After Muammar Gaddafi’s past threats against the residents of Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya and heart of the Libyan protests, the United Nations Security Council quickly convened to approve U.N. Resolution 1973 on Thursday, March 17.
The resolution called for military action and the formation of a no-fly zone to deter forces led by Gaddafi. News of the resolution’s passage was met with celebration among the residents of Benghazi, who Gaddafi had vowed to go after and punish mercilessly earlier that day.
The resolution passed with 10 votes and five abstentions. The United States was among the countries that voted in favor of the resolution but took precaution to not lead the effort in the area. China, Russia, Germany, India and Brazil were the countries that abstained from the vote.
This was the first time in history that the U.N. approved a resolution that was based on the protection of civilians. The resolution authorized “all necessary actions” to help them.
Khalid Kaim, Libya’s deputy foreign minister, announced the following morning that Gaddafi’s government accepted the call for protection of civilians in the resolution but warned against the arming of rebels by foreign entities, which he felt would cause unnecessary bloodshed.
Later that day, President Barack Obama spoke about the U.S.’s role in the Libyan unrest, stating the specific goals of the resolution.
“I also want to be clear about what we will not be doing. The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya. And we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal – specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya,” Obama said.
After reports of violation of the cease-fire by Gaddafi forces, the U.N. sent out airstrikes against Gaddafi targets and began the attacks that they promised. Despite the U.N.’s efforts, dozens of civilians were reported dead and the attacks by Gaddafi forces are still continuing.
Sara Parker, a political science professor at Chabot, believes that the U.S.’s choice to get involved militarily in Libya was the right one to make. She repeated Obama’s words in Brazil last Saturday saying, “… we can’t stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy.”
Parker felt that it was a rare demonstration of global solidarity that culminated in U.N. action to prevent gross human rights atrocities when the Security Council lawfully authorized intervention.
Still, Parker believes that parts of the resolution are ambiguous, such as “knowing when, how, and under what circumstances to withdraw.” Robert D. Kaplan, a member of the Defense Policy Board, wrote, “We should be clear: The goal is to prevent the kinds of atrocities that would constitute a moral catastrophe. We aren’t in it to help govern Libya.”
According to Parker this is fine line. She also believes that the fact that the rebels are not a unified force with clear leadership or goals further complicates the matter.
“The U.S. has to balance goals of demonstrating solid support for democracy in the Middle East, exercising restraint by allowing allies to take the lead, and assuring a domestic audience that intervention be limited to ‘days, not weeks,’” stated Parker citing an Obama advisor.
With the resolution in full force Gaddafi still shows no signs of letting down. His response to the capture of an Italian ship gave an indication of how he will use anything to support his cause. “We will not allow the enemies to come defeat us, we have already defeated the Italians,” Gaddafi said as he vowed to fight for all of Libya.
According to Parker, Gaddafi’s dangerous and erratic behavior warranted the response that it evoked by the U.N. “Through this act the world has taken a positive step towards affirming its belief in the ‘responsibility to protect.’ I hope for an equally positive outcome,” said Parker.