Finally, the UN steps in- but is it too little, too late?

I was, yesterday, poised to construct an article pointing out the absence of US intervention, or at least appetite for intervention, regarding the current crisis in Libya. This time last night however, the Security Council of the United Nations passed a resolution that created a no fly zone over the embattled nation. Does this change anything however? Is it enough? Upon closer analysis of the international decision, would an article such as the one I came close to creating have retained meaning and accuracy?
Stolen in a shameless fashion from leftfootforward

Now is not really the time for musing over the precise effectiveness of such measures- and it’s probably for the best that I give you the short answers to these questions first; yes, the measures do change everything. Yes, the sanctions placed on the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya regime to protect the burgeoning democratic Libyan Republic are, for the moment and for the foreseeable future, enough. Ultimately then, no, my commentary that came ever so close to existence would have been outdated and inaccurate. For the most part.

What, you didn’t think I would admit to being completely presumptuous about an issue this important, did you? Guilty of exaggerated snap judgements I may be; unwarrantedly or impertinently bold I am not.

As for the question regarding any actual change in the situation, an altering in what had become a grim status quo, involving revolutionaries being slaughtered and pushed back by brutal Gaddafi offences, has already occurred- a ceasefire order has recently been issued to all pro-regime forces. For a decision alone to be so instantly respected without initial immediate enforcement is intriguing, and if this is the kind of reaction what is essentially ‘tough talking’ can illicit, sans any supporting foreign exertion, then the UN’s will physically being acted out will be sure to have the desired effect.

You won’t often find me extolling the virtues of our current Prime Minister’s statements, but in this instance, he is quite right- Gaddafi should indeed be judged by ‘his actions, not his words’. At time of writing, the ceasefire is in essence just that, an order. It remains to be seen whether or not regime forces obey it, and whether or not, truthfully, such an order has actually been communicated. As a matter of fact, presently, despite the command, violence appears to be resuming in some areas of the region regardless.

Second question- does the content of the resolution go far enough? When combined with the fact that Gaddafi would lose many of his international funders and supporters if he violates any sort of UN directive (many of which are vital to his continued reign) the knee-jerk instruction to his forces indicates that yes, the Mad Dog of Libya himself considers it to be ‘enough’. The question itself is somewhat redundant now however. US president Barack Obama has delivered an ultimatum to Gaddafi, that, while rather ominous in some regards, blatantly threatens the dictator with force if he does not comply with the UN. The sanction package is rather  nicely both supplemented and exceeded by the president’s wise choice of words.

So the final question I posed- is criticism of the level of US willingness to protect innocents (and my nipped-in-the-bud article) still valid, has partly been answered by this. Obama’s strong declarations represent a reinforcement of American authority and dedication to defending people. Here, though, comes the justification for the aforementioned ‘for the most part’ remark. Irrespective of support for UN demands and powerful warnings made by the head of state, America has yet to properly, passionately, spiritually and materially commit. Numerous unofficial sources out there mention a lack of both public and governmental ‘keenness’ for full scale involvement in the matter on any level. While this may have something to do with the cost of maintaining what the UN plans detail, such reports are disturbing to say the least. They are backed up by a distinct missing USAF element in the collection of international aircraft en route to Libya at time of writing. While the British and French airforces make preparations, despite the Americans maintaining a significant presence at the NATO base of operations on nearby Sicily, no action appears to be in motion. It is a simple fact that without the military might of the USA behind it, a no fly zone or any measure like it is nothing more than a dream. Hopefully this will change in the coming hours.

While the situation is still in a state of flux, it is safe to remain optimistic for the time being, and to put faith in the UN resolution. As long as America, to be blunt, ‘gets its act together’ in supporting the international effort, there is apparently a glimmer of hope for the rebels of Benghazi, and of course, of the entire of the Libyan nation.

I leave you with the official line of our party regarding events as of 18 March 2011 16:54:56 GMT, conveyed by Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander MP.


“As you will have no doubt have seen, last night the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution on Libya.

I wanted to write to you at the earliest opportunity to let you know Labour’s position as Ed Miliband set out in the House of Commons this morning.

Any decision to commit British armed forces is a grave and serious one and must be based on a clear and compelling case.

In this instance it is based on the clear evidence of Colonel Gaddafi brutalising his own people in response to their demand for democratic change.

It is action backed in the region, most importantly in the clear resolution of the Arab League. And it is backed now by a legal mandate from the United Nations.

The resolution aims to prevent the slaughter of the people of Benghazi.

It authorises force to protect the civilian population in Libya and establish a no-fly zone, while at the same time making clear there is no mandate and no appetite for a “foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory”.

Of course the responsibility for this crisis rests squarely with the Gaddafi Regime, but by this Resolution the United Nations has now placed a responsibility on its members to act to protect the Libyan people.

Next week, the House of Commons will vote on the deployment of British military force as our contribution to this international effort.

Labour will support that decision by the Government. No one – not Ed Miliband, Jim Murphy, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, myself as Shadow Foreign Secretary, or the Shadow Cabinet – takes this decision lightly.

We have been ready to criticise the Government when they have been slow off the mark evacuating British nationals from Libya and I have asked tough questions of the Foreign Secretary about the unsuccessful mission to contact opposition forces in Benghazi.

But on the question of military action, Labour has been clear from the outset that all options should be on the table, given the record of the Gaddafi regime.

And today, Ed Miliband said in a debate in the House of Commons “it would be quite wrong given what is happening in Libya for us to stand by and do nothing”.

Already, today the Gaddafi regime have suggested they will implement an immediate ceasefire, but this regime must be judged on its deeds and not simply its words.

Tomorrow in Paris leaders from Europe and across the Arab world will discuss the way ahead in light of the Security Council Resolution.

The situation remains fluid. I will endeavour to provide more information to Labour members who I know will have deep concerns not only for the people of Libya, but for our own armed forces personnel and the future of the wider region. If you would like to read the UN Security Council Resolution, it is available here.

As Ed said in the Commons, in the days ahead, as befits the Official Opposition, we will support this mission to protect civilian lives, while asking the questions of the Government that the British public would expect us to, and making clear our support for the Armed Forces in the difficult days ahead.”


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