The battle for Libya has raised questions about how ordinary people can defeat heavily‑armed regimes.
The advances being made by forces loyal to the dictator Muammar Gaddafi can seem to some to justify Western calls to impose a no‑fly zone.
Some in Libya have echoed the calls—understandable in the face of a violent counter-revolution.
But Egypt and Tunisia have shown that it is possible for untrained revolutionaries to defeat what can seem like the mightiest of tyrants.
Those struggles have also shown that the battle for change doesn’t proceed down a smooth road. Revolution is a process, and both sides will face advances and retreats.
Siân Ruddick argues why socialists should oppose calls for “humanitarian intervention” in Libya—or anywhere else in the world.
Can’t we support a “no-fly zone” without supporting Western intervention?
The ruling classes and media in the West make it sound like imposing a no-fly zone is something passive that ends violence rather than starting an active military engagement.
But this is not true. To get control of the skies foreign forces will have to bomb military targets that might threaten them.
Many of Gaddafi’s strongholds and bases hold captured revolutionaries and other civilians arrested by the dictator’s forces.
To bomb them would kill innocent civilians.
You only have to look at the occupation of Afghanistan to see how often US and British hunting for “military targets” find they have blown up wedding parties or funerals.
How can it be bad for foreign forces to help beat Gaddafi?
The West doesn’t have any altruistic aims. It wants to secure oil and business contracts under any new regime and ensure that its economic power in the region is unthreatened.
The imperialists have lost influence in Egypt and Tunisia. They see Libya as an opportunity to reassert their dominance in the region.
Some see the West as a force for good—for moderation and “democracy”. But the revolutions have exposed the West’s hypocrisy.
In Egypt revolutionaries held up tear gas canisters labelled, “Made in the USA”.
The bombs and bullets that rain down on the Libyan rebels were sold to Gaddafi by Western governments.
The imperialists arm any force they believe will protect their interests and serve free market capitalism.
History shows that any time a door is opened a crack to foreign powers, they kick it down and refuse to leave.
For years before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Western powers imposed a no-fly zone on the country and repeatedly bombed military targets.
Iraqi Kurds called for Western intervention—but US occupation forces killed them along with other Iraqis as occupation’s violence escalated.
But haven’t some Western leaders recognised Libya’s revolutionary government?
The West’s leaders are divided over the best way forward and which forces to recognise—but they are united in their interests of preserving and extending their control in Libya and across the region.
The European Union (EU) made the interim revolutionary council pledge that it would honour oil contracts made under Gaddafi’s dictatorship before the EU would meet the council.
The US and its friends in the EU are already backing some figures involved in the previous regime who now claim to be for “change”.
The West is also prepared to negotiate with Gaddafi.
It is prepared to see the country divided between east and west as long as the oil continues to flow.
That means Gaddafi could maintain his barbaric rule over “his” section of the population.
So you will leave the Libyans to die while talking about solidarity?
Having solidarity with the revolution means opposing any force that will compromise that revolution.
It’s understandable that Libyan people want help when they are being attacked. But as Hizbollah’s victory over Israel in 2006 showed, resistance can win on its own terms—without calling in the air power of another enemy.
Revolution means ordinary people shaping their own destiny. The Libyans are not alone—they are next door to the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions and surrounded by uprisings and resistance.
If the US’s motive was to see the revolution succeed, it would release Gaddafi’s frozen assets to the interim government.
But the US has a fundamental fear of popular power—because it threatens its grip on the world.
These revolutions are not just struggling against dictators—they are struggling against Western‑backed dictators.
The only route to justice for people across the Middle East, North Africa and the world is to throw off the shackles of imperialism and fight as a class—as ordinary people—against the rulers of all countries who seek to oppress and exploit the masses.