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Analysis: With the UN in disarray, the Arab League useless and NATO and the West overstretched. Who comes to the rescue?
Should the conflict spiral badly out of control, with civilian casualties and rebel losses amounting in the tens of thousands, the United States, NATO or a coalition of nations (perhaps the United States, France, UK, Australia and Italy) might launch an unsanctioned intervention.
Diplomatic cover for such a move would never come from the Arab League, an institution notorious for its tolerance of internal bloodshed (see Darfur, Saddam’s gassing of Kurds in Halabja in 1988, or Syria’s 1982 destruction of the city of Hama).
However, NATO itself — in something of a stretch — could invoke its own self-defense should the conflict threaten free navigation in the Mediterranean or if Gaddafi were to be so foolish as to reengage his terrorist cells. It’s worth noting here that, whatever the morality of the issue, NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999 was based solely on vague references to the U.N. charter. Even the EU, which “intervened” to keep the peace in Macedonia in 2003, might provide this fig leaf.
What can’t happen is another Rwanda. As unpleasant as it might be to imagine Western forces invading yet another an oil rich Arab tyranny, the moral case, at least, is there. And thankfully, this particular tyrant dealt away his “Weapons of Mass Destruction” program before the shooting began.