It bears striking similarities with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. A long-standing despot; international condemnation; soothing noises made by the despot when attack looked imminent. Only one difference: The UN Security Council has actually authorized implementation of a no-fly zone. In case of Iraq, the UN stopped short of authorizing entry. This resolution is the fig-leaf. Under cover of this resolution, the NATO and US forces will not stop short of doing anything to ensure “regime change” - doublespeak for killing Gaddafi. It will begin, almost certainly, with “decapitation” attacks aimed at eliminated Gaddafi, right at the start. The strategic justification is “elimination of command and control”. Then, there will be invasion, and finally occupation. Till here, things will move exactly as planned by the NATO forces. Of course, a few hundred civilians will perish for no fault of their own, especially likely in Benghazi, the rebel stronghold.
Libya is a huge country - the 17th largest in area, though relatively sparsely populated (less than 6.5 Mn), with barely 1% of its land area being arable and under cultivation - it therefore imports almost 90% of its food. Its oil riches, however, have given it one of the highest per capita GDP in Africa. Libya has the 14th highest reserves of foreign currency and gold in the world.
One must remember that till now, Al Qaeda has not managed to make major inroads into Libya because Gaddafi did not allow it in his own self-interest. Gaddafi attributed the unrest in Libya to Al Qaeda in a recent interview telecast on BBC. While this allegation got swamped by the propaganda machine in full force by then, it might be worth bearing in mind that there could be some truth in it. Northern Sudan, to the south-east is a known Al Qaeda stronghold, as well as the abode of several “warlords” who have been quite willing to let atrocities happen on the populace in Darfur. Besides, there is a thinly policed 400-km desert-border between Libya and Sudan. To the south-west of Libya is Algeria – another country with known Al Qaeda sympathizers. Algerian nationals have been arrested in several parts of the world, implicated in terror plots bearing the unmistakable Al Qaeda stamp.
Already, hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee Libya. I fervently hope that the NATO and US forces authorized by the UN have a foolproof plan not just for the war, but also for the peace to follow; i.e., for what will be done after Gaddafi has either been eliminated or forced to flee and go underground. After all, we cannot forget that the US had a plan to win the war, but the debilitating influence of Iraq on the US economy and psyche was its inability to win the peace. There will be a power vacuum; and how that will be filled has to be planned. Till now, no clear rebel leader has emerged. It might be informative to know that Libya is 97% Muslim, with nearly 85-90% of them being Sunni. The Ibadis, constituting between 5 and 10% of the population, are neither Sunni nor Shiite, though they often follow Sunni doctrine. So bloody Shia-Sunni conflict is unlikely, even if Gaddafi goes. But power vacuums are always dangerous. Gaddafi, by the way, is a devout Sunni, though he feels that the ulama's (religious scholars) role should be restricted to religion alone.
As an Arab hero, Gaddafi still stands tall in several parts of the Arab world, because he is one of the few who has stood up to the might of the US and is still standing.I am praying that Libya emerges as a peaceful nation after a brief bout of inevitable violence. If my prayers are not fulfilled, we may see another large part of the Arab-Muslim world descend into sustained violence and chaos that no one can resolve. If that happens, it is time to start questioning why the war-mongering Western powers (NATO, US mainly) should get away cheaply while condemning large parts of the world to sustained violence. Is this why Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize? For announcing that he will withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan and not doing so, while opening up many more war fronts in the Arab-Muslim world (Iran, Libya)?