The West didn’t intervene in the peaceful uprising in Tunisia or Egypt, but did intervene when violence flared between Benghazi and Tripoli. This is a dangerous message to send the world: that peaceful protest will be ignored, but violence will be supported.
The West portrays the intervention as a humanitarian mission to defend the democracy protesters against a violent dictator, but the truth is different. On the first day of the uprising, mobs set fire to police stations across the country and called for “the end of the regime” rather than the introduction of democracy. It was always a tribal uprising rather than a democratic movement.
At this point, it’s important not to underestimate the incompetence of the Qaddafi regime. WorldAudit.org places this regime at the bottom of the rankings for human rights and democracy, and 119th out of 150 for corruption.
However, Qaddafi has effectively renounced terror, was no threat to the west, had opened up his weapon development facilities to inspection, and established relations with the west. In reward for this, he was attacked.
The precedent of our dealings with this regime will be deeply uncomfortable for any dictator. Our military intervention makes it very clear that renouncing terrorism and establishing relations with the west is no guarantee of security. Much the opposite, the moment an uprising occurred in Libya, the West began lobbying the world for an attack against the regime.
Iran, Syria, North Korea and Burma. Each of these regimes will have seen that engaging in diplomacy results not in protection, but in attack. The Libya intervention will be a disincentive to these regimes to follow the path we have been urging. For them, there is more security in isolation than there is in relations. For them, continuing with weapons building programs is a better policy for their own security than ending weapons building programs. For them, allowing inspectors into the country does not make it less likely that they will be attacked by the west; it makes it more likely that they will be attacked by the west.
As for Libya, if we are lucky, Tripoli will turn on Qaddafi. Even with the recent success of the rebels to take Quaddafi’s hometown of Sirte in the wake of our air-strikes, they are not capable of taking Tripoli. The only way that Qaddafi will be removed is by his own people. Without this, the country will likely be partitioned and a future war will be almost certain.
My personal view is that Gaddafi’s regime will fall and Tripoli will negotiate a settlement with Benghazi. The West will have considerable influence over the shape of the new government, due to our support for the rebels. It is therefore likely that we will be able to use this influence to shape the country into a future democracy.
But there is no guarantee of any of this.
The only guarantee is that dictatorships around the world will have observed these events and recognised that dealing with the west is the most dangerous policy.
The precedent of our actions is our greatest folly.