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Why Regime Change in Libya?

By       Message Ismael Hossein-zadeh     Permalink
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In light of the brutal death and destruction wrought on Libya by the relentless US/NATO bombardment, the professed claims of "humanitarian concerns" as grounds for intervention can readily be dismissed as a blatantly specious imperialist ploy in pursuit of "regime change" in that country.

There is undeniable evidence that contrary to the spontaneous, unarmed and peaceful protest demonstrations in Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain, the rebellion in Libya has been nurtured, armed and orchestrated largely from abroad, in collaboration with expat opposition groups and their local allies at home. Indeed, evidence shows that plans of "regime change" in Libya were drawn long before the insurgency actually started in Benghazi; it has all the hallmarks of a well-orchestrated civil war [1].

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It is very tempting to seek the answer to the question "why regime change in Libya?" in oil/energy. While oil is undoubtedly a concern, it falls short of a satisfactory explanation because major Western oil companies were already extensively involved in the Libyan oil industry. Indeed, since Gaddafi relented to the US-UK pressure in 1993 and established "normal" economic and diplomatic relations with these and other Western countries, major US and European oil companies struck quite lucrative deals with the National Oil Corporation of Libya.

So, the answer to the question "why the imperialist powers want to do away with Gaddafi" has to go beyond oil, or the laughable "humanitarian concerns." Perhaps the question can be answered best in the light of the following questions: why do these imperialist powers also want to overthrow Hugo Cavez of Venezuela, Fidel Castro (and/or his successors) of Cuba, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Rafael Correa Delgado of Ecuador, Kim Jong-il of North Korea, Bashar Al-assad of Syria and Evo Morales of Bolivia? Or, why did they overthrow Mohammad Mossadeq of Iran, Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala, Kusno Sukarno of Indonesia, Salvador Allende of Chile, Sandinistas in Nicaragua, Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti and Manuel Zelaya in Honduras?

What does Gaddafi have in common with these nationalist/populist leaders? The question is of course rhetorical and the answer is obvious: like them Gaddafi is guilty of insubordination to the proverbial godfather of the world: US imperialism, and its allies. Like them, he has committed the cardinal sin of challenging the unbridled reign of global capital, of not following the economic "guidelines" of the captains of global finance, that is, of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and World Trade Organization; as well as of refusing to join US military alliances in the region. Also like other nationalist/populist leaders, he advocates social safety net (or welfare state) programs--not for giant corporations, as is the case in imperialist countries, but for the people in need.

This means that the criminal agenda of Messrs Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy, and their complicit allies to overthrow or kill Mr. Gaddafi and other "insubordinate" proponents of welfare state programs abroad is essentially part of the same evil agenda of dismantling such programs at home. While the form, the context and the means of destruction maybe different, the thrust of the relentless attacks on the living standards of the Libyan, Iranian, Venezuelan or Cuban peoples are essentially the same as the equally brutal attacks on the living conditions of the poor and working people in the US, UK, France and other degenerate capitalist countries. In a subtle (but unmistakable) way they are all part of an ongoing unilateral class warfare on a global scale--whether they are carried out by military means and bombardments, or through the apparently "non-violent" processes of judicial or legislative means does not make a substantial difference as far as the nature or the thrust of the attack on people's lives or livelihoods are concerned.

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In their efforts to consolidate the reign of big capital worldwide, captains of global finance use a variety of methods. The preferred method is usually non-military, that is, the neoliberal strategies of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), carried out by representatives of big business disguised as elected officials, or by the multilateral institutions such as the IMF and the WTO. This is what is currently happening in the debt- and deficit-ridden economies of the United States and Europe. But if a country like Libya (or Venezuela or Iran or Cuba) does not go along with the neoliberal agenda of "structural adjustments," of outsourcing and privatization, and of allowing their financial system to be tied to the network of global banking cartel, then the military option is embarked upon to carry out the neoliberal agenda.

The powerful interests of global capitalism do not seem to feel comfortable to dismantle New Deal economics, Social Democratic reforms and welfare state programs in the core capitalist countries while people in smaller, less-developed countries such as Libya, Venezuela or Cuba enjoy strong, state-sponsored social safety net programs such as free or heavily-subsidized education and health care benefits. Indeed, guardians of the worldwide market mechanism have always been intolerant of any "undue" government intervention in the economic affairs of any country in the world. "Regimented economies," declared President Harry Truman in a speech at Baylor University (1947), were the enemy of free enterprise, and "unless we act, and act decisively," he claimed, those regimented economies would become "the pattern of the next century." To fend off that danger, Truman urged that "the whole world should adopt the American system." The system of free enterprise, he went on, "can survive in America only if it becomes a world system" [2].

Before it was devastated by the imperialist-orchestrated civil war and destruction, Libya had the highest living standard in Africa:

"The country now ranks 53rd on the HDI [Human Development Index] index, better than all other African countries and also better than the richer and Western-backed Saudi Arabia. . . . Although the media often refers to youth unemployment of 15 to 30 percent, it does not mention that in Libya, in contrast to other countries, all have their subsistence guaranteed. . . . The government provides all citizens with free health care and [has] achieved high coverage in the most basic health areas. . . . The life expectancy rose to 74.5 years and is now the highest in Africa. . . . The infant mortality rate declined to 17 deaths per 1,000 births and is not nearly as high as in Algeria (41) and also lower than in Saudi Arabia (21).

"The UNDP [United Nations Development Program] certified that Libya has also made "a significant progress in gender equality,' particularly in the fields of education and health, while there is still much to do regarding representation in politics and the economy. With a relative low "index of gender inequality' the UNDP places the country in the Human Development Report 2010 concerning gender equality at rank 52 and thus also well ahead of Egypt (ranked 108), Algeria (70), Tunisia (56), Saudi Arabia (ranked 128) and Qatar (94)" [3].

It is true that after resisting the self-centered demands and onerous pressures from Western powers for more than thirty years, Gaddafi relented in 1993 and opened the Libyan economy to Western capital, carried out a number of neoliberal economic reforms, and granted lucrative business/investment deals to major oil companies of the West.

But, again, like the proverbial godfather, US/European imperialism requires total, unconditional subordination; half-hearted, grudging compliance with the global agenda of imperialism is not enough. To be considered a real "ally," or a true "client state," a country has to grant the US the right to "guide" its economic, geopolitical and foreign policies, that is, to essentially forgo its national sovereignty. Despite some economic concessions since the early 1990s, Gaddafi failed this critical test of "full compliance" with the imperialist designs in the region.

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For example, he resisted joining a US/NATO-sponsored military alliance in the region. Libya (along with Syria) are the only two Mediterranean nations and the sole remaining Arab states that are not subordinated to U.S. and NATO designs for control of the Mediterranean Sea Basin and the Middle East. Nor has Libya (or Syria) participated in NATO's almost ten-year-old Operation Active Endeavor naval patrols and exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and neither is a member of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue military partnership which includes most regional countries: Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania [4].

To the chagrin of US imperialism, Libya's Gaddafi also refused to join the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), designed to control valuable resources in Africa, safeguard trade and investment markets in the region, and contain or evict China from North Africa. " When the US formed AFRICOM in 2007, some 49 countries signed on to the US military charter for Africa but one country refused: Libya. Such a treacherous act by Libya's leader Moummar Qaddafi would only sow the seeds for a future conflict down the road in 2011" [5].

Furthermore, by promoting trade, development and industrialization projects on a local, national, regional or African level, Gaddafi was viewed as an obstacle to the Western powers' strategies of unhindered trade and development projects on a global level. For example, Gaddafi's Libya played a leading role in " connecting the entire [African] continent by telephone, television, radio broadcasting and several other technological applications such as telemedicine and distance teaching. And thanks to the WMAX radio bridge, a low cost connection was made available across the continent, including in rural areas" [6].

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Ismael Hossein-zadeh is a professor of economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of the newly published book, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism His Web page is http://www.cbpa.drake.edu/hossein-zadeh

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