After the collapse of the bipolar Cold-War stalemate that had constrained and antagonised international relations for half a century, the main concern has been putting the world together again. Both the US Security Concept and the EU 1993 Security Strategy indicated "failed States" as the main threat to peace and stability. "Institution-building" became the name of the new international game and the United Nations, to which we have all reverted for legitimacy, gradually enshrined human rights as the Ariadne's thread out of the maze, with the ensuing right/duty to intervene for "humanitarian" purposes. Finally supplementing it with the "responsibility to protect", explicitely mentioned for the very first time in Resolution 1973.
If we actually mean what we have said for the last twenty years, and applied to our own European situations (notably in the Balkans), Lybia is therefore a text-book case. It should indeed be seen as a classic "blue helmet" case, i.e. a use of force for interposition purposes. The aim is not to substitute the parties and impose a solution but essentially to reach a stalemate that would encourage them to come to terms and establish a functioning State replacing the obviously dysfunctional Jamairija. It's a "peace-encouraging" mission, the final result of which is not a foregone conclusion and contingency planning remains therefore uncertain, as it should be.
ESDP is Put to the Test: The Alternative to Interference is Indifference
Additionally, Lybia has put the EU's ESDP to the test. France and Britain took the initiative, engineered the UN Resolution and became the "lead nations" of the resulting coalition of the willing, keeping the US (and NATO) in the background. As they should have done, as Permanent Members of the Security Council having reached their own bilateral military agreements in Saint Malo in 1998 and Deauville last October. They constitute therefore the hard core of the "permanent structured cooperations" that the Lisbon Treaty has called for, becoming in fact the "work-horses" of the European defence project, in parallel to the Franco-German pair on the economic side of things.
All is well therefore, according to plan in every respect; which doesn't mean of course that the intentions will succeed like clockwork. Just as the Bosnia or Kosovo cases haven't yet succeeded. The response of the parties is essential, and unintended consequences may develop. But the alternative to interference is indifference. And having a Somalia in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea is not an option.
*Ambassador Guido Lenzi is ISF analyst based in Rome. He served, inter alia, as the first Director of the EU-ISS in Paris.