When situations like Libya arise, it is helpful to have knowledgeable people examine the various forces at work and give you a sense of the stakes involved. Marc Lynch argues persuasively that the stakes are high for the US and the UN coalition that authorised “all necessary measures” yesterday:
The intervention is a high-stakes gamble. If it succeeds quickly, and Qaddafi’s regime crumbles as key figures jump ship in the face of its certain demise, then it could reverse the flagging fortunes of the Arab uprisings. Like the first Security Council resolution on Libya, it could send a powerful message that the use of brutal repression makes regime survival less rather than more likely. It would put real meat on the bones of the “Responsibility to Protect” and help create a new international norm. And it could align the U.S. and the international community with al-Jazeera and the aspirations of the Arab protest movement. I have heard from many protest leaders from other Arab countries that success in Libya would galvanize their efforts, and failure might crush their hopes.
But if it does not succeed quickly, and the intervention degenerates into a long quagmire of air strikes, grinding street battles, and growing pressure for the introduction of outside ground forces, then the impact could be quite different. Despite the bracing scenes of Benghazi erupting into cheers at the news of the Resolution, Arab support for the intervention is not nearly as deep as it seems and will not likely survive an extended war. If Libyan civilians are killed in airstrikes, and especially if foreign troops enter Libyan territory, and images of Arabs killed by U.S. forces replace images of brave protestors battered by Qaddafi’s forces on al-Jazeera, the narrative could change quickly into an Iraq-like rage against Western imperialism. What began as an indigenous peaceful Arab uprising against authoritarian rule could collapse into a spectacle of war and intervention.
You can read his full post here.
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