwe and now Libya.

Once again the world faces the dilemma: how to halt a ruthless tyrant, entrenched in power for decades, who is slaughtering his own people to survive. Some might say this is an internal Libyan matter, in which outsiders should not intervene. But our own self-interest as well as basic humanitarian arguments demand that we act, at once. So what should be done – and by whom?

In an ideal universe, the United Nations Security Council would lead the way with swift and comprehensive sanctions that would remain in place until the Gaddafi regime was gone. But the nature of the UN beast makes that unlikely. In practice, it is up to the major Western powers: the US of course – but in equal measure Europe, even more directly affected by the unfolding chaos on the southern edge of the Mediterranean.

Some steps are self-evident. They include a freeze on assets held abroad by Gaddafi and his henchmen, a ban on foreign travel, and steps to exclude Libya from the global financial system. Europe, the most obvious destination for many Libyan refugees, must be prepared to receive them temporarily, and help to establish sanctuaries inside Libya, or across the Egyptian and Tunisian borders. The US is further from the scene of Gaddafi's crimes, but with its massive intelligence and national security resources, can play a vital part.

What is essential is that the major powers act as one, immediately and unequivocally. They must not only spell out in unmistakable terms that the actions already taken by the regime are unacceptable. They must explicitly demand regime change, and declare that the current government has committed crimes against humanity that will be punished in the International Criminal Court.

This is not simply the least that the brave opponents of an odious tyrant deserve. By now Gaddafi and his diehard allies are surely too stained with blood to do anything but continue with repression. If this dictator is toppled, the niceties of the ICC, one suspects, will prove superfluous; far more likely is summary justice of the kind meted out to Mussolini or Ceausescu. But that is for later. The sterner the words now from the West, the more likely that others around Gaddafi might be persuaded to defect, bringing closer the regime's downfall, and reducing the loss of life.

The last option is direct military intervention. The precedents are mixed. The US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq proved to be a disaster. More promising is the Kosovo model of 1999, where aerial bombardment by Nato broke Milosevic's grip on Serbia's breakaway province. But a repeat would risk making the Western powers the arbiters of Libyan internal politics, post-Gaddafi. The Iraq experience suggests that would not be a happy process. At the very least, however, the US, Britain, France and other involved powers such as Italy should swiftly impose a no-fly zone, of the kind used pre-2003 to protect the Iraqi Kurds and the Marsh Arabs from the depredations of Saddam Hussein, with considerable success.

What matters most is speed. This is no time to worry about Libyan oil, or the nature of the regime that will follow. The longer Europe and the US dither, the more lives will be lost.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

£8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Police officers attempt to stop illegal migrants from jumping onto trucks headed for Britain in the northeastern French port of Calais on October 29, 2014  

Tighter security in Calais won’t solve the problem

Nigel Morris
 

Football needs its Martin Luther moment, and soon

Boyd Tonkin
US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines