So NATO is clearly following the UN mandate that authorized a NATO no fly zone in order to protect civilians (and nothing more.) Responding to whether NATO would pursue Qaddafi military vehicles fleeing south to Niger and possibly Burkina Faso, Colonel Roland Lavoie, the NATO mission’s military spokesman, said:
To be clear, our mission is to protect the civilian population in Libya, not to track and target thousands of fleeing former regime leaders, mercenaries, military commanders and internally displaced people.
But, as NATO bombing continues in Sirte and Bani Walid, it is part of the NATO mission to track and target former regime officials and fighters that are not fleeing? Offensive support (bombing missions in advance of TNC ground offensives) are clearly outside the UN mandate and borderline illegal. It is probably wise, now that the US and its western allies are committed to regime change, to continue along the current path (meaning offensive airstrikes) in order to quickly put an end to the loyalist strongholds, but can we please forget this nonsense about protecting the civilian population? It might be a wise idea to allow (potentially defecting) former regime officials to flee, but this has nothing to do with the alliance’s commitment to the UN mandate to protect civilians.
Future historians could very possibly look back favorably on the NATO decision to help the TNC remove Qaddafi from power, but from a legal and logical standpoint, this international intervention stopped being humanitarian long ago. Likewise, any argument by NATO or the TNC regarding the former’s mission to protect Libyan civilians should be disregarded as an attempt to disguise regime change in more acceptable robes. As I said, the decision to participate in regime change may easily turn out to be a good one, but it is regime change.
Photo from The Velvet Rocket