Towards Better Democracy

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Foregrounding and the Invasive Species

Filed under: Culture

A Global Reality and the West and the Middle East: an Unbroken View

This article comments on two fundamentals of our time. On the one hand the present reality we face as a species on this earth is discussed. On the other hand, the tremendous opportunities and realities of the expression of calls for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa are addressed.

Readers for the first are all of you who are interested in how you can play a greater part in determining how your own life is led.

Readers for the second part are those who are active in creating democracy in the Middle East and North Africa and those interested in reading about it.

A New Reality for Humankind

To any one who takes the long view of human development, there are two basic strands to our development. You can, as an individual, have a personal view of that development but its truth is undeniable as it affects all of us, one way or another.

We, all of us, live in the present world and have to accept it as we find it. There is no going back. There is no undoing of the past. Whether nuclear power is a good thing or bad, we live with the consequences of the choice that was made some decades ago in adopting it as an energy source.

And that is our future. We live with the consequences of previous decisions. To industrialized, to colonized, to enslave peoples, to displace peoples, to dispossess peoples, to relocated peoples, to destroy cultures and civilizations, to proselytize our religions, to impose our laws and ways on others. We can apologize for each and any of these. But, we, all of us, live with their fruits, bitter or sweet, or an unblessed mixture of both.

The one strand of human development is itself inexorable. Whether you believe it to be evolutionary or creationist doesn’t matter. Because your view will not shape how it has and will evolve, only in the detail of the story we tell of its evolving.

We, humankind, came out of Africa. The evidence is clear. The line of development is there in the fossil record. Irrefutable. Austalopithecus at 3 million years ago were succeeded by Homo habilis at 2 million years ago, followed by Homo erectus at 1 million years ago, finally leading to the species to which we all belong, Homo sapiens, at around 250,000 years ago. Not long in the historical record. Not long in the timespan visible to us; the age of the earth, the age of the universe.

This story is incomplete. We have only a skeletal outline but more than sufficient to provide convincing proof. You can deny it. That is your choice, but you join those few who still view the world as being flat. The evidence does not support such views.

I do view us, Homo sapiens, as being, in some way, diseased. We are not at ease with ourselves and our surrounds. We, unlike every other species on this earth, do not live in harmony with either ourselves or our environment. We gratuitously slaughter each other, we rampage unheeding and unhindered across the face of the earth, despoiling, destroying and wantonly exploiting all that we come in contact with to feed our interminable and insatiable appetite. How we can be seen to be the product of some benign being or higher power defies truth or logic.

More likely, in a narcissistic way, we invent, and have invented, such entities to justify our own behaviour. We have, throughout our history, invented gods who are as irrational as we are and as cruel.

We are now reaching a point as a species when we finally are facing the consequences of the decisions we have made over the course of our history on this planet. The cumulative harm that we have done to our home, this earth, this Gaia, is finally coming home to roost.

Increasingly, in the decades ahead we will be facing the results of our folly and mindlessness. We can deny it but it won’t go away. We can attribute it to the forces of nature. And there may be some truth in that. But all around us is mounting evidence that we are making of our home a living hell.

For the first time in the history of our species, we face forces far bigger than ourselves, many of our own creation. The evidence is mounting daily. We face living with the consequences of our utter historical irresponsibility.

We can put off for a while accepting finally our responsibilities. But deferral will only result in greater pressure to change our ways, fundamentally change our ways.

We have never, as a species, weighed cost benefits. We have never sat down to weigh the effects of our decisions, our acts.

Our behaviour, if continued on its present course, is simply unsustainable. That much is obvious. And each passing year will make it more and more obvious.

Of the many, many examples we could consider, take the case mentioned above, that of nuclear power. The decision to harness the atom bomb into peaceful means of nuclear power generation was made without a full cost benefit analysis, as indeed much of our behaviour is still. We can say that, at that time, when decision were being made on our behalf, that we were being lied to, that we were only told half the story. But we were willing connivers in that lying, that half-told story. We wanted to believe in the benefits. We did not, and we still do not, want to fully weigh the costs involved.

The events in Chernobyl were an early warning sign. The recent events in Japan to the nuclear power station there point to an ill we have created for ourselves which we cannot wish away. The complexities of the problem we have created for ourselves are mind-boggling. That they are so is all the more reason for addressing them. Their sheer complexity is no excuse for us to not address them.

We singularly failed to appraise their cost when we first started on the path of creating nuclear power. We abjectly denied our responsibilities. I do not offer answers, however. That is not what this writing is about.

But the alarm bells are ringing. Everywhere. In every aspect of our lives. They are calling for us to pay attention.

What has me write is not so much to add my voice to those other voices on the planet attempting to draw attention to the dire straits that we are creating for ourselves.

What my voice adds is to say that politically we must change. That we must evolve our political institutions to reflect these realities. That we each of us is responsible. We each of us must hold ourselves responsible. And we must hold others, all others, responsible. We cannot tolerate a situation henceforth where any decision, large or small, is made on our behalf. We, each of us, has henceforth to be a party to that decision making process. How our political decision making process will change is what I have been writing of for some months.

I perceive no recognition from any reader as to the truth of what I am saying. I offer no prescriptions. But I do say we can do it. I know we can do it. Have we reached a point where we are exercising the will to do it? No, we have not. The calls to do so are few and isolated.

Certain fundamentals are involved. Recognize those fundamentals and we are well on the way to answers and to the finding of ways that will implement the recognition of the realities we face.

One fundamental is that the distance between decision makers and those affected by the decisions made is too great. That distance needs to reduce to an immediacy.

I see a need for us to evolve political institutions that are inclusive, that harness and include us all. We cannot go forward in a world where we allow others to make decisions on our behalf without real and proper consultation with us.

I do not imagine I am a lone voice. What strikes me, though, is that the problems we face are, of their nature, such that they require more of us than our present institutions are capable. Most importantly, the decisions we are faced with making, require from us unprecedented levels of expressions of responsibility.

As we move forward we will begin to realize that we face problems which require extraordinary levels of sacrifice. The inevitability of this is what will drive the process.

What is at the heart of all this? That is easy. Truth.

Let us take up the example we have been exploring so far. What is the truth of nuclear power?

We, as one writer put it, face the prospect of creating sacrificial areas of our planet, exclusion zones. We have created one such zone with Chernobyl. We potentially are creating a similar zone in Japan. How many such zones are we going to tolerate in the future? We already face desertification in wide areas of the globe.

Then the question of decommissioning of nuclear power plants raises its ugly head. Here we are faced with a tremendous conundrum. Decommissioning takes years. And nuclear waste is created. None of us has solved the question of nuclear waste. Nuclear power plants, by their nature, are big power producers. They are not easily replaced.

That leads us, again, to questions of cost benefit. We in the West have long lived with cheap power. All power, however generated, has been produced without true attention to its costs. We have never held others or ourselves responsible for those costs. Our institutions we have not held responsible for the costs. Nuclear power plants, for example, are not fully insured.

What I point to is the fact that each of us has a part to play in the decision making process. Up to this point we have neglected our responsibilities.

At the heart of all this is the capitalist process itself. Which does not hold itself fully accountable nor do we hold it fully accountable.

We arrive at the point that this writer, at least, has only begun to explore the ramifications of. The logic is inescapable. It is not communism, or socialism, or any other form of left or right wing thinking that says that the capitalist system, as presently constructed, is not satisfactory.

It is possible that here is the heart of the problem, though I profess myself unable to fully answer the question: to what extent is capitalism flawed? Is capitalism itself at fault for our ills? I doubt that it is the agent alone responsible.

That the question is radical I accept. That capitalism exists at one level to create goods which nobody wants and which, in turn, spends vast amounts of money persuading people that they should buy. But that is only one level of capitalism. It is not the whole of it.

At the base is the question: what do we want? What do we, as people, want? It seems to me that dialogue on this question has barely begun.

But, asked it will be. And more and more on a global scale.

The West and the Middle East: An Unbroken View

The other strand of human development is the advent of agriculture. With the rise of agriculture as a human activity came the creation of surplus foodstocks. With the creation of surplus foodstocks came specialization of humankind. With it came the rise of the city state and of record keeping.

Out of record keeping came writing. The invention of the plough allowed the creation of surplus grain. With the invention of writing came civilization.

We in the West look back on an unbroken line of development to the cities of Sumer. The actions and thought I am at this moment engaging in tie back to places in the present Middle East. What Sumeriologists refer to as the Near East.

We trace that line through Sumer, Akkad, Babylon, Phoenicia, Greece, Rome, Italy and the Renaissance, and finally to the Reformation, which separated state from religion.

What is significant to me about the present events in the Middle East and North Africa is that we are witnessing that same separation occurring with peoples who, for seven hundred years, have lived in our midst and who have not enjoyed that separation. They are now embarked on an endeavour that will.

In so doing, they join the rest of the people on the planet.

That religion has acted as a barrier to how the West sees these people. The peoples of the Middle East and North Africa are now asking to be seen in a different light. We are barely becoming accustomed to this view.

For so long a mutual suspicion has pervaded relations between what I am probably erroneously referring to as the West and the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa.

Since the call from the region is an empiricist view of democracy, not they nor us can say where it will lead.

We can help or hinder in its realization. If we recognize overwhelmingly that the process is wholly mutually beneficial, we can embrace every single opportunity to help.

What is ironic, to my view, is that the process of democratization in the Middle East and North Africa is being wrought on the back of American technology: the internet, the cell phone, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, American developments all.

Filed under: Culture, , , , , ,

Libya: Speak Up!

Once again we have a chorus of Westerners, joined by myself, speaking on behalf of Libya (Libya: Rebels in retreat , Guardian, Comment is Free, April 11, 2011; The enemy we don’t know… , Independent, Jody McIntyre, March 31, 2011, among many examples)

Libyans, please find your voice and let it be heard loud and clear.

Only you can tell us and the rest of the world what it is that you want. The time to speak out is now. If you do not speak out you will watch as, an initiative which was taken by Libyans in the days leading up to February 17, 2011, slips from your grasp. You do not want your future decided by others. If you stay silent you can be assured that this is what will happen.

Najla Abdurrahma ‘s Libya: Making something out of nothing, Al Jazeera English, April 7, 2011, is a fine article, and she makes many good observations. Her point about Bernard Lewis and other Western so called experts on the Middle East is especially telling. I think that Ms Abdurrahma is far too kind to Mr Lewis: (He) “.. may be excused for his ignorance given that he hasn’t spent much time in the Arab world.” No he cannot be excused. His views have past their sell by date and that needs to be recognized.

AJE links the words “hasn’t spent much time” to a report, Resources of Hope published week of March 27, 2003 by Al-Ahram Weekly On-line, where the inestimable, irreplaceable and much missed Edward Said, and a number of political analysts debated the challenges Arabs faced at that point in time.

The link is to that article because Said says, “The two greatest outside influences on the [US] administration’s Middle East policy, are Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami. Bernard Lewis hasn’t set foot in the Middle East, in the Arab world, for at least 40 years. He knows something about Turkey, I’m told, but he knows nothing about the Arab world.” As it happens, the Al-Ahram report makes timely reading at this moment.

Would any of us listen to an expert from any other field who had no on the ground knowledge over a 40 year period? Can you imagine an expert on health? Forty years out of date?

What Said understood, and few, if any, in the Middle East have since understood, is that, if you wish for your views to be represented at the tables of discussion where policy is made, you have to make your voice heard.

It is no coincidence that Israel has the most powerful lobby in Washington after the AARP. You do not have to be eloquent, but you have to be there and to be heard. After all, perhaps Nikita Khrushchev’s most eloquent moment was when he banged his shoe on the table during the 902nd Plenary Meeting of the UN General Assembly, held in New York on October 12, 1960.

Occasional heads of state visits to Washington won’t wash either. You need a lobby. Where is the Libyan lobby in Washington? And in Paris? And in Ankara?

Why do you need to be there?

Because, if you are not, the powers that be; the United Nations, United States, Britain, France, Germany, Turkey, and so on, will make decisions on your behalf. They won’t be to your liking and they may be injurious to your cause and your nation. In fact, they may rebound on those making the decisions.

Dictators tend not to engage in this activity, which is why they are often at the receiving end of the expression of interests of powerful states. But democracies do. Democracies understand that points of view and causes have to be heard.

Democracy is about many things, not least of which is dialogue. The sooner the habit is engaged in, the sooner results are achieved.

The purpose of the dialogue?

To persuade! Libyans, you have a cause that is just, a cause that is right, a cause which most of the United Nations Security Council members feel sympathetic to, even among those who abstained from voting for the No Fly Zone.

So I say to you, Libyans, those of you who seek a Libya free of Gaddafi, you need to get your message out, and you need to get messengers out to convey your message. An envoy is not enough. It has to be a barrage.

Twitter, FaceBook, the Internet are fine at organizing protests. But they do not reach policy makers. Tweeting, “Gaddafi, go,” does nothing but further enrich the founders of Twitter. Saying so to the ear of the powers that be, who already have half a mind to help get rid of him, might clinch it.

Dictators live in isolation. That is a feature of their rule. Democracies do not.

Libyans, as you read this, you may feel that what is said in the Western, or world, press, does not matter. I say to you, “Yes it does.” You should be following what is said closely. Were you to be doing so, you would know that the prevailing view in the world’s capitals is; “We don’t know who you are, we don’t know whom to trust.”

Three countries have so far recognized the Transitional National Council in Benghazi. Do you know which other countries are poised, willing to recognize you? Have you a list of likely prospects?

Why are you not inviting government heads or their representatives to your council? Why should Colonel Gaddafi be favoured? Is his cause any greater or better than yours?

Why is Turkey brokering on your behalf? Why the African Union? And what is this nonsense, a Contact Group meeting in Qatar? Why is it not meeting in Benghazi?

Abdul Fatah Younis impressed many observers when he appeared recently at a press conference, April 5, 2011, which Al Jazeera carried. Why not daily press conferences? Why is the TNC not demanding equal air time every time Gaddafi or his henchmen speak? You are entitled to it and you will get it. You have to ask, you have to demand.

I offer no disrespect to Ms Abdurrahma when I say; Where are the Libyans who live in Libya? Why are they not writing in Al-Ahram, Al Jazeera, the New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, El Pais? Why are Libyans not appearing with Anderson Cooper and on all the other network channels?

You may ask once again, “Why do I have to do this?”

Because, “Libya is the only country where the Arab revolution became a military struggle …” (Libya: Rebels in retreat)

Your real audience is in Tripoli, behind a city held hostage by him, a human shield of 2 million people, plus 100 or so captive international press corps, with his own spokespersons commenting ad nauseam on this and that lie. Your situation is not like that of Egypt, or Tunisia, or Bahrain, or Syria , or Yemen.

It is more like that of Palestine, and the difference should frighten you.

Libyans speak up: you have everything to gain by doing so and everything to lose by not.

Malcolm D B Munro April 11, 2011

Filed under: Culture, , ,

Mr Weldon Visits Tripoli, Libya: For Whom Do These American Envoys Speak?

First posted April 7, 2011, updated with a Comment and links at the foot of the article, April 8, 2011.

It is difficult to be polite about the hapless Mr Weldon’s foray into Tripoli (Time’s Up, Gaddafi. Curt Weldon, New York Times, Wednesday April 6, 2011, [Times has a firewall and therefore no link]). I mean no disrespect to the man, but his venture seems pointless.

We are watching for the second time a diplomatic posture by proxy by the United States in Middle Eastern and North African affairs. I doubt the outcome will yield any better results than the previous occasion did when Frank Wisner, a former US ambassador to Egypt, (Egypt unrest: US disowns envoy comment on Hosni Mubarak, BBC, February 5, 2011), disgraced his minders by straying from the message.

It is also difficult to know quite where to begin in picking apart this second round of folly. However, let us try.

Let me start by saying that I offer Mr Weldon no disrespect, but I do think his efforts ill advised.

In Hilary Clinton, the United States has a more than capable Secretary of State, and I am sure, there abound plenty of diplomatic staff in the Middle East better able to get whatever message the United States wishes to get across to Colonel Gaddafi. At least Mr Wisner had the false pretext of having been a professional diplomat and in that role he no doubt was effective. Something about our behaviour, when we have cast aside the costume of professionalism, lends a certain stupidity to all our efforts where previously they seemed so august. Most notable is the complete absence of guile. From so many priceless examples to choose; ex-presidents, ex-statesmen, playing do-good roles, official, semiofficial and unofficial, let me cite just one: Tony Blair, ex-Prime Minister of the Labour Party of Great Britain, in his role as special envoy to the Middle East (Blair appointed Middle East envoy BBC, June 27, 2007).

International diplomacy is difficult at the best of times, and these times are far from the best in Tripoli, Libya, but diplomacy can only be practiced by professionals. The United States would be advised to restrain its citizens from undertaking such pointless, self immolating, missions.

This is the least objectionable aspect of Mr Weldon’s ridiculous journey.

The most objectionable is that the visit is morally wrong. One, I suppose, has to do business with dictators, at least while they are in business. History says that won’t be for long. But the way that outsiders do business with dictators is of the essence. Of course, it is possible that the US administration wishes to be seen to be making a humane gesture to a grotesque effigy as some sort of sop to its own conscience. That seems unlikely and best to say that I have no idea as to the underlying motive, for Mr Wisner did not undertake this visit without the full consent of the US government.

Mr Weldon will be rebuffed and look foolish as a result to the benefit of whom I cannot tell. Hopefully he does not compound the error by opening his mouth afterwards as his predecessor, Mr Wisner, did in Egypt, who got soundly spanked in public for his pains.

So the question has to be asked, what is the point of the visit?

Reading Mr Weldon’s polemic in the NYT reveals that he is not savvy in the world of international politics nor does he appear to profess to basic honesty.

Mr Weldon has by all accounts carefully cultivated a relationship with the Gaddafi’s and maintained that relationship over the years. (Former Representative Curt Weldon’s Close Ties To Gaddafi Led To Libya Trip, Huffington Post, April 6, 2011) Repeatedly in the NYT article, Mr Weldon stresses that the relationship that the United States wished to build was not with the Colonel himself but with the Libyan people. The record for both parties, Mr Weldon and that of the US government’s, speaks to the contrary, so it is completely disingenuous, if not dishonest, to say, “But while American companies have made billions of dollars in Libya since 2004, they have failed to engage with anyone but the Gaddafi regime itself.”

And so, it must be said, has Mr Weldon. As a broker in this situation, I would not put money on Mr Weldon’s hobbled horses. He has placed not just his thumb on the scales but his bum as well.

You wonder at the immoderacy of my language? Here is Mr Weldon himself; “Colonel Gaddafi’s son Saif, a powerful businessman and politician, could play a constructive role as a member of the committee to devise a new government structure or Constitution.”

Really? With whose consent? Did Mr Weldon ask any Libyan how this particular ploy would measure with the reality of what the rest of the world has witnessed of the said Saif in recent weeks? (Saif al-Islam Gaddafi: LSE-educated man the west can no longer deal with, Guardian, February 21, 2011)

Most of us would be surprised to not see Saif al-Islam Gaddafi cited with this father for crimes against humanity by the International Court of Justice.

One begins to see Mr Weldon not so much as a dove bearing the olive branch of peace but more as a cuckoo bearing nest feathers. (Where is the Curt Weldon Investigation Heading? Ken Silverstein, Harper’s, July 15, 2008)

Unfortunately, Mr Weldon’s sight is also blighted. His gaze is upwards, “…despite the bombs still dropping on Libya,..” and “.. the people of Libya deserve more than bombs.”

No mention is made of why the bombs are falling; Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton reports that there are more and more stories emerging across the country of abuse and suffering at the hands of the Gadaffi forces. April 6, 2011.

The goal of Mr Weldon’s self-appointed little group? “… we must engage face-to-face with Colonel Gaddafi and persuade him to leave.” It beggars description to attempt to imagine the hubris of a man making such a statement. Persuade? With words? Or is there some hidden deal being offered, some billion dollar fur-lined palace somewhere, complete with camel juice, presently being readied for the comfort of said Colonel’s retirement?

However naked is the emperor that Mr Weldon is visiting, none is so naked as the visitor himself.

Two examples: ” … we must identify and engage with those leaders who, if not perfect, are pragmatic and reform minded …” Not at perfect as the Gaddafis were (are)? “… and we are not even sure whom we should trust.” Like we trusted the Gaddafis?

To put it plainly, Mr Weldon is meddling. Worse, he is a bumbling meddler. He won’t do damage but cause offense.

Did Mr Weldon ever think of visiting Benghazi first? Or better, visiting only Benghazi?

Ah, but that would have taken an honest man.

Mr Weldon’s visit is a sort of soft gunboat diplomacy conducted by clowns. The United States, as it adjusts painfully to the new realities of the Middle East, deserves to be better served. As do, not least, the Libyan people.

Comment added April 8, 2011

The story of Mr Weldon is a case study for all Libyans. In the post Gaddafi era all Libyans should expect a veritable stream of such characters who can best be characterized as snake oil salesmen. To prepare for that day, Libyans in all walks of life would be advised to study the two links below, especially the attachments mentioned in each article. You should as a minimum expect at that point to have a press which supports you as the NYT and Huffington Post do the American people.

Former Rep. Weldon Leaves Libya, Spurned By Gaddafi, Huffington Post, April 8, 2011

Houston Oil Lobbyists Paid for Former Congressman’s Libya Mission, Robert Mackey, The Lede, New York Times, April 8, 2011

Filed under: Culture, , ,

Taking Stock: Progress of Democracy in the Middle East, with a Note on Libya

Introduction, Righting an Historic Anomaly

Only a few governments in the Middle East and North Africa are representative of their people. Most are not and cannot speak with any legitimacy for their people. That such governments are recognized by democratic governments throughout the world is a historic absurdity, which the present waves of uprisings calling for democratic governments in the region give those democratic governments elsewhere an opportunity to redress. The opportunity is not being grasped as wholeheartedly by democratic governments outside the region as it might be.


It’s Not Going to Go Away

After three and half months of successive uprisings in an every increasing number of countries, it should be plain to all that this phenomenon is no flash in the pan. The tidal surge towards democracy in the region has, if anything, gained in impetus. In any affected country, the protests are overwhelmingly peaceful, are secular in nature, and seek to be inclusive of all the people within that country.

A Painful Birth, the Placenta of the Despot

Each call for democracy is met consistently with an obscenity of violence on the part of the entrenched regimes, secular or monarchial. The push for democracy is an extraordinary courageous one on the part of the people involved and is not quelled through loss of life. The conclusion is obvious if you wish to make it; all of the people in the region want their aspirations met and they want them met in the present, not on the basis of some set of promises held out by a frozen-with-fear head of state.

Democratic countries throughout the world who have expressed good will towards this movement have now had ample time to adjust to the new realities. All governments have diplomatic staff on the ground in the affected countries, and in the yet to be affected countries, who are no doubt ably relaying and reporting the mood and demands of the people of the country in which they are resident. Governments should be listening and trusting their reports. It will quickly become apparent as to the legitimacy of the calls being made. There is no reason so far to suspect that the people of any country in the region will not come up with anything other than completely legitimate demands.

Who Calls Legitimacy?

In the cases of Egypt and Tunisia, each had a powerful force which could accept the legitimacy of those demands and act, at least so far, as an honest broker for them. It is possible that Yemen, with good fortune, may fall into this group.

Not all countries are so placed, Libya being an example. Countries of goodwill should be acting now to anticipate the ramifications of this. How many interventions are required? Do outside governments even want any more? Intervention is never a good course of action and governments should be appraising other options now rather than later, when those options become more and more restricted.

There are still two troubling aspects which have not been addressed. Articles on this blog have drawn attention to them before but repetition serves to reinforce the point.

Blind to the Nature of Dictators’ Wiles

Governments acting towards the region with goodwill have not yet recognized that there exists an unwritten dictator’s playbook.

Each embattled despot, whether in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and, I am sure, in those whose turn has yet to come, have employed the same stratagems played out in the same sequence. The only difference from one country to another is the time line connected to the various ploys employed at any one time. Any scrutiny of the record will find remarkable parallels. It is an exercise which governments wishing to play a part in helping events would do well to conduct with all possible speed. The whiles and whims of dictators might be held in check as a result and lives will certainly be spared. A concerted effort on the part of the international community is urgently needed in this regard.


The World’s Press in a Mess

The second aspect which continues to trouble at least this observer is the sheer gullibility of the world’s press and media. Propaganda is propaganda and should not be dignified in any way by media outside the region.

While it is true that the press in most countries, democratic or otherwise, this same press as above, act as a fourth arm of government in their home countries. This is to say that the home country media spew out government pronouncements completely undigested and without comment or criticism, there is not reason that they should adopt this role voluntarily towards the regime of a state violently suppressing the legitimate aspirations of its people and vigorously lying to the world in the process.

The world’s media must come to terms with the fact that their job is to report fairly to the people of their home country, not to act as lackeys for despots. So far the media record has been appalling. The notable and noble exceptions have been the half dozen to dozen journalists and camera men who have braved first hand the dreadful violence of the embattled regimes to report the truth. They should not be the exception.

Libya, the No Fly Zone, and the Negligence of the United Nations Security Council

The international community’s record with regard to Libya is exemplary in many respects, not least the speed at which actions were decided upon.

Secure Communications

In two respects, however, it is very poor. When considering what actions the United Nations Security Council considered should be taken, there was one matter in which they were totally negligent.

The No Fly Zone was put into place without secure communications being offered to the forces on the ground. No allied troops would have gone in under such circumstances and to have not considered supporting the anti-Gaddafi forces in this respect is reprehensible. Many lives would have been saved and coordination of ground forces more easily facilitated. Friend/foe recognitions is of prime importance in conflict and the accidental killing by allied forces of civilians would have been avoided.

The cost is not great, the security of the forces out of Benghazi would have improved immeasurably. That military professionals advising on the NFZ did not insist on it is incomprehensible.

Getting the Message Across

As a corollary, the UNSC was almost equally negligent in not addressing the question of who controls the airwaves. It is not sufficient to control the airspace. Colonel Gaddafi should have, from the outset, been denied a voice. Such denial would have seriously undermined his claims to legitimacy. Equally, the TNC in Benghazi should have been given broadcasting equipment so that their message could go out clearly to the Libyan people, especially to the beleaguered people, starved of real information, in Tripoli.

It is still not too late to remedy these short comings.

Filed under: Culture, , , , ,

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