Libya, the UN and airstrikes

Now that the UN has voted for ‘all necessary measures’ short of an invasion, airstrikes cannot be far away. The UN website still doesn’t have resolution 1973 up, but it is available here. OP4 is the crucial one:

4. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory, and requests the Member States concerned to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to the authorization conferred by this paragraph which shall be immediately reported to the Security Council;

I posted some comments about this issue here back in late February when such measures were first being proposed by Cameron. I remain very skeptical about this, but it is staggering that it has taken almost three weeks for them to get to this stage. In that time, Gaddafi has gained so much ground that it’s hard to see what a no fly zone can achieve on its own. It also seems very unclear what the purpose actually is: regime change is supposed to be illegal, so the use of force cannot be to remove Gaddafi, although it seems clear that is the intention. To protect civilians is a noble aim, sure, but how this will be done and where this leaves the country generally is very uncertain. And lots of civilians will die as a result – that seems inevitable.

Also note the standard formulation in the resolution:

Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,

In the earlier post, referring to resolution 1970 which said exactly the same, I raised some questions about all of those. Those four things can be of the state or of the government. Gaddafi’s sovereignty is being challenged; Libya’s independence is compromised; its territorial integrity is at risk; and there is no national unity – this is a civil war. It will be interesting to see how a belief in all those things plays out. They all seem to be threatened by OP4. See also the argument here at Lenin’s Tomb.

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