The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?

Stratfor is a  rightist Washington think tank which is reported as having “high level sources within the United States and other governments,” while running “a network of paid informants that includes embassy staff and journalists.” It produces expensive studies for such corporations as Coca Cola, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Dow Chemical which last engaged it “to spy on activists seeking redress for the 1984 gas leak at its plant in Bhopal in India that killed 15,000 people and sparked a long-running legal battle.”  The picture is of an efficient quasi-official intelligence organisation whose analyses are accurate but might omit interesting items of information that don’t altogether suit the Establishment.

This appears to be the case in a Stratfor piece of September 19 titled “Libya’s Instability Threatens Regional Borderlands” which is a tidy piece of work concluding that “no quick or easy solution to managing the Libyan threats to regional security, a situation born out of Libya’s fundamental geographic challenge” while “containing Libyan instability will remain unlikely for the foreseeable future.”

The intriguing aspect of Stratfor’s analysis is the contention that a “fundamental geographic challenge” is accountable for the shattering of security in its region.  While it is undeniable that chaos in Libya will continue to obtain, there is no examination or even mention of the reason for its collapse into anarchy and transformation into an attractive base for barbaric fanatics of revolutionary groups including Islamic State.

To be fair, Stratfor’s observations about Libya in September 2012 included the withering and accurate comment that “NATO simply didn’t understand or care about the whirlwind it was unleashing” when it went to war on Libya in March the previous year, but it is unfortunate that the US-NATO military alliance has been so successful in its propaganda intended to convince the world at large that its yippee-shooting jamboree in Libya was a successful intervention in the cause of peace and stability.

US-NATO’s three billion dollar carnival of aerial destruction that reduced Libya to chaos was hailed by the West as a military triumph, and its arrogant feeling of accomplishment was described in 2012 by two prominent US-NATO military figures as having demonstrated that “by any measure, NATO succeeded in Libya.”

These oafs (for there is no kinder word that can be used) are Ivo H Daalder, who was the US Representative to NATO, and Admiral James G Stravridis, who was Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Commander of the US European Command.  They wrote in Foreign Affairs that “NATO’s operation in Libya has rightly been hailed as a model intervention” and proclaimed that “NATO’s involvement in Libya demonstrated that the alliance remains an essential source of stability.”

Their pathetic foolishness would be screamingly funny were it not that they were so calamitously wrong and that their personal misjudgement and involvement resulted in destruction of a country to the point that it is unlikely ever to recover.

Before the US-NATO war on Libya the country was hardly a paradise in the Islamic or any other sense. It was governed by a weird autocrat, some of whose actions verged on the psychotic but who did a great deal for his country and the vast majority of its citizens. He was openly supported by the US and Britain, and exactly two years before the US-NATO war began, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warmly welcomed Gaddafi’s son (the minister of national security) to America, declaring that “I am very pleased to welcome Minister Qadhafi here to the State Department. We deeply value the relationship between the United States and Libya. We have many opportunities to deepen and broaden our cooperation. And I’m very much looking forward to building on this relationship. So, Mr. Minister, welcome so much here.”

And why not?  After all, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recorded in 2011 that “the country is providing comprehensive health care including promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative services to all citizens free of charge through primary health care units, health centres and district hospitals”  and the CIA Factbook noted that Gaddafi’s Libya had a literacy rate of 94.2% which was higher than in Malaysia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.  According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) life expectancy was 75 years (as against  66 in India;  71 in Egypt; 59 in South Africa).  Not bad, for a developing country, one might think.

But Gaddafi fell out of favour with the US-NATO military grouping which (with the honourable exception of Germany) supported rebel groups that wanted to overthrow him and interpreted a UN resolution about ‘No-Fly’ zones as authorizing air attacks anywhere in the country.  (The reversal of Western support had of course nothing to do with the fact that Gaddafi had hinted at nationalising his country’s oil resources, thus removing profits from Western oil conglomerates.)

Hillary Clinton changed her welcoming tune to the point of bizarre disharmony by dropping her ideas about “deeply valuing the relationship between the United States and Libya” and after being told that Qaddafi had been murdered in October 2011 “shared a laugh with a television news reporter” joking that “we came; we saw;  he died,” a crude and vulgar comment that would be heartily approved by Donald Trump.

During their war on Libya the US president and the British prime minister jointly declared that “we are convinced that better times lie ahead for the people of Libya” which was probably the most dim-witted and ill-informed observation about the catastrophe that very many people knew was coming.  (These critics of the US-NATO war were referred to by the gallant British prime minister as “armchair warriors” which was a particularly ludicrous description by a fellow who has never heard a shot fired in anger.)

The US and British governments announced that “Colonel Qadhafi must go and go for good.  At that point, the United Nations and its members should help the Libyan people as they rebuild where Qadhafi has destroyed — to repair homes and hospitals, to restore basic utilities, and to assist Libyans as they develop the institutions to underpin a prosperous and open society.”

But it wasn’t Gaddafi whose cruise missiles and bombing forays destroyed “homes and hospitals” — and power stations and electricity lines and dams and water pipelines (about which, on 31 August 2011 Stratfor’s Kevin Stetch  emailed “Re: discussion — thirsty Libya.  How often do Libyans bathe? You’d have drinking water for a month if you skipped a shower.”  How truly compassionate.)

The results of the US-NATO bombing blitz of 2011, according to the WHO, included “Shortages of food, fuel, water, medical supplies and electricity, as well as reduced access to health care and public services . . . Care for patients with chronic diseases, disabilities and mental health disorders is compromised by restricted access to the few functioning health facilities . . .  The situation of women and children has become particularly vulnerable, since the hospitals are overwhelmed with trauma patients.”

And what next for US-NATO? Where will it chose to mount its next “model intervention” after its destruction of Libya and its humiliating defeat in Afghanistan?

NATO is desperate for a cause to justify its survival and is excitedly deploying forces further east in Europe and trailing its coat for trouble throughout the region.  But the US-NATO military grouping should bear in mind the wise words of Brazil, China, India, Russia and NATO-member Germany (which, as noted above, refused to join the Libya bombing spree), who warned in the UN against “unintended consequences of armed intervention” concerning which Russia’s Mr Putin (then prime minister) was critical, observing, as the New York Times reported, that it was regrettable when the “so-called civilized community, with all its might, pounces on a small country, and ruins infrastructure that has been built over generations.” The Russian representative at the UN “stressed that there was a need to avoid further destabilization in the region.”

Libya’s infrastructure was indeed ruined and there was much further and wider destabilisation, but no credit would ever be given for forecasting correctly that the US-NATO military consortium would fail utterly in its amateur antics.  Although this might be regarded as amusing it is in fact most worrying.  Because what will US-NATO do next in its energetic search to prove that it can achieve something?

A shorter version of this piece appeared in the Strategic Culture Foundation site on September 30, 2015.

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.