An Alternate rendering of UN Resolution 1973: “If Gaddafi resists garrotting by rebels, security council members may bomb the shit out of him.”

In today’s Age Gareth Evans has sought to correct what he believes is a false assertion by pointing out that the military intervention authorised by the UN is strictly limited.  Such limitations, according to Evans, mean that action by security council members aimed at killing Gaddafi are strictly forbidden. But a qualification is missing here. It is only forbidden if Gaddafi doesn’t use force to preserve his life. If Gaddafi willingly succumbs to the desires of the rebels to kill him there is no need to kill him, but if he resists the rebels with violent force then the UN has mandated that security council members can ‘use all necessary measures’ to make him comply.

Here is what Evans says about the intervention:

“Legally, morally, politically and militarily it has only one justification: protecting the country’s people from the kind of murderous harm that Gaddafi inflicted on unarmed protesters four weeks ago, has continued to apply to those who oppose him in the areas he controls, and has promised to inflict on anyone against him should his forces recapture Benghazi and other rebel ground. And when that job is done, the military intervention will be done. Any regime change is for the Libyan people themselves to achieve.”

Evans laments that despite the clarity of this, numerous people, whether out of cynicism or anxiety, are saying that the resolution leads down the same road paved by Iraq – regime change and occupation. This is, he asserts, contrary to the UN resolution (the legal reason for the limitation), which, he interprets thusly:

“Coercive military action was allowed to take two forms: ”all necessary measures” to enforce a no-fly zone, and ”all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack”. But boots on the ground – ”a foreign occupation force” – were expressly excluded.”

He is right here. An occupation force is expressly forbidden. Thus, things are different to Iraq. But what about the regime change bit?

Here Evans seems to make a claim too far.

“Military action expressly designed to kill Gaddafi or force him into exile, to ensure rebel victory in a civil war, or to achieve a more open and responsive system of government in Libya is simply not permissible under the explicit legal terms of UN resolution 1973.”

The UN resolution denies Gaddafi a monopoly over the legitimate use of force, it denies him the resources of the state.  Whatever law or command that he makes only holds in so far as it is not necessary for him to enforce it through violent means.  This extends to any law that gives the Libyan President (Gaddafi) any right, whether that relates to his presence in Libya, his tenure as dictator, his property or his life. Gaddafi is allowed to pursue any policy he likes without any repercussion manadated from the UN as long as such policies do not depend upon the use of violent force, “murderous harm”, an attack upon civilians. To follow the letter of the law here, this means that if somebody robs a store in Tripoli Gaddafi cannot seek to implement any law regarding this act that would depend upon the use or threat of ‘muderous harm’, an attack against such a civilian.

The UN resolution effectively hands to the rebels a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. If they decided that Tripoli should be controlled in a manner of their choosing and Gaddafi resists the implementation of this decision, this opens the way for the intervention of security-council members.  All that is required is that they make this demand and seek to carry it out and, consequently, that they somehow constitute themselves as a they – perhaps the revolutionary council of Bengahzi is just such a constitution.

The only UN restriction on the use of force is the agreement of people willing to challenge Gaddafi. This is the effect of the non-occupation requirement. If force is used against other groups in Libya that are seeking to use force then the intervention will become an occupation. Perhaps, it would be one conducted solely via air-craft, but nonetheless it would still amount to a handing of control of the state, ie the legitiamate use of force, to whatever the anti-Gaddafi coalition is called. This coalition would then become a foreign force of occupation. A conclusion from this is might be that the UN resolution actually requires security council members to help constitute a alternate government by recognizing its authority.

If the intervention is not to be a foreign occupation force and if the intervention is aimed at removing a monopoly over the legitimate use of force from Gaddafi and his supporters then it follows that this monopoly falls to ‘the people’.  Thereby, if ‘the people’ is capable of organising an attempt to implement rulership alternate to that of Gaddafi the UN has authorised ‘all necessary measures’ to back that rulership up – to supply it with the firepower to that effectively is control of the state.  I.e. regime change.

The UN resolution is effectively a licence to ally with the rebels and offer them all that can be understood to fit under ‘all necessary measures’.

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About barkingcoins
This author is just another fucking dickhead.

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