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On March 19, the simmering fight for democracy in Libya erupted into a full-scale, international conflict. The U.S., backed by Great Britain and the UN, bombed areas of the country still under control by Libya’s dictator, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.
Some have seen the mission as a valiant effort on the part of the United States. Others have posed the question: Why Libya?
Protests have raged in the Middle East since early this year, but Libya was the first nation to see military action on behalf of the international community. This comes with good reason—Libya has seen the most violence in its struggle for democracy and has been led for decades now by a particularly ruthless dictator.
And so, the decision to intervene should be praised, right? After all, without Western intervention it is likely that Colonel Qaddafi would easily restore himself to power and then seek retribution on the rebels who sought to depose him in the first place.
That may be true. But, what prompted our intervention in Libya when there are similar ongoing conflicts all over the world? Is the situation in Libya worse than in Darfur, the Congo, or Côte d’Ivoire?
No, it is not.
Instead, there are many political reasons that prompted U.S. action in Libya, while other conflicts around the world go largely ignored. First, for the U.S. especially, stability in the Middle East/North African region is vital to ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s fair to suggest that if Libya wasn’t located in the Middle East, the U.S. would perhaps have been less inclined to take action.
Second—and this comes as the greater injustice of the two—Libya is the world’s 15th largest producer of oil. Being that the U.S. is the world’s greatest consumer of oil, this has clear political implications. As turmoil in the Middle East began to rumble earlier this year, world oil prices saw a spike. This is no coincidence; U.S. involvement in the Middle East is largely distorted by oil.
This is not to say that there isn’t a humanitarian crisis in Libya—there is. But there are humanitarian crises all over the world. Why do we pay attention to some but not others? Civil wars are not uncommon in Africa; neither are dictatorial regimes. So why did Libya’s get so much attention?
The price of a barrel of oil should not determine whether or not we engage in conflict. If U.S. policy makers (and other policy makers abroad as well) truly acted on humanitarian missions alone, de
void of politics, then there would be a lot less conflict in this world. Leaders like Qaddafi would not be able to rise to power in the first place.
Since the U.S. military intervened in the Libya conflict, the safety of Libyan citizens has increased tenfold. If democracy is established in Libya—as it most likely will be—the quality of life there will increase dramatically. The true injustice is that many other countries around the world will not have this opportunity, because either their geographic location is not strategic enough or their commodities are not precious enough for the U.S. and others to take notice. What will it take for their cries to be heard as well?
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Taryne Tosetti at Taryne.email@example.com.