While the savage attacks by the Gaddafi regime on protesters in Libya have reduced in tempo and ferocity, the international community faces the same problem it faced last week, before the United Nations Security Council mustered the gumption for a condemnation. Libya’s homicidal sociopath of a dictator remains in control of Libya’s largest city and much of the western part of the country, and retains control of significant military assets, as well as large numbers of mercenaries flown in to assist in the slaughter of Libyans taking to the streets to demand the most basic of rights.
Kevin Rudd was among the earliest western foreign ministers to call for a no-fly zone to be imposed to prevent Gaddafi from using his air force to attack protesters and those areas of the country now freed from his maniacal control. He was right to do so. It is clear Libyans have deeply mixed feelings about any form of western intervention in their affairs, and particularly by the United States, which has history in bombing Libya. While a no-fly zone would not be the simple operation that some appear to assume, it would prevent aerial attacks, clear the way for humanitarian intervention and prevent Gaddafi from continuing to import mercenaries to murder his own people. Combined with highly targeted sanctions and the commencement of proceedings to bring Gaddafi, his family and his henchmen before the International Criminal Court, it would represent a statement of clear and meaningful support for Libyans seeking freedom.
It would also indicate that the West is capable of moving beyond its deep ambivalence about democracy in the Arab world, a case it has often spoken in support of while propping up dictators and selling them the military assets they need to suppress their populations. It would also send a clear message to Libyans themselves that, while the West supports their aspirations, it will not use them as a pretext to interfere in their affairs. While we should provide material support to those putting their lives at stake to free Libya, Colonel Gaddafi and his band of butchers should be taken out by Libyans themselves.