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How Libya Plays Into NATO’s Identity Crisis

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Posted on Nov 8, 2011

By William Pfaff

The enthusiasm that has been inspired in NATO circles by the organization’s success in overturning the Gadhafi regime in Libya provides a demonstration of how badly NATO still feels the need for a justification of its continued existence.

The Libya victory reinforced the claim made in a new NATO doctrine declaring that the alliance has a “responsibility to protect” populations threatened by their own tyrannical regimes (politico-military specialists in creating weird acronyms have named this “R2P”). Syria is the case presently in mind, with Yemen and Bahrain waiting in an outer room (to which there are notable political impediments, since both governments are American proteges).

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen describes this new mission as to “inspire those who desire freedom,” taking up their “just cause” (when possible). The new NATO doctrine is once again a Western claim that the West possesses the moral right (or duty) to universal intervention to put wrongs right, despite the unsuccessful precedents provided by Iraq and Afghanistan.

This conception of humanitarian interventions has produced vigorous controversy ever since the wars of Yugoslav succession, when the United Nations and the West European countries did nothing decisive, and the U.S. government and people averted their eyes until they at last were forced by Serbia to take action that still has not resolved the region’s conflicts, but has succeeded in imposing a provisional halt to the killings. This affair actually did not concern NATO except as an instrument of national governments, principally the United States when it finally intervened.

Many Europeans have expressed anxiety about the White House claim to have led the Libyan intervention “from behind,” seeing in this intimations of eventual American withdrawal from Europe. They are badly mistaken to so think. NATO has a future, whether humanitarian or not.


Square, Site wide
Despite NATO being a relic of the Cold War, the end of which removed its original raison d’etre to provide a North American defense guarantee to non-Communist Europe, the phrase, “we are defending Europe,” is still a refrain in American policy and political discourse. Defending Europe from what? There is no Soviet Union. Russia, largely disarmed, shows no evidence of military or political designs on Western Europe. China? Let’s be serious.

Does NATO defend Europe from terrorism? The only reward Western Europe has gained from its loyal Article Five rallying to the United States at the time of 9/11 has been participation in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which the Europeans did not, and do not, want, and major terrorist attacks in London and Madrid, which would never otherwise have occurred.

The United States receives NATO support for American-determined international policies, calling on Europe for military assistance whenever this is convenient, or to provide political cover for the United States when it presents a unilateral policy decision to the world as a decision of “the international community.”

Washington regularly reproaches the Europeans for not spending more for arms (as does Rasmussen), so as to be better equipped to support American policies. The Europeans—except for Britain and France, which see themselves as having global interests, and Poland and the Balts, for obvious reasons of national reassurance—consider the presence of U.S. troops in Europe to “defend” them as a reciprocal reason for minimal military spending.

It is Washington today that needs NATO, not Europe. NATO’s existence is essential to the United States because there would be no legal or strategic justification for the U.S. to station an army, air force, nuclear weapons, strategic and anti-missile defenses, and multiple bases in Western, Central and Eastern Europe, including post-Cold War deployments near Russia’s borders. (Many in Washington fail to grasp this.)

As the late Richard Holbrooke, a distinguished and perspicacious American diplomat, once said (to the great annoyance of European Gaullists, who knew he was right), the United States is a European power. It is THE European power in strategic terms, and even in political respects because, since 1945, it has exercised a kind of oversight over Europe’s affairs, sponsoring unification, interfering in Europe’s internal politics, imposing decisions upon the Europeans and their institutions that have not always been in European interests.

Britain has been its principal instrument and habitual agent ever since Winston Churchill told Charles DeGaulle at the end of the Second World War that if Britain ever had to choose between Europe and the United States, it would choose the United States. It has in fact so chosen.

A revised Anglo-American history has even been internalized by British political leaders. In a speech soon after taking office, Prime Minister David Cameron declared that America has been solidly at Britain’s side ever since Hitler had to be confronted.

In 1939, when Poland was invaded and war began, the United States was a neutral nation, with an isolationist majority in public opinion, providing no help to Britain or France that was not paid for in cash. “Lend-Lease,” providing arms on credit, was not offered to Britain until March 1941 (and the bill for these credit purchases was relentlessly presented to the British treasury at the end of the war; the final payment only very recently delivered to Washington).

The United States declared war only on Japan after Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. It was not at war against Germany until three days later, when Hitler, for reasons known only to him, declared war on the United States.

Europeans need not fear losing NATO. The present arrangement is far too convenient for Washington to lose. The relationship can only be terminated by Europe, as DeGaulle recognized. But Europe today, as the credit and currency crisis has just demonstrated, remains incapable of sovereign action.

Visit William Pfaff’s website for more on his latest book, “The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy” (Walker & Co., $25), at

© 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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blogdog's avatar

By blogdog, November 13, 2011 at 1:08 pm Link to this comment

I cited South’s article for pointing out the UN’s seemingly 180-degree turn
between that HRR and R2P - issued after the UN failed to send fact-finders to
Libya - relied entirely on what’s sketched out in the citation below - as for
Libya’s dark side:

was he better or worse than the US’ Saudi buddies, where rape victims are
beheaded (e.g. Were his assassinations of
traitors more or less heinous than those of the US, Russia, Israel? As for
prisons… well, no nation on earth jails more per capita than the US; foreign
wars, Libya had them; again, compared to the US… well, that’s not really fair -
no nation comes close; as for ‘terrorism’, very likely NATO’s Operation Gladio
perished more -


now as for the big so-called overt events…
like the hit on CIA whistle blowers returning to DC to roll up a drug ring…

The Truth about Lockerbie, and Pan Am 103, and Drugs The C.I.A. drug trade through the
Syria and Iran was going pretty sweet for Syrian C.I.A. contractor Monzer al-

He gives the suitcase, C.I.A. agents clear the suitcase through to New York. 
When the suitcase of drugs was switched for a bomb in Dec 21, 1988, it was
cleared as usual. Central Intelligence Agent Charles McKee was aboard, as were
4 other agents, all killed. At the crash scene, CIA agents posing as Pan Am
employees walked away with a suitcase.

First, the press had word of a Syrian or Palestinian suspect, but when wind of
the C.I.A. involvement began to surface, the C.I.A. needed a scapegoat. The
socialist isolationist country is always the best bet, because they are enemies of
the U.S. by their mere existence, so bombing and/or sanctions always needs a
good excuse. C.I.A. killed two birds with one stone, and pinned the Flight 103
bomb on Libya.


as for the La Belle Disco bombing…

German TV exposes CIA, Mossad links to 1986 Berlin disco bombing By a German correspondent 27 August 1998

A documentary broadcast August 25 by German public television presents
compelling evidence that some of the main suspects in the 1986 Berlin disco
bombing, the event that provided the pretext for a US air assault on Libya, 
worked for American and Israeli intelligence.


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IMax's avatar

By IMax, November 13, 2011 at 10:14 am Link to this comment


I’m confused. You appeared to argue that Libya being slated for a symbolic Human Rights Award was proof of U.S. lies. Seeing that the U.S. never endorsed Libya on the HRC, or the Award you write of, you appear now to change the premise of your point. Is this correct?

160 nations, one of them the United States, has condemned Libya for its abysmal human-rights, it’s overt and covert terrorism, and it’s overall conduct spanning several decades. That changed only after Libya began making moves and noises to moderate and mitigate its rhetoric and actions in 2003.

In my opinion this award you write of is not a sign of lies about Libya. It’s one of the surest signs of the idiocy of the U.N. Human Rights Council. The HRC was attempting to “entice” Libya into changing it’s ways.

As for Gen. Clark: I think he plays politics very well. And, you’re right, we don’t want to be one of those Americans who, without question, believes every single word that comes from the “news” media.

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blogdog's avatar

By blogdog, November 12, 2011 at 11:58 pm Link to this comment

RE: the U.S. did not approve of Libya’s inclusion on the HRC

I don’t hold US endorsements so highly, knowing it from the inside out
- it would make sense in light of this:


U.S. General Wesley Clark (Ret.), explains that the Bush Administration planned to take out 7 countries in 5 years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran (2007 upto 2012)


most analysts see Obomber pushing this policy aggressively ahead - his campaign rhetoric was nothing more than that - he was essentially installed to run Left cover for the same globalist agenda

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IMax's avatar

By IMax, November 12, 2011 at 9:07 pm Link to this comment


I come to a much different conclusion than does Mr. South about Libya and it’s pending Human Rights award.

I believe Mr. South has never followed the daily politics of the U.N. or the Human Right Council. Mainly the fact that the U.S. did not approve of Libya’s inclusion on the HRC and the United States did not endorse this award. Others did.

In short: I believe the HRC Award was a barley noted political maneuver as one of many attempts to move Libya into more normal relations with the rest of the world. No one truly believed Libya deserved a Human Rights Award. No more than did Cuba not so long ago.

The Libyan award is no proof of lies. I believe it shows us that Mr. South doesn’t follow current events.

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blogdog's avatar

By blogdog, November 12, 2011 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment

UN Report Offers Smoking Gun Proof of NATO and US Lies about

Posted on November 1, 2011 by nsnbc By Dennis South

Here is a type of “smoking gun” proof that NATO and the U.S. has been
operating through a smokescreen of lies, as well as intimidation. Please read
the following January 4, 2011 report of the 16th Session of the United Nations
General Assembly Human Rights Council, Universal Periodic Review:

Report of the Working Group on the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya [Document

Before NATO and the U.S. started bombing Libya, the United Nations was
preparing to bestow an award on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and the Libyan
Jamahiriya, for its achievements in the area of human rights. That’s right–the
same man, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, that NATO and the United States have
been telling us for months is a “brutal dictator,” was set to be given an award
for his human rights record in Libya. How strange it is that the United Nations
was set to bestow a human rights award on a “brutal dictator,” at the end of

So, I ask a question. Who is this “brutal dictator” that the United Nations
General Assembly Human Rights Council was preparing to bestow an award to,
for human rights, sometime at the end of March? So, they would have us
believe that they knew that he was a “brutal dictator,” yet decided to give him
an award for human rights?! Astounding! Astounding the lies that we’re being
told by the media, NATO and the U.S. government. Absolutely astounding! Not
surprising, but astounding! But more astounding still, is the fact that, time after
time after time, much of the American public–without questioning–believes
every single word that comes from the “news” media.

It is noteworthy to read the following couple of sentences from the General
Assembly’s report:

“Several delegations also noted with appreciation the country’s commitment to
upholding human rights on the ground. Additional statements, which could not
be delivered during the interactive dialogue, owing to time constraints, will be
posted on the extranet of the universal periodic review when available.”

In a footnote of that report, there is a list of countries that praised Colonel
Gaddafi and the Libyan Jamahiriya (state of the masses), in support of the
General Assembly Human Rights Council’s decision to bestow this award upon
Colonel Gaddafi.I simply present the list. The reader can look at the list and
make his or her own judgement regarding the credibility level, or perceived
credibility level, of any of the particular countries listed:

Denmark, China, Italy, The Netherlands, Mauritania, Slovenia, Nicaragua, The
Russian Federation, Spain, Indonesia, Sweden, Norway, Ecuador, Hungary,
South Africa, The Phillippines, Maldives, Chile, Singapore, Germany, Australia,
Kazakhstan, Latvia, Angola, Nigeria, Congo, Burundi, Zambia, Rwanda, Burkina
Faso, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Zimbabwe.

If you have been paying any attention to the news, you will note that a few of
the above-listed countries suddenly made an about-face, and decided to start
supporting NATO and the U.S. in their war of aggression. Why? Why else!?
Money. That’s always the bottom line, and there’s no doubt that it will all be
exposed, at some time in the future, just as was exposed the lies that the U.S.
government told its citizens, and the world, about “weapons of mass
destruction” in Iraq. And those same countries were just about to bestow an
award on Colonel Gaddafi, for human rights, after having carefully studied
Libyan society. So, what’s this about the “brutal dictator?” It’s what my big
brother would call it: CHEWED UP GRASS [Bullshit!! For the delicate amongst
you, pardon my colorful language].


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blogdog's avatar

By blogdog, November 12, 2011 at 11:47 am Link to this comment

from Phaff’s article:
The new NATO doctrine is once again a Western claim that the West possesses
the moral right (or duty) to universal intervention to put wrongs right…

And, to show the world what is ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ NATO accesses the CIA’s Mighty
Whirlitzer - the agitprop spewed to sell R2P was unprecedented…e.g.


by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
The names change but the methods remain the same. In Iraq the imperial war
facilitator was Ahmed Chalabi. In Libya he goes by the name of Soliman Bouchuiguir,
a shadowy human rights figure whose baseless allegations against Gaddafi were
endorsed by the UN system and its affiliated human rights agencies without the
slightest verification. Each one in his own way, Nazemroaya and Teil shed light on a
failed system of international law and justice, which has made itself complicit in
NATO’s war crimes in Libya.




since Mr. Phaff, like most in the so-called ‘progressive media’ (TD, Democracy Now,
The Nation, Puff Ho, et al), never questioned in print the facts on which R2P was
proposed for Libya, one can only conclude they are assets, subtly integrated into the
massive wall of sound that emanates from the Mighty Whirlitzer - one must also
conclude that the Soros-funded Human Rights Watch is also a complicit witting asset

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By litlpeep, November 12, 2011 at 10:48 am Link to this comment

NATO is the Atlantic region’s corporate capital allied army in WWIII.

WWIII is the war of the 99% against the corporate capital thugs (like Wall Street) and their fellow travelers around the world, especially in the US Congress & state houses, courts, and administrations.

It may prove to be a long hard slog.  Regimes will be toppled.  Heads will continue getting cracked as they are in Syria and the US and other areas.

It may be a very long, exceedingly difficult slog.

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IMax's avatar

By IMax, November 10, 2011 at 5:02 pm Link to this comment

gerard - “The recent silly “punishment” of UNESCO is, hopefully, a terminal example of nationalism which is becoming more outmoded day by day.”

I would sincerely like to know how our own ‘99’ protests is not rooted on a very passionate sense of nationalism.

gerard - “Perhaps the most urgent need of [sic], relations is the need to “get on top of problems” early, and pacifically, and develop processes for resolution BEFORE violence enters the scene. Unfortunately, human affairs have a way of escalating when nobody is paying attention to them.”

I would like to understand your unabated and passionate calls for ever more support of our domestic ‘Occupy’ protests AFTER seeing the violence that Occupy has been unable to contain.

I don’t like to be so forcefully critical but, I believe we cannot be pacifists when talking about other’s behaviors while passionately in favor of, or willing to look away from (pay attention to) violence and destruction when it serves our own sense of activism.

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By frecklefever, November 9, 2011 at 10:03 pm Link to this comment


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By MeHere, November 8, 2011 at 8:49 pm Link to this comment

Good article.  It seems that NATO’s job has been to provide a stable enough atmosphere for the interests of the US and European 1% to prosper.

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blogdog's avatar

By blogdog, November 8, 2011 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment

from the aricle: ”...Does NATO defend Europe from terrorism? Bloody
hell, Phaff! You know what Gladio was - anyone else, doesn’t - here

and you know that Al Qaeda is the CIA Arab Foreign Legion. The Libya
adventure leaves no doubt: Adbualhakim Belhadj, Al Qaeda mercenary and
military commander of the NTC, leads the most vicious Al Qaeda brigades,
currently at war with Zinten brigades, while the Libyan Liberation Front
(formerly the Libyan Army, AKA Green Resistance) regroups - the civil war is
only just beginning… e.g.


CounterPunch Exclusive

Libya’s Liberation Front Organizing in the Sahel

On the edge of the Sahel, Niger

“Sahel” in Arabic means “coast” or “shoreline”.  Unless one was present 5000
years ago when, according to anthropologists, our planets first cultivation of
crops began in this then lush, but now semiarid region where temperatures
reach 125 degrees F, and only camels and an assortment of creatures can sniff
out water sources, it seems an odd geographical name place for this up-to-450
miles wide swatch of baked sand that runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red

Yet, when standing along its edge, the Sahel does have the appearance of a sort
of dividing shoreline between the endless sands of the Sahara and the
savannah grasses to the south. Parts of Mali, Algeria, Niger, Chad, and Sudan,
all along the Libyan border fall within this supposed no man’s land.

Today the Sahel is providing protection, weapons gathering and storage
facilities, sites for training camps, and hideouts as well as a generally
formidable base for those working to organize the growing Libyan Liberation
Front (LLF). The aim of the LLF is to liberate Libya from what it considers
NATO-installed colonial puppets. The Sahel region is only one of multiple
locations which are becoming active as the Libyan counter revolution, led by
members of the Gadahfi and Wafalla tribes, make preparations for the next
phase of resistance.

When I entered an office conference room in Niger recently to meet with some
recent evacuees from Libya who I was advised were preparing to launch a
“people’s struggle employing the Maoist tactic of 1000 cuts” against the
current group claiming to represent Libya,” two facts struck me.

One was how many were present and did not appear to be scruffy, intensely
zealous or desperate but who were obviously rested, calm, organized and
methodical in their demeanor.

My colleague, a member of the Gadhafi tribe from Sirte explained “More than
800 organizers have arrived from Libya just to Niger and more come every day”. 
An officer in uniform added, “It is not like your western media presents the
situation, of desperate Gadhafi loyalists frantically handing out bundles of cash
and gold bars to buy their safety from the NATO death squads now swarming
around the northern areas of our motherland. Our brothers have controlled the
borderless routes in this region for thousands of years and they know how not
to be detected even by NATO satellites and drones.”


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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, November 8, 2011 at 6:03 pm Link to this comment

Interesting article… I found that last sentence particularly intriguing and would love to hear you expand upon it if you are so inclined.

I personally would have described Holbrooke as a “distinguished and perspicacious genocidal maniac” given his role in Indonesia, but I will give you a break and not go ballistic.

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By gerard, November 8, 2011 at 5:55 pm Link to this comment

Hopefully, the burgeoning ubiquity of instant international communication will bring nations together quickly and irresistably from now on.
As communication generally enhances understanding and cooperation, a sense of worldwide mutuality will pull nation-states together to solve common problems, and some more adequate form of a “United Nations” will develop (perhaps piece-meal) to fill obvious needs. (The recent silly “punishment” of UNESCO is, hopefully, a terminal example of nationalism which is becoming more outmoded day by day.)
  Gradually agreements like NATO will give way to
mutual understandings bssed not on military expediencies but on the basis of humanitarian needs.
It’s just a vision now, but common crises and common wills are pushing in this direction.
  One of the most significant “clarifications” has appeared for all to see is that NATO, in “defending”
innocent citizens abroad from being slaughtered by the vicious policies of dictatorship, must also defend its own citizens from persecution at home, if and when the time of civil conflict comes home to roost.
  Another “clarification” is the fact that “interference” in such situations is problematc
(creating bad results as well as good ones) and that some “standardization” (eventually embodied in international law and agareement) must soon be worked out democratically, and not decided by whoever has the biggest army or the most economic clout.
  Perhaps the most urgent need of international relations is the need to “get on top of problems” early, and pacifically, and develop processes for resolution BEFORE violence enters the scene. Unfortunately, human affairs have a way of escalating when nobody is paying attention to them.

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