News Editor, The Pendulum
Libyan rebels have recently followed the example of many of their other Middle Eastern neighbors and revolted against an oppressive government. Dominating the news for several weeks, the violent military actions against civilian rebels ordered on behalf of Col. Muammar Gaddafi have been the cause of much heated debate in the Western world: to intervene, or not to intervene?
On March 17, despite arguments that the United Nations has not previously intervened during similar situations, the UN Security Council voted in favor of creating a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gaddafi from attacking civilians from the air.
The resolution also allowed any necessary measures to be taken to protect civilians, resulting in air strikes from the United States.
Brian Digre, professor of history at Elon University, said the UN-sanctioned intervention was a human rights issue and that the United States is not at war.
“The Libyan government was on the verge of suppressing rebels with a great deal of brutality,” he said. “There was cause for humanitarian intervention. It was supported by the Arab League and the United Nations.”
Several nations abstained from the vote to intervene in Libya, including China and Russia. Russia has since criticized the United States’ actions, claiming they have gone too far.
“It’s generally very difficult to get the UN Security Council to sign off on a humanitarian intervention,” said Sean Giovanello, assistant professor of political science. “Both the Russians and the Chinese are not prepared to sign off on anything like that. They don’t like the idea of the international community establishing a precedent that the international community has the right to intervene in sovereign states.”
What Libyan protesters are currently facing is a much different scenario from what was witnessed in Tunisia and Egypt, Digre said. While Egyptians did face some opposition, the turnover of power in these countries was relatively bloodless, he said.
“Tunisia and Egypt had repressive governments but when confronted, the leaders gave way,” he said. “It doesn’t look like the rebels, on their own, have the ability to overthrow Gaddafi.”
President Barack Obama gave a speech Monday, March 28 to inform the American people about the motivation behind intervention.
“Gaddafi declared that he would show ‘no mercy’ to his own people,” Obama said. “We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”
Calling the situation in Libya a “civil war,” Giovanello said he is not sure what will happen, but said the rebels do not seem likely to let the government win.
“I could see it lasting a good amount of time unless Gaddafi decides to leave the country,” he said. “Usually civil wars only end when one side defeats another or there’s an intervention that gets between them.”
Although Libya is on the other side of the world, Giovanello said students, as global citizens, should care about the events that unfold.
“If anything you have military personnel at risk in part of the world and they’re fighting and potentially dying for something the government deems important,” he said. “As citizens, we should care.”