Friday, March 18, 2011

Why Direct Intervention in Libya Is A Mistake

Okay ... we're sending planes to Libya to enforce a "no fly zone".

There is a moral argument that I can understand for why this is a good idea. Among other things, Ghadaffi appears to have been attacking his own citizens - certainly not a good thing by any measure.

However, direct intervention in the civil war that is unfolding in Libya is a big mistake - at least where North American and European powers are concerned.

Why do I make such a claim?

The issue is related to the perceived validity of whatever government emerges in the resulting power vacuum. If a coherent government emerges from the rebels, there is a serious image problem that they will have. Any government that emerges from such circumstances stands the distinct risk of being perceived as a "western puppet" government - both by Libyans and by Libya's neighbors.

We already know that such puppet governments eventually (if not immediately) become a liability for our politicians - requiring both economic aid and military assistance to continue retaining their grip on power. Further, they tend to be pariahs in their local region - seen by their peers as being more about "foreign interests" than anything else.

In order for any intervention in Libya to have even the veneer of validity, the "boots on the ground" (or planes in the air) are from Libya's regional peers. Western powers can assist, but we cannot be seen to assist.

If Ghadaffi keeps his grip on power, the intervention will be seen as a failure around the world - and potentially weakens the validity of alliances like NATO, which is already on shaky ground.

Either way, direct Canadian intervention has some serious downsides for Canada both in the short and long term.

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