The author is a big believer of the theory that the political and economic circumstances of each nation is unique and therefore its political and governance systems are best decided by its own people. In a vast majority of nations, the governance systems that exist in a nation are a result of the complex interaction of local customs, history, civil society institutions, religious and cultural systems unique to that nation.
Judging any nation purely from the lens of Western democratic precepts often leads to egregious conclusions – the author tries to stay away from such temptations.
However, now that the civil unrest that has been spreading across North Africa and the Middle East suddenly escalating in Libya – and the reports in the New York Times that the Libyan Airforce has been ordered by Gaddafi to fire on demonstrators – one has to think about the ramifications of such actions on US and other western nations’ foreign policy towards that nation.
A line is crossed when the dictatorial leader of a nation orders its armed forces to fire on demonstrators asking for greater political rights. It becomes a genocidal crime when the leader of the nation asks the Air Force to bomb crowds of demonstrators. And Gaddafi has crossed that line.
The United States and EU countries need to respond immediately. This is not the time for polite platitudes of asking for “restraint”. This is the time to start flexing military muscle – if the Libyan Armed Forces don’t desist firing on its own population, it needs to be stopped by force.
For Western nations that have pontificated the need of democracy in that part of the world for the a decade now, this provides a great opportunity to show that part of the world that the democratic motivations aren’t just selectively raised to get rid of unfriendly dictators from oil rich nations. Brutal dictators will be dealt with not just in Iraq.
It is easy to understand why the US would be reluctant to project its power in that part of the world. And Europe cannot do it alone. However, if there ever was a time to show the world that the US, Europe and other democratic nations of the world will not stand by a potential mass killing of a population by its own government and that the virtues of democracy and freedom are not just raised cynically to suit their own interests – this is it.
Gaddafi needs to be given a deadline to hand over power to a tribal representative board or some kind of interim government and relinquish power immediately. Or he should be forced to do it. Just like we did with Saddam Hussain.