“Reiterating the responsibility of the Libyan authorities to protect the Libyan population and reaffirming that parties to armed conflicts bear the primary responsibility to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of civilians …” said U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 adopted last week.
In compliance with this responsibility, the international community is using military force to help a pro-democracy movement to bring down a repressive ruler. The United Nations had the history of military interventions in Korea (1950), Iraq (1991), Bosnia-Herzegovina (1995), Kosovo (1998) and elsewhere but never before in support of civilians fighting against dictatorship as in Libya now.
Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from U.S. warships in the Mediterranean hit military targets across Libya and French and British fighters pounded Gadhafi’s forces trying to take back Benghazi, the center of the rebellion. The air attacks came after two UNSC resolutions condemned Gadhafi’s use of violence against civilians and established a no-fly zone over Libya. A meeting in Paris of the leaders of 22 Western nations on Saturday decided immediate military actions.
Gadhafi declared a cease-fire one day after the Western forces launched air strikes started by French Rafale fighters. But the situation is unpredictable, as Gadhafi has vowed to fight to the end against what he called a “colonial crusader aggression” and attacks on the rebels could resume anytime.
The United States and European powers rule out sending ground troops to Libya. If ground battles continue between government troops and insurgents, there is the possibility of the partitioning of Libya, whether temporary or prolonged, with rebels controlling the eastern part and Gadhafi holding on to the capital Tripoli to the west.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has played a significant role in rallying the support of Western nations as the wave of the “Jasmine Revolution” that began in Tunisia early this year spread to Egypt and other Arab states. When Hosni Mubarak defied people’s demand for his departure, Ban spoke for the international community pressing the Egyptian president to end his 30-year authoritarian rule.
Ban has maintained an anti-Gadhafi stance since the beginning of the uprising in Libya last month and called for concerted international action to support the pro-democracy campaigns in press remarks and official statements on an almost daily basis. The UNSC Resolution 1973 now asks member states to coordinate closely with the U.N. chief in their military actions on Libya.
The U.N. secretary general must act in accordance with the U.N. Charter. But as a citizen of a nation which serves as a global model of democracy established through decades of civic struggle during colonial rule, a civil war and military dictatorships, Ban must have a strong zeal and confidence in democratic development and the need for external support to help achieve it.
His compatriots here in South Korea, as they watch the international military actions against a dictatorial regime in North Africa, cannot but think of another tyranny existing in the northern half of the peninsula, which has a far worse track record of causing trouble to the world community, and starving its people. Just as he might have been in March 2003 at the time of the U.S. operation Shock and Awe in Iraq, Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang must be glued to the TV airing the footage of the Operation Odyssey Dawn these days.
We cannot predict how the international endeavor will progress to bring a dictator to his knees, but the world’s major democracies participating in the anti-Gadhafi campaign should keep it up until the people of Libya reach the final victory.