The Right Way to Resolve the Libya Crisis

A Ceasefire and Negotiations the Right Way to Resolve the Libya Crisis

PUBLICATION: International Crisis Group

DATE: 2011.03.10


A complete ceasefire to be followed by negotiations to secure a transition to a post-Qaddafi, legitimate and representative government should be the immediate objectives of the international community’s approach to the Libyan crisis. Military intervention should be viewed as a last resort, with the goal of protecting civilians at risk, and nothing should be allowed to preempt or preclude the urgent search for a political solution.

At the outset of the anti-Qaddafi protests, the international community reacted to widespread abuses against civilians by adopting measures (asset freeze, arms embargo, threat of prosecution of war crimes) which Crisis Group had called for and publicly supported as necessary to prevent a humanitarian disaster. But the situation has since evolved. It is now becoming a full-scale civil war.

In Tunisia and Egypt, the army, by playing a neutral buffer role, was decisive in avoiding civil war and facilitating an orderly resolution of the political crisis. In both countries, the state had an existence independent of the president and his regime, and the army could see that the protesters were opposing the latter but not the state itself. This distinction between state and regime is absent in Libya. Qaddafi built a power structure centered around him and family members and dependent in part on tribal alliances rather than modern structures. As a result, the army and security forces could not remain neutral; they have split between forces loyal to one side or the other. The country also appears to be dividing along tribal and regional lines…