Libya ceasefire, not another endless war

This article was originally published May 17, 2011. We are reprinting it now as a House vote on the Libyan conflict looms.

It seems like every time I look at the New York Times or Washington Post, an article appears suggesting that the rebel forces in Libya are making progress. But upon reading the article I can’t help thinking that the progress is more a mirage than a reality.

As far as I can see, the war in Libya is a stalemate.

The only option that makes any sense in these circumstances is a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement that hopefully brings both peace and democratic openings to the Libyan people.

Last week United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a call for an immediate ceasefire. He said that he would send a special envoy to Tripoli “as soon as possible.”

This is a welcome development.

From some news reports it appears that the Gaddafi government is ready to enter into talks with its opponents.

The same can’t be said about the opposition or its NATO supporters. The opposition seems to believe it can oust Gaddafi with a continued NATO air assault – despite the growing potential for terrible civilian casualties. For NATO, regime change, from all indications, remains the objective.

The danger in this situation is that steps will be taken to escalate the fighting in order to break the impasse.

Three options are available. NATO could commit ground forces, which is very unlikely. It could intensify the bombing attacks, which is already happening. And finally it could undertake a large-scale effort to train and arm the anti-Gaddafi movement.

This is a prescription for a long, drawn out war. It is hard to see how this is in the interest of the Libyan people or their understandable desire for democratic renewal.

Nevertheless, it could well be the option pursued.

Gaddifi, after all, is considered to be an unreliable steward of oil interests and a loose cannon in a region and on a continent whose geopolitical and geo-economic value to the powerful imperial states – first and foremost the U.S. – is inestimable.

And this is likely to remain so as long as the economies of the world are dependent on the oil that this part of the world is so rich in.

But are unending wars and occupations what we want in this region? Is that the best way to make us safe and keep the oil flowing? Is it the best way for peace and democracy to take root in the Middle East?

The answer, obviously, is no.

Two occupations – one hopefully winding down, one that should wind down – as well as an undefined “war on terror” and a seemingly endless conflict between Israeli government intransigence and the Palestinian struggle for statehood – all these have brought neither stability nor peace nor democracy to this region, nor have they made the world any safer.

A ceasefire and negotiated resolution of the conflict in Libya along with a pullout of troops in Afghanistan, a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and an end to the military “war on terror,” would immeasurably help Libya and the rest of the Middle East become a new birthplace for peace, democracy, stability, and independent development.

Photo: A U.S. guided missile destroyer, part of the U.S. Africa Command task forces, launches a Tomahawk missile against Libya, March 19. DoD photo by Interior Communications Electrician Fireman Roderick Eubanks, U.S. Navy/Released 




Sam Webb
Sam Webb

Sam Webb is a long-time writer living in New York. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine.