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Intervention in Libya May Lead to More Deaths, Not Fewer

By Stephen Gowans | What’s Left? | March 18, 2011

In explaining why his government supported the UN Security Council resolution authorizing all necessary measures to protect Libyan civilians, US president Barack Obama explained: “The U.S. doesn’t want a war. But we want to prevent a slaughter.”

Noble sentiments, but the Security Council resolution could lead to more deaths, not fewer.

Libyan government forces were well on their way to defeating the rebel forces (which may have been the trigger for the resolution.) Had they done so, the conflict would have ended – at least for now.

By authorizing military intervention, the Security Council is seeking to weaken Qaddafi’s forces. In the meantime, arms and other assistance, provided to the rebels by Egypt and other countries, will strengthen the opposition side.

An imbalanced conflict – where weak rebel forces now face stronger government forces—will be transformed into a more evenly balanced one. The government’s wings will be clipped and the opposition will become more robust.

Intervention may prevent a slaughter of rebel forces, but it could lead to a prolonged civil war, with more bodies piling up than would have, had the conflict been allowed to quickly culminate in a resolution. Among the corpses will be the civilian collateral damage that Western bombers are so proficient at producing.

Another possible outcome (perhaps more likely) is that Western military intervention tips the scales overwhelmingly in the rebels’ favor. Others have noted the similarities with Kosovo, where NATO signed on as the KLA’s air force in the guerrilla army’s fight with Serb forces. This time, however, the intervention has UN authorization, though whether it does or doesn’t hardly makes a difference. This one is no more defensible than the Kosovo intervention and is no less motivated by Western geo-political and elite economic interests.

Membership has its privileges

Meanwhile, the firing of live ammunition at protesters by Bahraini forces, backed by Saudi troops and tanks, has drawn no calls for all necessary measures to protect Bahraini citizens. There haven’t even been calls for mild measures. The best Washington can do is “express distress” and urge “the government (in Bahrain) to negotiate with the opposition and pursue change.”

Why the double standard?

As the New York Time’s Helene Cooper and Mark Landler explain, “Bahrain is an American ally. The Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based here and the Khalifa royal family has warm relations with Washington.”

Libya, of course, is neither a US ally (though it has in recent years cooperated with Washington on some matters), isn’t the site of US military bases, and its leader hasn’t had warm relations with Washington.

Had any of these things been true, we can take it that Qaddafi would now be free to slaughter as many Libyans as he pleased (though Washington would publically profess distress, while sitting on its hands.)

For bloodthirsty leaders, membership in the club of US allies has its privileges. The same can’t be said for the people who live under them.

March 18, 2011 - Posted by | Militarism

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