Sadly, the UN-led military intervention in Libya will not end violence. It will not protect civilians. It will not topple a dictator. Only locally-based trained strategic nonviolence can do that. In Libya, there was no broad-based civilian nonviolent resistance movement who had been trained or who had a long-term strategic plan. The rebellion quickly devolved into violence, playing right into Gadafi’s strong suit.
As a Christian committed to peace with justice, what do I do when a dictator turns his army against his own people, as in the case of Libya? The first answer is: Pray. And pray hard. First for the victims; second, for a conversion of heart by those who perpetrate violence; and third for discerning wisdom for ourselves.
Escalating the violent confrontation in Libya will weaken the amazing success of nonviolent civil resistance in Egypt and elsewhere because it shifts the energy in the region from creative democracy-building to the dull, blunt-force trauma of war.
UK-based Christian peace activist Symon Hill commented: “People across North Africa and the Middle East have inspired the world with their courage and commitment to challenging injustice. It is local movements for change that lead countries away from tyranny. Freedom cannot be imposed top-down, least of all by a military intervention. More bombs will mean more deaths, not more democracy.”
Below is a good roundup from Ekklesia (21 Mar 2011):
The German government has responded robustly to critics who say that it should endorse the current US, UK and French bombing raids on Libya. “The alternative to military operations is hardly inaction.” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in an interview with Der Speigel magazine.
“After examining the repercussions of a military mission, with all of its uncertainties, which could possibly go as far as deploying ground troops and maintaining a military presence for years, I came to the following conclusion: ‘No, we will not take part with German troops, no matter how honourable the motives of our partners who have decided differently’,” he declared.
He also said that it is understandable that the rebels have asked for support – but asked why the West was being expected to determine the best approach, rather than the countries of the region, and above all the Arab League.
Westerwelle continued: “Incidentally, we Germans have already had discussions with the Libyan opposition. But we also asked them if they were looking to introduce a clan-based society or a democratic society with free and fair elections. These are justified questions.”
Alternatives to bombing, critics of the US, UK and French strategy maintain, include financial assistance and intelligence-sharing with anti-Gaddafi movements, working with the Arab League to prevent the flow of non-Libyan mercenaries to Gaddafi’s forces in Libya, economic action, and regionally-based political and diplomatic pressure.
In response to the Western bombing raids, forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are “bringing civilians from nearby towns to the rebel-held city of Misrata to use as human shields”, Reuters reports.
The bombing raids appear to have constructed a no-fly zone that offers some protection to people in Benghazi, but ground and missile attacks in Misrati and the West of the country have intensified since the Western action began.
One Arab commentator, Issandr El Amrani, suggests that, in effect, “[t]his UN resolution is not just about preventing a massacre of civilians, it’s about taking sides. The Gadaffi regime is over as far as the international community is concerned, and mission creep will ensure that things will swiftly move from imposing a no-fly zone to more direct efforts, including ground missions. This might be good for the insurgents, might split them, and might not be so good for the countries leading the intervention. Time will tell.”
“Prolonged civil war is one possible outcome,” he writes, given the diversity of the opposition and the possible responses of the regime to the current wave of attacks. “We don’t know what the insurgents want aside from a Gaddafi-free Libya. We don’t know what Western powers (if they are united on this) want to see. We don’t know what the Arabs want to see. Libya will get increasingly porous and subject to external interference as well as possible splits on the inside.
“Ideally, a new government [will] emerge that is generally seen as legitimate by Libyans and works to prevent further splits, paving the way for the creation of a new political system (a constitution, parliament, etc.) I really hope this happens, but we can’t realistically expect it to be easy. We just don’t know what the political forces are on the ground,” writes El Amrani.