FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Libyan Fiasco

The assassination of General Abdul Fatah Younis, Muammar Gaddafi’s interior minister who defected to the opposition in February, and news of fighting between rebel factions near their “capital” Benghazi, resulting in growing lawlessness in the rebel-held east, further signify the makings of a disaster in Libya. These developments expose the true nature of the conflict and Western policy in that country. After the initial confusion, some elements associated with the insurrection have blamed “pro-Gaddafi forces.” Nonetheless, a rebel minister has admitted that General Younis was murdered by gunmen from an Islamist group belonging to his own side.

Younis, with two aides, was captured and killed, his body burned. The remains of all three were found on the edge of Benghazi. That large crowds attended his funeral indicates that Younis had his supporters in the rebel-held territory. The presence of antagonistic factions in areas under the nominal control of the Transitional National Council does not bode well for a quick end to the Libyan conflict, even if Gaddafi is eventually removed.

The Libyan conflict gets extensive coverage in the media. CNN and Al Jazeera look like strange allies in their pro-rebel stance. But the true nature of the war does not receive the attention it deserves. The assassination and subsequent clashes in Benghazi bring into focus the tribal nature of Libya’s war, which Britain, France and the United States, above all, portray as a straightforward contest between good and evil. The gun battles among rival factions and threats from General Younis’s Obeidi tribe raise the prospect of Libya sinking into a deeper tribal war over oil resources. The scenario is far removed from the delusion in Western capitals that a Bedouin society of six-and-a-half million people, scattered over a vast North African desert, will be transformed into a democratic nation, sitting in the Western camp engaged in free trade.

Politicians in power seem to have a disastrous tendency to ignore advice from their diplomats and legal experts. It happened in Iraq at the time of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The West may have secured the United Nations Security Council’s approval for “humanitarian intervention” in Libya, but an increasing number of governments are becoming critical of Nato’s conduct in the war. Only the day before Younis’s assassination and factional fighting in Benghazi, Foreign Secretary William Hague had announced in London that Britain was recognizing the rebel Transitional National Council as Libya’s legitimate government.

In an overtly political and ill-judged move, all Libyan diplomats and staff in London were ordered out and the TNC was invited to move into the embassy. As Sir Christopher Meyer, former British ambassador to Washington, said afterward, Younis’s killing “underlines [the] folly of Nato getting drawn into the Libyan civil war … We should have created a safe haven in Benghazi, left it at that.”

Libya is a much smaller country, but there are emerging parallels with Afghanistan and U.S. policy of backing Mujahideen, riven by ethnic and tribal rivalries, in the 1980s. In 2011, the West’s energy sources and transit routes are not under threat of the Soviet kind. But the need to guarantee supplies from an increasingly turbulent oil-rich region is perhaps more acute. The current economic downturn represents a temporary cycle, after which zealous capitalism sees only opportunities.

An alliance based on opportunism was the beginning of the West’s involvement with the Mujahideen against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, a conservative society with a deep-rooted tribal system. The lessons of Afghanistan, and Iraq, seem not to have been learned in Washington, London and Paris, for the war in Libya is heading that way.

Political maneuverings are like a pendulum, swinging from one side to another. For many years, the West saw Gaddafi as a foe. Then the British and Italian government leaders, in particular, wooed Gaddafi in a manner that was nothing short of embarrassing. Faced with a growing wave of popular uprisings in the Muslim world in recent months, the United States and allies were at first slow to respond. Then they seized on the “freedom agenda,” abandoning support for Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian dictator, and turning on Libya and Syria, but sparing friendly autocratic regimes in the region, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

The latest turn of events reinforces the impression that in focusing mainly on Libya with massive military force, the West has yet again embarked on a highly selective policy and a risky venture.

Deepak Tripathi is the author of Breeding Ground: Afghanistan and the Origins of Islamist Terrorism (Potomac Books, Incorporated, Washington, D.C., 2011) and Overcoming the Bush Legacy in Iraq and Afghanistan (also Potomac, 2010). His works can be found at: http://deepaktripathi.wordpress.com and he can be reached at: dandatripathi@gmail.com.

More articles by:

Deepak Tripathi is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. His works can be found at: http://deepaktripathi.wordpress.com and he can be reached at deepak.tripathi.writer@gmail.com.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
March 30, 2020
Marshall Auerback
Washington Uses the Pandemic to Create a $2 Trillion Slush Fund for Its Cronies
Ron Jacobs
Going After Maduro
Justin Podur
When Economists Try to Solve Health Crises, the Results Can Often be Disastrous
Thomas Knapp
Decarceration: COVID-19 is Opportunity Knocking
Arshad Khan - Meena Miriam Yust
Dying Planet and a Virus Unleashed
William Astore
How My Dad Predicted the Decline of America
Seth Sandronsky
Reclaiming Vacant Homes in the COVID-19 Pandemic
John G. Russell
Racial Profiling Disorder: the All-American Pandemic
Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
As the World Tackles the COVID-19 Pandemic, the U.S. Raises the Pressure on Venezuela
Laura Flanders
Covid-19: Our Health Crisis is Born of Bigotry
Cesar Chelala
The New World of Coronavirus
Lawrence Wittner
The World’s Major Military and Economic Powers Find Happiness Elusive
Ted Rall
My Dead French Grandfather Helped Me with COVID-19
Rob Okun
A Citizens’ Call to Invoke the Twenty-fifth Amendment
Ashar Foley
COVID-19 Proves It: We Need Medicare-for-All
Robert Koehler
The Virus is Our Teacher
Wim Laven
Are You Prepared to Needlessly Die for Your Country?
Jill Richardson
Stay Home, Stay Angry
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
What’s Wrong with Ranked Choice Voting
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Sues Trump’s Bureau of Reclamation for Bull Trout Fatalities in Saint Mary-Milk River Irrigation Project on the east Side of Glacier National Park
Weekend Edition
March 27, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Bailouts for the Rich, the Virus for the Rest of Us
Louis Proyect
Life and Death in the Epicenter
Paul Street
“I Will Not Kill My Mother for Your Stock Portfolio”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Scum Also Rises
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Stimulus Bill Allows Federal Reserve to Conduct Meetings in Secret; Gives Fed $454 Billion Slush Fund for Wall Street Bailouts
Jefferson Morley
Could the Death of the National Security State be a Silver Lining of COVID-19?
Ruth Hopkins
A Message For America from Brazil’s First Indigenous Congresswoman
Kathleen Wallace
The End of the Parasite Paradigm
Anthony DiMaggio
Misinformation and the Coronavirus: On the Dangers of Depoliticization and Social Media
Andrew Levine
Neither Biden Nor Trump: Imagine Cuomo
David Rosen
God’s Vengeance: the Christian Right and the Coronavirus
Evaggelos Vallianatos
In the Grip of Disease
David Schultz
The Covid-19 Bailout: Another Failed Opportunity at Structural Change
Edward Leer
Somebody Else’s World: An Interview with Kelly Reichardt
Robert Fisk
What Trump is Doing in the Middle East While You are Distracted by COVID-19
Daniel Warner
COVID-19: Health or Wealth?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
Corona in Germany: Hording and Authoritarianism
Ramzy Baroud
BJP and Israel: Hindu Nationalism is Ravaging India’s Democracy
Richard Moser
Russia-gate: the Dead But Undead
Ron Jacobs
Politics, Pandemics and Trumpism
Chris Gilbert
Letter From Catalonia: Alarming Measures
Richard Eskow
Seven Rules for the Boeing Bailout
Jonathan Carp
Coronavirus and the Collapse of Our Imaginations
Andrew Bacevich
The Coronavirus and the Real Threats to American Safety and Freedom
Peter Cohen
COVID-19, the Exponential Function and Human the Survival
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail