FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Collapse in Libya

by

Paternalism is rarely a pretty thing. In many cases, it is fair to say it is a downside grotesque feature of human relations. One person, or entity, extends a hand that does not so much help the individual in trouble as slap the person in question across a grieving face. When it comes to international relations, the image gets even uglier. Here, states can assert the ultimate entitlement to assert control over a regime, or a state, which has fallen foul of appropriate conventions.  The modern dress code of the humanitarian interventionist is simple in its absurdity: the Responsibility to Protect.

Matthew Waxman[1], writing for CNN World, writes to the tune of lamentation.  “The 2011 international coalition intervention in Libya was supposed to be a step forward for the Responsibility to Protect doctrine – the notion that if a state fails to protect its citizens from mass atrocities, it becomes the international community’s responsibility to do so.”  Then, a description of the bloody mess that has become the Libya of 2014 (a bit of face slapping rather than hand helping here).  “Tragically, the current collapse of governance and bloody infighting among factional militias there will instead result in a step backwards for this important principle.”

It is good to see that Waxman is inhabiting a space of debate that is vaguely terrestrial by admitting that the 2011 attack on Libya by NATO-led forces did much to propel R2P to a grave. In a sense, it never left the morgue it was conceived in – the idea that humanitarian intervention had to be reshaped not as a case of violating sovereignty but undertaking an obligation to do good.  Terrible things are always done by those who claim a duty to do so, notably if such a mission is seen as a noble one.  It is particularly so when humanitarianism is jammed down the barrel of a gun, and unleashed with the full ferocity that only zeal commands.

Libya remains the true acid test of what went wrong, with the imperial sabre rattling that was only made to look good because of the philosophising treacle of French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy.  When a pampered philosopher mans the barricades with teenage lust, even from a distance, you know a cause is in trouble.  It becomes even uglier with vague UN Security Council Resolutions such as UNSCR 1973, which speak about such nominally vacuous terms as protecting civilians while attempting regime change in the process.  Civilians are the footnotes – the text lies in traditional power dynamics.  While the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 is still whitewashed by a few caring fanatics as the product of a genuine humanitarian impulse, the role by the US, France and the UK in 2011 hardly stands up.

In the wake of the overthrow of Qaddafi’s regime, the militias are rejoicing in their killing and policing of factional havens. An Islamic emirate has been declared in Benghazi.  While factional fighting was initially limited to Benghazi, it has well and truly spread to Tripoli.  According to Libya Body Count, an unfortunately grim choice of name, July this year saw 469 fatalities across the country.  The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL)[2] has gone so far as to claim that “mass crimes” have taken place in Tripoli and Benghazi.  There are mutterings in Algeria and Egypt about intervention for another round of good old fashioned policing.

As of this writing, the health sector of the country is heading for total collapse.  This is largely due to the terror that has seeped into the Filipino working population in the country.  The Philippines on July 31st began evacuating 13,000[3] of its nationals after one of its workers was kidnapped and beheaded.  As workers from the Philippines make up 60 per cent of the country’s hospital staff, with personnel from India coming in at 20 per cent, the situation is grave.

Dr. Naima al-Fitouri gave one truly dampening example.  “Al-Joumhouria Hospital’s maternity ward is now facing an acute shortage of medical staff, with only five doctors, instead of 12, working at the night shift given the bad conditions at the hospital and despite the increased number of patients.”  This is all the more severe for the fact that the hospital services much of eastern Libya.

Other countries have begun evacuating their citizens with urgency.  The ship is sinking fast, and they know it.  Given Libya’s rich history of using foreign labour in its industries, the situation is calamitous.  Some 50,000 Egyptians have left.  Tunisia has been getting busy trying to get its 60,000 or so nationals out of the country.  Added to all this the fact that a million Libyans have already found their residence in Tunisia since 2011, and we have the true handiwork of the intervention.  R2P, a crime by any other name.

Then comes the prize jewel – the country’s oil sector.  While ISIS runs amok in Iraq, and a brief lull takes place in the Gaza slaughter house, Libya has seen the destruction of Tripoli’s airport and some of the most vicious fighting since 2011.  Its oil production has not only petered out, but fallen, despite holding up in 2012 when it accounted for 10 per cent of oil exports to Europe’s Organisation for Economic Corporation and Development.  From January to April 2014, that value of that share had fallen to a mere 3 per cent.[4]  The number of barrels produced in 2014 will have declined by 400,000.

The onus has always been on advocates of such adventurist projects to show that knocking off a tyrant and railroading the development of an outlaw state has benefits that exceed that of internal solutions. The record is miserably bleak, and suggests that the R2P doctrine should be either scrapped, or stripped bare for what it really is: an attempt at good old invasion and intrusion in the affairs of another state.  Inside every humanitarian is a criminal waiting to get out.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:
June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
Norman Pollack
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization: Janus-Faced Monopoly Capital
Binoy Kampmark
Railroaded by the Supreme Court: the US Problem with Immigration
Howard Lisnoff
Of Kiddie Crusades and Disregarding the First Amendment in a Public Space
Vijay Prashad
Economic Liberalization Ignores India’s Rural Misery
Caroline Hurley
We Are All Syrians
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail