The response of the United States and the international community to the atrocities committed by Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi against his people has been frustratingly slow and ineffectual.
While President Obama and other world leaders have dithered, the slaughter waged by Gadhafi’s mercenaries has claimed the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of peaceful protesters on the streets of Tripoli and other cities. And the killing continues.
The Arab League ― not exactly the diplomatic equivalent of the Vienna Boys Choir ― has effectively suspended Libya because its leaders were appalled at Gadhafi’s criminal behavior. Meanwhile, though, the United Nations, the European Union and the U.N. Human Rights Council ― which proudly boasts Libya (along with Cuba) among its members ― have failed to do as much. They have issued condemnations, statements of concern and so forth, but to no avail.
The timid approach was typified by an early draft of a resolution prepared by E.U. diplomats in advance of Friday’s meeting in Geneva before the Human Rights Council ― it’s an outrage that Libya remains a member ― that condemns the violence but stops short of pointing the finger of blame at Gadhafi’s government. So far, the diplomatic vacillations have utterly failed to get Gadhafi’s attention or influence his decisions.
World opinion is unlikely to move him, and it’s too late to try to bring the Libyan leader to his senses. To prolong his 40-year rule, Gadhafi appears determined to take whatever measures are necessary, even if it means plunging the nation into a prolonged bloodbath. Clearly, Obama and other world leaders must send a much stronger message. They must take effective, concerted action, short of outright military intervention, to stop the brutality.
An effective strategy would separate Gadhafi from the soldiers, mercenaries and government officials who have not yet defected and are still propping up the regime. Whatever the outcome of the revolt, Gadhafi faces a grim outlook, but his supporters must be made to realize that they are unlikely to fare much better if they follow their leader over the cliff.
This means initiating action in the International Criminal Court against Gadhafi and anyone who continues to support his murderous regime. It means immediate suspension of Libya in international bodies, including the United Nations, and taking action to freeze the international assets of Gadhafi and his closest aides. It means granting a measure of international recognition to anti-Gadhafi forces that have seized the country’s eastern region, and allowing international aid missions to provide emergency attention. It means creating a “no-fly” zone over Libya to give his air force second thoughts about taking to the skies to bomb protesters.
All of these actions can speed the day when the regime topples. The time for censure resolutions is long past. Gadhafi is an unpopular leader who has the blood of his own countrymen on his hands. Deprived of his military prowess, Gadhafi’s rule is history. Making that happen is a test of the international community’s resolve and moral courage.
(The Miami Herald, Feb. 25)