June 20, 2013
Obama’s Libyan Quandary
Posted on Mar 18, 2011
Onward ride the old familiar horses of colonialism. France and Britain have enthusiastically endorsed the U.N. resolution calling for a “no-fly zone” over Libya. Within hours of the vote both countries announced that their planes were at the ready. British Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament that Britain had deployed warplanes, along with aerial refueling and surveillance aircraft. “To pass a resolution like this and they just stand back and hope someone in the region would enforce it is wrong,” Cameron said (emphasis added).
The United States, a relative newcomer to Western imperialism, seemed more hesitant, more reluctant, but nevertheless endorsed the resolution. The U.S. indicated its support for the air operations and offered the usual complement of 400 Marines offshore. Perhaps the Pentagon is eager to give new life to the Marines’ hymn and have the Marines return to “the shores of Tripoli.” Italy, the old colonial master of Libya, has been strangely silent, undoubtedly because Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is preoccupied with other things.
U.N. intervention has come when Libyan rebels apparently are on the verge of collapse. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi had threatened to invade Benghazi, “closet by closet” to find and kill the rebels. But shortly after the U.N. vote the Libyan foreign minister declared “an immediate cease-fire” in “all military operations” against the rebels—an announcement which Prime Minister Cameron scornfully dismissed. Why are these Western nations so determined to impose their hand and footprints on Libya? Could the prize be the all-too-familiar one of oil?
The Libyan rebellion, part of a general Arab uprising against despotic regimes, naturally should be welcomed, particularly by the United States and its “democratic, anti-colonial” tradition. But Gadhafi’s regime has enormous power and resources to quash the disparate, poorly armed rebels, and it is unlikely that a no-fly resolution will succeed in stopping him from brutalizing his own people.
The heavy patrolling and bombing over Bosnia and Serbia in the 1990s did nothing to prevent the massacre at Srebenica and other places. Even more significant, and strangely absent from commentary now, is the destruction the U.S. and its allies visited upon Iraq, also in the 1990s, in a futile attempt to bring down Saddam Hussein. What we destroyed instead was much of the professional and middle classes in Iraq. That nation’s medical delivery system, arguably the best in the Arab region, was destroyed and denied to the Iraqi people by coalition attack. The military tactics combined with heavily enforced sanctions shattered the Iraqi infrastructure and economy, and the invasion in 2003 only visited further disaster on what was a shell of a nation.
The Arab League behaved as a mouthpiece for the seemingly discredited Paul Wolfowitz and his band of merry neocons (the Arab League and Wolfowitz—there is irony for you!), now anxious to wade into Libya with guns blazing and with what available troops, ordinance and airplanes can be mustered. For them, the march for empire is inevitable, inexorable and withal indubitably beneficial to us and the world. Wolfowitz defies F. Scott Fitzgerald’s dictum, as unfortunately there are bad second acts in American life.
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