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Bernard-Henri Lévy Headshot

And if Egypt (and Tunisia) Were to Intervene in Libya?

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"Unacceptable!" Barack Obama thundered.

"Unacceptable!" Nicolas Sarkozy thundered.

But in the midst of all this verbal rumbling, a thunder of fire continued to rain down on the terrorized Libyan people.

And, either paralyzed by past compromising, or wary, as usual, of giving rise to unending accusations of arrogance and meddling, or proving true, again, what I once called the Léon Blum theorem, whereby the strongest democracies, whatever their good intentions, find themselves paradoxically helpless when confronting extreme barbarism, the great powers are taking no action. They are content to stick to sanctions which certainly have their symbolic value but no longer intimidate a Qadaffi who, from now on, has nothing to lose. And here we are again, faced with the same stark prospect of carnage that prevailed in Berlin in 1953, in Hungary in 1956, in Sarajevo in 1992, and in Darfur in 2006 and 2007. As a French Minister of Foreign Affairs once said, "Of course, we shall do nothing."

So, does this mean that the Libyan tragedy as well can only play out, inexorably, to the end of its disastrous logic?

And are we condemned to sit idly by while the butcher of Tripoli (one and the same man who, as Monsieur Ollier, French Deputy Minister of Parliamentary Relations, informed us a short while ago, had turned his back on terrorism and passed his studious evenings reading Montesquieu) drowns his people in rivers of blood, as he has promised?

Nothing is less certain.

First of all because, as I write, on this 28th of February, nothing says that this valiant people, admirable in their determination and dignity, will not shortly and single-handedly rid themselves of a tyrant who has amply demonstrated himself to be as pathetic as he is raving mad, as grotesque as he is monstrous, and who has never possessed any strength beyond the acquiesced weakness of his subjects.

But it is also less than certain because, in one respect at least, the world has radically changed--that being that revolutions have already triumphed, or are beginning to triumph, in other countries of the Arab world, ones that--and it's obviously no accident--lie at the very borders of a rebellious and suffering Libya.

Just a few weeks ago, Mubarak and Ben Ali would have prayed for the "Guide" to regain the upper hand and put things right.

A few weeks ago, the holy alliance of dictators would have come into play and, between the mollifying resolutions of the Arab League and the always handy and thunderous denunciations of "American imperialism", would have discreetly assisted their colleague Qadaffi in making his unruly people toe the line again.

Today, things are no longer the same, and it is no longer absurd to imagine Tunisia and, especially, Egypt expressing exactly the opposite reaction, in wishing for the victory of the rebels; helping the liberated part of the country to establish embryonic political structures, without which it will, sooner or later, fall back into servitude; perhaps even showing active solidarity by helping the Libyan people, who have already done so much and paid so dearly, to finish getting rid of a criminal against humanity who has ruled, in Tripoli, for the past forty years.

The Egyptian army is the most powerful of the Arab Middle East.

Thanks to the flow of aid that, for decades, has come first from the former Soviet Union and then from the United States, it is over-equipped.

Long ago, in the name of a pan-Arabism that really was in no way democratically inspired, it did not hesitate to export the principles of Nasserism to Yemen, quite successfully, and at the point of a bayonet.

Well, it would merely have to bare its teeth to make the army rabble loyal to Qadhafi, his last handful of killers and mercenaries, scatter without even demanding back pay, leaving him no other choice but the last bunker--or The Hague.

It would be in the interest of the Egyptians and Tunisians, who would have nothing to gain from seeing chaos take up residence at their frontiers, threatening to destabilize their fragile and wobbly republics.

It would be in the logic of uprisings that, like this "great French revolution" the precedent of which I incessantly heard invoked in Cairo, would produce their "soldiers of the Year II", coming to share with others their newly-won values.

Such a gesture of active solidarity, this image of an Arab army, flying, under popular pressure, to the aid of a brother people and thus blowing a bit further the good wind of liberty, would at the same time constitute a significant step forward in the consciousness of the world, for it would be the first time the much-touted democratic "right to interfere" would be exercised by a non-European people, thus finally fulfilling the universality that is naturally, and by purpose, its own.
And finally, and especially, it would end the nightmare of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who, in one entire region of Libya, are living crouched in their cellars, for they know the dogs of war are outside, everywhere, and that they make their own law and have been given the right, if necessary, to exterminate them to the very last one.

In Tripoli, one can expect nothing from the United Nations. And I doubt the American announcement of having deployed forces "near Libya" this Monday afternoon will go beyond mere gesticulation. But one can expect everything from a new Arab world being born before our very eyes, whose liberation of Libya would be the shining victory.