Bombing of Libya raises risk for civilians, says professor

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Violent protests in Libya arose in the aftermath of peaceful protests in other parts of Northern Africa, and our government’s intervention may also pose a threat to the safety of civilians, said a UT professor. By sending troops to defend the rebels, the U.S. is sending a message that to gain military support, rebels should arm themselves against their governments, said Alan J. Kuperman, an associate professor in the Lydon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Kuperman has written an article on Libya for USA Today, authored a book entitled “The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention” and is co-editor of “Gambling on Humanitarian Intervention.” U.S. support of the fight against Gadhafi and enforcement of the no-fly zone actually increases danger to civilians because it encourages violence from Eastern Libyan protesters, he said. “This is not in humanitarian interest nor is it in our national interest,” he said. “There’s a very big difference between supporting nonviolent protest movements and supporting armed rebels.” The East used Egypt and Tunisia as an excuse to start their own rebellion but chose a violent approach, and Obama fell for the trick, Kuperman said. The solution will not be to aid the armed rebels but to encourage the two sides of Libya to negotiate and come to a peace agreement, he said. “We don’t want to be encouraging the war, we want to be discouraging it,” he said. “We need to try and calm down the rebels and tell them to cease fire. I don’t think the solution down the road should be or will be to arm the rebels.” Uprisings arose from the Eastern half of the country on Feb. 15 with a short, peaceful protest movement, following nonviolent protests in Egypt. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and his regime in the Western half of the country responded with military action, similarly to leaders in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, but protesters in Eastern Libya led by Mustafa Abdul Jalil responded by taking up arms against the government. Civilians were injured and killed, and the United Nations authorized military action against the Libyan military. The U.N. and the U.S. are now enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya, and are taking action against all Libyan aircraft and Libyan military entities that may pose a threat to Libyan civilians. Rebels put the death toll at more than 1,000, while Gadhafi’s forces say it is only 150, according to The Associated Press. Although the no-fly zone is troubling because it appears that the U.N. and the U.S. have not determined the end result yet, the U.S. government’s decision to watch the situation unfold before deciding what to do was wise, said Ed Dorn, a professor in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. “The Obama administration has handled the situation with admirable restraint and sound judgment,” Dorn said. “The president did not jump in with both feet as some pundits and a few politicians urged him to do.” The vast majority of the Libyan population supports pro-democracy protesters, said finance sophomore Ali Mavrakis. Mavrakis is Libyan and has family still in Libya. His family in the U.S. has organized protests in Dallas and Washington D.C. “It’s not just some small faction,” he said. “It’s important to note that it’s really the Libyan people standing united against a government that’s been oppressive for many years and done egregious things to its people, things that would not be tolerated in the United States.” Mavrakis’ family exclusively supports pro-democracy groups, he said. “People being called rebels are really pro-democracy groups who are pushing for the same fundamental freedoms that we have in the U.S.,” he said. “By being here and raising awareness among those around us, we’re building up support.”