The Geopolitical Message from Libya

NEW DELHI – Will “mission creep” in the West’s intervention in Libya end up creating, inadvertently, a jihadist citadel at Europe’s southern doorstep?

Of course, the Western powers must be applauded for their efforts, with the support of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, to prevent a slaughter of Libya’s civilian population. The democratic world should never stand by idly while a tyrant uses military force to massacre civilians. But, if despots are to be deterred from untrammeled repression, any intervention – whether military or in the form of economic and diplomatic sanctions – must meet the test of impartiality.

The current political upheaval in the Arab world could transform the Middle East and North Africa in the same way that the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 fundamentally changed Europe. Indeed, 1989 was a watershed, producing the most profound global geopolitical changes in the most compressed timeframe in history. But, in the decades since, the Arab world’s rulers, regimes, and practices seemed to have remained firmly entrenched.

In 1989, Francis Fukuyama claimed in a famous essay that the Cold War’s end marked the end of ideological evolution, “the end of history,” with the “universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” Yet, two decades on, the global spread of democracy has been encountering increasingly strong headwinds. Only a small minority of states in Asia, for example, are true democracies.