Center for World Conflict and Peace

Center for World Conflict and Peace

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A new model for intervention? A response to Fareed Zakaria

Well, I think Brad is going to be upset with me for this! I am supposed to finish our long journal manuscript and do a post on 9/11, but instead I got distracted by this graph when I was browsing for materials.

A quick glance at this map shows why Fareed Zakaria was wrong in declaring that the Libyan intervention offers a new model for the west. As you can observe, almost every country bordering Libya immediately declared its support for the NTC - actually all of them, even Algeria. Despite the fact that Algeria sheltered Qaddafi's family, it did not interfere in the civil war and it actually seemed to be more disposed to the NTC, which would be more predictable than the erratic Qaddafi, should the Council really get the country in order. This is rather unique.

Indeed, it contrasts sharply with how other countries have behaved in conflicts and disputes near their territory. For instance, elements within Pakistan have sheltered, funded, and abetted the Taliban's fight in Afghanistan. (Heck, even Osama bin Laden was living peacefully close to Islamabad!) Iran has been funding and arming the Shiites in Iraq. Similarly, Syria essentially let its border open to Iraq, allowing al-Qaeda to send in reinforcements from all over the world through Syria. 

In addition, intervening in Libya is relatively "cheap" because it is CLOSE to the NATO states, thus reducing the transit costs and risks that the organization faced.

I agree with Zakaria that the U.S. should let the locals own their revolution. Yet, it was what actually happened in Afghanistan and Iraq. The locals, however, messed up badly, they splintered due to their focus on their own short-term interests.

It's hogwash to absolve the U.S. from the messes in Afghanistan and Iraq, because, among other things, the U.S. allowed the messes to happen due to its short-sightedness in focusing only on unpopular, terrible leaders that supported the U.S. Still, the ultimate blame should be rested on the local politicians who have not stopped squabbling and enriching themselves at the expense of the rest of the population.

Thus, to claim Libya as a new model for American foreign military intervention? Not so fast.

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