It is perhaps a picture that has not been seen for a long time; that of terminal moments of badly sought people. The recent casts of Muammar Gaddafi at his time of death raises a question in my mind; will war ever be moral or end in a sightly scene?
When people are tired of a regime, there is perhaps no kind of change within that regime that will bring a change of attitude among the people (Jeong, 2000). Only replacement of a regime brings some sort of psychological satisfaction and conviction that something is going to change. That is how Libyans found themselves thirsting to have a new ruler.
The incumbent system was not philanthropic enough to yield an inch of their hold of power. What began as demonstrations ended in gun fight; there were reportedly use of weapons against civilians and there the battle started. The coming in of NATO was dubbed as military action to protect civilians. Within no time NATO was bombing sites in the Libyan capital of Tripoli aiming for any building that Gaddafi supporters might use, now threatening the same civilians it purported to protect. This grew further to open assassination attempts that ended up with a dead Libyan leader.
How a regime is brought to an end is another whole issue to discuss. What is the role of a nation’s people in bringing change? What is the role of the international community in the same? Which are the more credible methods of regime change? What is the role of media in such instances?
An article by Jonathan Jones titled “The west wrings its hands over dead Gaddafi photos, but war is always hell”, that appeared on The Guardian newspaper sparked thoughts. Jones (2011) questions the morality of war and stark media exposure of ‘death porn’. In his article, Jones argues that the role of the west in a war that ended in such unsightly scene has largely been underemphasized. In fact, he explains how shallow western sentiments are, judging on this case. When NATO participated in the war to oust Gaddafi, it cannot be said that it expected less bloody outcomes.
The fact itself that there were bombings meant that it was real war and that deaths were expected. If there is such a thing as a ‘just war’, then it is yet to be seen. Jones argues that this idea of a ‘just war’ that the western world is so obsessed with is mere sham. It takes us back to medieval times of Thomas Aquinas where the fantasy of a righteous war where you emerge with clean hands and no guilt existed (Jones, 2011).
War can never be decent. There is always death, torture, suffering of innocent souls, disease, displacement, hunger and all torment that can accompany it. Even non-bloody war like the cold war results to unprecedented torment. Historical wars like World War I and World War II were only a success in self justification of the participants (Jeong, 2000). If the details of such a war could be investigated, there are thousands upon thousands of grisly scenes. Even though there are times when war is inevitable, most past wars could be largely avoided.
Impacts of war
War is cruel and its results will in one way or the other badly and unnecessarily hurt someone. Those who want to justify the causes of war simply avoid dwelling on the atrocities that are done in the same war. Jones (2011) gives an example of Spain’s war of the 1930s that resulted into 4,184 deaths of priests, 2,365 deaths of male members of religious congregations, 13 bishops and two hundred and eighty three nuns. That is the least to mention of the post war results yet the revolution is hailed today (Jones, 2011).
It would be very deceptive to assume that the west did not expect any of such outcomes. Why did it go to war in the first place? It was clear that whoever was fighting or being fought, there was human misery and there was torture.
That is the nature of war and it would only come out as crocodile tears to try to exonerate one to go to war and wash your hands as if not guilty. It would not be, especially if Guantanamo Bay continues to be what it is, where torture is the best means to elicit information from victims. If to the West, Gaddafi was any different from any other terrorist in the dungeons of the desert; he would perhaps be pleading innocent or guilty at The Hague.
All this time the masses were baying for Gaddafi’s blood, little did anyone care what post-Gaddafi Libya would look like. Blinded by the urge to see the end of a regime, few focused on the beginning of a new regime. It is time that the masses came to realize that their role is bigger than to begin or end a regime. As much as these two tasks are important, it is critical to know that the maintenance of peace is their role and not that of the police.
The creation of good laws is not an end to themselves but a direction to individuals who are responsible right from their roots. Their role is thus to become the beginnings of good policies and their implementation alongside being individually taking the nations to one’s heart. The question is: Is war the best assistance the west could give Libya? How gratifying was the result of seeing Muammar Gaddafi dead especially when the tide settles?
Role of international community
On the other hand, the international community should play an active role but a moral one in ensuring that the majority has its way. This should be done fairly and perhaps with the minimum conflict involved (Murray, 2002). Dialogue should prevail in circumstances where it has a chance. One key thing to note is that homegrown solutions work better that imposed ones.
This can be done by supporting with a genuine interest, what the natives of a country are already passionate to find. In an article posted on the Hunnington Post and done by Dambisa Moyo, the words of the former UN chief Kofi Anan are echoed that “The determination of Africans, and genuine partnership between Africa and the rest of the world, is a basis for growth and development.” In the case of Libya, it must be realized that even though the citizens were tired, there should have been a smarter way out.
As much as I admit that Libya badly needed a regime change, I must look at the other side and see that it was the only country on the African continent that was debt free. It was even more shocking to hear that it was the only country that compensates its citizen s for unemployment in the scale of employed people just in case you have the right credentials. What was important for Libya was therefore more of a better transition of a regime. Africa has some lesson to learn here especially from the shallowness of the sentimentality of the west.
A ‘just war’
The west should thus come off the dangerous delusion that war can at any time become a decent and worthwhile act. Every one knows that no war is a complete solution to problems. In fact, what war does is to transfer problems from one kind to another. There have been wars that the west has gone to but is now regretful that it has cost beyond the expected time and resources to maintain.
The war on Iraq is an example. In fact much of the wars that have been launched on the terror groups are a slap on the face. The west has to live like a deer in the wild fearing of terror on its people. The war on the terror groups in Afghanistan too has resulted to unending insurgency that always leads to loss of life (Murray, 2002). If there is anything to learn here, it is that war is not an answer.
So, what are the real consequences of war?
The words that “war is hell” were remarked by General William Tecumseh Sherman in his book by that title. War means choosing mayhem in place of economic development. It means choosing to go the disease way, the way of environmental destruction and psychological disturbance (Seal, 2007). If taking the U.S as a case, if the economic cost of war was to be considered, you would realize that approximately $1 trillion dollars are spent on war every year (Sterner, n.d.).
Going back to Libya, it still raises the question of whether the war was worthwhile and why the west was to be too involved in the war. Shortly after the NATO intervention, there was an outcry from Russia that NATO had gone beyond its borders. It soon became evident that the west was deeply passionate in getting Muammar out of the court.
The real reason may have escaped people’s minds; oil was not flowing and hence the direct involvement of France, U.K and U.S. While France played under, U.K was bold to say that it would bomb Libya for as long as required. Why would such countries want to be involved in an insignificant country as far as politics of the day were concerned?
Just as Jonathan Jones suggests, there is nothing like a “just war”. It is the high time that nations realized that war is the beginning of problems. As was painted by Bosch, war is hell and hell is chaos. If we choose war, we choose the bloody way and we should be ready for its consequences. If countries, rich or poor, established genuine relations, we would put an end to war.
Perhaps this would come by knowing that whatever resources you need, there is a cost for them and you need to pay for them. If a country goes to war purporting to be doing for the purpose of generations, it should be keen not to sacrifice the current generation to create a new one (Newman, 2011). It has been written in history and in literature that war is not good.
Jones, J. (2011). The west wrings its hands over dead Gaddafi photos, but war is always hell. The Guardian Tuesday October 2011 p14
Murray, C. (2002). Armed conflict as a public health problem. Journal of Public Health Management, 3(11), 14-15
Jeong, H. (2000). Dissecting conflict and its impact on children. Journal of Peace and Conflict, 23(1), 19-21.
Seal, K. (2007). Bringing war back home: mental health disorders among US veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 167(5), 76-82.
Sterner, C. D. (n.d). US Veteran Statistics. Military Times.
Newman, E. (2011). Civil wars. Civil Wars journal, 4(6), 7-34.