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Listen To The People

In late hours of 17 March 2011, the United Nations made history, not only etching into international law the ???responsibility to protect??? principle, but putting Arab and western armed forces into notionally joint action for the first time in two decades. How long this unity of purpose lasts and how the Libya intervention plays out domestically for each of the countries remains to be seen.First, the war is suggestive of a new Western perception of how Arab opinion ??? whether popular or governmental ??? matters. Arab governments’ support was the sine qua non of American backing for the resolution that acknowledged “the importance of the League of Arab States in matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security in the region.”Thus far, Arab support has involved nothing more than a handful of Qatari fighter planes. Qatar is a tiny Arab state ??? 1.4 million people of which 20 percent are Qatari. Its absolute monarchy furnishes the intervention with much less legitimacy than a proud democracy-in-waiting as Egypt would have done had it not abstained. Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, issued the hardest blow to that legitimacy when he claimed that ???what we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling more civilians.??? This was, at the very least, disingenuous: Moussa had attended the Paris meeting at which military action was discussed, and made the opportunistic comments with an eye at the Egyptian presidency.This highlights the second point: how multilateral ambitions can flounder on domestic political imperatives of other states.Where domestic imperatives do not clash with intervention, support has been forthcoming. Qatar hosts the US Central Command (CENTCOM), a mainstay of recent US wars, and correspondingly adheres to a largely pro-American stance. Its public, who enjoy roughly the highest per capita income in the world, are not unduly vexed at this.But where domestic pressures are less straightforward, Arab re



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