Clipping Gaddafi's Wings

Muammar Gaddafi’s desperate and brutal struggle to remain in power during the February – March 2011 seems to come to the inevitable end after the UN Security Council Resolution No. 1973 was adopted on March 17th. Dictator’s inability to limit his means to a more civilized approach to treat his own people gradually turned most of the world’s nations either against him (UK, France, USA, League of Arab States) or at least indifferent towards the future of his regime (Russia, China). Many of the European Union countries, including Latvia, immediately expressed their gratification towards the Resolution and support for “cessation of hostilities and the protection of civilians against the attacks of the Gaddafi regime”[1].

Gaddafi’s ‘lonely wolf’ position (as well as proclaimed ‘The Third Way’ model) within the global community and international system has left him with much oil and no friends. Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi could serve as an exception. But his influence in the international community during the last several years marked with constant legal charges has decreased to relatively insignificant role in this situation. French support for Gaddafi after several biased and controversial political loops has finally turned the other way around to what one may perceive as a ‘face-saving’ recognition of the National Transitional Council led by the former Libyan Minister of Justice Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil and active promotion of the introduction of the ‘no-fly’ zone in Libya both diplomatically and militarily. David Cameron’s and the British ‘co-activity’ may also be interpreted as an ‘face-saving’ attempt to demonstrate the domestic society reduce the criticisms, the bitterness and even humiliation caused by the release of the Libyan terrorist responsible for the Lockerby bombing on the humanitarian grounds with following praise of his by Gaddafi. Thus irrespective each country’s motivation, those are European countries who appear to be the driving force behind the UN Resolution No. 1973. Especially in the context of more reluctant Barack Obama’s position on the issue European countries tend to be finally taking a strong and vocal position and initiative in its neighbourhood.

The international reaction evidently demonstrates that possession of significant hydrocarbon resources alone does not secure political immortality of the regime in the modern world. Oil and gas are resources that can be controlled and managed by different regimes or leaders irregardless of their merits as long they can secure stable business environment for supply. Gaddafi simply could not put forward an irresistible, a special offer that could guarantee him qualitative external support. Gaddafi started to loose internal and external legitimacy long time before the first bullets were shot towards unarmed protesters, though. Gaddafi’s legitimacy shrank day by day since the successful revolts against Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak. Gaddafi’s violent reaction only accelerated and escalated the growing dissatisfaction with the long time dictatorial rule in the ‘Arab World’. Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan and many other traditional authoritarian regimes in the Muslim world are facing extinction as anachronisms in the 21st century. The way each regime deals with the pressure for changes is different. Gaddafi’s approach was different from that of Tunisian, Egyptian, or Jordanian and Omani rulers. Gaddafi evidently felt as being in strong enough position to stop this domino effect in the region.

Nevertheless Colonel underestimated the courage of his domestic opponents and unwillingness to face new violent ‘cleansings’ in Europe’s backyard if Gaddafi’s promises of punishing every citizen involved against his regime would come true. Gaddafi lost the moral side of the struggle with the first shots fired by mercenaries at his own people. He seems to be loosing the whole struggle because of inability to cut down on the scale of the weaponry used. His rule has lasted for almost 42 years. Two generations of Libyan people have grown under his regime. But that has not given him an unconditional domestic legitimacy. Gaddafi’s ability to use his sole military supremacy in this struggle against oppositional forces – his military aviation – seems to be taken away from him. His wings are being clipped both literally and figuratively by the UN Security Council resolution No. 1973. The echoes of this strong international opposition against the use of deadly force towards peaceful protesters in other Arab countries undergoing similar changes, as well as the future political establishment – what colors will the ‘Arab Spring’ bring - in the countries under reforms is still a matter of time and mixture of large number of variables.

[1] Statement by Foreign Ministry of Latvia concerning UN SC Resolution 1973 on Libya, 18.01.2011.,

Publicēts 18. marts, 2011

Autors Kārlis Bukovskis