It all began on December 18, 2010 in Tunisia, when Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation against police corruption and ill-treatment stimulated, at first, protests within the country. His death was merely a trigger that set fire to the wick of discontentment of the people that had accumulated over the long years of dictatorship. The reason being is that the people of the Middle East and North Africa underwent the hardships of extreme poverty, unemployment, government corruption and human rights violations under autocracy to an extent that they could not withhold their discontent any longer, provoking a domino of protests over the region. In Tunisia, the Jasmine Revolution forced President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia on January 14. Not long after this incident, in a nearby country, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned on February 11 after 30 years of dictatorship due to protests that had gathered people of different religions and social classes together.
Libya is going through what has turned into a bloody battle between the Qaddafi government and the rebels, with death tolls ranging from several thousand to more than 30,000 to date, constantly rising by the day. The brutality and violence observed in Libya and the fact that the rebel forces were losing ground were enough for the United Nations Security Council to vote for the authorization of military action, something the UN refers to as “humanitarian intervention.” Why, then, did Libya come to the point of facing this humanitarian intervention, a measure with intertwined interests that could severely infringe upon a country’s sovereignty, when other Arab countries like Egypt faced none? The answer lies in Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s display of obstinate refusal to step down from his regime that has lasted for more than 40 years. Had he resigned from the office as the Libyan people wanted, or at least shown sincere enthusiasm for change and harmony, then the situation might have turned out to follow a more civilized procedure with more talk and less violence. Instead, what Qaddafi did was to counter the rebels with intense aggression domestically and at the same time, officially denying the indiscriminate killings internationally.
Of course, an international diplomatic or military measure is not without its innate potential harms. It is a measure which risks and infringes upon a country’s sovereignty, a supreme, independent authority over a territory stated under international laws. Even with international society’s consent and the dire situation in Libya, infringement on sovereignty is best avoided as each instance of infringement will count as discrediting the value of respecting each country’s sovereignty. And having a country’s sovereignty disrespected could subsequently mean frequent military aggression around the world. In addition, although a humanitarian intervention sounds perfectly justified, it is actually an intervention with the intervening countries’ interests in mind, in particular any oil reserves to be appropriated. In other words, no pure benevolence can be expected from a country that is lending a helping hand.
Nevertheless, given the current circumstances in Libya, outside help is required regardless of its innate purpose or nature. Rebel forces that were at the brink of extinction revived with the help of NATO forces, striking back against the loyalist forces. Although currently in a stalemate with the government forces, the rebels would be forced to retreat if the air strikes and weapon supplies ceased this instant, and if we blow away this chance to change an autocratic government to a democratic one, then who knows when the next chance will come? Yes, there are diverse interests involved, but if lives could be saved and democracy can be installed, then it should be the measure of preference. We all know what happened in Rwanda, when the West hesitated to intervene. In the end, it comes to the conclusion that dire times require direct actions to be taken.