Finally! Except it’s not in Libya; it’s in the Ivory Coast. And it’s not enforced by the United Nations. It’s targeted at U.N. aircraft, by the illegitimate government violently clinging to power in that African country of 21 million.
As is the case in Libya, the forces of the corrupt incumbent (in this case, Laurent Gbagbo, whose regime overturned by fiat results from a November election) seem to be winning their counteroffensive against a rebel movement. An Economist writer recently explained why the west should care:
It seems almost obscene, this battle for personal power, as hundreds die, with perhaps many more hundreds of deaths to come. Yet the principle is important. Too often in Africa, the incumbent Big Man has been allowed to cling on to power after being defeated in reasonably fair democratic elections. As Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian former UN secretary general said last month, if Mr Gbagbo is allowed to prevail, “elections as an instrument of peaceful political change in Africa will suffer a serious setback.”
Much the same logic applies to the example a Ghaddafi victory would set in the Middle East, which is why the likes of Bill Clinton are calling for a no-fly zone over the country. (See also former Obama State Department official Anne-Marie Slaughter in today’s Times.) Yet no one seems terribly interested in Cote d’Ivoire. Clearly, Africa is less strategically important to the U.S. But shouldn’t the moral calculus be the same? And if America does intervene in Libya, perhaps a simultaneous strong gesture of support for the Ivory Coast rebels would help send a signal to the world that the U.S. isn’t simply interested in oil revenues or some kind of modern-day Crusade.