First Libya's Col. Gaddafi unleashed a military onslaught against the democratic struggle of his own people, firing tank and artillery shells into demonstrations in the streets of Libya's cities. Now, after pressing for United Nations authorization, the U.S., Britain and France have begun an open-ended air war in Libya, using cruise missiles, bombers and fighter jets, with the stated aim of protecting Libyan civilians. It is a very disturbing picture.
The UN resolution comes under the umbrella of protecting civilians but there are other interests at play. Libya is oil-rich and much of that oil winds up in European markets. Global oil politics are involved here.
The sight of Britain and France, former colonial powers in Africa, now bombing this North African country in the name of democracy should raise warning signs for all of us. President Obama has repeatedly stated his intention to turn away from the military-might posture of previous U.S. administrations. Yet, in the name of humanitarian and democratic concerns, he has joined the old colonial powers in a dangerous military venture, setting a bad precedent for further U.S. military interventions.
What is the end game? What efforts are being made to arrange a real ceasefire, based on protection of Libya's democratic forces? A face-saving negotiated exit for Gaddafi? Both China and Russia abstained from the UN vote and are increasingly criticizing the U.S.-UK-French military actions. Are efforts being made to involve these major world powers, and others, in achieving a peaceful end to this crisis, one that also advances the interests of the Libyan people?
Some say it's hypocritical for us to be firing missiles on Libya but not Bahrain or Yemen, where dictators are crushing democracy movements. But we don't want our government to fire missiles there either!
President Obama was right in resisting warhawks' calls for early military intervention in Libya. He needs to stand up against them once again, by moving toward a quick cease-fire. Surely the United States can work with other world leaders to defend and protect the Libyan people with the vast economic and diplomatic powers it possesses. This, along with getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan, is the way to move toward establishing U.S. leadership as a beacon for democracy, peace and social justice.
Photo: An F-16 jet fighter flies over the NATO airbase in Aviano, Italy, last Sunday.(AP/Luca Bruno)