Reflect on negative effects of Libya war

The civil war in Libya will come to an end now that the opposition forces have entered into Libya's capital Tripoli. However, the five-month regional war will pose a long-term impact on the situation in West Asia and North Africa.

The direct consequence of the war is the arrival of the "post-Qaddafi era." Muammar al-Qaddafi has always been trapped in mire of tribal politics during his rein. He once assigned many posts in key government departments such as military and security to the members of his own Qaddafi tribe while purging members from the tribes in the Cyrenaica and Fezzan regions, leading to deteriorating relations among various tribes.

The unexpected civil war cannot just be viewed as the democratic fight against tyranny and the suppression of freedom but a resistance against the unfair distribution of political and economic interests within the context of a "tribal war." Tribal wars are characterized by their winner-take-all nature. As the opposition forces have incited deep hatred of Qaddafi's tribes during the war, whether or not they can properly treat the pro-Qaddafi tribes after coming into power is still unknown. Some Western countries that have participated in the military operations against Qaddafi have also shown their concerns.

The end of the war does not necessarily mean that Libya will enter into a new era of democracy and freedom. Afterward, the country will face a very difficult test of how to avoid tribal retaliations and internal rivalries among opposition forces. Furthermore, the issues such as restoring the infrastructure damaged by the war and dealing with the increasing number of refugees cannot be addressed without strong external support. History never repeats itself in a linear way, and it is still uncertain what is next in Libya's next round of political changes.

The Libyan war forcibly changed many factors influencing the situation in West Asia and North Africa. The turmoil in West Asia and North Africa at the beginning of this year was mainly caused by internal factors: people there seek democracy and improvement of people's livelihood as well as oppose dictatorship and unfair distribution.

The war cannot fully meet the demands of the Libyan people with Western interference, and the opposition is nothing more than a bargaining chip picked up by the Western countries to achieve their own strategic goals. For a considerably long period of time, NATO has had no idea of the constitution and political views of the rebels that they support, which did not stop NATO providing various kinds of assistances for the war-torn country. The external causes of the Libyan war have made the instability in West Asia and North Africa even more complicated.

The spillover effect of this war is more negative than positive. The proper operation of the international community needs all countries to abide by basic game rules, and the bottom-line rule refers to basic norms of international law. The Libyan war started under the banner of U.N. Resolution 1973, but whether NATO's air strike has exceeded the power granted by the resolution has long been questioned by all parties. The war seems to be a conflict between Libyan rebels and the governmental forces but is actually manipulated by the Western powers. Without NATO's large-scale, long-lasting air strike, the war would not have lasted more than five months.

Gaddafi gave up his weapons of mass destruction program and surrendered to the West in political and economic areas in 2003, but Libya still suffered military attacks from Western countries. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently said publicly that it has proved to be a right decision for Iran not to abandon its nuclear program. Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has also said publicly that the Libya war shows it is absolutely necessary for Russia to build up its military forces and to enhance national security. The two leaders' remarks have shown the negative effects of the war in Libya. The war has sent a strong signal to anti-West state leaders: once they become the enemies of the West, they should either completely capitulate as soon as possible, or develop sophisticated weapons to ensure their own safety. As more and more anti-West leaders preferring to the latter choice, the world is facing larger risk of re-entering a "political jungle."

All parties involved should draw a lesson from the negative outcome of the Libya war. According to media reports, NATO is using the term "catastrophic success" to describe the victory against the Qaddafi regime. It would be much better to avoid the war than to achieve such "catastrophic success." Greater attention should have been paid to the political solution and other peaceful means that certain countries had suggested before and during the Libya crisis. Although history cannot be rewritten, a rethink is definitely necessary because it can prevent some Western countries from making the same mistakes when similar tough issues arise.

[Source: People's Daily Online, Beijing, 25Aug11]

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