The war on Libya will go into its second week Saturday March 26, a brief seven days which have had a momentous effect on two of the biggest and most influential post-World War II international organizations – the United Nations and the European Union.
Its profoundly negative effect on the United States' superpower standing and key international relations are already visible: US-Saudi and US-Arab Gulf relations are in bad shape while the Arab world is taking a hard look at its future ties with Britain and France.
No longer can anyone predict how this conflict will end, but the way it began on March 19 has fundamentally altered key elements of the established world order.
For the first time, an international coalition has gone to war against a UN member which does not menace fellow members but its own people. The wording of Security Council Resolution 1973 authorizing Member States "acting in cooperation with the Secretary General, to take all necessary measures… to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory" has irreversibly changed the face of international relations. It has also formed members into hostile blocs divided by unbridgeable differences.
Governments worried by the easy application of Resolution 1973 to others
The term "the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi" is easily interchangeable with the name of any other country and city by a majority of Security Council members. It is therefore a precedent which sends chills down the spines of many regimes, governments and rulers.
If UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had an international army at his disposal, ready to implement this resolution, would be easier to accept as reflecting universal morality. But its execution was hijacked first by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron and only endorsed afterwards by US President Barack Obama.
Russia, China, India, Germany, Brazil and smaller countries abstained from approving a measure which they viewed as a crude return to the colonial era of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The resolution may have gone through because members were gripped by incredulity. They could hardly believe they were seeing France and Britain, two European nations, staging a return to their glorious colonial past, although they were broke, and managing to pull over to their side a proudly liberal American president who fights for multinational diplomacy and international tolerance.
The demeaning of a UN Secretary
The conclusion they reached from this exhibition was that international institutions, understandings, treaties and conventions which had anchored global relations since 1919 were up for grabs.
In a belated attempt to limit the damage, President Obama issued a secret directive to the US Air Force and navy to cease participating in any more coalition assault operations in Libya and leave them for the British and French forces to conduct.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources doubt that the damage to America's unique status as a world superpower can be undone.
In the past twenty years, America appeared to be inching away from Europe and reorienting its policies more on Asia and the Far East. Washington's abrupt reversal of this trend in the second half of March and its military alliance with two semi-failed European powers in a major war operation in North Africa gave many governments pause and will be the subject of endless speculation for years to come.
The topsy-turvy effect was repeated when the UN Secretary was filmed rushing around Cairo, where the military junta is barely hanging on, and pleading in vain with Arab League Secretary Amr Mousa to say a few words in support of the American-British-French military operation in Libya.
This sight wrought irreversible damage to the world organization and the UN Security Council.
Neither official conducted himself with the dignity of high international office but behaved more like politicians running for election. Moussa has announced he would run for Egyptian president and Ban was currying favor with the coalition member-governments to back his bid for re-election as Secretary General next fall by acting as their errand boy.
Angela Merkel stands apart
By this behavior they degraded the prestige of their organizations.
The inelegance of these events was sharply highlighted by the way German Chancellor Angela Merkel stood up and passed stern judgment on the trilateral offensive against Muammar Qaddafi. She is certain that no matter how the Libyan war turns out, US, British and French relations with the Arab world will never be the same again.
She finds the vision of Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron, that their operation will bring democracy to Libya through which they will project their influence on the Arab and Muslim world, badly misjudged and is sure it will achieve the opposite effect.
Based on forecasts offered by the German BND foreign intelligence service president, Ernst Uhrlau, Merkel believes strongly that the opponents of the war in Libya will emerge strengthened and enjoy enhanced influence in the post-war Arab and Muslim arenas, whereas the proponents will end up losers.
The chancellor has already taken steps to remove Germany from the Western equation. Wednesday, March 23, she ordered all German warships and military personnel serving in the Middle East to return to home base immediately.
Merkel does not want a single German soldier or sailor to be involved or identified with any American, British or French military endeavors in the region, even if one is approved by NATO.