Seek4media: The Overthrow of Gaddafi Has Been Messy and Is Likely to Get Worse

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The overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi has been messy and is likely to get more so. For those used to watching armoured columns streaming in triumphant order across the desert to depose a dictator and pull down his statues, it doesn't look very impressive.

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Seek4media: The Overthrow of Gaddafi Has Been Messy and Is Likely to Get Worse

  1. 1. Seek4media:  The  Overthrow  of  Gaddafi  Has  Been  Messy  and  Is  Likely  to  Get  Worse      The  overthrow  of  Muammar  Gaddafi  has  been  messy  and  is  likely  to  get  more  so.  For  those  used  to  watching  armoured  columns  streaming  in  triumphant  order  across  the  desert  to  depose  a  dictator  and  pull  down  his  statues,  it  doesnt  look  very  impressive.    But  this  is  what  the  future  probably  looks  like.  Better  get  used  to  it.  Like  it  or  not,  the  ramshackle  rebel  army  is,  with  the  support  of  the  Nato-­‐based  coalition,  creating  a  new  way  of  intervening  and  giving  strength  to  a  new  strand  of  international  law.  Farewell  Gladstonian  liberal  intervention  with  its  gunboats;  hello  peoples  liberal  intervention  with  its  Ray-­‐Bans,  T-­‐shirts  and  hastily  converted  pick-­‐ups.  Of  course,  Libya  isnt  over  yet.      The  last  days  of  Gaddafi  could  be  just  as  messy  as  the  long  days  that  led  to  his  downfall.  He  is  more  than  mad  enough  and  self-­‐declared  martyr  enough  to  do  something  foolish  at  the  end.  But  even  if  the  battle  ends  soon  and  cleanly,  the  peace  that  follows  is  likely  to  be  just  as  confused  and  chaotic  as  the  conflict.    How  could  it  be  otherwise?  We  have  intervened  to  prevent  a  massacre  and  let  the  Libyan  people  shape  their  own  peace,  rather  than  to  seek  to  impose  ours  something  which,  by  the  way,  we  ourselves  werent  very  good  at.      So,  as  we  watch  the  National  Transitional  Council  struggle  to  build  a  government  (security  should  be  its  first  priority),  it  would  be  in  order  to  remember  with  humility  that  when  we  tried  to  do  the  same  thing  in  Baghdad  we  didnt  exactly  make  a  roaring  success  of  it  or  in  Kabul  either.  Or,  indeed,  in  many  places  where  we  have  tried  to  create  a  Western  peace  after  a  foreign  conflict.      We  should  now  do  all  that  we  can  to  help  the  rebels  to  bring  about  order  and  government  in  Libya.  But  we  will  need  to  do  so  with  understanding  and  patience.  Better  for  the  mistakes  that  will  inevitably  be  made  to  be  local  ones,  rather  than  our  mistakes  that  they  have  to  pay  for,  as  in  Iraq  and  Afghanistan.      
  2. 2. In  1997,  before  the  Kosovo  war  started,  I  was  in  the  little  Albanian  villages  south  of  Pristina  being  bombarded  by  the  main  battle  units  of  the  Serb  Army.  The  following  day  I  met  one  of  the  Serb  artillery  commanders  and  found  that  he  was  more  worried  about  being  indicted  by  what  was  then  the  infant  Yugoslav  war  crimes  tribunal  than  he  was  of  Natos  bombs.      The  point  about  law  is  that  it  exists  not  just  to  deliver  justice  after  the  event  but  also  to  govern  behaviour  beforehand.  After  Kosovo,  the  world  summit  of  2005  gave  form  to  a  new  international  legal  concept:  the  responsibility  to  protect  (R2P  for  short).  This  asserted  that,  under  international  law,  there  ought  to  be  an  obligation  (note  "ought"  and  "obligation")  on  a  government  to  protect  its  people,  not  abuse  them.  Many  of  us  thought  R2P  would  never  be  more  than  a  piece  of  well-­‐meaning  rhetoric.  But  Libya  has  given  R2P  both  form  and  precedent.      How  R2P  is  carried  forward  post  Libya  will  also  not  be  smooth  or  free  of  contradictions.  R2P  will  be  applied  with  force  in  places  where  it  can  be  Libya  for  example;  but  not  be  so  applied  in  others,  where  it  cant  be  Syria  probably.  But  then  this  was  true  of  classic  liberal  interventionism  too.      International  law  does  not  spring  from  a  single  pen  or  a  single  piece  of  paper;  it  evolves  over  time  confusingly,  inelegantly  and  often  in  contradictory  fashion.  Libya  has  placed  us  slap-­‐bang  in  the  middle  of  that  messy  process.      Many  of  us,  me  included,  feared  that,  after  the  Iraq  debacle,  the  multilateral  system  might  never  be  able  to  be  used  again  for  good  ends.  But  it  has  been  and  triumphantly.    Seek4media  is  an  independent  voice  on  the  web.  We  report  todays  news  is  tomorrow’s  headlines  responsibly  and  truthfully  so  that  readers  can  improve  their  own  lives  and  increase  their  understanding  and  respect  for  their  neighbors  next  door  and  around  the  globe.  In  our  approach  and  in  our  content,  we  uphold  universal  human  values,  rights,  and  freedoms.  We  are  a  business  that  puts  our  readers  interests  first,  in  all  that  we  do.        

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