Thursday, March 31, 2011

Iraqi Protesters to al-Maliki: "The People's Oil belongs to the People and not to the Thieves"

While Western journalists and pundits continue to fret over the role of Islamists in the ongoing protests in the Arab world, few of them have made a serious effort to examine the protesters' motivations.

A sign at a recent demonstration in Baghdad is emblematic of the protesters' goals. It read: "The people's oil belongs to the people, not to the thieves" (naft al-sha'b li-l-sha'b wa laysa li-l-haramiya). The sign sums up the anger and aspirations of the demonstrators, namely the desire for governments that have a civic consciousness, and work for the common good, especially the economic well being of the populace at large.

Creating an Islamic state is not the goal of the vast majority of those who have taken to the streets to express their discontent with their respective governments. What then are the motivations behind the protests? How do we discover what they are?

While survey research data is still limited, an easy way to learn about the protestors' goals is to read the Arabic press. Among the best newspapers for understanding the nature of the protests is the London based, al-Hayat. In its March 12th issue, two excellent articles on Iraq tell us much about the current political aspirations of the peoples in the Arab world.

Under the titles, "Protests Spread throughout Iraq from the North to the South," and, "The Ministry of Interior's Inspector-General: High Ranking Officers Have Failed to Present Reports Detailing their Sources of Income," we learn that economic equality, accountability, and representative government are the key demands of the citizens of Arab countries.

In the first article, al-Hayat reporter Khulud al-'Amari interviews many people who participated in a large protest in Liberation Square (Sahat al-Tahrir) in Baghdad as well as in other Iraqi cities. What is striking is the themes of economic well being and anti-corruption that run through all the demonstrators' responses.

In Baghdad, one demonstrator complained that the $192 pension he receives after 25 years of government employment is not enough to support him. He asks whether this is any way to treat someone who has served his country for such a log period of time. A woman who said she is raising 4 children and taking care of brother who is mentally ill, sells trinkets in the streets but finds that this does not provide enough income to live on. A recent graduate of Baghdad's al-Mustansiriya University said the government's main concerns should be tacking unemployment and eliminating corruption.

Other demonstrators indicated that they were fired from their employment after 2003 and cannot understand why they are not allowed to return to their jobs. Even though they are entitled to return to their positions, they have been prevented from doing so for what they feel are sectarian reasons. Demonstrators in al-Falluja who were interviewed felt that sectarian factors have likewise precluded them from obtaining government employment.

The protests discussed in this article include al-Najaf which is, of course, the religious and cultural center of Shiism in Iraq. Here demonstrators protested the lack of government services and carried signs condemning the state's "plundering of wealth" (nadab al-tharwat). Other signs read, "Have mercy on the poor" (Arhamu al-fuqara') and "No to social classism and to corruption" (La li-l-tabaqiya wa-l-fasad).

The article also reports on "thousands of demonstrators" in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya who likewise were protesting government corruption and the lack of jobs.
In the southern city of Hilla, demonstrators carried signs calling for the removal of the provincial council and improving electricity supplies. Thus the article makes clear that the same concerns and demands span all of Iraq's ethnoconfessional groups - Shi'a, Sunnis and Kurds alike.

The second article on corruption within the Ministry of Interior,
also written by Khulud al-'Amari, points to its pervasiveness in Iraq's ministries and the difficulty of those whose responsibility it is to fight corruption to do so. It also underscores the unwillingness of the al-Maliki government to address in any serious manner the problem of corruption. While those such as the ministry inspector-generals and others who are charged with fighting corruption are not being assassinated as many were just a few years ago, these officials still lack the backing of the al-Maliki and KRG governments and, as a result, their efforts still remain ineffectual.

A third article by Jawdat Kadhim provides additional insights to those included in Khulud al-'Amari's articles. "The Commander of the Rapid Response Brigade is enmeshed in a Network of Corruption" reports that the general who leads the rapid response force in the Ministry of Interior, Brigadier-General Nu'man Dakhil, was ordered by Prime Minister al-Maliki to turn himself in to the minstry's Anti-Corruption Unit. The officer is accused of having taken a $50,000 bribe in return for arranging the release of a leader of al-Qa'ida from a prison in the north central city of Tikrit, Saddam Husayn's home town.

Obviously, in high profile cases such as this one, corruption is prosecuted. But this case represents the exception not the rule. The persistence of corruption is undermining support for Iraq's fragile democracy. One group of demonstrators that Khulud al-'Amari interviewed in Baghdad complained that Prime Minister al-Maliki had not kept his election promises. These demonstrators also indicated their "regret" for having participated in last march's parliamentary elections. It is evident that the al-Maliki government, by failing to address the problems of unemployment, corruption, improving social services, and respect for individual freedoms, is undermining support for democracy.

By failing to address the core drivers of discontent in the Arab world - unemployment, corruption, repression of individual rights - and instead focusing on a perceived threat of radical Islam, Western journalists, pundits and academics are helping local political elites divert attention from the concerns that have led the peoples of the Arab world to demand political change.

Syria: The Art of "Branding" Political Reform

Guest author: Ghaidaa Hetou

The political change permeating the Middle East is widely considered an unstoppable process. The push for greater personal freedoms and accountable government is feeding off the success of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, as much as being propelled by the counterproductive and typical defense mechanisms of the archaic authoritarian institutions that still dominate many countries of the region.

There are similarities between the popular uprisings in a number of Arab countries in that the demands for change focus on individual freedoms, better living standards and political pluralism. However, there has been a tendency to reduce the current political dynamics to a singular process that fails to recognize the different characteristics of the countries in which calls for change have occurred.

What role do country specific characteristics play, if at all, in the overwhelmingly popular demands in the Arab world? Can an Arab leader still afford to mobilize the same “national priorities” – anti-imperialism, anti-Zionism and so on - that have consistently been used to eclipse individual freedoms? How does a reform minded regime confront the fact that it is part of the problem, but potentially could be part of the solution if it would consider implementing meaningful reforms? How does the Syrian government’s stance of “resistance” differentiate its experience with political reform from other countries in the region, if at all?

Syria tried to celebrate what it felt was a triumphal moment when it sensed that the troubling winds of uprisings that were affecting other Arab countries had passed it by. Since demonstrations and calls for change had not yet materialized, the regime of President Bashar al-Asad began publishing self-congratulatory articles in popular magazines and issued an open invitation for President Barack Obama to visit Syria. This public relations offensive was too audacious and too soon, coming as it did right before the unrest in the southern Syrian city of Dar’aa.

The sense of exceptionalism that is ingrained in the Syrian political experience does have some grounding in reality. Compared to Tunisia and Egypt, Syria, especially during the last ten years, has promoted economic and social development as well as educational reforms. Syria has no external debt to the IMF or other international financial institutions, guaranties minority rights, and is the leader of a popular foreign policy that is officially opposed to the so-called American and Israeli agenda in the region. The roots of the Syrian president’s popularity among large segments of the Syrian populations stem from the above mentioned policies. When Bashar al-Asad says that he supports political reform, many Syrians believe him.

The Syrian president’s self-proclaimed reform agenda – underway since 2000 - has been almost nonexistent in the political realm. There has been no move towards greater personal freedoms or political pluralism. Yet events in Tunisia, Egypt, followed by the dramatic developments in Libya, not to mention the events in Dar’a, have put the spotlight on Syria. If the Syrian regime hopes to contain the current protests, its strategy of dealing with possible unrest will need to take into consideration a number of factors.

First, there is a need to minimize the use of recycled reactionary rhetoric and terms such as Fitna (actions that lead to chaos), conspiracy, infiltrators, and so on. The standard political discourse that has been trotted out in the past by authoritarian leaders such as President al-Asad has become irrelevant. It no longer works to contain popular political protests since the sophisticated political understandings of the majority of Syrians has come to associate this discourse with a “regime in crisis,” and one that refuses to eliminate the repressive national security state.

Second, the regime needs to appreciate the fact that time is crucial and not on its side. There is no time for a “wait and see” attitude since the regime’s window of opportunity for leaving a historic legacy of peaceful political restructuring and reform will soon close. We know that Tunisian president Zein al-Din Ben Ali and his Egyptian counterpart Husni Mubarak’s failure to address the desire for political change was what ultimately led both to be swept aside.

Some features of the anti-Syrian government rhetoric have actually helped the Syrian government. For example, some Arabic channels raised, albeit only for a few days, the typical and obvious sectarian accusations of the Syrian regime as Nussairi, Alawi and minority based.

Not only is this approach counterproductive, and even laughable, because it underestimates the intelligence of Syrians, but it fails to offer a concise and meaningful political argument for the “illegitimacy” of Bashar al-Asad’s regime. The tactic of invoking sectarianism to question the Syrian regime’s legitimacy might have garnered some traction during the 1980s at the height of religious tensions when Hafiz al-Asad, Bashar’s father, brutally suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood in the city of Hama.

But Syrians in recent years have enjoyed greater religious freedoms, which includes the Sunni majority, whose political rights have been expanded with the introduction of a degree of political pluralism. Raising the issue of sectarianism in a country like Syria to undermine the regime’s legitimacy resembles shooting oneself in the foot.

The Syrian regime’s method of dealing with the widespread demands for reform has to account for bureaucratic resistance for reform within the state apparatus, as well as the intricate balance between security, stability and gradual political change. If the regime of Bashar al-Asad does embark on the road to the gradual political change it has promised, it could possibly introduce a new model for political change in the region. No doubt, a Syrian made transition would look very different than the Tunisian, Egyptian, and the Libyan experiences.

Despite the ongoing protests, grass roots pressures will most likely not overwhelm the current regime, which has been able thus far to curb demonstrations in Dar’aa, Damascus, Latakia and in other Syrian cities. While President al-Asad has promised widespread reforms, his March 29th speech to the national parliament was defiant and once again blamed Syria’s unrest on unspecified “foreign elements,” and “conspirators,” especially those encouraged by Israel. It did not address one of the key demands of the protesters which is abolishing the national security laws that have been in effect since 1963.

The dynamic of the Syrian government’s response to the change sweeping the Arab world is still unclear. The beginning of meaningful reforms – reforms that the Syrian regime has promised since 2005 but still has not implemented - could create a dynamic of good will between the people and the government, especially in light of the popularity Bashar al-Asad still enjoys. However, if the regime continues to refuse to implement political change, this good will could harden into further political opposition, possibly destabilizing the country, with serious regional consequences.

At this point, it is up to the Syrian regime whether a new momentum of good will develops among the Syrian populace or whether Syrians will continue to be disappointed by a further lack of responsiveness by the government to their legitimate demands for political and social change

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Multidimensional Approach to Waziristan: Developing an Alternative to Taliban Rule

"In traditional society man accepts his natural and social environment as given. An attempt to change the society is not only blasphemous but also impossible. Change is absent or imperceptible in traditional society because men cannot conceive of its existence.’'(Samuel Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, 1968. p. 99)

Pakistan’s tribal belt is the quintessential traditional society that Huntington talks about in the above statement. Change seems to be absent or almost inconceivable in that region, where as the rest of the country, albeit slowly, has progressed and transformed - the tribal agencies have experienced inconsequential change in their social and economic structures.

Pakistan’s tribal agencies only came to focus from their obscure existence after the events of September 11, 2001 and the preceding war in Afghanistan. Since then, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has served as a sanctuary and recruiting grounds for radical extremist groups to manipulate the poorest region of Pakistan. FATA is composed of seven agencies, Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan.

Source: CAMP Report 2010

The tribal belt is home to various Pashtun tribes who abide by the strict Pashtunwali code. North and South Waziristan is home to the Wazir and Mahsud tribes. The name itself means, ‘the land of the Wazirs.’ Before going into the details of Waziristan, its important to clarify the Pashtunwali code, what it means and what it stands for? Pashtunwali constitutes a set of cultural values, rules and regulations, which are all intertwined with each other. It is based on five basic components, tora (courage), badal (revenge), melmastia (hospitality), nanawatee (magnanimity to an opponent asking for peace), and jirga (tribal counsel for dispute resolution). Tribal life revolves around each one of these aspects.

It was the Afghan Soviet war, which led to an influx of foreign fighters and refugees in the tribal belt. At that crucial time in history for the Pashtuns of FATA, the principles of badal, melmastia, and tora were all part of helping their Pashtun brothers on the other side of the Durand line. Similarly, after October 2001, the Allied war in Afghanistan triggered cross border movement of refugees and militants and under the tribal code of Pashtunwali, the extension of melmastia to these foreign actors was paramount obligation. Thus, Pashtunwali is everything for the tribal Pashtuns – they live and die by this code of conduct.


Waziristan plays a crucial role in the talibanization of the region – it is the birthplace of the Pakistani Taliban and one of the most radicalized agencies of the tribal belt. In 2009, it earned the appellation of being ‘the headquarters of Islamist terror.’ (Economist, Dec. 2009) The topography of Waziristan adds further to the austerity of its already complex cultural and political situation. The terrain is rugged and inhospitable and covers about 5000 square miles of mountain land.

This is also one of the poorest regions in Pakistan, with unemployment, illiteracy and infant mortality at alarming levels. The economy is mainly pastoral, with agriculture practiced in a few fertile sections, and thus the economic framework of Waziristan is limited to subsistence agriculture and small-scale business conducted on a local level. This lack of economic development has created a continued migration pattern and led to demographic changes. The impact of demographic changes, adds to the shortage of doctors, teachers and skilled workers, further compounding the socio-economic situation.



Literacy Ratio









Population per doctor



The literacy rate in FATA is 29 percent for men and a shocking 3 percent for women, in comparison to Pakistan where it is 55 percent for men and 32 percent for women. It is estimated that the literacy levels are even lower in Waziristan. About 80 percent of the boys are being educated at the madrassahs who adhere to Deobandi school of thought.

The political status of the tribal belt is similarly disarrayed. FATA is territorially a part of Pakistan, and it is represented both in the upper (Senate, 8 members) and the lower (National Assembly, 12 members) chambers of the parliament; but the laws drafted and formulated by the legislature do not apply to FATA, unless it is a direct presidential order. (Constitution of Pakistan, Article 247) Since the independence in 1947, the government of Pakistan has continued with the British policy of proxy rule in FATA. Thus, the political structure, of the region has a peculiar system of administration, and the people are governed by their local chieftains called Maliks, through financial compensation controlled by the Federal government in Islamabad and exercised by a political agent.

Likewise, the judicial system or the jirga, is homogenous to the political arrangements. Neither the Supreme Court nor the High Courts of Pakistan can exercise any jurisdiction in relation to the tribal areas. The jirga acts as the instrument of dispensing justice.

Tribal Jirga in session

Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP):

In December 2007, an alliance between twenty eight taliban groups formed a group known as the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. This is the largest taliban group in Pakistan - other taliban factions are not Waziristan based and are a mix of various jihadi groups. The central concern is the rise of the Pakistani Taliban and what led to the emergence of this group? The Pakistani Taliban today threatened the state structure of both Pakistan and affects the state building process in Afghanistan. In its initial stage, the TTP was under the leader ship of Baitullah Mahsud, but after his assassination, Hakimullah Mahsud has led it. The objectives of the TTP are resistance against the Pakistani state, and enforcement of Sharia law in Pakistan.

The TTP emerged in South Waziristan under primordial ethnic identity, along with the lack of state initiated economic and political institutions. Its member base is composed of young tribesmen who have been radicalized by the jihadi rhetoric of the Deobandi madrassahs. The U.S. war in Afghanistan further complicated the already complex structures in Waziristan and contributed in the formation of TTP. A report published by New America Foundation maintains that the security situation in South Waziristan took a drastic turn when the U.S. and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 - the Afghan Taliban, Arab Al Qaeda, and foreign fighters form Uzbekistan, Chechnya, and Tajikistan slipped into Waziristan looking for refuge. The extension of melmastia (hospitality) to these foreigners was stipulated on them, since refusing refuge would be a violation of Pashtunwali. South and North Waziristan has since been targeted the most with the U.S. drone attacks and military campaigns in the tribal region.


Drone Strikes

Non-militants killed

Militants killed




10 - 12




18 - 98




5 - 15









North Waziristan


169 - 241

418 - 590

South Waziristan


76 - 203

251 - 363

Source: New America Foundation.

Multidimensional Approach to Waziristan:

Besides other factors, there are two major constituents that have played a role into the talibanization of Waziristan. Firstly, the continuation of the British colonial policy of proxy rule by the Pakistani government led to the impediment of economic growth and political alienation of the indigenous population. Secondly, the demographic changes that took place due to high unemployment (created by the economic and geographic constraints) and the relocation of the local population of Waziristan to more accessible terrain, left the region open and available for non-state actors.

The military operation and U.S drone attacks are an extremely sensitive issue within Pakistan, as well as in FATA. Both methods have not proven to be successful in containing terrorism in Pakistan. Instead the backlash, which in the Pashtunwali terms would be badal (revenge), has had a dual effect – against the Pakistani state in which the intended target is the Pakistani army, police, political leaders and citizenry; and against the NATO forces in which the target is the torching and bombing the supply line for the forces in Afghanistan. The first target has been more costly and culminated in the loss of innocent lives in the bazaars and streets of Peshawar, Karachi, and Lahore.

The rational approach to Waziristan/FATA would involve a combination of a stick and carrot strategy. The primary tactic for the state should be to establish a social contract with the people of FATA. The nonexistence of a social contract between the Pakistani state and its citizens in FATA, is a major factor contributing to the current crisis. In this case, it is the state’s responsibility to extend security to its subjects and provide for a rule of law. The tribal belt should be fully integrated in the political structure of Pakistan. Political parties should be permitted to contest elections in the tribal areas and that would create competition for the dominant religious groups.

The transgression of state boundaries also contributed to the emergence of TTP, Hence strengthening international boundary laws on the Durand line would provide the region with some stability. The importance of the economy should not be ignored; the poverty of the region has played a crucial role in the fragmentation of civil society. Cheap religious education provided by the Deobandi Madrassah’s in Waziristan resulted in the radicalization of young tribal boys. A society cannot flourish if half of its population is alienated from the social, political and economic spheres. The lack of education for girls is an issue that needs to be addressed both by the Pakistani government and the tribal society.

To conclude on a note by John Spain, who describes Waziristan succinctly, ‘South of the smiling Kurrum valley lies a five thousand square mile tangle of hills with the sinister sounding name of Waziristan. Here Pukhtunwali is the only way of life. Here the Pathan may be found at his cruelest – and his noblest.’ The Pakistani state needs to search for the noblest Wazirs and Mahsuds, to contain the talibanization of this region.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Are the Islamists the new "communists" of the Middle East?

As protest movements spread throughout the Middle East, the Western news media continues to focus on the possible takeover by radical Islamists of opposition movements in Egypt, Tunisia and now Libya. According to Western journalists, radial Islamists are said to be more organized than other groups, have well-established nation-wide networks and therefore likely to win the forthcoming elections that we can expect to take place at least in Egypt and Tunisia. While this concern has its merits, are Western policy-makers making yet another mistake in their understanding if the Middle East?

Between the late 1940s and the late 1980s, but especially during the 1950s and 1960s, Americans were obsessed with a communist takeover of the world. The fear of communism led to such excesses as the McCarthy Hearings in the US Senate and the destructive witchhunts of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Indeed, I can remember as a young child being fearful that the communists would steal my toys (although I wondered how the Chinese would cross the Pacific Ocean to arrive at my house).

With Russia, China, Eastern Europe and North Korea under communist control by the mid-1950s, and later followed by Cuba, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, Western countries had a right to fear a communist threat. But can the same be said of Islamism, or more correctly radical Islamism which, at this time, is only in control of one country, the Islamic Republic of Iran?

There are numerous indications that Islamists do not control the protests that are sweeping the Middle East. At the same time, it is clear that Islamists have joined these movements. However, the report in the Italian newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore , that Abd al-Hakim Hasidi, who was formerly associated with al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan in 2002, is active in the Libyan opposition, has led to a slew of articles indicating that radical Islamists are going to take over the opposition movement in Libya.

I agree with Fouad Ajami's comments on CNN that the opposition movement is largely made up of ordinary Libyan citizens who seek to throw off more than 40 years of oppressive rule by a ruler and his family who have squandered the country's oil wealth. We should be less concerned with Islamists, who the West has little opportunity to control in any event, and more concerned with making Libya's nascent opposition movement and those in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere a success.

Does the Libyan opposition include radical Islamists who seek to impose a new type of authoritarian rule? No doubt it does. But the West's attitude is once again to adopt a condescending approach that refuses to recognize that peoples in non-Western parts of the world understand their interests and are sophisticated enough to know who opposes these interest.

The obsession with communism led the United States to make many bad decisions in the Middle East. The US gave the Shah of Iran unequivocal support which ultimately resulted in the creation of a radical Islamist regime that has engaged in destabilizing the region. In other words, the US helped bring about the very outcome which it so feared.

Helping the first Ba'thist regime overthrow Abd al-Karim Qasim in Iraq in 1963 not only deposed a non-sectarian and honest leader who was truly concerned with the interests of his people and began a period of unstable and authoritarian regimes which has still not finished playing itself out in Iraqi to this day.

Seeing communists behind every rock in the Middle East led the US and its allies to support autocrats such as Husni Mubarak and Zein al-Dine Ben Ali. In the process, we alienated large segments of Middle Eastern society and created great distrust for American policies in the region.

If we fail to realize that much of the support for Islamism is based on great ideological fluidity in the Middle East, we attribute more influence to Islamist movements than they actually possess. Arab nationalism has lost its legitimacy. Socialism on the model of the former Soviet Union is an ideology of the past. Middle Easterners want social justice but they also demand freedom. They are not going to cede the hard won freedom that they have won from the secular autocrats only to turn over control to radical Islamist autocrats.

The people of the region are searching for new models of the future. Rather than look at this with fear, the West should realize that there are great opportunities for change, especially among the region's youth

There are those who would point out that those who supported the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 also sought freedom and look where it ended up. Conditions are different today. Iran was an isolated event in 1979, there was no social media at the time, and Iranians know today that the revolution has not lived up to its promises. The Iranian regime is highly unpopular, especially Iranian youth who make up 70% of the population under the age of 30.

The US and the West need to keep their eyes on the prize, namely helping Middle Easterners achieve democracy, build civil society and create economic opportunity that will provide the necessary jobs for the large number of unemployed people in the region especially youth.

Yes, the US should be concerned when radicals become active in opposition movements which claim to support democracy. However, these radicals will lose their ability to recruit new members when the countries of the region are able to provide their citizens with freedom, employment and other social services.

If the West is really sincere about preventing radical Islamists from taking over the nascent democratic movements of the region, it will work hard to bring social justice to the Middle East.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Impose a no-fly zone and recognize Libya's democracy movement now

As the struggle to oust Muammar al-Qaddafi shifts in favor of his regime, the Arab world and the West are doing very little to help the Libyan rebels. The waffling by the international community is very disturbing. Libya is not Iraq. No one is calling for foreign troops to invade the country. Instead what is needed is to provide the forces seeking to oust the Qaddafi regime with the necessary material and political support that will allow them to be victorious. Will the international community meet its obligations?

Muammar al-Qaddadi is culpable for human rights abuses, both in Libya and beyond its borders. It is clear that he has indiscriminately killed large numbers of Libyan civilians, many of whom are not even involved in the current uprising that seeks to end his rule. A former member of his regime has indicated that Qaddafi personally ordered the downing of Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland in December 1988. We also know that Qaddafi was involved in terrorist attacks in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. By any legal standard, he is responsible for the deaths of countless innocent people, both in Libya and abroad. Thus there is a prima facie case for his removal from power under international law.

The rebels have said that they do not want to see foreign troops enter the current conflict. Nevertheless, there is much the international community can do. As many commentators have noted, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates' assertion that imposing a no-fly zone over Libya would be difficult was exaggerated and even he has backed down somewhat from his original statement in testimony before the US Congress. As Qaddafi's air force - both helicopter gunships and fighter aircraft - continue to bomb rebel emplacements, inflicting serious collateral damage in the process by killing more civilians, there is a strong basis in international law for intervention by the international community to stop these massive human rights violations. What form should international intervention take?

As for material support, the critical first order of business is to impose a no-fly zone. Thankfully, former US president Bill Clinton has come out in support of this action. A no-fly zone would prevent Qaddafi from continuing to bring in more mercenaries to bolster his forces, especially from sub-Saharan Africa. There are reports that Qaddafi still has billions of dollars in cash on hand which he is using to recruit new fighters. It would also prevent his fighter bombers from attacking rebel and civilian targets. Second, the runways of Libyan air force bases should be destroyed so fighter aircraft can no longer take off to engage in attacks on rebel and civilian targets.

Third, rebel forces should be provided with weaponry, especially surface to air missiles, that will allow them to fend off attacks by Qaddafi's helicopter gun ships as well as press on with their efforts to oust his regime. Fourth, the international community should impose a naval blockade that would prevent shipping from entering or leaving Libyan ports, except those controlled by rebel forces.

Finally, the Libyan rebels and people in areas under their control are in desperate need of medical supplies and personnel. Physicians, nurses and medicine should be sent to Libya along with other humanitarian aid to help those in need of medical treatment and food.

At the political level, the international community should recognize the nascent democracy movement as the legitimate government of Libya. So far, only France has had the courage to do so. If more countries would join France, this would give tremendous moral support to the rebels as well as boost their self-confidence.

While the "realist" pundits in the West continue to caution against intervention because of the instability that it is causing in global financial and energy markets, they should realize that it is precisely the rule of brutal autocrats such as Muammar al-Qaddafi that presents the greatest threat to the long-term economic stability of the world market. International intervention in Libya is not just a moral imperative but an economic one as well.

Here in the US, we need remember that the American Revolution would not have been successful had France not intervened to support it. Had the Revolution failed, its leaders no doubt would have been hung for treason by King George III. If the Libya uprising fails, there will be a bloodbath of enormous proportions in which not only the rebels but large numbers of civilians will be killed by the Qaddafi regime.

When the day is done, does the UN, the Arab league, and NATO want to have such a bloodbath on its conscience?