Dr Suhrab Aslam Khan The leaders of three leading Western countries, the US, the UK and France - namely Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy - in their recent combined article in The New York Times on April 15 under the title Libyas pathway to peace, have made some routine, emphatic assertions. For the Middle Eastern, other Muslim and African nations confronting the similar, if not yet the same, dilemma, the crucial issue remains to ascertain the validity of those substantial Western assertions in a prospective manner, rather than be left saddled with the weightage of historical experience in the end. In the noted conjoined writing, the Western leaders underscored their unity of views as to the ingredients of outcome for the Libyan crisis to end. The continuity of the NATO military operations were meant to protect the civilians in Libya. However, the military operations are viewed to be the measures adopted for the ushering in of better timesfor the people of Libya, and for a pathway to be built towards that end. In an interesting shifting of blameworthiness, if the Russian Premier Putin had previously censured the Western air attacks on Libya as a medieval crusade, the three noted western leaders echoed a medieval siege that the Gaddafis loyalists have forced upon the city of Misurata. A reference was made to the UNSC resolution 1973, wherein authorisation was granted for all necessary measures to protect the people of Libya. In the writing under review, so also through the military actions - with the air attacks on the Libyan Presidents private residential quarters on March 19 - and subsequent related statements, Gaddafis removal and regime change in the country were envisaged. This particular aspect has become controversial as other world leaders, especially belonging to the block of countries that abstained from voting during the adoption of UNSC resolution 1973, have criticised such an interpretation of the resolution as to include Gaddafis removal and regime change in Libya. As a matter of fact, the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Musa, a figure who ironically enacted a fundamental, initiating role in the adoption of the Councils resolution, soon after the start of military action against Libya, vociferously criticised the flawed interpretation of the UN mandate of March 17 and its vital precursor - the Arab League resolution of March 12 - for the imposition of the no-fly zone over Libya. This fundamental contribution of the Arab League under its General Secretary has been acknowledged by the tripartite Western leaders as one of the prominent reasons for the international community to be obliged to act because the Arab League called for action. According to Musa, the League did not envisage at all any bombings of the civilian targets that, of course, implied Gaddafis private quarters. Russian President Medvedev also levelled his criticism at the self-serving interpretation of the Councils resolution by the US-NATO allies. A glaring self-contradiction that exists in the noted combined writing is disillusioning, for it arouses legitimate concern. The duty and mandate, as perceived by the authors in the writing, is not to remove Gaddafi by force. On the contrary, it is also averred that so long as Gaddafi is in power, NATO must maintain its operations so that the civilians remain protected and pressure on the regime builds. The genuine concern indeed remains, given the indicated facile reasoning this particular approach harbours the potent antecedents of the dismemberment of Libya into its eastern and Western sections. The truncated Libya thus may comprise the relatively sparsely populated, oil-rich eastern section around Benghazi, with its tri-colour flag; and the Western section centring around Tripoli, that itself harbours almost half the total population of present-day Libya, with its mono-colour green flag. The factors that are likely to deepen and make more certain this Libyan national rift and chasm are the US-led Western intervention, encouragement by the Western coalition of the Libyan opposition, the duration of the conflict, and the number of civilian deaths. At this juncture, a thought occurs, which is of a tendency for divisions working its way through the Muslim countries, e.g., Palestine, Pakistan, Indonesia, Sudan, and perhaps now Libya. The Muslim world should pay heed to curb this tendency of fracturing the integrity of Muslim countries in the post World War II period - a happening which invariably poses a threat to international peace and security. The former Libyan Foreign Minister, Moussa Koussa, a recent defector to London, in a press statement observed that Libya was at a risk of turning into another Somalia. This refers to an uncertain future Libya is presently facing. After the unsuccessful visit of the African Union (AU) delegation to Libya, during the second week in April, and the rejection of the ceasefire proposal by the Libyan opposition for the reason that the AU proposal kept Gaddafi in power, the future of Libya is highly uncertain. The envisioning of Libyas future entails an arduous intellectual endeavour. The two former Secretary of States - namely, Henry Kissinger and James Baker - in their combined writing entitled Grounds for U.S. military intervention, in The Washington Post, on April 9, defined those grounds against the background of change sweeping the Arab world. This was concerning the use of American military force for idealistic purposes, or for the realisation or protection of vital national interest. The criterion for such use of force is described as pragmatic idealism - an oxymoron indeed, suited to the justification for the exercise of realpolitik (so spelled). Its illustration is provided by the US national value to alleviate human suffering as an ideal. However, the US military force for the sake of stated ideal anywhere in the world as a matter of general principle should be exercised only when a national interest is also at stake. The instance of Libya, therefore, was described as an exception to the rule, with the evident inference that the US military interference in Libya should have been avoided. In addition, as one of the unintended consequences, the US military intrusion may tempt the Iranian regime to accelerate the devising of its nuclear weapons. The Iranians have additional reason to speed up their atomic development, knowing the fact that the Gaddafi regime, in quest of amicable ties with the West, disbanded its nuclear programme, and subsequently was made to face the Western military action. The serious mistakes Gaddafi made during the preceding over 41 years of his rule cannot be recounted here. Sidestepping this illuminating aspect of history, and assessing his performance since March 19, 2011 - the day the US-led imposition of the nofly zone over Libya was instituted - the fact that the authoritarian ruler has stood his ground cannot be belittled. Reminiscent of the US strategy during the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, then President Saddam Husseins residential quarters were attacked by stealth bombers before dawn and, according to records, even before the formal declaration of war. The underlying purpose, of course, was to eliminate Saddam as the most efficient way to bring the invasion to a rapid conclusion. A similar initial course of events appears to have transpired in Libya. And Gaddafi proved to be more tenacious as well as with far greater capacity to survive than was initially thought by his adversaries. The fact, however, remains: The limits of air power and the threat of being bombed into the stone age have been exposed during the Libyan crisis. The alternative strategy on the part of the US-NATO coalition to bring the Libyan conflict to a swift end was to allow the American and British intelligence services in particular - namely, CIA and MI6 - to encourage influential Libyans to defect from Gaddafis side. The purpose is that imploding the Libyan regime from within, with the aid of propaganda war, seems likely to achieve breakthrough. The high-level defection of former Foreign Minister Musa Kusa was thought to become a trend-setter to lead to a series of high-level defections. The threat of indictment before the International Criminal Court is also being used to enhance defections, from among the high civil and military officials. This is expected to lead to the transitional government, and subsequently at some time to a supposedly democratic government. A parallel approach adopted by the US-NATO alliance is to maintain and enhance the rebellious conflict with air strikes, including drone attacks, supply of arms to the ragtag opposition, militant infiltration and supply of military advisors - lately, France and Italy have declared to send such advisors. A possibility of the division of Libya into eastern and western parts remains, with the natural oil and gas resources mostly in the possession of the former section. Such truncation of Libya, however, depends mostly upon the sanguinary nature of civil war, that is, the more the carnage, the likelier the bifurcation. However, this denouement of the Libyan conflict is not so certain once the historical instances of the British and more so of the American civil wars are kept in view. As a final word about these civil wars, the acumen and calibre of political leadership enacts a determining role. In this perspective, and in order to maintain the integrity of Libya, as guaranteed in the UNSC resolution 1973 of March 17, the US and NATO military interventions of all kinds should end forthwith. For there is every indication that due to the noted interventions, the Libyan nation-states integrity is rapidly growing ever more fragile. And the five members of the UNSC, who abstained from casting their votes during SC 1973 resolution, while the two states among these hold veto powers, should immediately take up the role of a peace-keeping force in Libya. A voluntary participation from the member states of the African Union, as well as Islamic and non-aligned countries - the Arab League has no less than betrayed its member, Libya by adopting keystone resolution - should be sought, lest a Muslim Vietnam would emerge. The writer is the Chairman of the Pakistan Ideological Forum. Email: suhrabaslam@hotmail.com