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Libya: When Fools Rush In"

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There are three scenarios when "no fly" zones are put in place. The first is when nations are at war and serve notice that they will not tolerate each other's aircraft flying over their respective airspaces. The second is when people are fleeing a military action between two or three belligerents and they need protection from aerial and local bombardment, and the third is when a superior force or forces institute(s) a full or partial no-fly zone over a country's territory to protect civilians on the ground from enemy aircraft on both sides of the conflict.

Ostensibly, Libya falls in the third category. Under the rubber stamp of the United Nations a coalition of western nations have attacked Libyan strong man and despot, Col. Muammar Gadhafi's aircraft, airports, anti-aircraft batteries, tanks and other military infrastructure to satisfy their own interpretation of the UN Security Council mandate. This fig-leaf of legality used to justify a militaristically punitive action using overwhelmingly superior force against a political pariah is fraught with as yet unknown dangers.

Libya and Gadhafi are no match for the military might of the United States, France -- the aggressive, gung-ho European power leading the charge -- England, "America Lite," Spain and a few other nations with two Arab lackey countries thrown in for good measure. President Barack Obama, sounding as arrogant and hawkish as former Republican President George Bush, has given Gadhafi a western-style "leave town before sundown" ultimatum harkening back to the grand old days of a belligerent imperial United States.

But while the military actions are couched in language that appears to justify the protection of Libya's civilians there is an essential fact that is not in dispute -- whenever a country or countries intervene in another one for whatever intensions or reasons, it (they) are intervening on the side of someone else. In the Libyan scenario the United States, France and Britain et al are doing so on the side and in favor of the rag-tag band of rebels that have no present capability either to oust the hated dictator or no history of political dexterity that would lead to the conclusion that they are better suited to run Libya if or when Gadaffi goes.

Ah, when fools rush in.

The reality on the ground is that these so-called rebel groups are co-joined at the hips only in their collective hatred of the Libyan despot and his cronies. They have been historically hostile toward each other and suffer from the traditional suspicion of Libyan tribes and various ethnic factions. So that even as President Obama and his "western allies" wax eloquently one time, and alternatively tough another time, they must know that battering Gadhafi and empowering the hodge-podge group against him is not a guarantee of political stability or western-style democracy.

Further, intervening on some suspect and spurious moral ground is just so much western hypocrisy. The western "democracies" motivation can be attributed to a mix of defending the concept of self-determination of all peoples to freedom and justice and the tactic support for a favored faction. Both are illogical. The overarching reaction to the so-called Arab Revolution (I favor the word "revolt") by the west is both naïve and simplistic because the reality of the situation on the ground is far more complex than law and order breakdown and enforcement in Libya.

True, there still is much regional unrest and different kinds of reactions by governments to these unrests. In Tunisia, where this domino effect started, the unrest spread to all sections and areas of the entire country making it impossible for the hated government to stay in power. By contrast, in Egypt the unrest that drove Hosni Mubarak from power was accomplished with little bloodshed and by limited involvement from many sections of the Egyptian working and laboring classes. It was easy for the army to contain the unrest and limit it to one very tiny sliver of Egyptian land. In many ways Egypt is a revolution deferred. The counter-revolution is gaining momentum.

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Yemen threatens to descend into the kind of violence now taking place in Libya. But there the situation on the ground could be far worse for the west than what is happening in Libya. For one thing the tribal differences and entrenched factions can spawn a serious, bloody civil war. For another there is an ongoing insurgency in Yemen that is closely linked to Al-Qaeda and terrorism. A disintegration of Yemeni society can be a very dangerous thing for the west and evokes parallels to the situation in Afghanistan.

Will the United Nations be used to rubber stamp a widening military engagement by the western powers?

To answer that question we must look at what are the motivations of the so-called coalition forces now rendering Libya to rubble under the guise of protecting its civilian population. First, military action against Libya only came after western nations and Egypt got their nationals safely home. Next, Italy is very interested in Libyan oil as is Britain. Both want to see a malleable and supine leader that both can control and "own." 1.5 million barrels of oil a day is nothing to sneeze at and is a powerful incentive to use Cruise and Tomahawk missiles to try and pry this bonanza from a hated dictator's hands.

Like the demonized and executed Saddam Hussein of Iraq the erratic Libyan leader has been ostracized, criticized and resoundingly demonized by western governments and willing news media. So President Obama is in safe political territory because he's taking on the "bad guy" and riding in to save the poor Libyans in distress. The French, still with egg on their faces over Tunisia, ran to the arms of the British and Americans only after Germany balked at the idea of attacking Libya.

As for the Arab League they are the remaining elements of the region's opportunistic bourgeoisie that have grown rich and fat from the sponsorship of the kings, monarchs, despots and strutting generalissimos. For many years now the leaders of the League have turned a blind eye to every atrocity committed against long-suffering populations by despots like Gaddafi. The League does not represent the interests of the people of the Arab world. Rather they are more closely aligned to their western masters.

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For the Arab League and the western coalition the belief that you can resort to war and military means to protect and save innocent lives without taking more lives in the process is plain stupid. As is the United Nations' action that legitimizes rebellion. When peaceful democratic protests morphed into armed insurrection and the holding of territory in Libya the hard fact is that the legitimate government -- no matter how despotic and brutal -- has a right to defend itself and its territory as much as Israel, in the eyes of the United States and Company, has a "right to defend itself." I hear no moral outrage or shouts to protect civilians in Gaza and the West Bank when Hamas or some militant faction launches crude rockets and Israel responds with disproportionate force and kills innocent children.

Herein lies a looming conundrum for those western powers suddenly struck with a moralistic epiphany on Libya. Israel acts with impunity and is defended by the United States and its allies; Gadaffi, as odious a leader as they come, legitimately acts against an armed group or groups bent on removing him from power by military means and he is "a leader killing his people." No wonder Muslims and Arabs are so angry with the hypocrisy that comes from the west only defending, seeking its present and future interests. In this case, for all their sermonizing and sudden, new-found love of Libyans, the undergirding considerations and engine for military action is one three-letter word: oil.

So what's the end game?

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MICHAEL D. ROBERTS is a top Political Strategist and Business, Management and Communications Specialist in New York City's Black community. He is an experienced writer whose specialty is socio-political and economic analysis and local (more...)

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read My article on Libya. Feedback welcome!... by Michael Roberts on Wednesday, Mar 23, 2011 at 3:09:31 PM