The Arab Spring and Libya


The Arab Spring has given enormous impetus to democratic reforms. Autocratic rulers have been ousted from Tunisia and Egypt; street demonstrations have pressured governments for more transparency and human rights in many other countries.  A wind of change has swept through a large part of the Middle East.

And Libya?

While it is clear that within Libya rebels are fighting to defeat Colonel Qaddafi within the country with Western leaders pondering how to react to what is perceived as a humanitarian catastrophe caused by grave violations of human rights, those countries who are witnessing the winds of change have said very little. President Obama, European leaders, NATO are all considering options from imposing a no-fly zone to arming the rebels to direct military confrontation with the Qaddafi forces; governments in the region have been very silent.

Who is responsible for what is going on in Libya? The obvious answer is the Libyans themselves. Next, it seems to me, should be neighbors in the region. They understand the dynamics of what is happening; they understand and have a certain legitimacy. The League of Arab States, which is the largest inter-Arab organization, has suspended Libyan participation due to continuing unrest. But, it has made no attempt to intervene to protect civilians or to call upon Western help to stem the crisis with their participation. The suspension of Libya from the League is about as productive as suspending Libya from the United Nations Human Rights Council.

If the winds of democratic change are blowing within the Arab world, why hasn't that led to the countries witnessing the change helping their brothers and sisters in Libya? I have no definitive answer to the question, but I do find it surprising that democratic movements throughout the Arab world have not condemned the situation in Libya or offered any kind of help to those fighting for democracy as they had done.

During the course of the American Revolution, foreigners, such as Lafayette, came to North America to join forces with the patriots against the colonial rule of England. With the threat of intervention by European powers being seriously discussed, it would seem to me reasonable for those who had actively participated in the Arab Spring to play a more decisive role in the civil war in Libya, to keep the Western powers at bay and to show that they truly believe in the importance of democracy and human rights. As a recent US State Department message said, "The Obama administration wants to see active regional participation in any potential military response to the political violence in Libya". The ball, it seems to me, is in their court.

March 13, 2011




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