Libyan intervention: humanitarianism or imposing regime change?

Update:

From aljazeera’s Libya liveblog:

4:00pm Civilians have been hit in the bombardment of sites in Libya, says Russia – which called for an immediate end to the strikes. A foreign ministry spokesman said:

In that respect we call on countries involved to stop the non-selective use of force.

We believe a mandate given by the UN Security Council resolution– a controversial move in itself – should not be used to achieve goals outside its provisions, which only see measures necessary to protect the civilian population.

Statement from the Taliban in Afghanistan:

We believe, the Western colonialists do  not want a solution in this country on the basis of aspirations of the people but rather have plans to weaken this Islamic country in a war of attritions and then occupy  its oil reserves through a direct invasions.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan calls on the people of Libya through this statement to take the initiatives of the situation in their own hands and do not let others to play with their destiny. As a Muslim people, they should know their obligation and fulfill their Islamic and national duty, in order  that the internal and external enemies will not find chance to make them scapegoat for their warmongering policy.

2:47pm China and India “express regret” over the air strikes, while Japan says it approves of the military action.

Meanwhile, the African Union’s panel on Libya called for “an immediate stop” to the bombardment.

Original post:

At best:

The Libyan Intervention Coalition is truly and only trying to protect civilians.

The move is a moral one, and who rules Libya is not a matter of influence – only the protecting of civilians under attack and the enforcement of a ceasefire. It is not a matter of taking sides in an internal Libyan conflict over who controls the state’s resources.

Cynical version:

The morality argument is really a cover. They are actually trying to impose regime change by direct military action, and pass it off as “protecting civilians.”

The primary aims have nothing to do with civilians, and everything to do with influencing who ends up in control with the oil resources. The Western powers have a high stake in these resources, but cannot be seen as taking sides in the conflict; they are thus using the “ceasefire” and “no-fly zone” as a mere excuse for shooting up the side they want to lose the conflict. It’s all about who controls the flow of Libyan oil.

Cynical version cont’d:

From a local perspective, at least for some of the most vocal advocates of military intervention (UK’s Cameron; US’s Obama-Clinton; France’s Sarkozy), part of the motive is to shore up domestic support during the coming election cycle ) (esp. Sarkozy and Obama, both of whom face tough elections next year). This argument is made explicitly by the Guardian here.

This would explain the strong rhetoric coming out of these two national camps in particular. It would also explain the symbolic importance of certain facts, such as the French jets being the first in, or Sarkozy being the one who delivers the “we’re awesome” speech. These facts were certainly part of the behind scenes negotiations.

Cynical version cont’d:

The actors are reading from a carefully prepared script, written with two primary publics in mind: one back home (war is good for incumbents); one abroad (how will this be seen – yet another invasion of an Arab country by a “US-led coalition”?).

The needs of these two publics explains the content of the scripts being delivered to the media. There are two fundamental considerations for the actors involved: what do we want to accomplish on the ground; and how do we want it to appear to the publics on the world stage and back home.

Questions to bear in mind:

How will this be seen by non-Western eyes? Is it anything other than yet another US and co. invasion of an Arab oil state?

How predictable is the endgame? Is it possible we’re getting involved in something that could last far beyond the optimistic opinions of the current script-givers?

Who will control the oil? We should keep our eyes glued on the fate of oil production and profits in the region.

How much will this cost the US? Tonight alone, we fired 110 Tomohawk missiles, at about 1 million a piece, not including delivery costs (like mobilizing the submarines and aircraft carriers). Will the US find the extra cash for bombing Libyans by slashing some more of grandma’s heating subsidy?

Some details of the no-fly zone:

Military strikes so far:

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