The uprising against Moammar Gadhafi has succeeded, at least in displacing the dictator. Though won by Libyans, the victory needed the support of a coalition of outside countries, mostly democracies, to avert humanitarian disaster and to neutralize the overwhelming firepower of a cruel regime. Will the whole experience strengthen or weaken the case for preventive humanitarian intervention in the future? Has the experience given democratic governments greater confidence that they know now how to position themselves consistently vis-à-vis currents of global change, to get the trends right?

Overinvesting in the status quo, as Western democracies did for years in Tunisia and Egypt, on the grounds that security resides in stability, was never a sound policy bias. The status quo in the Middle East is inherently unstable. Convincing ourselves we have overriding interests in supporting dictators who claim to be allies in a wider “war,” the “war on terror” or the Cold War, is to put ourselves behind the curve of history. The revelation the CIA cooperated with Libyan security authorities to “render” suspected terrorists is more than a “very dark chapter in American intelligence services,” as Human Rights Watch observed. It risks lining the US up on the wrong and losing side.

Change is inevitable. Francis Fukuyama was misunderstood to predict the “end of history” in 1989. For many peoples Europe’s democratic wave ignited a narrative of hope for themselves that is ongoing today.

Sooner or later other dictatorial regimes defined by one-person control — in Syria, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Belarus, Equatorial Guinea — will go down. Harsh theocracies in Saudi Arabia and its sectarian rival Iran — and one-party rule as in failing Cuba and even prospering China — will need to open up to the zeitgeist typified by the “Arab Spring.”

Of course, democracy and human rights cannot be exported or imported but must emerge from the people in question. Each situation and trajectory is different. There is no template or model.

But outside support can often tip the scales against harsh resistance from autocrats in power.

The battles of others for their human rights are also “ours” in Vaclav Havel’s “tradition of human solidarity” and in our own strategic interest as democrats.

Anne-Marie Slaughter stated the case in “Why Libya Sceptics Were Proved Badly Wrong” in the Financial Times on August 24: “The strategic interest in helping the Libyan opposition came from supporting democracy and human rights, but also being seen to live up to those values by the 60 per cent majority of Middle Eastern populations who are under 30 and increasingly determined to hold their governments to account. This value-based argument was inextricable from the interest-based argument. So enough with the accusations of bleeding heart liberals seeking to intervene for strictly moral reasons.”

Once the initially peaceful revolt became a deadly battle pitting untrained Libyans — “ragtag” was the foreign media’s term of choice — against a dictator who was not going to be dislodged from 42 years of cruel rule by peaceful protests, Western democracies found the ball in our court, whether we liked it or not. Averting our gaze from explicit warning signs of a mass atrocity, as we did in Rwanda, was not an option.

After Iraq, outside military intervention on the ground was a bad idea and would never have won UN authorization. But air support for the heavily outgunned rebels could protect their chances for a positive outcome, while, unlike in Iraq, making the victory their own.

Such authorization of proportional use of force by the United Nations Security Council was unprecedented in its 66 years of existence, in that the UN ordered international military action against a member state to prevent an expected massacre of civilians within its borders, rather than after a mass atrocity had occurred. This was the inaugural application of “the Responsibility to Protect,” a new international normative response that Canada and others urged after the horrors of Rwanda and Srebrenica.

After Iraq, outside military intervention on the ground was a bad idea and would never have won UN authorization. But air support for the heavily outgunned rebels could protect their chances for a positive outcome, while, unlike in Iraq, making the victory their own.

Looking back — and as of this writing in early September the battle wasn’t totally over — can we say the Libyan experience, which clearly went beyond protection of civilians, did validate a new international norm, or has it deepened wariness about intervention for those who abstained?

For the US, has it strengthened the case for the multilateralist approach to international security issues favoured by President Obama, who was glibly caricatured as “leading from behind” on the Libya intervention issue, in contrast to the go-get-’em bombast of adversaries on the right in the US?

It was an expensive and divisive war for European members of NATO, only eight of which participated in military action. Would NATO be likely or able to do it again?

What lessons will other despots, such as Syria’s Assad, draw from the fate of Gadhafi?

In the immediate foreground, beyond Gadhafi’s downfall, how might things turn out in Libya itself?

For democracy transition authority Thomas Carothers, there are two chapters in throwing off a dictatorship. Chapter 1 is the uprising itself. Chapter 2 is the consolidation of democratic legitimacy that begins the morning after the overthrow. It is a long, hard slog for which there is usually little initial preparation. Libya is no exception.

Crucial to the outcome is the ability of a popular protest movement to stay nonviolent, making the use of force against it difficult to justify, though some authoritarian regimes order the use of maximum force from the first signs of protest.

Will troops obey orders to fire on peaceful demonstrators, as in Tiananmen in 1989, Myanmar in 2007 or Iran in 2009? If so, their superior force usually carries the day, though not yet in Syria.

When they refuse — as in the Moscow coup against Gorbachev of 1991, or on the Maidan in Kiev in 2004, or in Cairo in 2011 — nonviolent protests often succeed.

But every successful uprising in chapter 1 needs to be completed by a successful chapter 2. If the aftermath of a popular uprising is chaotic, violent and divisive, the “hierarchy of needs” will click in, favouring a return to law and order and security over other goals, often under a would-be Napoleon waiting in the wings.

That is why outside assistance, which in chapter 1 uprisings must take a discreet back seat to the struggles of the people concerned, is vital for chapter 2, when, fortunately, there is the legitimacy of government-to-government capacity-building cooperation without risking the charge of outside interference.

As a country, Libya was essentially an invention of Italy, which took over three provinces from the defunct Ottoman regency (1551-1911) and in 1934 dubbed the cobbled-together colony, which is 90 percent Saharan desert, “Libya.” The Italians were ungenerous colonial masters. Thrown out by the desert war in 1942, after three decades in charge they left behind seven indigenous university graduates and one physician in a population of a few million dispersed among more than 200 tribes and clans.
After a brief period of UN trusteeship, the newly minted country became an independent monarchy in 1951. Its principal export was scrap metal from the desert war. But 10 years later, oil was discovered.

In 1969, a coup by young military officers tossed out the aged and ineffectual King Idris and installed as “Brother Leader” Major Moammar Gadhafi.

Gadhafi wrought deep changes. Buoyed by oil revenue, the regime swiftly became a radical personification of its eccentric leader, bent on simply eliminating any Libyan who objected to his complete control. Those who think we should have left well enough alone in Libya once the uprising against Gadhafi began, because they didn’t recognize our ordered society in the helter-skelter of the disorganized protest movement, don’t get the real and wider world or why people follow the age-old Parisian cry of “Descendez dans la rue!” and take to the streets for freedom against dictators.

Why do they do it? It’s a challenge to communicate what life is like in nondemocratic societies. As James Fallows wrote in the Atlantic about modern China, “One of the realities hardest to convey…is how life there can be simultaneously so wide-open and so tightly controlled.”

Libya presents less of a descriptive challenge than China, though in the last few decades a Libyan professional class also emerged whose technical and English-language facility gave many Westerners the impression of stable semi-familiarity. It was an illusion from the start.

I saw its beginnings up close when sent there from the Canadian Embassy in Algeria in 1974 to cover a lengthy Libya-hosted international conference on solidarity among Third World oil exporters. The 1973 Arab-Israeli War had led Arab oil exporters to embargo oil shipments to the US. Oil imports essential to eastern Canada via the pipeline from Saco, Maine, to Montreal’s refineries became for a time collateral damage, and the global sense of vulnerability over oil supply and arbitrary producer price hikes made the Libya event wanted to watch.

As far as oil issues were concerned it turned out to be an exercise in rhetoric without consequence.

But Libya showed itself to have become a creepy totalitarian state.

Despite Gadhafi’s grand pretensions to international stature, he had enclosed his own country in a xenophobic bubble. People were tightly surveilled by “revolutionary committees” in every apartment block and street. The few remaining foreigners — almost entirely from the oil industry — were isolated and monitored. Contact with non-Libyans who were not imported labourers was reserved to ubiquitous and sleazy intelligence personnel.

At the time, Gadhafi was pretending to be on leave from his office in contemplative exile,” living in elaborate Bedouin tents while channelling incoherent thoughts into a “Third International Theory.”

Some Western journalists tended back then to present Gadhafi’s eccentricity in otherworldly terms that recalled Michael Jackson, complete with self-invented costumes and medals to go with imaginary identities.

Bassist Ray Brown once described the mercurial and unpredictable musician Stan Getz as a “great bunch of guys.” Such was the multiple personality of Gadhafi, though the dominant “guy” in his package wasn’t sweet man-child Michael Jackson: it was a megalomaniac.

Gadhafi exuded a kind of charisma. Less aloof than other Arab potentates, he would turn on personally and seemingly rationally to individual Western reporters (particularly women). It earned him slack, with some reporting depicting him as just a zany anti-establishment provocateur, a role he relished.

Crucial to the outcome is the ability of a popular protest movement to stay nonviolent, making the use of force against it difficult to justify, though some authoritarian regimes order the use of maximum force from the first signs of protest.

He did have a semi-rational agenda at the outset, rooted in admiration for Nasser’s socialist-nationalist revolution in Egypt, whose adaptation to Libya won initial local popularity.

But it became conflated with a dominant personality of conspiratorial and deadly cunning.

His method of handling the opposition was simple. He killed them. By his command, Libyans died in the thousands during his 42 years. In 1996 his chief of security, brother-in-law Abdullah Senussi, saw to the slaughter of 1,200 prisoners in Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison. Protesting students were strung from lampposts, the bodies once left dangling for a week so rerouted Tripoli traffic would be repeatedly channelled by the chastening sight.

Internationally, Gadhafi’s rabid anti-Israel views were a given, but his antipathies stretched to the entire world community.

Any internationally disruptive cause won his favour, — and finance and weapons from his oil wealth. He grew a kind of international stature from notoriety and the boost he gave to dictators, the viler and more corrupt the better: Idi Amin, Bokassa, Mengistu, Charles Taylor and, of course, Robert Mugabe. Recent buddies include Hugo Chavez and Sudan’s Al-Bashir.

Supporting terrorism came naturally — Black September, the Red Army Faction and then the IRA.

By the late 1980s Gadhafi was a perpetrator of mass terrorism himself, culminating in the horrific bombings of Pan Am 103 in 1988 and UTA 772 in 1989, which killed 259 and 171 respectively.

Libyan living standards improved with oil revenue. Today, there are a dozen universities. There are thousands of doctors. Life expectancy has increased from 51 to 74 years of age. Such demonstrable economic progress impressed other Africans, especially dictators for whom Libya’s political straitjacket was not a negative.

Gadhafi boasted of leading a country in a “permanent revolution.” In fact, the Libyan population lived in a permanent state of terror.

His one-person rule, enforced by a security apparatus kept in the hands of close relatives, meant there was no chance of civil society developing as in Tunisia and Egypt — no unions, no political parties, no NGOs. There was no habit in Libya of debate, of compromise or of self-organization. It was a population kept in a state of civic infancy.

Obviously, organizing an uprising would be a difficult challenge.

After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Gadhafi made a dramatic U-turn to try to game dividends from lining up with the West in the obsessive “war on terror.”

The US and the UK especially were attracted to the narrative of voluntary abandonment of weapons of mass destruction to contrast to the Iraqi WMD fairy tale dear to George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Gadhafi flipped stockpiles of mustard gas, some chemical warfare precursors and a rudimentary start-up nuclear program bought from renegade Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan into collateral to win the embrace of his former adversaries.

While denying personal responsibility, Gadhafi also agreed to official closure for the Pan Am and UTA bombings. He promised to settle billions of dollars on survivors, cash his oil ministry gouged out of foreign oil operators (like Petro-Canada, which crafted a dubious billion-dollar “signing bonus” for the Gadhafi clan in return for offshore exploration rights). A grotesquely burlesque episode of extradition (and eventual repatriation by Scottish courts on grounds of terminal illness) of accused Pan Am 103 perpetrator al-Megrahi followed.

Often fronting business interests, visitors indeed flocked to their new antijihadist ally — Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice — flattering his already swollen ego. Few visits were as inappropriate as Paul Martin’s, who made it his first visit to a foreign state after at last becoming Canadian prime minister.

Internally, Gadhafi’s U-turn also produced a little more leeway for the emerging middle class, in return for its continued submission, including to the increasingly obvious plan to have his son Seif al-Islam succeed him. Seif, who threw money at Western academics to come for chats about democracy, played the role of poster boy for a new spirit of modernization and reform. But the regime still eliminated anyone who challenged its complete control. And we have seen and heard enough of Seif in recent weeks calling for death and retaliation to the rebels to know that any simulated moderation was skin-deep.

It was inevitable the Arab Spring that blew through Tunisia and Egypt would sweep over the less-prepared country in between.

Gadhafi’s security people clamped down hard. In Benghazi, the historic eastern rival to Tripoli, human rights defender Fathi Terbil (representing the families of the 1,200 prisoners slaughtered in 1996) was arrested. On February 22, his network of friends and supporters protested in front of police HQ. The police opened fire, killing 40 people.

Instead of folding, the young men of Benghazi, the “Shabab,” fought back with stones and homemade bombs. Rebellion spread with surprising speed. Benghazi authorities, taken aback by their motley opponents, hunkered down and for a week or so in early March, young rebels seemed to be acting out a performance in an open city, torching police headquarters and dancing for news cameras.

Meanwhile, in the liberated court house, a council of professionals, scholars and returned exiles began to give organized democratic context to the uprising and to take over civic administration. They were the nucleus of the Libyan Transitional Council, whose composition widened regionally as the insurrection spread westward.

It soon became a shooting war. Gadhafi’s armed forces moved to crush Benghazi’s rebellion. It was clearly not an even match. At most, the rebels had a thousand fighters with any form of training. There was no organized discipline or tactical coordination. But there was surprisingly generalized popular support.

Initially, the council in Benghazi put out the message that outside intervention was not wanted in the Libyan people’s self-reliant struggle. But with Gadhafi’s armoured columns bearing down on Benghazi and blowing off rebel resistance with vastly superior fire-power, its position changed.

Was it a “civil war” of two opposing sides, which nay-sayers here believed we should stay out of, as none of our business? It had instead the convincing earmarks of a popular uprising against a tyrant.

On March 12, the option of humanitarian intervention became real when the Arab League called for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gadhafi’s forces from waging slaughter from the air.

Gadhafi had thus far spoken publicly only once, an odd performance in which he sat in an antique car in his compound holding an umbrella (it wasn’t raining), to denounce the foreign rumour he had fled to Venezuela.

On March 16, he addressed the nation in much more ominous terms, a speech chillingly similar to radio broadcasts before the massacre in Rwanda.

Gadhafi vaunted his prestige as an international leader. “Millions defend me…We will march to cleanse Libya, inch by inch, house by house, home by home, alley by alley, person by person, until the country is cleansed of dirt and scum.”

The following day, he specifically addressed the defenders of Benghazi — “My dear sweet people” — warning, “We will find you in your closets” and promising “no mercy.”

Few mass murderers have so clearly telegraphed their intentions.

Yet the international community was divided, as were political circles in Washington. Some sort of intervention seemed called for, though it was never about access to oil. Libya isn’t that important a producer and in any case sold all the oil it could.

The case for intervention was humanitarian, and France, in particular, and the UK were its protagonists. After having curried the favour of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali, President Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to re-set France’s reputation for human rights and no doubt win an upward bounce in French polls by a decisive move to stop the reviled Gadhafi. But France and the UK needed to broaden the ring of support. The Arab League’s request for United Nations Security Council action was critical in possibly forestalling vetoes from China and Russia. But serious if limited military intervention would be undoable without active American participation.

The politicians in polarized Washington were all over the map, with some on the right wing keen to smash Gadhafi unilaterally, while others (Michele Bachmann) said to stay out, an isolationist view also prevalent on the left.

Polls detailed the war weariness of the American public, and also international resentment over recent US interventionism. Having promised extrication of the US from Iraq and Afghanistan, the last thing President Obama wanted was a third invasion by the US of a Muslim country, especially when the US military was already over extended. The Bosnia and Iraq experiences with no-fly zones had made the US military skeptical about their deterrent effect.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an initial skeptic, travelled to G8 and NATO consultations and to the region and heard first-hand of resentment from Tunisian and Egyptian democrats that the “US didn’t stand with us.”

The White House came around. Weeks later, a New Yorker piece by Ryan Lizza quoted an unidentified White House insider labelling Obama’s compromise strategy as to “lead from behind.”

The misused sound bite enabled right-wing bluster to depict the President as “weak,” with GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney jumping on him for “following the French” into Libya.

In reality, Obama’s strategy got it about right.

By handing off to allies — who by now included Arab Qatar — the limelight of military intervention, the US cut political exposure at home and abroad, while blocking the dreadful consequences of allowing Gadhafi’s forces to smash the citizens of Benghazi. It also suited Obama’s own narrative of strengthening-by-doing multilateral capacity on peace and security challenges.

But Brazil and India along with permanent members China and Russia still had worries about an interventionist override of the heretofore sacred principle of national sovereignty.

Gadhafi’s explicitly threatening speeches on the eve and day of the Security Council decisions tipped the balance, and on March 17 the council adopted Resolution 1973 authorizing “all necessary means” to defend the civilian population in Libya. There were ten votes in favour and five abstentions — predictably China, Russia, Brazil and India but, stunningly, also Germany.

UNSC 1973 authorized intervention from the air, though as Obama acknowledged, defending civilians and protecting the insurrection itself were bound to become indistinguishable.

Right off, French aircraft whacked Libyan military targets. Over a hundred US and UK sea-launched Tomahawk missiles immobilized an armoured column already on the outskirts of Benghazi. The whole narrative of the confrontation changed.

Now a free people, Libyans will find transition to a rule-based democracy a challenge.  Building viable institutions takes a lot of time.

Gadhafi’s forces were exposed in desert positions, unable to move forward or even resupply.

The military coalition included Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan but its heavy work was done by NATO, despite German disaffection.

NATO’s operation has been called a “remote-control war” (though French and UK Special Forces were very discreetly on the ground to provide forward air support and also to mentor some of the untrained rebel forces).

In six months to September, NATO flew over 7,000 strike missions, usually more than 60 a day. Under a clear division of labour, French and UK planes flew the bulk of sorties. The critical US role was for aerial refuelling and surveillance, particularly through the use of Predator drones. (Rebels also used an ingenious minidrone developed by Aeryon Labs of Waterloo, Ontario.) Targeting grew increasingly precise and kept collateral damage to civilians at a minimum.

Canadian forces contributed seven CF-18s and a few ships and tankers and surveillance craft, not to mention the commander of the NATO mission, Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard. American and British diplomatic sources also noted that Prime Minister Harper was a strong advocate of an air-and sea-based campaign, even as he was heading into an election.

After a lengthy stalemate, the ground war intensified westward. The port city of Misrata, midway to Tripoli, rose up, initiating a pattern of cities falling to uprisings within as rebel forces moved against the city’s defences from outside. “Ragtag” rebel forces began to acquire greater cohesion.

As often happens with dictatorships, the regime’s collapse occurred with astonishing speed. Having pushed westward into the Nefusa mountains southwest of Tripoli itself, rebels captured the oil refinery centre, Zawiyah, in the capital’s suburbs, choking Tripoli off.

Close air support is much less useful in urban settings, but the final assault on Tripoli was preceded by over 40 NATO strikes on key targets. There followed a headlong rush of young men wanting to be part of the denouement of a regime more hated than its leaders in their bubble could have imagined. Recalling the liberation of France and the end of other cruel regimes, there were incidents of harsh street justice and settling of scores, though less mayhem than Western pundits predicted and almost no looting.

By September, Libya was effectively under the control of the National Transitional Council.

Now a free people, Libyans will find transition to a rule-based democracy a challenge. Building viable institutions takes a lot of time.

The six-month experience of putting liberated parts of Libya together, city by city, offered a crash course in civics, offsetting somewhat the inherent disadvantage of being without experience in building a civil society.

Libya does have a reasonably competent managerial class, not lodged, as it happens, in an overturned government party, like the Ba’ath in Iraq. Many of the country’s best minds, driven into exile, have returned. So human capital for a successful transition is potentially there, provided that factional quarrelling is kept under control.

Libya is homogeneous in language, and unlike Iraq, has no sectarian divide among Muslims, and no important and vulnerable religious minority like Egypt’s Christian Copts.

Work on a draft constitutional charter with an abundance of articles guaranteeing human rights has been ongoing for months.

But ultimately the success of the revolution will depend on the successors to Gadhafi being able to deliver law and order and then plausible and transparent economic management.

Essential is the effort of the National Transitional Council under the presidency of Mustafa Abdel Jalil to  disband the loose constellation of semi-autonomous local rebel militias spawned by the fighting, one of which committed the reprisal murder of the NTC’s military commander, General Younis, who defected from the regime.

The towering advantage of Libya is the sovereign wealth fund which could total as much as $70 billion, which coalition members decided at a Paris conference in September co-chaired by UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Sarkozy to begin to unfreeze. They need to go farther to help Libya in capacity building. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has convened all “interested parties,” including the African Union and the Arab League, to try to lock in a critical path to support Libya’s transition, including in democracy building, where Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has promised robust Canadian support.

The existential question of NATO’s purpose in the post-Cold War world endures, deepened by a decade of no-win engagement in Afghanistan that has left allies just wanting extrication as soon as possible.

The Libya operation showed NATO’s comparative value in providing a nucleus of multinational military delivery when the UN Security Council orders an intervention. But it was a narrow France-UK-US-Netherlands-Canada-Italy-Norway-Denmark coalition, not an alliance-wide application of purpose, especially given the abstention of Germany, which damaged Germany’s leadership potential and credibility but also Europe’s coherence. Moreover, the expense of such an operation is prohibitive to the majority of NATO members unkeen to bump up military expenditure at a time of budgetary austerity, even though some of the flying participants ran out of bombs. France, which positioned an aircraft carrier offshore and flew one-third of the sorties, estimated its costs to September 1 as $300 million. The US estimates its all-important airborne surveillance and refuelling functions at around $900 million. (Canada’s costs are estimated at $60 million.)

On substance, contrary to uninformed guesses, NATO was not making it up as it went along. Canadian General Charles Bouchard ran a coherent game plan at NATO operational HQ in Naples that was a version of “soft military power” championed by Europeans, excluding boots on the ground and military mission creep.

Obama erred in predicting, to counter charges he was involving the US in a quagmire, military engagement would be over in “days, not weeks.” But no one knew how the combination of amateur uprising on the ground and professional support from the air would work against an embedded military regime. Looking back, five to six months does not seem unreasonably long for an untried coalition of forces to dislodge a regime that had endured for 42 years.

On US political fall out, presidential hopefuls like Mitt Romney Twitter to their grandstand within the din of negativity surrounding America’s puerile political simplicities to try to keep Obama from earning political credit for getting it right.

Anne-Marie Slaughter invites a “thought experiment” of imagining the result of nonintervention by the UN and NATO, allowing the West to “let brutality and oppression triumph again in the Middle East.” But it may lie beyond public capacity to award points for avoiding a humanitarian disaster that might have been. Attention shifts swiftly elsewhere, such as the more problematic case of Syria.

In Syria, resistance to murderous force from Bashar al-Assad’s regime has been truly heroic.

He has no doubt convinced himself that as long as NATO doesn’t intervene as in Libya, he can throttle the protest movement. He counts on inconsistency, that a barely approvable intervention in Libya could not win Russian and Chinese acquiescence in replication against Syria. Assad dismisses Gadhafi as an eccentric outlier, while his role as a confrontation-state leader puts him at the vital centre of things with Israel.

But Assad’s brutality has cost him support, including from Russia. He may hang on, in armed isolation, but ultimately he too will go down or out, because that kind of personalized dictatorial clique is all-or-nothing, incapable of reform, and the young rebels seem unrelenting in their determination.

The situations in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen are more complex than Libya’s because of sectarian divides between Shia and Sunni Muslims, which engage the opposing interests of Iran and Saudi Arabia. But it is the wrong policy choice to acquiesce in their being frozen by dictatorship just because we fear sectarian conflict after the hard regimes fall.

Lloyd Axworthy, the Canadian most identified with the new doctrine of humanitarian intervention by the international community, wrote in the Globe and Mail that the Libyan experience has bolstered “the emerging norm of how international justice trumps sovereignty.”

That is on balance probably true, though “bolstering” doesn’t allay all suspicions about “Western” motives or reservations about ditching the primacy of the principle of nonintervention. British traditional diplomacy skeptic Cairn Ross warns against over-estimating the “new appetite” for intervention from such important democracies as India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. They earned their reservations as historic victims of foreign intervention.

Knowing they are increasingly going to be more important in the world’s future, they want to protect their point of view and will likely restrict their position on the Responsibility to Protect to one of scrutiny case by case.

One encouraging case has already come before the world community, almost unnoticed a few weeks after Resolution 1973 on Libya, when the Security Council adopted unanimously, with African Union support, a resolution authorizing the use of force to dislodge the de-elected ex-president of the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, hanging onto power by the force of guns.

So the Libyan experience leaves mixed conclusions, with the issue of liberal humanitarian intervention neither fully validated nor discredited. We know Libya won’t become Sweden in a matter of months, but the Libyan uprising has amplified the message of hope and courage sent out by its neighbours in the winter; it has destabilized dictators everywhere, and that hopefully has provided the United Nations again with some sense of utility on peace and security issues. The self-immolation of Tunisian vendor Mohammed Bouzizi that ignited the Arab Spring continues to rock the youth of the world. The next chapters beckon.

Photo: Rosen Ivanov Iliev / Shutterstock

Contributing Writer Jeremy Kinsman served as Canada’s ambassador or high commissioner to 15 countries and organizations, including Russia, Britain and the European Union. He currently heads a Community of Democracies program for democracy development and is Regents’ Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley. He is distinguished visiting diplomat at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Vous pouvez reproduire cet article d’Options politiques en ligne ou dans un périodique imprimé, sous licence Creative Commons Attribution.

Creative Commons License