"Despite the fact that it was French war planes which launched the first attacks, it's clear that this early phase of the operations is an overwhelmingly American affair - all but a very small number of cruise missiles have been fired from American ships and submarines, " said Paul Adams, the BBC correspondent in Washington DC, while commenting on the air and missile strikes launched by the US, France and the UK against ground targets in Government-controlled areas in Libya on the night of March 19, 2011.
As I watched the TV visuals and read reports on the strikes, I was reminded of what the George Bush administration called the decapitation strikes before it started the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The military action in Libya has been projected as having the limited objective of a humanitarian intervention to protect civilians in the areas under the control of the rebels. But its real objective is to have Muammar Gaddfi, the Libyan despot, removed from power as quickly as possible and instal a pro-Western leader at Tripoli so that Western oil and gas companies could return to Libya and resume oil/gas production.
Oil-- and not human rights or concern for democracy-- is the driving force in Libya as it was in Iraq. Saddam Hussein paved the way for his own isolation and destruction by antagonising his own people through cruel repression and his neighbours through his arrogance. Muammar Gaddafi has similarly paved the way for his own isolation and ultimate destruction through similar policies of repression and arrogance. No force on earth could have saved Saddam in 2003. No force on earth could save Gaddafi in 2011.
Gaddafi is politically doomed. When a ruler-- be a democrat or a despot-- loses the support of his people his end is inevitable. The question is no longer whether Gaddafi will fall, but when and under what circumstances. What suffering it would cause to the Libyan people? Are they going to be the real beneficiaries of the UN-authorised and Western-manipulated intervention or the consumer economies of Italy and other European countries dependent on the flow of oil and gas from Libya?
The Iraq invasion set in motion the train of events that ultimately led to the discrediting of the policy-makers of the Bush Administration in the US and the Tony Blair Government in the UK. As Obama himself had often conceded, the involvement in Iraq contributed to the USA's difficulties in the Af-Pak region.
One thought Obama had learnt the right lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq. It is apparent he has not. After the Second World War, the US had rarely covered itself with glory when it embarked on external adventures--whether it be in Kora or in Vietnam or in Somalia or in Afghanistan or in Iraq. If Obama thinks Libya could be an exception, he is mistaken.
The only effect of the Libyan adventure will be that the march of democracy, which started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, will be stopped.The Arab despots, who have jumped into the Western bandwagon against Gaddafi, have done so not because their hearts bleed for the civilians in Libya and for their human rights. They have done so because they calculate that the diversion of the Western attention to Libya enables them to crush the human rights and aspirations for democracy of their own people.
The Western need for Arab support in Libya in order to show it as a truly international coallition of Western crusaders and Islamic people has already led to a cruel suppression of the pro-democracy agitators in Bahrain with Western voices and conscience remaining muted as the Sunni ruler, with the help of 2000 ground troops from the States of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), crushes the Shia protesters. Western near-silence in Bahrain today and in Saudi Arabia tomorrow is the quid pro quo for the Arab support in Libya.
Whatever be the outcome in Libya, its echoes will be heard wherever American lives are threatened and American interests are endangered--whether in the Af-Pak region, or in Yemen or in Egypt or elsewhere. We have seen the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan with a Neo Taliban keeping the NATO troops bleeding. We will be seeing a resurgence of Al Qaeda with a Neo Al Qaeda endangering American lives and interests everywhere. Anger breeds terrorism. More anger will breed more terrorism.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies.