Montana Politics

How not to gain legitimacy as an international body

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Two regional bodies with substantial stakes in the current situation in Libya have come to two very different conclusions about it.

The Arab League, composed of 22 predominately Arab states from the Middle East and North Africa, has voiced its support for a no-fly zone over Libya as it becomes increasingly clear that Gaddafi is not going to stop bombing rebel-held positions. They no doubt recognize that even if Gaddafi is to win this civil conflict, his legitimacy is shot and his sons, previously seen as a prospect for ‘Gaddafi lite’, are now tainted with the same pariah status.

The African Union, on the other hand, has decided that any military intervention would be bad, because it could lead to ‘Western Influence” . This anti-imperial suspicion is understandable, but counter productive. Gaddafi is calling in favors he has been earning for years now, and the fact that Libya has not had its membership suspended (the usual reaction to undeniably anti-Democratic developments) shows just how dedicated to Democracy the AU is. They will suspend countries whose rulers are replaced undemocratically, but not countries whose rulers hold on to power violently.

This extreme bias towards respecting the government of a state over the rights of its people makes the AU resemble the UN more than the EU or any other effective international body. And if it continues to be a club for the maintenance of borders and of ruling regimes, it cannot hope to succeed in bringing stability, higher standards of living and economic self sufficiency to the continent.

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The Polish Wolf

2 Comments

  • From my debate research, at least, it seems like the African Union is perhaps the least effective regional organization in the world. It's too bad. With all of its natural resources, Africa could do amazing things if it could find a way to have its governments and regional powers work for the interests of the people.

    • I think one problem is that it's simply too big. The EU started talking for all of Europe before it even had half the European nations – that allowed it to set norms for everyone else to follow (and it has performed admirably, keeping a dozen or so new Democracies in from slipping into military rule when times get tough…so far). And Africa is also too big, both physically and culturally. Tunis to Capetown is a lot farther than Dublin to Athens, and historically and culturally they have so little in common it's hard to see one union. All they do have in common is the fact that they want to avoid western influence. This is admirable, but combined with the physical and cultural distances, it means that Zimbabwe or South Africa can support Gaddafi at essentially no cost to themselves and with the benefit of looking good anti-imperialist.

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