The principal reason to support the intervention in the first place was to protect the people of Libya. Decisive action aligned the west with popular movements sweeping the Middle East and north Africa — a goal justified by both ideals and interests. For the same reasons, stopping the fighting now is more important than an opposition victory on the current terms advocated by the National Transitional Council in Benghazi.
Some conditions remain non-negotiable. Muammar Gaddafi must step down. If he remains inside Libya, it must be in a place and on terms that prevent him from maintaining a personal power base. The fighting must stop and both sides must pull out of population centres. But everything else should be on the table.
I fully understand why the idea of any member of the Gaddafi family continuing to hold power of any kind is so repugnant. Yet it is time to rethink, because the longer the fighting continues, the longer it is likely to continue. In a conflict like this one, where neither side has the ability to deliver a decisive blow, the fighting itself creates a cycle of radicalisation and entrenchment that makes it progressively harder rather than easier to reach a settlement. Continue reading »