Gaddafi's violent, no holds barred response to the reasonable demands of the revolutionary youth has left the Libyan people with limited choices in their struggle with his tyranny. These choices are either bad or very bad. The Arab revolution that had its spark lit in Tunisia is a revolution by the Arab masses, owned by them, and not orchestrated by foreign powers, east or west. The military intervention in Libya, sanctioned by UN resolution 1973, has created doubt and uncertainty about its independence and its direction. It is understandable that the youth at the front line, battling a megalomaniac who will stop at nothing to hold on to power, should ask for help from the US and the West via the UN. The US national intelligence director James Clapper's assessment, before western intervention, was that Gaddafi would prevail and the revolution would be crushed.
Prominent left-wingers such as Jeremy Corbin, British Labour Member of Parliament, asked David Cameron, Britain's Prime Minister in the House of Commons: "Is the Prime Minister now suggesting that we should develop a foreign policy that would be prepared to countenance intervention in other countries where there are attacks on civilians, such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman or Bahrain?" The double standards practised by the west implied in the question are undeniable and should be exposed. George Galloway, another prominent left-winger suggested that Libya was singled out for intervention because of its oil.
Double standards have always been a deplorable part of western politics, but all of these protestations should not be used as an excuse to avoid answering this question: Which do you think is the least bad option, is it: (a) the West does nothing, thus allowing Gaddafi to slaughter his own people, eventually winning and exacting a terrible revenge on those who opposed him or (b) intervene to stop him according to resolution 1973 which explicitly excludes an invasion of Libya? The practice of double standards by the West cannot, in itself, justify doing nothing. The people of the Arab world, and progressives and left-wingers in the West would like the Libyan uprising to succeed and an end to Gaddafi and his bloody regime. It is true that he has some support among the left in Venezuela and other Latin American countries. Immanuel Wallerstein argues in Z communications that such support is based on a misjudgement:
" Several left Latin American states, and most notably Venezuela, are fulsome in their support of Colonel Qaddafi. But the spokespersons of the world left in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe, and indeed North America, decidedly don't agree. Hugo Chavez's analysis seems to focus primarily, indeed exclusively, on the fact that the United States and western Europe have been issuing threats and condemnations of the Qaddafi regime. Qaddafi, Chavez, and some others insist that the western world wishes to invade Libya and "steal" Libya's oil. The whole analysis misses entirely what has been happening, and reflects badly on Chavez's judgment - and indeed on his reputation with the rest of the world left. First of all, for the last decade and up to a few weeks ago, Qaddafi had nothing but good press in the western world. He was trying in every way to prove that he was in no way a supporter of "terrorism" and wished only to be fully integrated into the geopolitical and world-economic mainstream. Libya and the western world have been entering into one profitable arrangement after another. It is hard for me to see Qaddafi as a hero of the world anti-imperialist movement, at least in the last decade".
Another argument advanced by the British "Stop the War Coalition" is put by their spokesman in The British Guardian Newspaper (19 March): "History shows us that the consequences of western intervention are almost always disastrous and not in the interests of those it claims to support". As a British citizen of Iraqi origin with firsthand experience of the disaster that was/is the illegal Iraq war, I have a lot of sympathy with that sentiment. I believe, however, this situation is one of the rare exceptions that justify the use of the word "almost" in the above quote: first, the resolution explicitly excludes ground troops, no invasion; second is the legality of the action; and third, a strong moral case exists for such intervention as Gaddafi is currently conducting a war against his own people.
Questions which have clear cut choices are easy to answer. The Libyan crisis, as a result of the actions of Gaddafi, is not one. We are left to consider, on the balance of probabilities, which is the least bad option. In my view, it is western intervention according to UN resolution 1973.
Progressives and those on the left of politics need to answer it and other similar questions that will almost certainly arise in the future; otherwise they will be seen as irrelevant by the masses of ordinary citizens.