If, like me, you think our military intervention in Libya is going horribly wrong politically, you might be interested in the following analysis from the International Crisis Group. The short report draws attention to the high risk political strategy that the Coalition is playing by personalizing the conflict by insisting that ‘Gaddafi must go’.
To insist that, ultimately, he can have no role in the post-Jamahiriy a political order is one thing, and almost certainly reflects the opinion of a majority of Libyans as well as of the outside world. But to insist that he must go now, as the precondition for any negotiation, including that of a ceasefire is to render a ceasefire all but impossible and so to maximize the prospect of continued armed conflict. To insist that he both leave the country and face trial in the International Criminal Court is virtually to ensure that he will stay in Libya to the bitter end and go down fighting.
The ICG argues that the priority should be an immediate ceasefire, the deployment of an Arab League/Arab Union peacekeeping force to monitor and guarantee this under a UN mandate and the immediate opening of serious negotiations between regime and opposition representatives to secure agreement on a peaceful transition to a new, more legitimate political order.
The IGC sets out several principles that should guide the immediate search for a negotiated settlement:
- Mediation by third parties trusted by both sides, perhaps a joint African Union/Arab League proposal;
- A two-phase ceasefire – first, a mutual truce declaration between the regime and the Interim Transitional National Council (TNC) to agree on issues such as the location of peace lines, deployment of peacekeeping forces and delivery of humanitarian assistance; second, a mutual declaration of a cessation of fighting and announcement of talks on the shape and modalities of the transition to a new Libyan state;
- Ensuring that the ceasefire not only stops the fighting but also leads directly to political negotiations between the TNC and the Qaddafi regime;
- Making a clear distinction between Qaddafi “going” – ceasing to have any political role or power – as a key element of the desired political end result and his “going” immediately, as the precondition of everything else;
- Making clear from the outset that neither Qaddafi nor any of his sons will hold any positions in either the government of the post-Jamahiriya state or the interim administration put in place for the duration of the transition period;
- Making clear that all Libyans, including those who have up to now served the Qaddafi regime, will enjoy equal civil rights, including the right to political representation, in the post-Jamahiriya state;
- Providing Qaddafi with an alternative to a trial before the ICC; and
- Making clear that any post-Jamahiriya state must have real and properly functioning institutions; be governed by the rule of law; and explicitly guarantee the principle of political representation, which implies genuine political pluralism.
There is much here that makes sense, but it does require the leadership of the revolt and NATO to rethink their current direction and that in turn requires relevant parties to recognise that the violent life and death struggle that now characterizes this conflict has created a military impasse that is hindering a political settlement.
Rather than seeing a change of direction as a sign of weakness, NATO Heads of Government should recall the advice given by Jun Tzu, the famous Chinese General, who noted in The Art of War that in war it is sometimes necessary to “build your enemies a golden bridge to retreat across.”