Arab League Says Military Efforts Go Too Far

International forces intervened in Libya with broad support in the Arab world. But a day later, Arab League Secretary General of Amr Moussa said the military efforts had gone too far. Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, offers his insight.

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GUY RAZ, host:

Joining me now on the line is Shadi Hamid. He's the director of research at the Brookings Doha Center. He is in Doha, Qatar.

Shadi Hamid, thank you so much for being with us.

Mr. SHADI HAMID (Director of Research, Brookings Doha Center): Thanks for having me.

RAZ: First to the response from the secretary-general of the Arab League. He has essentially said, this operation has now gone too far. This after the Arab League had called on the international community to enforce a no-fly zone.

Mr. HAMID: It's really remarkable. Is Amr Moussa, the secretary-general, not aware of what a no-fly zone is? A no-fly zone necessitates taking out the air defenses of the Libyan regime. So it does require launching targeted airstrikes. He must have been aware of that going into this.

But now he's saying that it's gone too far, and that instead of protecting civilians, the Western operation is bombarding civilians. And for this turnaround to come so soon after the mission started is really quite surprising. And this suggests that there's going to be more Arab opposition in the coming days as this military operation intensifies.

RAZ: Why do you think Moussa said this?

Mr. HAMID: Well, Amr Moussa has a presidential campaign coming up in Egypt in a few months. So he may be playing to his base. And anti-Americanism in Egypt and the broader Arab world is something that gets you a lot of votes.

So I think what we're seeing here is Amr Moussa positioning himself - and perhaps he's anticipating that while Arab public opinion is still largely supportive of the intervention that that support might shift to something more neutral or perhaps oppositional in the coming weeks.

RAZ: So do you anticipate that what Amr Moussa said could resonate more widely in the Arab world? In other words, could the tide turn? Where right now, you do have broad Arab support for this international action, to the point where that could change?

Mr. HAMID: Yeah. So there currently is broad Arab support not just among leaderships but also publics. That's certainly the case. Amr Moussa is well-respected in the Arab world. So what he says goes a long way.

People listen to him. So this may very well have an effect, and create a new narrative of Western intervention and suspicions about American motives. So we might be hearing more about this.

And I think we have to understand that this was always going to be a concern. Arab suspicion of Western motives runs very deep, and it's based on firsthand experience. The U.S. and Europe have supported repressive regimes for more than five decades in the region. There's anger over the Iraq War, over American policy towards Israel. The list is very long.

So I think from that standpoint, it's understandable that there's going to be this distrust and suspicion even when what the Western nations here are doing is essentially preventing the mass slaughter of Libyan pro-democracy forces.

RAZ: That's Shadi Hamid. He's the director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Doha, Qatar.

Shadi Hamid, thank you so much.

Mr. HAMID: Thanks for having me.

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