In RBC Capital Markets' 'Generally Speaking' edition defense and geopolitical adviser General Charles Vyvyan has discussed in detail the action plan laid out in the United Nations Resolution 1973 pertaining to Libya and its potential consequences.

General Vyvyan said subsequent to writing the piece, allied force have begun to enforce the no-fly zone, including attacks on related ground targets.

As I write it would seem that the ceasefire which the Libyan Foreign Minister announced on March 18, following the passage of UN Resolution 1973 the day before, remains to be given effect on the ground. There are continuing reports of explosions in and around Benghazi, the last remaining bastion of the rebel forces, and of air attacks, said Vyvyan, strategic analyst and defense advisor acting as a consultant to the RBC Capital Markets Aerospace & Defense team.

This will come as little surprise to either the U.S. or the French and U.K. Governments each of whom expressed some scepticism on hearing the announcement. At the same time North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) leaders, together with those from the Arab League and the African Union, are meeting in Paris today to finalize the arrangements for the implementation of the No Fly Zone (NFZ) and the other measures authorized by the Resolution, said General Vyvyan.

General Vyvyan said the fear must be that Gaddafi’s forces will have achieved the defeat of the rebels by the time the NFZ becomes operational -- probably early next week.

Support for UN Resolution

The eight-page UN Resolution was designed, in the words of Susan Rice, the US Representative, to end the violence, to protect the citizens of Libya, and to allow them to choose what type of government they wanted free from the tyranny of the Gaddafi regime, said General Vyvyan.

The UN Resolution authorized five principal actions:

-- The immediate establishment of a ceasefire, and the end to violence and attacks on the civilian population.

-- The adoption of ‘all necessary measures’ to protect civilians and civilian populated areas, while expressly excluding the presence of any foreign forces on any portion of Libyan territory.

-- A ban on all flights in Libyan airspace except for humanitarian flights and those authorized by the Arab League.

-- A ban on the movement of any Libyan owned or operated aircraft currently on foreign soil.

-- A further freeze on the assets of all Libyan Government banking and investment entities.

This was a regional initiative, championed by France and the UK, but it would not have been agreed in the Security Council without, uniquely, the commitment on 12 March of the Arab League -- which, in turn, encouraged the US to support it. It was passed 10-0 with five abstentions -- those of China, Russia, Germany, India, and Brazil, said General Vyvyan.

He said it is of strategic interest that, in the first place, there were no vetoes, and second, that the three aspirant members of the Security Council -- Germany, India, and Brazil -- appear to have voted more in line with their long term ambitions for membership, than in accordance with their own national values.

Other strategic issues from the crisis

Moral: There is clear international, but perhaps a more nuanced Arab ambition to support the rebels who were articulating aspirations for universal values and freedoms, said General Vyvyan.

Political: Involvement by foreign powers means that the revolutionaries no longer ‘own’ their revolution; in the US there were concerns about embarking on another adventure into a muslim state in the Middle East; in Europe there were concerns about the return of a pariah state on its southern periphery; and the nations of the Arab League were concerned principally for the safety of their brethren in Libya.

Military: Military concerns ultimately center on operational and tactical issues. But to get those right, it is necessary to have a very clear strategic aim: What is the military to achieve? What are the limitations on its operations? And when will it know that it has succeeded?

What's next?

General Vyvyan said there remain four principal issues beyond those associated with the immediate implementation of the measures authorized in Resolution 1973. First, a UN Resolution is designed to address a specific situation on the ground – which this one has done most effectively.

But the declaration of a ceasefire by the Libyan authorities has, to a certain extent, left the allied governments high and dry without a further mandate. Gaddafi could continue to torment his people with repressive actions which fall below the UN radar and which will therefore expose the allies’ ineffectiveness, General Vyvyan said.

Second, possibly as a result and as a consequence of the failure to identify, in the initial stages, a strategic aim, there will be temptations to introduce ‘mission creep’.

Third, while the ‘regime change’ has not been identified as an aim in the Resolution, it is anticipated that its successful implementation will necessarily mean the ejection of Gaddafi and the collapse of his regime, General Vyvyan said.

But has an exit strategy for Gaddafi been identified? Yes, there are prosecutions outstanding in the International Criminal Court, but there is a need to think through rather more practically if, how, and where Gaddafi and his cohorts are to go.

And finally, and perhaps most important, there will be more questions asked along the lines of if Libya, why not Bahrain…..or Yemen…..wherever the population is rebelling against an authoritarian regime in its aspirations for greater freedoms, greater accountability, in short, greater ‘legitimacy’, he said.