MELBOURNE – The international military intervention in Libya is not about bombing for democracy or for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s head – let alone keeping oil prices down or profits up. Legally, morally, politically, and militarily, it has only one justification: protecting Libyans from the kind of murderous harm that Qaddafi inflicted on unarmed protestors four weeks ago; has continued to inflict on those who oppose him in the areas that his forces control; and has promised to inflict on his opponents in Benghazi and other rebel-held territory.
When that job is done, the military’s job will be done. Regime change is for the Libyan people themselves to achieve.
It should not be necessary to rearticulate and reargue these basic points. But it is. Despite the best efforts of US President Barack Obama, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and others who have stayed admirably focused and consistent, other voices – from the right, the left, and the simply muddled – are now capturing media attention, and are beginning to drown, or at least confuse, the basic message.
US Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, for example, have said that the aim must be not only to protect civilians, but also to drive Qaddafi from power. British Defense Minister Liam Fox has suggested that Qaddafi could be targeted. And from the other side, many commentators – anxiously or cynically, according to taste – have drawn parallels with Iraq and other past misuses of Western military power. Many others talk of being drawn inexorably into an Afghanistan-style quagmire.