Military action against a country’s army does not serve to destabilize a leader – it just creates fervent nationalism, says former Bristol NUJ executive member and Iraq expert JULIA GUEST
As David Cameron tries to steer the juggernaut of military action he excitedly advocated to save the people of Libya from themselves, he has created the same paradox that existed in Iraq.
Military action against a country’s army does not serve to destabilize a leader, it creates fervent nationalism, which is now very apparent.
The Libyan army attacking Benghazi may have been about to commit hideous war crimes. However, they are still people, who have families, lives, hopes and dreams inside Libya.
Many of them will not have signed up to take this action with Gaddaffi, but they will have been left with little choice. Now, their families will forever blame us for their losses.
Each person in this conflict has become a victim and at the same time the aggressor.
Why are we not using the diplomatic services and skills our countries have at their disposal, all the track-two conflict resolution negotiators who work so hard in the background, who have the insight of the country situation, know the people to talk to and can negotiate a solution all parties can accept?
Simply throwing military might at this problem is creating a polarized situation and may, as in Iraq, cost many more lives in the future.
Or is Mr Cameron simply perpetuating the cycle of arms trading, battle-testing our weapons and keeping our subsidised arms industry afloat to support our oil corporations’ interests?
Sanctions don’t work to remove dictators: they just destroy the infrastructure of a country, undermining people’s ability to think about anything other than daily survival.
Libya, as with Iraq, without Gaddaffi will be left with a power vacuum, a society with no experience of democracy. The model of dictatorship will have left its mark on people who are most likely to repeat the patterns of authoritarian behaviour, rather than understanding the responsibility it will now take from the community to truly self-govern.
Let’s hope that we in Bristol will be able to help some of the people who will soon no longer be able to live in Libya at all.
Bristol-based Iraq expert and film-maker Julia Guest was a member of Bristol NUJ and was on the Bristol Branch executive in 2007. She is Director/Producer of the award-winning documentary on the effects of war in Iraq, ‘A Letter to the Prime Minister’, and is an Expert Witness on Iraq.