The PJ Tatler

Libya: 'Humanitarian' intervention or military intervention?

If one is to judge by the tenor of reports in the western media, there is great urgency to establish a “no-fly zone” in Libya in order to prevent the Libyan air force from bombing the civilian population. But if one listens to the military leadership of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion, the source of the urgency lies elsewhere. A dispatch* from the strategic Libyan city of Ras Lanouf in today’s edition of the French daily Le Figaro cites colonel Messaoud Abdulahi. “The European Union has to establish a no-fly zone over Libya fast,” Colonel Abdulahi told Le Figaro, “Gaddafi’s planes are preventing us from maneuvering.”

The scenarios for establishing a “no-fly zone” over Libya that are currently under discussion strongly recall NATO’s establishment of a “no fly zone” over Bosnia in the 1990s. Although the ostensible logic of the latter operation was also “humanitarian,” American military analysts are perfectly clear about the fact that it amounted in practice to a military intervention in support of one of the warring parties in a civil war. (See Colonel Robert C. Owen, ed., Deliberate Force – in particular, Chapter 1 by Karl Mueller.)

On Pajamas Media, Ryan Mauro has expressed enthusiasm for European efforts to impose a “no-fly zone” over Libya. The title and sub-title to his piece – for which, he does not necessarily bear responsibility – even suggest that Europe is thereby “taking the lead” in combating “Islamic extremism.” But with all due respect to PJM headline-writers, not all Arabs are “Islamic extremists” and Muammar Gaddafi, whatever else he may be, is most definitely not one. Indeed, as I have pointed out here on the Tatler blog, actual Islamic extremists – namely, the North African branch of Al-Qaeda – are openly supporting the Libyan rebels in their struggle against Gaddafi.

Moreover, it is worth recalling in this connection that when the US and its European allies intervened in the Bosnian conflict by imposing a “no-fly zone,” they did so in support of the Islamist President of Bosnia Alija Izetbegovic and of Bosnian government forces that included thousands of foreign mujahideen. (Izetbegovic had authored a manifesto entitled “The Islamic Declaration.”) The whole story is told in grim detail and with extensive documentation by John R. Schindler in his Unholy Terror: Bosnia, Al-Qa’ida, and the Rise of Global Jihad.

One of the foreign jihadists with whom NATO made common cause in Bosnia was none other than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the future “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks.

In short, the American fans of a “humanitarian” intervention in Libya ought perhaps to be careful what they wish for…

*“Dans l’Est, les combats avivent les rivalités tribales” (not available online).