I suppose after decades of insane, counterproductive and suicidal economic and social policies espoused by much of the Western world, no one ought to be surprised at our foreign policy being equally insane, counterproductive and suicidal. And yet, I admit, at times I still marvel at the monumental scope of our stupidity.
The myth of man’s improvement and progress notwithstanding, it ought to be obvious that we have, over time, become progressively more delusional, removed from reality, and with an attention span and memory shorter than a goldfish’s.
Even by the standards of the demented policies and acts our governments routinely engage in, the war against Libya is as calamitous and unhinged as they get.
Have we really suffered mass amnesia on Afghanistan and Iraq? You know, those other regime change wars that have, over a decade, resulted in nothing but a million corpses, at a cost of trillions of dollars the bankrupt Western nations can hardly afford to spend. Apparently our enlightened leaders see military interventions in much the same way Messrs. Obama and Krugman judge economic stimuli – the only problem being we haven’t done enough of them or on large enough scale.
Now that the NATO-supported Libyan rebel forces took over Tripoli and the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) announced the end of the Muammar Gaddafi era, I suppose we are ready to celebrate another of those “mission accomplished” moments. But no amount of self-congratulation about “protecting civilians” can change the fact that the Libya intervention is an entirely counterproductive and irrational (not to mention illegal) act.
The laughable excuses about a responsibility to protect people at risk from their own governments notwithstanding, regime change was the objective of the British/French/US intervention all along. At least G.W.Bush had what seemed to be a half-plausible justification for his wars (e.g. WMDs). Presumably a Nobel Peace prize laureate president needn’t bother with such inconveniences. (Or have a Congressional vote or public debate before attacking a sovereign country.)
It’s patently nonsensical to claim that the US or Europe have any sort of “duty” to protect foreign people from their governments or, worse still, to pick sides in another country’s civil war. If the West truly cannot stand idly by while atrocities take place, why have we tolerated countless evil regimes all over the world? There have been dozens of tyrants far worse than Gaddafi. Why not intervene elsewhere too?
The West has had diplomatic and business relations with Gaddafi for years. Yes, he is evil and ruthless, but has fulfilled his part of the deal cut years ago – renouncing and stopping support to terrorism against the West, ending Libya’s nuclear weapons program, blocking African immigrants from heading toward Italy, keeping the oil flowing, and giving European companies nice fat contracts. Then, faced with a rebel uprising, he used force against those attempting to oust him (as almost any government would), and suddenly he became the biggest threat to the world and needed to be removed from power?
The UK, French and US forces, acting under the auspices of NATO, have clearly violated their mandate (under UN Security Council Resolution 1973) to protect civilians. No authorization was granted for military assault, boots on the ground, supply of weapons to the rebels, elimination of Gaddafi and regime change.
“In March of this year, the US, France, Britain and their North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) allies launched military operations in Libya under the guise of a “humanitarian intervention”. US diplomats and world leaders carelessly voiced unsubstantiated claims of an impending massacre in Benghazi. You hear no such appeals to humanity while Nato, in the name of the rebels (whoever they are), prepares to lay siege to Tripoli, a city of nearly 2 million people.”
“The use of military force on behalf of the rebels, in an attempt to impose regime change, has undermined international law and damaged the credibility of the United Nations. Countless innocent civilians have been killed, and Nato air strikes continue to place many at great risk. So much for the humanitarian-inspired UNSCR 1973 as a means to protect civilians.”
“The leading donor nations of Nato – the US, France and Great Britain – have been free to prosecute war under the cloak of this faceless, bureaucratic, alphabet security agency, now multinational war machine, which can violate UN resolutions and kill innocent civilians with impunity. War crimes trials are only for losers.”
Legality questions aside, the (rather foreseeable) consequences of the Libyan aggression are likely to ultimately come to haunt us. Lest we want Libya to descend into chaos after the collapse of the Gaddafi regime, we may be looking at a long military engagement. There are already mounting calls for boots on the ground for as long as it may be necessary.
Such presence will not be too welcome by the Arab world, and soon the West will (quite justifiably) take the blame for attacking yet another Muslim country. Just wait for it.
Perhaps one desperate enough to find any sort of rationality behind our involvement in Libya’s internal conflict might have uncovered a hint of such if the rebels could, in any way, be expected to be better for our security and relations with the Middle East. In reality, while Gaddafi posed no threat to the West, the same cannot be said about the fighters we have now legitimized as the new Libyan government.
The little we know about the rebels is not exactly encouraging. A number of them have been known to be Al-Qaeda linked Islamic fundamentalists. Furthermore, several Al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood leaders (as well as radical British Islamists) have backed the uprising, saying it would lead to the imposition of a “State of Islam” in the country.
Nor can commercial interests provide a plausible enough reason for the intervention. The war against Libya can hardly be called a war for oil. Gaddafi has been more than happy to sell as much oil as we wanted, and Western energy (and construction) companies were welcome in Libya and have been operating there for a long time. The US is unlikely to see any economic benefit from Gaddafi’s fall. Europe has long had preferential business relations with Libya, with Italian companies being prime beneficiaries. Italy, France and Germany are now scrambling for new oil and construction contracts from the Libyan rebels.
As much as one would like to have a plausible reason for the aggression, unseating Gaddafi was not a rational decision; the grounds for this wholly unnecessary war were emotional, irresponsible and entirely counterproductive.
“Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”
This age-old wisdom, attributed to Euripides, appears to fit the Western world better and better each year.
What is Libya likely to look like in the coming years? What will replace the Gaddafi regime?
Despite not having any strategy, or even idea of what we hope to achieve in Libya, you can always count on idiotic media commentators and dim, historically ignorant politicians to wax lyrical about the spread of freedom and (Western-style) democracy.
One of the above lot, UK PM David Cameron said this:
“Our task now is to do all we can to support the will of the Libyan people for an effective transition for a free, democratic and inclusive Libya.”
“This has not been our revolution but we can be proud that we have played our part.”
“No transition is ever smooth or easy but today the Arab Spring is a step further away from oppression and dictatorship and a step closer to freedom and democracy, and Libyan people are a step closer to their dream of a better future free from the terror of Gaddafi.”
One would have to be extremely naïve to expect a blossoming of democracy in Libya. If our past military adventures have taught us anything (doubtful, I know), it should be that it’s much easier to overthrow a government than to put something better and stable in its place – especially in a country that was, for decades, held together by the raw power of a dictatorial regime.
It is clear that the NTC is a disparate mix of various rebel factions – from secularists to former Gaddafi loyalists to radical Islamists – that have had little in common beyond the desire to oust Gaddafi. That goal achieved, one could easily imagine the NTC fracturing and falling into internal fighting over their (often mutually contrary) interests, resulting in a long and deadly civil war.
Libya is a deeply fractured country, encompassing an estimated 140 different tribes divided by a myriad of dialects, loyalties and ancient histories. Gaddafi’s iron fist and alliances kept sectarian tensions in check and held the country together. These issues are now likely to reemerge, leading to a wider ethnic conflict. Jihadist elements (such as the anti-Gaddafi Libyan Islamic Fighting Group) will undoubtedly take advantage of the tumult. Whoever will succeed Gaddafi doesn’t stand much chance of controlling a country split by tribal hatred and (thanks to the Western involvement) awash with arms.
And if the optimists are right and freedom and democracy do come to Libya they may not be the kind of freedom and democracy we expect or want to see. Had we not been so busy with bestowing “democracy” on foreign peoples we might by now have realized that free elections in the Middle East tend to give rise to precisely the type of Islamic states we most seem to fear.
Western leaders should probably be more careful about what they wish for in the future. They just might get it.