'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Libyan Enigma 

UPDATE 4: Sarkozy and Erdogan are still going at it:

Nicolas Sarkozy has belittled Nato's role in the military operations against Muammar Gaddafi, re-igniting the row over who replaces the Americans in charge of the campaign in Libya.

Senior Nato officials said the alliance would decide within days whether to take over the bombing campaign against Gaddafi's forces and David Cameron announced that Nato would "shortly be providing the command and control and the machinery" for the attacks on ground targets in Libya.

The Nato decision is expected by Monday, before foreign ministers meet in London on Tuesday to discuss Libya. Senior officials were confident that the alliance would agree to assume command of all three elements of the campaign against Gaddafi – the air assaults, as well as the no-fly zone and arms embargo already under Nato command.

Turkey and France have been embroiled in a bitter row all week, with Ankara demanding that the Nato alliance, of which it is the member with the second biggest army after the US, takes over and Sarkozy opposed.

Sarkocy wants NATO to provide the force, while leaving the decisions as to the deployment of it to the eleven countries taking part in operations, thus excluding Turkey. Is this an indication that ground troops may soon be necessary? What are the consequences for the future of NATO if Sarkozy prevails? Germany is already on the sidelines, and Turkey may soon find itself there.

UPDATE 3: Libyan airstrikes have brought the economic ambitions of competitors, such as Turkey's Recip Tayyip Erdogan and France's Nicholas Sarkozy to the surface:

The clash between Turkey and France over Libya is underpinned by acute frictions between Erdogan and Sarkozy, both impetuous and mercurial leaders who revel in the limelight, by fundamental disputes over Ankara's EU ambitions, and by economic interests in north Africa.

The confrontation is shaping up to be decisive in determining the outcome of the bitter infighting over who should inherit command of the Libyan air campaign from the Americans and could come to a head at a major conference in London next week of the parties involved.

Using incendiary language directed at France in a speech in Istanbul, Erdogan said: I wish that those who only see oil, gold mines and underground treasures when they look in [Libya's] direction, would see the region through glasses of conscience from now on.

President Gül reinforced the Turkish view that France and others were being driven primarily by economic interests. The aim [of the air campaign] is not the liberation of the Libyan people, he said. There are hidden agendas and different interests.

France is, of course, adamantly oppposed to the entry of Turkey into the European Union.

UPDATE 2: Oh, by the way, could someone just tell Dennis the Menace to shut up and go away? He seems to have forgotten that he further embarasses himself every time he purports to represent an ethical liberal position in public. He'll stick with his assertion that the President should be impeached over bombing Libya until . . well, you know, until the President takes him for a ride on Air Force One again. And, then, there are sell outs like Juan Cole and David Corn.

Cole has always been phony. Years ago, in 2006, I posted a comment on his blog in response to his post about his sadness over the fact that the son of the Israeli novelist David Grossman had been killed during the Israeli ground invasion of southern Lebanon, emphasizing Grossman's opposition to it. I responded with a comment to the effect that Grossman did not oppose the Israeli attacks upon Lebanon until he was afraid that his son was going to be ordered to participate in the pending invasion. I also observed that, according to press reports, Grossman expressed no remorse over the loss of Lebanese lives as a result of the Israeli air strikes and ground assault. Cole deleted it, of course, and I thereafter stopped paying attention to anything he had to say.

UPDATE 1: A provocative commentary by Vijay Prashad:

Such options are no longer central, or even on the table. Qaddafi’s rule might fall in a week or a month. In the interim, he is a caged animal, and his loyalists will not dissolve easily. In the short term, he may conduct some kind of spectacular attack on a tanker in the Mediterranean, or else, as he himself warned, inside Europe. This is precisely the kind of pretext that the warmongers seek. The Gulf of Sidra will stand in for the Gulf of Tonkin. Ships of war will dock at Benghazi, and the ground troops will slide along the road that was once the graveyard of Field Marshall Montgomery and Rommel (their half tracks and tanks still litter the road outside Tobruk). Such an assault, which might be inevitable, will revive the debacle in Iraq that lasted from 2003 to 2007, with loyalists now underground in a brutal insurgency against the foreign troops and the people of the east, a defense of their realm and a sectarian conflict at the same time. If this were the scenario, then, as Michael Walzer put it, it would extend, not stop, the bloodshed.

The forces of counter-revolution line up with the West. The Gulf Cooperation Council hastened to pledge its unequivocal support. The United Arab Emirates is sending twenty-four aircraft and Qatar will send as many as six. They will also help fund the between $1-2 billion/month cost of the enforcing the no-fly zone. Saudi Arabia’s troops remain in Bahrain. Their air force is geared up, and it too might fly alongside the French over Libyan skies. No Tunisian and Egyptian planes are on the offer. It is a telling sign that only the counter-revolutionary regimes are excited at the prospect of this battle. They know that it is precisely the best opportunity to stop the tide of the Arab Revolt of 2011.

Meanwhile, Germany is staying out of it as arguments over the mission erupt within NATO. And, not surprisingly, Steven Erlanger and Judy Dempsey of The New York Times are hysterical over this continuing newfound German assertion of independence from the US and France.

INITIAL POST: No doubt you've noticed that I haven't posted anything about the US, French and British airstrikes against Gaddafi's forces in Libya. There is a good reason for it. I don't understand it, so maybe some of you out there can help.

I've heard a number of explanations as to the objectives of the participants, but I've yet to be fully convinced of any of them. Let's go through them. First, there is the claim that the US, France and the British want to assist the rebels in overthrowing Gaddafi so as to increase their influence in the country, a country with the largest known oil reserves in Africa, with much of it being easily refineable, high quality crude. There is a superficial logic to this, except that the US and Europe had a good working relationship with Gaddafi, and Gaddafi was playing by the rules of the game by kleptocratically investing his oil profits in Europe, so much so that he counted former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and current Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi among his friends. He also provided assistance to Berlusconi in regard to preventing African immigrants from crossing the Mediterranean through Libya. As for the US, he was a staunch supporter of the so-called war on terror.

Perhaps, the US, the French and the British believe that they can cut a better deal on the sharing of profits from future oil exploration and sales than they had with Gaddafi. Much of the oil is supposedly in the eastern regions of Libya under rebel control, and, by this line of reasoning, a line in favor among some on the British left, they would be satisfied with a de facto partition of Libya that resulted in the rebels taking control of much of the country's oil reserves. Possibly. But there are some obvious problems with this, most importantly the fact that the rebels remain more unpredictable in their future dealings with the US and Europe than Gaddafi would have been. So, there is no certainty that the rebels would supply oil on terms more favorable than Gaddafi. Furthermore, there is also no certainty as to how the rebels would put their oil profits to use. There is still a possibility that they would put them to the sort of mischievous use for which Gaddafi and the Iranians have been known. One wonders if the US and Europe expect the rebels to conduct themselves in a manner similar to the mafiosos of Kosovo, with whom they have a good relationship.

Second, there is the belief that the Libyan airstrikes are a sort of camouflage, an intentional effort to distract attention from the US/Saudi efforts to suppress democratic movements in Yemen and Bahrain. Here, again, there is a superficial logic, but it assumes that there is a necessity for the effort, a necessity that I fail to perceive. In the US, there is no significant outcry about the violence inflicted upon protesters in Yemen and Bahrain, indeed, few Americans are even aware of it. To the extent that they are aware, they have, at least in regard to Bahrain, accepted the new propaganda line that the protesters must be suppressed to contain Iran. Apparently, even the Europeans have accepted it, with a European Union foreign policy advisor, Robert Cooper, recycling US fears of the Iranians by expressing alarm over the prospect of a Shia government there. As for the crackdown itself, he concluded accidents happen. His boss, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, is impressed by the offer of talks by the Crown Prince. No one has been willing to touch the most taboo subject of all, the question as to whether the Iranian social model, as seriously flawed as it is, would constitute a significant improvement in the lives of everyone in Bahrain with the exception of the wealthy elite that runs the country. In any event, there is no indication that a Libyan distraction is required.

Third, there is the possibility of another, potentially more compelling distraction. Both Europe and the US are imposing harsh austerity programs after having channeled trillions of dollars of through transnational finacial institutions to preserve them and the investments of the people who purchased their financial instruments. Clearly unable to resist the cuts of a Republican House of Representatives, President Obama shows that he can stand up to that evil African Gaddafi. Similarly, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, is implementing a harsh austerity program that will inflict the most punishment upon the poorest people in society. Reminscent of Thatcher'as response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, he has also been the most strident advocate for military action. Meanwhile, the last member of the intervention triumvirate, the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, finds himself extremely unpopular, so he may believe that the airstrikes will improve his domestic political prospects. French pilots flew the first missions over Libya. It is, however, a doubled edged sword. In addition to the possibility that the intervention will fail, people are beginning to notice, at least in the US, that the military operation is substantially eroding the proposed savings from domestic budget cuts proposed by Republicans, placing the credibility of the austerity effort at risk. For now, though, it is merely an indication that the accumulation of capital through the military industrial complex still works as it has done since the beginning of World War II. After all, governments have to purchase those weapons somewhere.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?