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Daily View: What is the coalition's goal in Libya?

James Morgan | 11:04 UK time, Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Commentators discuss the ultimate aim of the current military action in Libya.

Paul Miller, writing in Foreign Policy, says the no-fly zone is only a means to an end:

"What is the end? Ostensibly, it is to protect Libyan civilians, in which case we'll have to keep the no-fly zone operating forever. In practice, it means we'll have to keep the no-fly zone in place until a new government takes power in Libya that does not have a score to settle with rebellious citizens. Thus, the goal is implicitly the overthrow of the Libyan government.

"If Gaddafi hangs on, Libya will be effectively partitioned, isolated from the world, and splintered into failed statelets, of which those held by the rebels become an international protectorate like Kosovo, or Iraqi Kurdistan in the 1990s. What's the strategy then?"

The New York Times says the coalition must act decisively to ensure Gaddafi is defeated:

"There is no perfect formula for military intervention. It must be used sparingly - not in Bahrain or Yemen, even though we condemn the violence against protesters in both countries. Libya is a specific case: Muammar Gaddafi is erratic, widely reviled, armed with mustard gas and has a history of supporting terrorism. If he is allowed to crush the opposition, it would chill pro-democracy movements across the Arab world."

Gideon Rachman, writing in the Financial Times, discusses the "potential gains" from removing Col Gaddafi from power:

"The first goal is humanitarian. The Gaddafi regime is extremely brutal and would have extracted a horrible revenge on the people and cities involved in the rebellion... If things go well, intervening in Libya might also help to turn the tide against the gathering forces of reaction in the Middle East. A democratic Middle East remains in the long-term interests of its people, and of the rest of the world. If Col Gaddafi succeeds in hanging on, unlike neighbouring leaders in Egypt and Tunisia, a powerful message would be sent to despots from Iran to Syria to Saudi Arabia - violence pays, compromise is folly."

The Telegraph's Diplomatic Editor, Praveen Swami, says the real challenge for the coalition will be to create a coherent government when the fighting stops:

"There is good reason to fear that the people's own government of which Col Gaddafi spoke won't be much better than the dystopia that preceded it. Power in Libya's rebel-held regions now lies with a disordered mosaic of tribal patriarchs and mid-ranking military officers who have abandoned the regime for more primordial allegiances. Eastern Libya's Zuwaya and Misratah tribal chieftains, who enjoyed great power before Col Gaddafi took over, sense an opportunity to seize control of oil revenues. In the west, the Warfala, under pressure from the regime since an abortive 1993 rebellion, see a chance to settle scores. For the most part, this leadership seems to have a moral compass that points in much the same direction as that of the regime."

George Will, writing in the Washington Post, asks what will the allies do if the rebels cannot dislodge Col Gaddafi from Libya entirely:

"If Gaddafi cannot be beaten by the rebels, are we prepared to supply their military deficiencies? And if the decapitation of his regime produces what the removal of Saddam Hussein did - bloody chaos - what then are our responsibilities regarding the tribal vendettas we may have unleashed? How long are we prepared to police the partitioning of Libya?"

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