How does this end?
The time at which this became a question whose answer could not be avoided was this beginning of this week. It was not in reference to a no-fly zone or any other form of international military action aimed at Libya. It was in reference to Muammar Gaddafi’s advance on Benghazi.
For those who want to draw parallels with Iraq, the equivalent question was: what happens if we don’t remove Saddam? The neocon answer, long before the war had been launched, was that Saddam possessed and was destined to use weapons of mass destruction. How does this end? If we don’t stop Saddam it could end with a mushroom cloud.
In the face of widespread skepticism, Colin Powell had to “prove” the case for WMD in front of the UN Security Council.
This time around, no one had to prove that an attack on Benghazi was imminent and very few were in doubt that if or when it happened there would be a massacre. One could debate how many lives would be lost, but it would have been hard politically or morally to say: here’s the threshold — this becomes a matter of international concern only if it’s reasonable to assume X number of casualties are likely.
As soon as it appeared highly probable that a massacre was a matter of days away, the international debate turned to the question of how this could be prevented.
The answer provided by UN Resolution 1973 is quite persuasive.
How does this end? By a massacre in Benghazi being prevented.
But now there are a flood of other questions — will this operation result in the removal of Gaddafi? What would a post-Gaddafi Libya look like? Which governments are contributing forces for enforcing the NFZ? How will the NFZ be implemented? How long will it take to put in place? What happens if Gaddafi respects a ceasefire but his opponents don’t?
When those who sought and secured the UN authorization to intervene in Libya were, just a few days ago, skeptical about intervention, it’s a bit unrealistic to believe that they now already have all the answers about how this is supposed to play out in theory, let alone predict what will actually happen.
This isn’t the culmination of a long campaign to reshape the Arab world hatched by a cabal of liberal interventionists. It is a chapter in a process that began on December 17 in Tunisia when Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire. Not a single person on the planet could have foreseen what that desperate act by a street vendor was going to trigger.
So to those who now vex about an intervention in Libya is going to play out, I would remind them that the drama we are now witnessing and have been following for the last three months has no script — but not only that — the fact that there’s no script is what’s good about it!