Libyan revolt receives international involvement

Operation Odyssey Dawn has begun.

The mission is to free the African country of Libya from their current ruler, Moammar Gadhafi.

Since Feb. 15, Libya has been a country of riots, Reuters reported. Gadhafi has been the sole ruler of Libya since he was 27 — he is now close to 70, BBC News reports. Citizens in Libya have been calling for Gadhafi’s resignation for months and Gadhafi’s primary response has been met with violence.

Libya has now acquired international support for their revolt. On March 19, France began the first air strikes in response to Gadhafi’s government forces attacking Benghazi, a city where rebel forces were residing. That same day, the U.S. and the U.K. joined the French through use of submarines and warships, BBC News reported.

“We are not putting any ground forces into Libya,” President Barack Obama said in a weekly radio address, as described by the American Forces Press Service. “Our military has provided unique capabilities at the beginning, but unique capabilities at the beginning, but this is now a broad, international effort. Our allies and partners are enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya and the arms embargo at sea.”

Despite four days of debating, NATO has agreed to enforce the no-fly zone placed on Libya, according to the European Union Observer.

The no-fly zone is “part of the broad international effort to protect civilians against the attacks by the Gadhafi regime,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO Security General, told the European Union Observer.

The no-fly zone and blockade of many of Libya’s major sea ports is causing even more stress on the already beaten and bruised country — the economy is taking a turn for the worse. The Washington Post gave details of a fuel shortage and a drastic rise in food prices.

“If a stalemate continues and there is no regime change, these measures will starve the economy,” said David Cortright, in an interview with the Washington Post. Cortright is a scholar at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and Notre Dame University. “Sooner or later, and probably sooner, Libya will begin to face internal economic difficulties, and therefore, humanitarian difficulties.”

Though Gadhafi’s forces strike again and again, and though their economy is seeing a decline, Libyan rebels continue to fight for freedom.

The U.S. involvement in Libya is not escaping controversy. President Obama’s decision has run into hostility in Congress, and the opposition is across the political aisle, according to The New York Times.

Members in both the House of Representatives and the Senate are citing the Constitution to persuade the president to justify intervention in Libya according to The New York Times.

“While the legislative and executive branches have long grappled over the exact division of powers in times of war, the Constitution grants sole authority to the Congress to commit the nation to battle in the first instance,” said Democrat Representative John Conyers of Michigan in a statement reported by The New York Times.

Conyers was referring to the War Powers Act, which was passed in 1973. This piece of legislation forces the president to consult with Congress before military involvement unless it is an imminent threat, according to the Library of Congress. Prior to the War Powers Act, the Constitution granted the president power to commit militarily without initially consulting Congress.

There is still support for President Obama, despite the criticism.

“He has proceeded in a way that is cautions and thoughtful,” said Democrat Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Forces Committee, according to The New York Times. “He has put the ducks in a row before he decided the United States should take the lead for a short period of time to do what only we could do.”

On March 21, President Obama sent a two-page letter to Congress discussing his involvement, according to The New York Times.

“Well, I feel sorry for the guy (Obama),” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Robert Duncan. “He is a little cerebral, he wants to collect all the data, wants to think about it, (and) look at all his options before making a decision.”

President Obama’s involvement, however, is not being spearheaded by the U.S. He has been consulting with world leaders. According to Duncan, it was a clever move to wait until there was a coalition. Nonetheless, Duncan said that the U.S. involvement has occurred sooner than such interventions as Kosovo and Rwanda.

Despite Western intervention, Duncan also explained that other Arab nations are capable of intervening. They have their own planes and their own troops.

According to Duncan, if there are mess-ups, then Arab nations may blame and point fingers at the Western nations. This is dangerous to the U.S. because the country is not very popular in the Arab world.

The revolution in Libya is unlike the revolts and reform in more unified countries. The situation, according to Duncan, is that Libya is more tribal and loyal to a tribe or religious affiliation. It is important to have a strong national identity, education and belief in government. Duncan explained that without these aspects there will be no democracy.

The outcome of the revolution is still not certain.

“I don’t know how it’s going to come out,” said Duncan. “Gadhafi very may well survive. (He has) very clever tactics of putting his people into the population, so if you go after his people, you’re going to kill innocents … so he may well survive.”