Like most of the (educated) world, for the past several weeks I have been watching the events in the Middle East unfold with bated breath. BBC’s coverage of the people in Tahrir Square following Mubarak’s resignation almost had me in tears in my cubicle at work—I get that there is a lot of work to be done, but it was emotional, alright? Sometimes you have to get a little teary-eyed over a revolution.
Fast-forward to this past weekend. Reports from Libya—in the midst of its own protests against autocratic ruler Muammar al-Qaddafi (who looks like Prince John from Disney’s Robin Hood, just sayin’)—indicated that the state had begun attacking its own citizens.
So where is the response of the international community?
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley (how the fuck is anyone supposed to take him seriously with a name like P.J.?) issued a statement, saying the U.S. was “gravely concerned” about the situation in Libya. SERIOUSLY? They are bombing protesters and burning defecting soldiers alive, and the best we can muster is concern? YahooNews is quoting a vague “administration official” as saying that the U.S. is “considering all appropriate actions” against Libya.
I’m positing that the U.S. needs to consider humanitarian intervention.
According to my thick-as-hell international law textbook, under the United Nations charter, four criteria must be met to justify humanitarian intervention:
1. There must be a compelling and urgent situation of extreme humanitarian distress.
THEY ARE BURNING PEOPLE ALIVE IS THAT EXTREME ENOUGH FOR YOU.
2. The state directly involved must either not be willing or able to deal with the situation.
THEY ARE THE CAUSE OF THE SITUATION HOW ABOUT THAT.
3. There is no alternative.
Do you think that the State Department telling Libya they are “concerned” is going to make them stop attacking their own people? Of course not. Once you’re to the point of bombing civilians, you are past the point of giving a fuck.
The fourth is basically about how the response has to be limited in scope and just necessary to relieve the situation—BORING. The international community has intervened before, even without Security Council approval (y’all remember Kosovo? Is that a bad example?). Point is, the entire premise of the UN Charter is to promote human rights, and last time I checked, being burned alive for resisting your government wasn’t one of them.
Even UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has issued a statement, saying “such attacks would constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law.” NAW, REALLY? And bless her heart, even Hillary Clinton is weighing in: “Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed.” IT’S NOT LIKE YOU COULDN’T.
It would be a huge misstep for the international community to avoid addressing the issue head-on at the risk of being seen as interventionist. It’s obvious that Libya could use a little bit right about now.
Sidebar: I don’t expect the U.S. to actually do this—they gave up their man card as soon as they let a dude named P.J. speak on their behalf. Anyways, this post was originally supposed to be about Omar al-Bashir (the president of Sudan-soon-to-be-North-Sudan) vowing not to run for president again in four years EVEN THOUGH THERE IS AN INTERNATIONAL WARRANT OUT FOR HIS ARREST.
Ain’t that a bitch.
[Photo via Reuters]