Libya: Curb Your Enthusiasm

It is extremely dangerous to pronounce conclusions about a Libyan war, which may not even be over, just entering a different phase. What can be said is that the re-colonization of Libya by the former colonial powers is underway in the name of nation-building. 

There is “euphoria” in Beltway circles, Steve Clemons reports, while properly expressing caution in his blog. For a thoughtful version of the euphoria, one can turn to Juan Cole’s website. Even the White House leaked its view that this was a “win” for President Obama in this morning’s Times. But the euphoria is premature, and carries a pro-intervention, anti-democratic bias. This was an American war waged in violation of the War Powers Act, even according to the administration’s key lawyers and most of the House of Representatives.

No sane person can defend Col. Qaddafi. But according to the New York Times account today, the “moral clarity” of the original mission has been “muddled.” (Aug. 14) Violent splits have erupted within the anti-Qaddafi movement. Its top leaders come from the ranks of the Qaddafi regime: Qaddafi’s former development minister, his former minister of justice, and his former interior minister, at least until that person was killed by other rebel leaders not long ago. A brittle coalition indeed, fueled by hatred of Qaddafi’s repression, glued together by Western funding and protected by several thousand Western air strikes.

If and when order is established, the questions should be whether Western military intervention was justified against a former colony, and whether NATO powers will establish a neo-colonial regime running a pro-Western oil supplier. It is possible too that Egypt, Tunisia, South Africa and Turkey will demand and diplomatically foster a more independent Libya.  In the meantime, the prospects for civil war, bloody tribal conflict or insurgency are very real. De facto geographic partition may occur if power-sharing arrangements cannot be imposed. According to the respected national security website Stratfor:

‘It is possible that the most highly trained Libyan soldiers in Tripoli have retreated to entrenched urban positions from which they plan to conduct an urban insurgency. Were this to happen, it would be very difficult for NTC forces to pacify them, as the Gadhafi forces have access to large amounts of heavy weaponry and know the city’s terrain…[or] rather than an Iraqi-style insurgency, perhaps a bigger concern is that the situation in Libya could become similar to those seen after the overthrow of the regimes in Somalia in 1991 and Afghanistan in 1992. In those cases, the factions that took down the incumbent governments began fighting with one another — and some of the remnants of the former regimes — in a free-for-all battle for control after failing to agree on a power-sharing formula.”


Leave a comment