Spotlight on Geopolitics

Predictably enough, the Gaddafi father and son team is blaming everyone for Libya’s popular uprising, from Al Qaeda to Western television networks. To make matters worse, Mrs Clinton’s background noise, unhelpful and especially unwise, is actually fanning the crisis. Her counter-performance over the past few months is a painful reminder of rapidly vanishing US leadership status and of the political sclerosis that made her career possible.

In the current context, the ineffectiveness of our own External Action Service is fast becoming a liability. The EU foreign policy establishment should speak with a single voice and not hesitate to take over from Washington the tasks associated with easing North African nations into the democratic fold. After all, the European Union is Africa’s largest neighbour and aid donor. Europe’s Mediterranean states, from Malta to France, are the first to be affected by the waves of refugees fleeing the conflicts. European military personnel, notably the Italian, the French and the Spanish have an intimate knowledge of desert warfare and of the type of equipment Gaddafi’s forces are armed with.

Whatever the Security Council decides over the next few weeks, refugees should be one of its main priorities. By the same token, authorising the wrong international actors to eventually assist in stabilising Libya could have unforeseen consequences. The task is all the more difficult because, unlike Ben Ali of Tunisia or Mubarak of Egypt, Gaddafi is plainly divorced from reality and ready to harm large numbers of his co-nationals before he finally loses his grip on Libya.

The main actors in Libya’s emerging civil war are, of course, the Libyan people themselves. Since Gaddafi claims to have no official job, this is an opportunity for the National Council in Benghazi to elect an acting president for a limited period, until nationwide elections could be organised and a new constitution adopted.

Being prepared to die for a cause, however heroic, is not enough to solve Libya’s predicament or to guarantee Gaddafi’s defeat. By establishing now the nucleus of future political structures, the leaders present in Benghazi could get the help they need faster and avoid mass casualties or unwanted interference in their struggle.

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