The distinction between protecting the people of Libya and forced regime change was always an artificial one or, in terms of politics, a tightrope walk. But as the war in Libya rages on it becomes increasingly clear that real protection for the Libyan people can only be achieved by the quick removal of Qaddafi and his riffraff. ICC chief prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo announced today that there is now evidence available suggesting that Qaddafi himself ordered the mass-raping of women and to that end distributed Viagra among his soldiers. Tough it has been argued by many [tough here it is being argued in German] that the allies only have a mandate to protect the people not to force the regime out of office, it seems to me that this distinction misses crucial points:
1. Not only is it difficult to establish a clear distinction between the rebels and the population. Moreover, even the attempt to do so misses the nature of the war in Libya. Though armed, the rebels are clearly not a traditional army. The Libyan rebels are, more than any other contemporary movement, an upheaval of all classes, indeed a people's liberation army. Protecting them inevitably means shielding them against Qaddafi's forces. That's awfully close to intervening on their side. No, wait a second, it does in fact mean that the international community needs to intervene on their side and that is precisely what it does. And for good reason, nothing would protect the people more than the ouster of Qaddafi.
2. When the protection of the Libyan people clearly demands an intervention on their side (which it would logically always do), how can the distinction between the R2P and regime change be maintained without ridiculing the entire endeavor? Exactly, not at all. But that raises a larger question: why should regime change be sui generis a really bad idea? Clearly, it isn't. In Syria and Libya the case seems to be an rather easy one. But what it does mean is that the attempt needs to be a wholehearted one.