The Libyan mission Operation Odyssey Dawn, under UN authority, is a dog’s breakfast and nothing good is going to come out of it.

The conniving elite of the Arab League has snookered an ever-ready coalition of western powers to do its bidding. And the western powers (Britain, France, the U.S. and Canada dutifully in tow), with their sights protectively fixed on oil-rich desert patches of the Middle East and North Africa, needed little urging to respond.

This operation, as repeatedly broadcast by coalition leaders, is to save Libyan lives.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague, for instance, announced in Parliament:

“Our message to the Gadhafi regime is that the international community will not stand by and watch them kill civilians, a view this House overwhelmingly endorsed this week. To his forces we say that if they continue to take part in Gadhafi’s war against his own people, they will continue to face the military force of the coalition, and if they commit crimes against Libyan people they will be held to account.”

Strong words, but what is the true nature of Hague’s message to the attentive international community?

It is plain and simple: The lives of Arabs and non-Arabs in the region whose countries are members of the league, but lack oil wealth — Yemen, Bahrain, Darfur within Sudan, etc. — are cheap, inconsequential and certainly not worth the expenditure needed to save them from their respective despots.

Similarly, the lives of the poor, beaten and killed by despots — kith and kin of Libya’s Gadhafi — in places like Zimbabwe, North Korea and Myanmar, or where democracy movements are openly crushed as in Iran and China, are not worth a dime beyond the merely ritual official regrets announced by western governments. Neither are the lives of people killed by terrorist bombings as in Israel and India.

League members are a collection of authoritarian states where widespread violations of human rights are notoriously routine.

There is no instance in the league’s 66-year history when its members were sufficiently moved by evidence before them — even genocide as in the case of Saddam Hussein’s repeated massacre of Kurds and Iraqi Shiites — to protect the abused.

The Libyan situation offered the league an opportunity to redeem its dishonourable record.

Arab states possess military resources that they could have deployed as a league operation and, in keeping with the UN principle of “responsibility to protect,” placed in effect a no-fly zone over Libyan air space to save civilians and punish Gadhafi.

But the unwillingness of the league to intervene in Libya, or anywhere else in the Arab world — save for its unrelenting hostility towards Israel — is related to the fear of establishing a precedent among its members that nobody wants.

However, a precedent of a sort with unsavoury consequences for the future has been established. The league has talked the UN and western powers into doing its bidding without assuming any responsibility for consequences it finds politically distasteful or unpopular.

Middle Eastern culture of bargains made in bazaars is well known and in such haggles, sellers regularly find happily deluded suckers. The league made a winning bargain over Libya, and suckers of those left to pick up the bill and take the blame.