Time for firm reaction to LibyaThere is someone across the continent smiling at Japan’s earthquake disaster. The global media suddenly shifted its focus from Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi and his bloody attack against protesting civilians to Japan, which was struck by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and 30-feet tsunami, causing unprecedented social, economic and now a nuclear crisis.
Qaddafi used the diversion in Japan to ambush rebel civilians with a barrage of tank and artillery fire. Qaddafi’s forces stampeded over rebel-held towns, reversing gains made by rebels in Libya’s eastern cities, which they had made during an uprising that began a month ago. The civilian rebel forces could not withstand the organized and trained military, backed by strong artillery fire, aircraft, tanks and warships.
Dilly-dallying by the international community has solidified Qaddafi’s position. The United Nations Security Council had discussed imposing a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent bloodshed against the Libyan people but failed to come to a conclusion. The no-fly zone is essential to stop the bombardment from Qaddafi’s air forces but the United States is stuck in a diplomatic bottleneck due to opposition from China and Russia.
The Obama government failed to act after teary pleas from rebel leaders. Washington cites a lack of international consensus for its inaction. It fears the cost from another military engagement in the Middle East after costly military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The civil war between the forces loyal to and against Qaddafi’s despotic government has been going on for a month. If Qaddafi’s forces continue at their current pace they may recapture the Libyan east coast city of Benghazi, the headquarters of the rebel forces.
Full-scale bloodshed could take place there. Some estimate that 500,000 civilians could lose their lives as Qaddafi orders ruthless retaliation against those who revolted against him. He justifies his barbaric actions as self-defense but a massacre of his own people cannot be tolerated.
How the Libyan revolt ends may influence popular uprisings against autocratic governments in North Africa and the Mideast, which began with revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. This is no time for a diplomatic fracas and formalities. Lives are at stake. The international community must react to the Libyan situation firmly and quickly.