We are at a great turning point, and we must not be afraid. Aircraft carriers position themselves in the Mediterranean, NATO organizes itself, and military bases are on the move. The road of no-fly zones and of ousting Qaddafi from the table of nations after his last month bloody actions and after his crazy threats, has run its course, and today we are an integral part of the fight against him. Even the entire Italian Parliament confirmed the government’s decision by holding urgent meeting of its foreign and defense committees. During the bombing of Serbia in 1999, the government moved without asking anyone’s permission.
The decision has ripened slowly, among difficult choices, with Obama’s usual hesitation and Europe usual split. Then everyone came together deciding that Qaddafi can’t keep killing. Everyone will have a different role, but all Western countries have aligned together, after imposing China and Russia not to put vetoes, and after having gathered the Arab League, NATO, and many countries that are not in the EU. It is a fundamental principle of Western civilization – one which is not obvious in our time: bloodthirsty dictators cannot be tolerated, even if realpolitik sometimes has pushed us to close both eyes.
UN Security Council resolution 1973 breaks a lot of records: it has never seen so much agreement about a resolution based on one of the founding principles of the UN, the “responsibility to protect,” which the UN had long forgotten, conditioned by its automatic majority that often protects dictators in the assembly and in its committees, for example those on Human Rights or for Women. But instead, this time we in the democratic world have reached the same conclusion: the United States, France, Britain and Italy have imposed our most rooted world view and forced the old crock, the UN, to say something that is important to us. And I want to say that we Italians did so a bit heroically, full of concern. Qaddafi lives very close and Libya is almost stuck to us, that stretch of sea is so small and an avalanche of immigrants can spill into Italy if we were to begin an air raid or any other type of intervention. And a wounded or surviving dictator could make us the object of his fiercest hatred.
Yet Italy is the only country that has brought humanitarian aid to Benghazi at the very beginning of the story and to have established contacts with the rebels. We have played dice on their true intentions, of course, but we will take this into consideration when they will be safe from Qaddafi’s ferocious attacks. And then we will have the right to pronounce our say about the future of Libya. Also the patrol of the Mediterranean coasts has from the very beginning been patronized particularly by Italy in the EU and now it seems to be a pillar of the ceasefire, which at the moment is the primary goal of the international community.
Now, there are two very important things that we do not know: how it will end and who are those that want to replace Qaddafi. But we do know that we, the West, are alive on the international scene. Until yesterday, it was only Iran taking advantage of the confusion by coming to the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal and bringing weapons into Gaza through Syria; and Saudi Arabia, which, against the Shia threat, sends mercenaries into Bahrain in order to help the king. These are two major forces in motion. And we, where were we before? here we are now among the risks that it takes, according to our principles and with broad-based unity.
Qaddafi’s successors, whoever they will be, will respect us more. And believe a journalist who has dealt with the Arab world for many years: respect is everything under their sun. Even dictators like Assad of Syria, or high-handed bullies like Hezbollah in Lebanon, will be less feared now by their poor people. From a distance, there are those who watch and protect, and it’s us. Or at least, this is something we are trying to do.