Victors in the Libya war (so far…)

If Iraq and Afghanistan … not to mention Vietnam … are any indication, it’ll soon be time to declare victory in Libya and head home. But we don’t have to wait for that to produce a list of the big winners so far in the non-war-no-fly-zone-not-regime-change-undeclared-police-action that is currently reminding the world that diplomacy is ...

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

If Iraq and Afghanistan ... not to mention Vietnam ... are any indication, it'll soon be time to declare victory in Libya and head home. But we don't have to wait for that to produce a list of the big winners so far in the non-war-no-fly-zone-not-regime-change-undeclared-police-action that is currently reminding the world that diplomacy is harder than community organizing in Chicago.

If Iraq and Afghanistan … not to mention Vietnam … are any indication, it’ll soon be time to declare victory in Libya and head home. But we don’t have to wait for that to produce a list of the big winners so far in the non-war-no-fly-zone-not-regime-change-undeclared-police-action that is currently reminding the world that diplomacy is harder than community organizing in Chicago.

These may not be the only winners, but so far they’re doing pretty well…

5. The People of Libya
There’s no way this war is going to end with Qaddafi still in power. That’s the good news and why the people of Libya make this list. The bad news is that we don’t know who is going to come out on top once a new government is in place and that some of the people actively supporting the opposition are not very nice. Don’t take my word for it. According to a CNN report, Abu Yahya al-Libi, a Libyan-born al Qaeda leader recently said, "ousting these regimes is not the end in making a change." In the same article, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is quoted as offering a statement saying, "We will be side by side with you, Allah willing."

4. The Blissfully Ignored
The cynic-realist in me thinks the Arab League backed the intervention in Libya because it was in the interest of so many in the Arab world to focus attention elsewhere. How happy are the Saudis, that they can stomp their boot on rebellion in Bahrain with cameras trained elsewhere? The Syrians? The UAE that they can support the Saudis in Bahrain but also appear to support the west in Libya? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the world is distracted from his little science experiments in his basement (see below)? Not to mention everyone from the North Koreans to the finance ministers of places like Portugal and Spain who are happy to let Muammar & Co. take the heat for a while.

3. Greater Persia
Tehran, of course, is not just happy because the world is distracted … they’re happy because so far the uprisings have benefitted them in countless ways. Enemies in Egypt and Libya have been deposed or soon will be, Shiites are rising up in Bahrain, the moderate Jordanians and the Saudis are nervous and the Israelis are perhaps most nervous of all as to what is happening. Further, America is going to come out of the Libya adventure even less inclined to devote time and resources to Iraq and Afghanistan thus creating voids the Iranians are already filling.  We may call it the Arab Spring, but it doesn’t translate that way in Farsi.

2. Skittish Authoritarians
Speaking of the Saudis … but also thinking of the Yemenis and the Syrians and the Bahrainis not to mention the Chinese, the two-pronged message of this intervention is unmistakable. The first is that if you are going to crush the opposition, move quickly because the international community doesn’t. And secondly, even if you take your time as you go about eliminating your enemies the one certain outcome of Operation Odyssey Clusterfuck is that everyone is going to think twice about ever undertaking a similar military adventure again.

1. The Abstainers
While much attention has been heaped on the diplomats who deftly wove together the U.N. vote in favor of instituting the no-fly zone, not enough has turned to the alternative power bloc that emerged during the vote: the Abstainers. The group, the BRICs plus Germany, may have sat on the sidelines for the vote but by imagining the outcome had they not done so, their potential power is made clear. China and Russia have veto power. And of the four countries most likely to join them as Security Council permanent members in the years ahead, three of them rounded out this group. (Barack Obama’s non-endorsement of Brazil’s candidacy notwithstanding. After all, Brazil is not a likely candidate because America wants it to be so — it’s a likely candidate because it’s the seventh largest economy in the world, will be fifth largest in just a few years, has the fifth largest population on the planet and is the dominant country on its continent.) China and Russia started attacking the mission in Libya within seeming moments of its launch and Germany has just walked out of the NATO operation. This group or the bulk of it will soon be as the alternative to the old trans-Atlantic alliance that you’ll note is not at the moment one of the winners on this list (though, admittedly, give this a couple days, some twists and turns, and the departure of Qaddafi and that could change.)

Perhaps tomorrow we’ll look at some of the big losers so far.

David Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017. Twitter: @djrothkopf

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