I was invited to speak on a panel to debate the "Libyan Crisis, Western Interference and the future of the Muslim world" on Monday 4th April at Conway Hall in Holborn.
The other speakers on the panel were:
Ibrahim A El-Mayet-Libyan British Relations Council
Brendan O'Neill-Editor of Spiked
Ridley and O'Neill were against Western Intervention, and felt that the Libyan's should go it alone - rebellions are bloody affairs but true liberation can only come if they are done independently without outside help. El-Mayet supported the UN backed intervention, conceding that the West likely had ulterior motives but that in the future Libya would be able to chart its own path.
The first view is arguably effectively a death sentence on masses of Libyans, while the second is akin to taking a cure that will prove to be more problematic than the disease itself.
In my opinion, both points of view suffer from restricting the initial problem to a national issue - whereas I believe that it should be seen and analyzed within the framework of the regional events without being confined within the nation-state. Given that the Libyan/ Egyptian/ Tunisian borders were arbitrarily drawn up as a result of colonization (evidenced for example by the fact that various tribes are split along the Libya/ Egypt and Libya/ Tunisia border) - why should the solution be restricted to either the local actors within those borders, or the West under the guise of the "International Community"? It was less than a century ago that the Ahmed as-Sharif Senussi (whose cousin became the first and only monarch of "Libya") led resistance against the colonial French in Chad, the Italians in Libya and the British in Egypt, while giving their allegiance to the Ottoman State, indicating the collective identity and history of the peoples of the region.
A true revolution in the Middle East would not only see the removal of the most prominent faces of the previous regimes, but a complete uprooting of the system along with the artificial divisions that were imposed as a result of the colonial division post World War 1. With such an understanding, the responsibility for liberating the oppressed people under Gaddafi lies with the neighboring armies, and the lack of movement to by the military to support the Libyans despite a popular mandate to do so is just another indication that the Egyptian revolution until now has not uprooted the old regime and the interests in protects (the continued siege of Gaza/ Palestine another case in point). This would be much more welcome to the people of the region, given the well founded distrust of the Western led alliance with its recent debacles in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and the regional historical precedence of the pre-colonial period. Otherwise, the region and its population will continue to be restricted within the paradigms constructed by colonialism and the aspirations for true independence will remain largely unfulfilled.
What is already clear from the reality on the ground is that as a result of the call for international (Western) intervention the resolution of the Libyan issue is no longer in the hands of either of the opposing sides in Libya. Instead, it is external agents under the guise of the International Community and NATO who are determining the length and outcome of the process through their decisions, a point made at the beginning of the intervention in this article by Ziad Abu-Rish.