Letter by Martin S Gilbert, Ulverston

ImageI respond to the March editorial on Libya. It hints that the rebels had a choice of nonviolent resistance. Do we withdraw our support when that tactic is postponed, however temporarily?

The rebels were accompanied by NATO forces and defectors from Gaddafi, who a present hold some power. What choices did the rebels have?

To hope for an effective, nonviolent struggle without intervention from such people is looking for perfect answers in a highly-complex situation.

Perhaps the rebels were opportunists. But after decades of oppression there is no easy way to freedom and democracy.

Before NATO’s intervention, Gaddafi said his forces would destroy Benghazi ‘going from house to house’. At the time of writing, the Syrian tragedy shows that president Assad is intent on doing that in Homs. A response as murderous as Gaddafi’s.

Editor's response

Thank you for your letter, Martin. Our whole point was that there were two kinds of rebel in Libya: genuine grassroots forces, and opportunistic regime elements who gained the support of NATO in trying to re-establish authoritarianism.– Eds