Praveen Swami: Tyrants Will Learn from Libya

Roundup: Media's Take

[Praveen Swami is the Daily Telegraph's Diplomatic Editor. He has reported on Asian security issues for almost two decades, and is the author of two books on the India-Pakistan conflict in Kashmir.]

Every war is, among other things, a medium. Britain and France, who are spearheading the intervention in Libya, hope their bombs are sending a message not just to Muammar Gaddafi but to other tyrannical regimes across the region.

For a decade after 9/11, Western warfare was focused on safeguarding its interests. Now, in the wake of the spring rebellions across the Middle East, the West’s leaders hope their actions will demonstrate renewed willingness to put muscle behind their democratic values. Like all well-intentioned wars, though, this one could have a number of unintended consequences. From Saudi Arabia in the east, to Syria in the west, Middle Eastern regimes are under siege – and their rulers are considering what they need to do to avoid Gaddafi’s fate.

There’s one lesson that stands out: tyrannies with nuclear and chemical weapons don’t seem to get bombed. Libya is being attacked for shelling its own citizens, but North Korea went unpunished for starving millions and attacking a neighbour. President Barack Obama’s recent message to Iran’s people didn’t contain the slightest whiff of a threat to the regime.

Libya grasped this geopolitical reality early on...

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