In Libya, freedom or anarchy?

In Libya, the choice, as in Iraq in 2003, is between freedom and anarchy.


Tanvir Ahmad Khan August 28, 2011

In my first column on the Libyan crisis in this newspaper, I had stressed its distinctive nature in the general narrative of the so-called Arab Spring. This perception was partly rooted in many indigenous Libyan contradictions and partly in my view of how the United States, UK and France would implement the hastily adopted UN Security Council Resolution 1973. My main contention was that what brought the internal rebels and the Nato powers together was an irreversible commitment to a regime change. It was going to be a new model of external interventionism.

Tripoli was finally invested by the Berber opponents of Colonel Qaddafi from the western Nafusa Mountains, and not by the ‘Benghazi’ rebels, 187 days after the first democracy demonstration that Qaddafi tragically tried to suppress by force. The eastern forces had fought inconclusive battles for months across a rough fault line between the east (Cyrenaica) and the west (Tripolitania) with fortunes determined by direct Nato military support available to the rebels. The rebels were not an organised army in linear advance from Benghazi but various groups of insurgents willing to accept Nato’s military umbrella and loosely united against Qaddafi. Nato flew more than 19,000 sorties including about 7,500 bombing runs made selectively in ground support and more extensively to destroy Libya’s military infrastructure. As expectations of the regime’s collapse rose and fell, the West injected Special Forces, intelligence, experts, training personnel and more and more weapons. That it was an impermissible extension of the mandate given by the UN resolution is no longer worth debating after this fait accompli.

Peace will elude Libya for quite some time even when Tripoli is fully ‘pacified’ ; Nato’s intervention has destroyed not just the Qaddafi army but, in fact, the state itself. Now, nation building needs new foundations. The anti-Qaddafi front has diverse elements and the West will almost certainly play favourites. In Egypt, the revolution gave the Muslim Brotherhood an opportunity to seek a partial rehabilitation. In Libya, where the principal prize for the West is oil, Nato will try harder to marginalise the Islamic faction. The storming of Tripoli by Berbers under a round-the-clock Nato aerial cover is somewhat reminiscent of the capture of Kabul by the Northern Alliance that sidelined the Pashtuns and eventually led to the Taliban revival. The ethnic, tribal and ideological balance required by the Transitional National Council (TNC) to consolidate its power in Tripoli is not going to be easily created. The assassination of the rebel commander Abdul Fatah Younis, allegedly by Islamists in the anti-Qaddafi coalition, was an ominous sign of the enormity of the task ahead.

A silver lining is provided by the support that the struggle received from Arab states, especially from the oil rich Qatar and UAE. A strong Arab League profile with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the two Gulf Cooperation Council states playing a significant role may help reduce toxic contradictions in Libya but would France, UK, Italy and their oil companies permit it? The United States delivered a crippling blow with its tomahawk missiles in March and then increasingly relied on neo-imperialist impulses in France and UK to generate the energy to see the project through. Would it now restrain these ambitions in its own larger national interest in Africa and the Middle East? Would the West leverage Libya’s blocked billions to make the TNC reconstruct the state according to a gospel it hands down? The astute Arab analyst Marwan Bishara appreciates the assistance given by the Western nations to the rebels but reminds us that “their interference was not necessarily motivated by humanitarian ends, rather more of the same geo-politics that led to befriending Qaddafi, Ben Ali and Mubarak in the first place”.

The West seeks to establish a grip on changes in the Arab world so that the objectives of the Bush era neo-conservative project to reconfigure the region can be realised albeit in a modified form. But the difference now is the reawakened desire of the Arab masses for self-determination. Herein lies the greatest contradiction and only time would show how it is resolved. In Libya, the choice, as in Iraq in 2003, is between freedom and anarchy.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th,  2011.

COMMENTS (6)

Sumerian | 10 years ago | Reply Well if we are to talk of brigades, Mr. el Edroos appears to belong to the card-carrying Nato-worshipping, ready to hoist the Satrapy's flag on the parapet Brigade. Mr. El Edroos's response displays much pique and little point and if bias is a problem, his own bias in retreating to an ostrich position that ignores the great neo-imperial ventures of our time in Afghanistan and Iraq-- not to mention the all too protracted western indulgence of other Arab dictators, and concurrently the brutality of Zionist colonisation in occupied Palestine-- is pitifully apparent. Has Mr. El Edroos ever considered the counter revolutionary forces at work in the Arab world today? Who is behind these? Has he asked himself why there is scarcely an eyebrow raised in respect of Bahrain? What do the recent Wikileaks papers reveal of US mollycoddling of Gaddafi? Has Mr. El Edroos ever heard of Africom..of the increasing involvement of the US in proxy wars in Africa? Mr. El Edroos appears to be the apologist's apologist; a spinner for those recruited, coopted, mentored by their imperial masters to service the empire under tutelage from Whitehall or Capitol Hill or the Elysee Palace with a little assistance of course from our friendly Neighbourhood Watch aka Blackwater and Xe. The more brash amongst us call such types Useful blockheads, but I would disagree. In an age of 24 news, the new social media, and the devastation wrought by empire, the utility of the Usefuls is alas in free fall. Mr. El Edroos does betray some confusion however; he states that the Libyan army disbanded under Gaddafi, then states it defected. If there is no army, who exactly defected? Also he might want to bear in mind that current foreign policy is not formulated by ex-Foreign Secretaries.
aleena | 10 years ago | Reply

@Nader EL EDROOS

Oh such a special day when a sixth form teacher like Mr EL EDROOS arrogantly decides that he is far better tuned in to international relations that a veteran diplomat with invaluable experience spanning many decades!! And interesting that EL EDROOS should talk about bias when he starts of by grouping together the "FS brigade"... surely the word bias would come naturally to you...

Time to revisit Iqra University, your alma mater MR EL EDROOS... for some brushing up....!

Aleena

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