The constituents of the Libyan rebel group are a ragtag with diverse social background that lack collective discipline, according to reports. The US and its allies have launched Operation Odyssey Dawn in an expedient haste to protect the rebels base in the eastern city of Benghazi. However, the operation is meant to stop Gaddafis advance and allow the opposition to regroup and resume its march to Tripoli. The government forces advance on Benghazi though has been halted, but from the ground realities it appears that the conversion of Libyan rebels into a fighting, coherent force to march on to Tripoli is a matter that cannot be underestimated. Besides, the leadership of the Libyan political opposition at this stage is ill-defined, as is the knowledge concerning the leadership of the rebels on the battlefield. The relatively short duration since the emergence of the first signs of recent public protests in Libya and subsequent related events draws attention towards the nature and source of the uprising. The epicentre of protests was located in Benghazi, a city situated at a respectable distance from the Libyan capital Tripoli. That city of turmoil is on the eastern side, close to the oil-producing area around Tobruk. In addition, the opposition in particular is indistinct as to its leading cadre or its political ideology and demands, except for demanding the removal of the present Libyan ruler Gaddafi. Moreover, since the passage of the first UNSC resolution (1970) on February 26, the US, UK and France, among other western countries, in particular, were intensively involved in securing the UN mandate for establishing a no-fly zone over Libya. During early March, towards the identified end, various states or alliances were striving to overcome the hindrances and restraints in their way to arrive at a decision. The US and European allies, even before the adoption of UNSC resolution on February 26, were publicly debating the use of military force, including the no-fly zone, against Libya. However, the chances for a swift decisive move appeared in the beginning to be slim. Noteworthy in the US and western scheme was the swiftness of military response to the Libyan unrest. In this respect, a fact as a source of further attention was the conspicuous lack of surging crowds, especially in the capital Tripoli. Movements of the expatriate workers across the borders, in particular, on the western side into Tunisia - Libya hosted a significant number of migrant workers from a host of countries - did impart the impression of visible and vehement turmoil in the country. Instead of endeavouring to invest into, and first exhaust, diplomatic and political approaches, inclusive of allowing the substantial UN sanctions of various kinds imposed upon Libya and the freezing of its very sizable financial assets in other countries to exercise their intended impact, the US and its allies were overzealously engaged in undertaking a military solution. Ever since the beginning of riots on February 15, and the passage of initial resolution in the Security Council on February 26, serious efforts were invested by the US and allies to succeed in securing the UN mandate in favour of a no-fly zone. Against this background, two vital queries are to be addressed: One, as to what exactly transpired that altered the course of diplomatic events to result in the UN mandate for a much wider latitude of military action, short of the forces of occupation, than was involved in the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya. And, secondly, as to what concise explanation can be ascertained concerning the excessive keenness on the part of the US and allies in securing the UN mandate for the military action in Libya, evidently exceeding the diplomatic, political and economic alternatives as a natural recourse. Haunted by the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the US and allies much preferred the UN mandate; however, this appears not to have been the sole option entertained. In addition, after eight years of traumatic experience in Iraq, Washington was reluctant to proceed alone for attempting another regime change in the Arab world. NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen made his position clear by stating that no NATO military involvement in Libya could be contemplated without the Security Councils approval. Despite the fact that the Arab states were reluctant to revisit their colonial past, combined Western diplomacy managed to persuade, in particular, the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, to lend the much needed, critical cooperation. The diplomatic sleight succeeded in easing out a resolution from the Arab League, desiring an imposition of a no-fly zone on Libyan military aviation. It obviously indicated that the Libyan military aircraft would not be allowed to be airborne. However, and from the standpoint of the Arab League - as it was given to understand by the Western diplomats - no unnecessary aerial bombardment would be made, except on ground targets connected with the Libyan air defence system. This critical measure tipped the balance in favour of the endeavours made by the US and allies in the Security Council. For the two veto powers in the Security Council, that is, Russia and China, were to abstain from voting on the resolution (1973), outwardly giving regard to the resolution adopted by the Arab League concerning one of its members. In contrast, the UN resolution (1973) conferred wide authorisation in allowing to take all necessary measuresexcluding a foreign occupation force of any form against Libya. The UN resolution was adopted on March 17 and the relatively wide scale air bombings by the US, the UK and France began on March 19. As the aerial bombardments and long-distance cruise missiles targeted Gaddafis three-storey residential building and other civilian targets, the Secretary General of the Arab League publicly protested that such air assaults, and others on the military armaments and targets, were evidently in excess of the demands of the Arab Leagues resolution. Nevertheless, the Leagues resolution served the duplicitous designs of Western diplomacy by tending to uphold the Arab cause apparently through the adoption of the UNSC resolution (1973), however, with its unforeseeable, far-reaching consequences in Africa and the Middle East. With the preceding facts in mind, it is illuminating to have an abridged review of US Senator John Kerrys article that appeared in The Washington Post on March 10 under the title No fly-zone for Libya. Raising a spectre of Gaddafis possibly brutal retaliation against the civilian population, Kerry - Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee - observed: If the Security Council fails to authorise action, those of us determined to protect Libyan civilians will face a more difficult choice should the violence escalate. In a straightforward way, the Senator cautiously described the likely US policy to proceed with the plans for a no-fly zone over Libya even in the absence of the Security Councils mandate. With this in view, Kerry suggested: So our diplomatic efforts must extend beyond the UN. The support of NATO and African Union are important. To avoid the perception of NATO or the US attacking another Muslim country, we need the backing of the Arab world. Now the aspiration of a humanitarian role, or the protection of Libyan civilians, is laudable. However, it cannot be deemed a justifiable step even in the absence of Security Council mandate, for then it could not be without some ulterior motives. In any case, the Arab League was to adopt a resolution on March 12 to satisfy the need pointed out by the US Senator. The issue naturally to be addressed is as to what happens next in Libya. The three major powers spearheading the imposition of the UN resolution 1973, namely, the US, the UK and France, have recently expressed their intentions to supply arms to the Libyan rebels in future. As a matter of fact, howsoever paradoxical it may sound, these major powers are in the process of contriving the legality of such an undertaking. Nevertheless, implicit in this stance is the indirect confession of the failure of the implementation of a no-fly zone over Libya. For one thing, to begin with the Libyan military strength was not so pronounced in the air defences as it was in its military hardware, armour and fire power. The consequences of this Libyan military power makeup are evident from the retreat of the rebel forces from the oil rich city of Ajdabiya in the face of resumed retaliation by the loyal Libyan forces, subsequent to a brief pause in the air attacks on Libya by the US and allies. As a derivation from these occurrences in Libya, the emergence of recent incoherence in the NATO and the European Union understanding has resulted in the obvious slackening in the Western air assault on Libya. A Western supported insurgency on the coarse pattern of Afghanistan during the 80s, yet palpably lacking the comparable ideological vigour, appears at present to be the Libyan political future. n The writer is the Chairman of the Pakistan Ideological Forum. Email: suhrabaslam@hotmail.com