A joint declaration on Libya was published under the names of the presidents of the United States and France and the prime minister of the United Kingdom in the Friday editions of the International Herald Tribune, Le Figaro (Paris), and the Times of London.[1]  --  (However, the text was neither published nor mentioned on Friday by the International Herald Tribune's owner, the New York Times.)  --  It was a gesture both extraordinary and dangerous.  --  The "Op-Ed," if that term is really appropriate (in case they had forgotten, readers were reminded at the end of the article that "Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States. David Cameron is prime minister of Britain and Nicolas Sarkozy is president of France"), declared hyperbolically that "it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power."  --  "[S]uch an arrangement," it said, "would be an unconscionable betrayal."  --  "[S]o long as Qaddafi is in power, NATO must maintain its operations."  --  The French text is in a number of places even stronger than the English text.  --  It says that "Tens of thousands of lives have been spared (épargnées)" by the intervention, whereas the English text says only that they were "protected."  --  The French says that "Gaddafi continues to inflict atrocities day after day upon the Libyan people (continue d'infliger jour après jour des atrocités au peuple libyen)," whereas the English text says he "the people of Libya are still suffering terrible horrors at Qaddafi’s hands each and every day."  --  A reference to the Middle Ages and a few awkward passages suggest that the text was composed in French and toned down in English translation.  --  It unequivocally announces a joint intention on the part of the U.S., the U.K., and France to treat UNSC Resolution 1973 as a license for continued acts of war so long as Muammar Gaddafi remains in power, in the name of protecting civilians.  --  COMMENT:  This overly rigid declaration is based on an untenable premise.  --  As A. Roberts pointed out in "The Civilian in Modern War," "There is a widespread view that civilians are worse off in today' wars than ever before.  Civilians are often deliberately targeted by belligerents or are victims of ‘collateral damage.’  They form the majority of victims of landmines.  They are used as human shields.  They are displaced from their homes, even from their country.  They are affected, often more than soldiers, by the pestilence, famine, and displacement that wars bring in their wake.  They are often particularly vulnerable in the types of war that are most prevalent in the world today -- including civil wars and asymmetric conflicts.  Children are forced to become soldiers.  How can it be that the lot of civilians in war remains so dire, when so much attention has been paid to the protection of civilians in war – not just in international treaties, but in the work of international organizations and also that of numerous humanitarian bodies?" (Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law, 2009).  --  The answer, of course, is that in general, as here, states are much more interested in their own ends than in the welfare of civilians....



By Barack Obama, David Cameron, and Nicolas Sarkozy


International Herald Tribune

April 15, 2011 (posted Apr. 14)


Together with our NATO allies and coalition partners, the United States, France, and Britain have been united from the start in responding to the crisis in Libya, and we are united on what needs to happen in order to end it.

Even as we continue our military operations today to protect civilians in Libya, we are determined to look to the future.  We are convinced that better times lie ahead for the people of Libya, and a pathway can be forged to achieve just that.

We must never forget the reasons why the international community was obliged to act in the first place.  As Libya descended into chaos with Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi attacking his own people, the Arab League called for action.  The Libyan opposition called for help.  And the people of Libya looked to the world in their hour of need.  In an historic resolution, the United Nations Security Council authorized all necessary measures to protect the people of Libya from the attacks upon them.  By responding immediately, our countries, together with an international coalition, halted the advance of Qaddafi’s forces and prevented the bloodbath that he had promised to inflict upon the citizens of the besieged city of Benghazi.

Tens of thousands of lives have been protected.  But the people of Libya are still suffering terrible horrors at Qaddafi’s hands each and every day.  His rockets and shells rained down on defenseless civilians in Ajdabiya.  The city of Misurata is enduring a medieval siege, as Qaddafi tries to strangle its population into submission.  The evidence of disappearances and abuses grows daily.

Our duty and our mandate under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that.  It is not to remove Qaddafi by force.  But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power.  The International Criminal Court is rightly investigating the crimes committed against civilians and the grievous violations of international law.  It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government.  The brave citizens of those towns that have held out against forces that have been mercilessly targeting them would face a fearful vengeance if the world accepted such an arrangement.  It would be an unconscionable betrayal.

Furthermore, it would condemn Libya to being not only a pariah state, but a failed state too.  Qaddafi has promised to carry out terrorist attacks against civilian ships and airliners.  And because he has lost the consent of his people any deal that leaves him in power would lead to further chaos and lawlessness.  We know from bitter experience what that would mean.  Neither Europe, the region, or the world can afford a new safe haven for extremists.

There is a pathway to peace that promises new hope for the people of Libya -- a future without Qaddafi that preserves Libya’s integrity and sovereignty, and restores her economy and the prosperity and security of her people.  This needs to begin with a genuine end to violence, marked by deeds not words.  The regime has to pull back from the cities it is besieging, including Ajdabiya, Misurata, and Zintan, and return to their barracks.  However, so long as Qaddafi is in power, NATO must maintain its operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds.  Then a genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process can really begin, led by a new generation of leaders.  In order for that transition to succeed, Qaddafi must go and go for good.  At that point, the United Nations and its members should help the Libyan people as they rebuild where Qaddafi has destroyed -- to repair homes and hospitals, to restore basic utilities, and to assist Libyans as they develop the institutions to underpin a prosperous and open society.

This vision for the future of Libya has the support of a broad coalition of countries, including many from the Arab world.  These countries came together in London on March 29 and founded a Contact Group which met this week in Doha to support a solution to the crisis that respects the will of the Libyan people.

Today, NATO and our partners are acting in the name of the United Nations with an unprecedented international legal mandate.  But it will be the people of Libya, not the U.N., who choose their new constitution, elect their new leaders, and write the next chapter in their history.

Britain, France, and the United States will not rest until the United Nations Security Council resolutions have been implemented and the Libyan people can choose their own future.

--Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States. David Cameron is prime minister of Britain and Nicolas Sarkozy is president of France.