Libya is something of a conundrum for many in the West, and indeed those in the region itself. How best to support democratic revolutions without imposing regime change, which was so disastrous in Iraq? And when that revolution falters, and the regime in power threatens genocide, what measures are acceptable to take without being seen to once again be meddling in the Middle East?
It's important to note that this is less polarising than Iraq, the UN resolution and circumstances on the ground see to that. There are people who care about the rights and cultures of other people on both sides of the argument, we just disagree on whether on not this No-Fly Zone is the right way to protect the Libyan people. I'm of the view that it is.
I think for all the arguments that will inevitably come to light about our hypocrisy in intervening in Libya but not in places like Bahrain, about our interventions invariably being linked to oil, and about the other hypocrisy of now attacking the very weaponry we once sold to Colonel Gaddafi, those questions are of no importance or interest to the people of Benghazi who were seemingly on the brink of a brutal massacre just as the UN resolution was passed.
We can rightly ask questions about our general policy in the Middle East at another time, or even alongside Libya, but I don't think we can use our past mistakes as the sole reason to stay out of Libya. We should treat each case individually as it comes along.
It was clear to the world that many Libyans would never be safe under Col. Gaddafi's rule, we had the support of others in the region, and crucially waited for multilateral involvement before intervening. Those facts make it compare favourably to other western interventions of the past.
I understand the arguments against our intervention, but simply could not see an alternative which did not involve the slaughter of innocent civilians. Yes, other places are in a similar situation, but our inability to help everyone shouldn't stop us helping anyone. And I am not accusing those who oppose intervention of being heartless towards the Libyan people, far from it, it is just that I just could not personally have accepted us standing on the sidelines on this occasion.
What we must now focus on is not whether or not the NFZ was the right way to go, but where we go from here. There are still massive questions that need answering. What constitutes mission accomplished? What happens if we're left with stalemate, Gaddafi in the West and the rebels in the East, how long can we maintain the NFZ? Will this only finish when Gaddafi is killed, and if not then how can you ensure peace with him still in power?
Big and important questions, the answers to which will determine whether Libya is the turning point for western interventionism, or just another grubby black mark on our relations with the Middle East.
For a good post that disagrees with me and is against our intervention, visit this blog.