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The recent developments in Libya represent a dire situation indeed for the country’s people. The country is now effectively split in two and it remains unpredictable which side will emerge victorious.
There are rumors that a provincial government is now being established, a coordinated effort between the cities that broke free of Qaddafi’s grip. Although the opposition has shown a high level of tenacity in the face of Qaddafi’s barbaric air and ground attacks, it is far from a foregone conclusion that they will be able to hold on to their advances indefinitely. Therein lies the situation that the U.S finds itself in. Having formally lent its support to the opposition, the humane urge of America to stop the killings of the innocent people of Libya and prevent them from being slaughtered by their leader is being tested.
Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman are amongst the two most vocal critics of the Obama administrations restraint in the Libyan matter. Their ideas range from imposing a no fly zone over Libya to arming the opposition with weapons to help them overthrow their own government. This represents a direct intervention in another country’s business, the same kind of intervention that usually teems with looming trouble in the future.
We have seen this tired story before. The reason it almost always backfires is that especially in the Middle East, American foreign policy is perceived with a grain of salt, to say the least. No matter how sincere these efforts by the U.S to stop the murderous killings occurring in Libya, these actions will never be perceived the way Americans would naturally think they would.
The cynical view of an ulterior motive will always win over in a country that has grown accustomed to hearing that all things evil things tend to be American. Therefore instead of being greeted as “liberators”, as probably both senators mentioned earlier would presume, U.S intervention in Libya’s business will be perceived as a ploy perpetrated by America in order to gain smoother access to Libya’s huge oil reserves. Conspiracy theories will invariably arise and there will be no shortage of those in power who would hammer that point over and over to score political points.
The solution should be for the Obama administration to vocally support those around the world aspiring to have the same levels of freedom that Americans enjoy. That effort should be coupled with a unified statement to the region, that from now on, the U.S will not intervene in any way to shape the future of any individual country in the region, no matter the reason.
Given these actions, there would be nothing more symbolically important in the way of diffusing tension and establishing trust in the region that the U.S could do.