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The Gene Sharp Libyan End Game

by Stephen Adler, March 21st, 2011


On March 17th, 2011, the Security Council of the United Nations passed resolution 1973(external link) authorizing "to take all necessary measures… to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamhariya, including Benghazi, while excluding an occupation force." With that step, the international community put in place the necessary enforcement necessary for a peaceful end to the Libyan crisis.

One March 19th, 2011, the French air force fired on Gaddafi troops just outside Benghazi followed by a stream of cruise missiles which signalled the start of the enforcement of the Security Council resolution 1973. This action stopped a possible massacre by Gaddafi's loyalist and mercenaries on the civilians in Benghazi. The news reports are riveting, seeing the destruction of Gaddafi's armour outside the roads leading south from Benghazi. The Libyan citizens have been given a chance to breath.

But now we are in the next phase of this conflict. This is not just a Libyan crisis, its a world crisis. The UN has passed a resolution which authorizes the use of force to stop the killing of citizens, and that as far as it goes. How will the citizens of Libya proceed at this point?

Listening to the US general in charge of North Africa on the news, he talked about a possible conundrum. What if the citizens of Libya, the "pro-democracy" citizens, decide to take up arms and fight the Gaddafi mercenaries. How will the UN military act? In principle, they should also be a target since they could possibly injure other citizens in the ensuing battles.

And thus comes in Gene Sharp's solution. There is a very clear path which is laid out before the Libyan people, one which most likely will not occur. The path is to follow the teachings of non-violent revolution to its core. The UN has now given the Libyan citizen the most powerful weapon. This weapon is the ability to confront aggression with non-violence. Well... the Libyan citizen now has an unlimited supply of cruise missiles and F-16's shadowing them, but they don't have to engage in any direct military offence themselves.

So the path to the end game is very simple. The citizens of Libya need to amass in the center of Benghazi and start a humanitarian convoy to Tripoli, stopping by every city on the way. This would be the Libyan Freedom Humanitarian Convoy. The convoy should be made up of thousands of citizens with a supply line emanating from Benghazi. The path of the convoy should be slow and deliberate. This in effect will force Gaddafi to confront the convoy with his military machine and thus exposing his weakest hand to the UN armies in the sky. As the convoy moves forward, the UN mandate will either get the Gaddafi forces blown to bits by the countries enforcing resolution 1973, or the Gaddafi troops will have to lay down their weapons and let the convoy continue on its journey. With the convoy passing every city, it will bring food, water, medical supplies and freedom. The closer it gets to Tripoli, the weaker Gaddafi will get and once it reaches the Libyan capital, Gaddafi will have no other choice but to surrender or see his mercenaries die before him.

Can this Libyan Freedom Humanitarian Convoy actually happen? I don't think so. The bravery of those who would take part in such a convoy would be unsurpassed. They would be facing down the cannon's throat on Gaddafi's tanks. If the coalition countries failed to act in enforcing resolution 1973, the people in the convoy would be killed instantly with out any hesitation from Gaddafi. But if it did happen, it would be the foundation for the strongest democracy in North Africa for it would be formed by the very essence of Gene Sharp's message as outlined in "From Dictatorship to Democracy".

The next days and weeks are going to be critical to the citizens of Libya. What ever they do, they must act now. The passing of resolution 1973 is nothing short of a diplomatic miracle. The Libyans have to seize the moment to turn history in their favor.