Libya: What a Khazi

Just in case they’re short on historical examples of Western perfidy, the leaders of ‘rogue states’ around the world need remember just one name when they’re courted by the ‘civilized’ West: Gaddafi. The deceased Libyan ruler’s downfall has been an axiomatic argument against making concessions ever since.

The lawless Libyan mess has turned into a highly efficient migrant funnel which has facilitated right-wing rhetoric in a Europe that appears to have forgotten why the UN refugee conventions were instituted. No doubt Europol focus groups are telling representatives that ethics don’t sell. Libya is a textbook example of Western hubris, where ‘decisive’/’surgical’ violence is labelled ‘humanitarian’, though followed by Stone-Age living conditions and warlordism. It’s taken ten years to finally fix an agreed a date for new elections, due in December, but the social legacy of the Western intervention will take much longer to heal.

In the decade that Libya has been a deadly place to live, migration from Africa to Europe has risen sharply. Sub-Saharan applications for asylum in Europe were barely 50,000 in 2010, but close to 170,000 in 2017. Most transited via Libya. Libya’s hundreds of miles of coastline, effectively unpoliced, was an own goal in the classic Western mold: (‘We had to destroy the town to save it.’).

Gaddafi’s regime’s brutality held together its fissiparous regional factions and tribes. It’s these which have generated the Scrabble bag of militia handles that litter today’s situational maps of the country.

Everyone and their mother seems to want to find and sponsor (or create) a proxy in this civil conflict. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates sponsor rival groups, and even ISIL (funny how the Wahhabists turn up wherever there’s oil and gas in the mix, isn’t it?) has had a presence. The new coyotes were former logistics people forced to swap cargoes or fail to feed their families. They borrowed the old oil smuggling routes to get their human charges to the coast. The competition burgeoned; prices tanked from a thousand bucks to just 90 in a few years.

The real idiocy of the forced endgame of Gaddafi’s regime was the yawning chasm of a power vacuum it created. The ‘humanitarian’ bombing campaign led by the U.K., France, and the U.S., was Iraq-thorough, destroying not just military but also civilian infrastructure. For the air forces concerned, it was like Yemen today for the Saudis: target practice.

European policies towards Libya were the proximal cause of the migrant flows to Sicily and Italy. They’re still leaving, and sinking, and drowning in their hundreds. All the Libya crisis has done is create a North African escape hatch from the continent for the millions of migrants mired in sub-Saharan resource wars and poverty.

This was an entirely avoidable tragedy. Gaddafi offered to mount elections by the end of 2011 and accept the results. His offer was ignored. One recent NGO report advised the international community to ‘prioritize economic development’. Better advice would have been not to destroy it in the first place.

John Clamp writes for Maqshosh.