FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cameron and Sarkozy’s Coy Victory Lap in Tripoli

David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy were careful during their first visit to Libya since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi to avoid anything evoking comparisons with President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” rhetoric after the occupation of Iraq. They know how his imperial arrogance and premature declaration of victory came back to haunt him.

Their caution is sensible given that it is too early to say exactly what Britain and France have accomplished in Libya. Col Gaddafi is gone, but it is unclear what will replace him. In power in Tripoli, he provided a focus for a broad but disparate coalition of Libyans struggling to defeat him. Now that his followers hold only a few beleaguered towns, there is not much to bind together these lawyers from Benghazi, former Islamist guerrillas and defecting members of the old regime, who will be Libya’s next rulers.

Britain, France and other foreign powers are uncertain of their status in the new Libya. The rebels’ success would not have been without NATO. The final collapse of the Gaddafi regime came not only because of NATO air strikes, but because French and British planners played a commanding role in the military campaign.

It is uncertain how much political influence the NATO powers most involved in the war will enjoy, though presumably it will be large. Members of the National Transitional Council (NTC) have tried to show they are not push-overs when it comes to dealing with their foreign allies by rejecting suggestions they should send Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, to Britain. At the same time, the chairman of the NTC, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, implied that the countries which led the NATO intervention would be regarded favorably in commercial dealings.

This is someway down the road. The war is not entirely over. Damage to oil facilities is not severe, but it will take time for Libya to again export 1.3 million barrels of oil a day. As the government established itself, the scramble for a share in Libya’s oil wealth will intensify.

This has been a backdrop to the war from the beginning in a way that was never quite true to the same extent in Iraq. ENI of Italy, BP of UK, Total of France, OMV of Austria and Repsol YPF of Spain will all look to see how far they turn the post-war situation to their advantage. Any incoming Libyan government will be wary of giving credibility to Gaddafi’s claim that the rebels were pawns of foreign powers and oil companies aiming to steal Libya’s only asset.

A problem is that, whatever happens in Libya, it is difficult to see a strong government emerging. It will continue, to a greater or lesser degree, to be reliant on NATO powers. Gaddafi prevented the development of independent political and social groups so it is difficult to see how an elected “National Congress”, as is provisionally planned, will be able to assert its authority.

There is not just the divisions and disruption of war to be considered. Some members of the NTC speak of putting apolitical civil servants and technicians back to work, though this not an unmixed blessing given the ramshackle nature of Gaddafi’s state machine.

So far Libyans and foreigners have reassured themselves with the mantra that Libya is not Iraq or Afghanistan. It is true there is not the same legacy of war, communal and sectarian hatred. On the other hand, many successful national liberations have been followed by nasty and violent struggles to see who will be top dog.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of  The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq and Muqtada! Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia revival and the struggle for Iraq

 

 

 


More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

January 21, 2019
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail