Friday, March 18, 2011

When hypocrisy and realism meet: the UN Security council finally votes on Libya

The mountain eventually gave birth, and if it was much bigger than a Mouse it certainly was not yet a Lion....

The Security Council finally voted to establish a no fly zone over Libya (and that delay is the mousy part of the announcement.  But on the other hand it had a rather free ranging clause to allow any UN member to do whatever it takes to protect civilians (the tiger part of the deal).  Even perhaps too late the urgency of the measure was greeted ecstatically by Benghazi as Qaddafi is about to ravage them.  Let's react quickly to the late but good news of resolution 1973:

Tonight in Benghazi.  France future reward?
- I suppose that for all of its misgivings the US must have been participating to the French and British preparations so some kind of meaningful action should take place soon, very soon maybe, as soon as within a few hours even if it is only dropping some bomb somewhere in front of the Qaddafi mercenaries on their way to Benghazi.  Otherwise, why still push such a measure?

- Even if delayed, for once things were done properly: we had to wait for an Arab League endorsement until eventually the UN voted on it.  On practical terms this means that there is no propagandistic effect that Qaddafi can claim, and even less for collateral creeps like Chavez.  As a side bonus for us in Venezuela watching a Chavez salivating at the UN delays while thinking over his possible future repression plans, any word he utters against that resolution is going to put him even faster in the ranks of rogue states, with the painful isolation that will crush his ego.  The more so that Colombia voted for the resolution, driving a likely consequential wedge in South American politics and the all but still born UNASUR as Brazil abdicated its leading role by abstaining itself.

- Speaking of abstention.  The ones of Russia and China were expected.  I am pretty sure that they tried their best to weigh on Qaddafi but realized that the man was quite mad.  They did not want to be blamed for a Benghazi blood bath and, well, if France and Britain really want to send their boys, so be it.  In other words, an experienced diplomatic game by these two countries even if quite unsavory for most of us.  Veto power is usually used with more restraint than what people think it is.

-  Which bring us to the other abstainers for which there are only sorry excuses.  For Germany, I will say that they simply did not want to pay for it, period.  They would have anyway once a million or two Libyans run for their lives across borders, but after Ireland, Greece, and perhaps Portugal, Spain and Italy, well, the mood in Berlin is for closed wallets and fuck them all (praying secretly for the best success of the guys across the Rhine of course).

- India and Brazil on the other hand have really no excuse and can actually be qualified as bitter disappointment.  After all, no one was expecting them to chip in, and both are candidates to a permanent seat in the security council.  But as far as I am concerned, everyday that goes by Brazil proves more and more that it is unfit for such an honor.  After years of supporting Chavez, the Honduras blunder, the failure to dynamize UNASUR, that vote confirms that Lula has indeed wrecked the best judgment of once sophisticated Brazilian career diplomats.  Because I am convinced that it was not really a Roussef decision: after supporting the defense of Muslim prosecuted women and she will bail out on Libya?  I wonder what happened at Planalto.  Let's be frank, from me to you, if Brazil was not going to vote YES it should have voted a more responsible NO rather than a stupid abstention that only China and Russia could manage and be praised for it!  Dear Dilma: leadership is built on leading or taking a principled stand when you cannot lead; today you did not even manage to stay out of the way!

-  As for India.  Well, I do not follow it as I used to, in pre Chavez years when I had time on my hands.  But I have a hard time to see where is India's gain in an abstention.  Pacifying extremist Hindus?  Alienating further radical Muslims?  Falling for Qaddafi promises of an exclusive for oil, as if the West would allow such an exclusivity?

-  What next?  Your guess is as good as mine.  The resolution already includes travel prohibition and Libyan assets seizures.  It mentions by name those recruiting mercenaries in the Sahel to kill Benghazi people.  Clearly there are more than bombs in the objective and the hope is that the mercenary surroundings of Qaddafi might realize that the long term is not in their favor even if they torch Benghazi.  That is, what good it is to get all that cash from the crazed tyrant if you are going to have to enjoy it in Libya under his regime of terror, knowing that most Libyan will try to slip arsenic in your tea?  The UN is on their game!  And The Hague too.   That is the real deterrent of that measure, more important than bombing the criminal troops or boosting rebels morale for which both it might be too late.  Let's see if it will work.....

PS: special praise for the unambiguous and to the point support of the resolution by Bosnia (they know, they went through that disaster), Colombia and Portugal, a decided support that makes look even more morally bankrupt certain abstentions and grudging supports.


  1. I fail to see anyone tell me that the rebels will be less radically Islamicist than Gadhaffi. Why should foreign countries want to be involved at all?

  2. United

    This has nothing to do with the situation, besides being a question impossible to answer.

  3. So maybe the UN's resolution was effective:

  4. On Brazil: My intuition and experience observing this country tells me that perhaps they are trying to raise their profile as an important power by thwarting the West.

    Both Lula and Delma come from leftist traditions in which your level of independence and strength is determined by how much you stand up to or take opposing positions on what the US and the West in general want.

    Although Brazil is justified in its demand for a permanent security council seat,we cannot expect much that is positive to come from this once it obtains it.It is likely to play the spoiler like it has been doing up til now.

    As for Germany, I doubt finance is the only reason for their abstention.I think they want to maintain their pacifist image, and are fearful.Fearful conformity to the safety of their own country is paramount to them.

    Now that Qaddafi controls most of the country, even if he stops his efforts to totally eradicate the opposition, it is still going to be hard to turn back all the gains he has made recently.So it is still not clear how positive an outcome we can expect from all this.

  5. boca condo king4:03 PM

    Gadaffi's cease fire move is a very smart one.

    People seem to forget, that Gadaffi just like Charlie Sheen may be crazy, but crazy does not equal stupid.

  6. 1979 Boat People5:01 PM

    Qaddafy is pissing in his pants after the UN resolution yesterday.

  7. The cease fire announcement is smoke and mirrors, there are reports of intense fighting in Misrata.

  8. Daniel,

    Good analysis of the world-wide diplomatic game. I think you are pretty close on target.

    I would also note, that for someone who is decidedly anti-military, you are sounding remarkably hawkish right now.

  9. Daniel: The reason I continue to read your blog above all others is that I feel so attuned emotionally to your views - at least on international geopolitical matters.
    'Hawkish' is a rather absurd word to describe this post. Rather, I would visualize a dove that was about to get squished due to it's extreme passivity just able to get the energy in time to rise up and flutter away. The feeble, cowardly irresolute UN has finally acted at the last moment of an impending catastrophe - and look how immediate the effect.
    Every one of the abstainers deserve their own little places in hell, and I think you give each more or less its proper due. I must say the one that annoys me most of all is Germany. I'm not sure whether a pacifist carryover effect from sixty five years ago is the principle reason, but if so they should long ago have woken up and started living in the twenty first century. Economically they are reaping less grief from the present crisis than any other western nation. It's high time they started pulling their weight militarily, and taking their burden of responsibility and sacrifice.

  10. Lemmy Caution2:11 AM

    Am german and really annoyed about the passive position of our Government.
    We've sent troops Jugoslawia and still do in Afganistan. So there were some move away from which until the 90ties was a pazifist position combined with trying to influence with money, which we don't have no more.
    I think our passive position in Libya has a lot to do with the weakest Foreign Minister we had since WW2. His party came down from 16% to 5% since the election of 2009.
    There certainly is a strong fear in our society of becoming messed up in foreign countries conflict. Of course an isolationistic position isn't very realistic for a central european country with 9 borders.

    The arabs can only free themselves, but in a case as that of Gaddafis agression, we should help to contain it.
    Arabs don't trust us europeans for good reason. I know too many stories of the cynic games some of our 4th rate burocrats played with marokkean guys who studied here, had scarce skills to offer for our economy and wanted a work permit.

    Our economy is doing well, but financially we do clearly not. Its a bit like we are paying off the financial mess of other european countries, so that they can still buy the products of our damned export industry. Unfortunatedly our exports doesn't translate into higher wages. Over the last 20 years wages have risen more in nearly any other country. And this strengthens even more our damned export industry.

    Still, help for the Anti-Gaddafi insurgents in Libya isn't that expensive.

  11. Lemmy Caution2:49 AM

    Today the most bizarre debate about Foreign Policy took place in German Parlianment.
    Our neoliberal party (F.D.P) defended the abstention. The conservatives (CDU) supported them in their position. The socialdemocrats (SPD) gave contradictory statements. Someone from the left wing heavily critiziced the abstention and supported yes. Others more moderate supported the abstention. The lunatic communists (Linke) said that they would have voted no, but they congratulated the middle right Government on the abstention. The ecologist and pacifist party (Grüne) declared themselves heavily in favour of yes for the intervention.

  12. amieres3:16 AM

    This is worrisome. What is he thinking?

    How committed is the US to actively participating in the UN-sanctioned use of force against Libya? Yahoo's Laura Rozen has disturbing details of a meeting today between Obama and congressional leaders:

    Obama told Congressional leaders that "he had not authorised troops on the ground or airplanes," a staffer to one of the Congress members briefed Friday said on condition of anonymity. "He stressed the US is diplomatically supporting the no-fly zone, not the enforcement itself.

  13. Amieres,

    It is disturbing.

    When Obama said he was not for regime change, and would be holding back US planes at this time, it gives a message of weakness to Qaddafi,.

    The UN resolution is designed to prevent innocent deaths.If Qaddafi can quickly reconquer the remaining areas, her can call a new definite cease fire and present the world with a fait accompli.


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