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LIBYA: WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE?

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LUND, SWEDEN, Oct 20 2011 (IPS) - It is a safe assumption that people in general neither like nor love war, they prefer peace. There are distinguished prizes for peace, and peace people like Gandhi, Luther King., Dalai Lama and Mandela to name a few are revered by everyone. There is nothing similar for those who bomb, kill and rape. In consequence all wars and security and defence policies are legitimated by noble motives, among them the wish to maintain or create peace.

In the case of Libya surprisingly few have protested compared with, say, the war on Iraq. From right to left, human rights and peace movements as well as scores of intellectuals have -admittedly some of them more or less hesitantly- endorsed NATO countries’ intervention, mainly with reference to there being so little time and that a genocide on thousands of people were immanent. It’s hard to believe that they all love war, isn’t it?

It is! And therefore the assumption is that they accept it more or less reluctantly because they don’t see alternatives to war. Thus, if we all became better at thinking about alternatives to war, there would likely be less wars.The real challenge is to answer this question: If war is unacceptable, what can we do to deal with a conflict? What tools can we use instead of those of violence?

It would be good for the world if decision-makers could reduce the propensity to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. Drawing at least some lessons from Yugoslavia, Somalia, Georgia, Afghanistan, and Iraq -about the role of propaganda, the character of civil wars, noble motives versus state interests, military intervention in civil wars, No-Fly Zones, etc. would have helped to do better in the case of Libya -and over time move from conflict amateurism to professional international conflict management based on educated expertise.

It is so important to have at least some basic knowledge about the parties -widely defined- and ourselves as participants in most of the conflicts. The West is not a noble mediator, it is a historical participant in virtually all conflict zones. We need to know much more about Libya’s history, social structure, political culture, modern development, Bedouin modes of thinking, local peace and conflict traditions and economy simply to know how the people and its leader are likely to react to what we do. And we need media that can tell us about those things and not only show pictures of war and the faces of leaders they suddenly decide are ‘dictators’.

If truth is the first victim in war, complex understanding is the second. Focussing only on Khaddafi (as media do) and making one man the root cause of everything (as politicians do) is human folly, a dangerous ignorance of complexities in any conflict anywhere. Everything in Iraq is not fine because Saddam is dead. All problems will not be solved if and when Khaddafi goes. So, to believe that everything will be fine if one man goes or comes, is a recipe for wrongheaded policies

Is also necessary to widen the space of the conflict. Don’t think that this is about Libya only. It is about the whole of the Middle East, about the West’s future encounter with the BRIC countries Brazil, Russia, India and, not the least China. It is about the future control of the world’s oil and financial transactions flowing from it, etc., not the least in Africa. It’s about Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

And don’t believe that this is about Libya February 2011. It’s about Libya over a hundred years as it was occupied in 1911 -Italian North Africa that was divided in the Eastern Cyrenaica and the Western Tripolitania, quite similar to today. It is about Libyans fighting for independence and the Italians killing tens of thousands of people in fighting and through starvation in camps. It about the British taking over East and West 1943-51 while the British controlled the southwestern one-third, Fezzan. It is about independence under King Idris 1951-69 and the Khaddafi revolution 1969-2011 that has created a country different from all others.

Look at how non-violent and violent methods of social change are employed. Why did it become violent in Libya? Who armed Khaddafi and made him the “dictator” he suddenly was called by Westerners? Who armed the rebels? Why did the rebels change from nonviolence to violence and from saying ‘No’ to any foreign intervention and to begging for it?

The global system invests billions and billions in military tools but lack the most basic when it comes to civilian conflict-management, peace education, peace and conflict academies, research in the human dimensions of international conflicts etc. We can kill hundreds of millions fellow human beings in well-planned, sophisticated nuclear war, we plan to be able to shoot down missiles with missiles and we can make iPhones.

Frankly, this total mismatch between our military investments and our human investment is not very impressive in terms of civilization.

So, the international “community” is woefully inadequate in terms of norms, decision-making mechanisms, governance, organization, education and civilian conflict-handling. It is totally unbalanced. When conflict happens, we have most of what we need the least and lack what we need the most. To remain civilized.

Omnipotence is a bad navigator and war is an outdated way of handling humanity’s problems. Conflict professionalism and peace-making is the emerging paradigm. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

(*) Jan Oberg is director and co-founder of the Transnational Foundation (TFF) in Lund Sweden, PhD, peace and conflict researcher (a longer version of this article is available at http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/profiles/blogs/libya-what-should-have-been-done-part-i).

 
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