Monday, 4 April 2011
"Allies" have no credibility as liberators of Libya
The ease with which the military intervention in Libya was enacted shows how battle hardened the world has become to war. Few lessons seem to have been learned from the adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, regarding how violence begets violence and that the best way to resolve a dispute is not to rush to conflict at the first available opportunity. It has been extraordinary to witness in this country, having been relentlessly told for the past 18 months how money is short, that an open ended conflict in Libya can apparently be so easily entered into. The devaluation of life in these conflicts is frightening to behold. Journalists and media commentators loosely talk about “taking out Colonel Gaddaffi.” The effects of firing cruise missiles into a country or bombing an area are reduced to the level of computer game contemplation. A building is blown to bits,yet the ugly site of the true results - human body parts strewn around the area are not part of the fare served up for popular consumption. Those in the media never seem to learn anything from past conflicts. As soon as the military intervention was declared, the mainstream media switched to selling the war mode. This always involves clinical lectures from assorted journalists, drooling over the power and lethal nature of the weaponry at hand. The pinpoint accuracy of various weapons is emphasised, this despite the repeated cases in the past of it being proven to be most unreliable. In the event, there is always damage to unintended targets like civilians. Indeed, in past conflicts some of the weaponry has been so accurate that it hasn’t even hit the country intended in the first place. This time, when civilians were killed, feverish reporters assured the watching audience that the rebels regretted the loss of life but still the onslaught must go on. Supporters of the intervention would argue that Colonel Gadaffi had to be stopped from killing his own people. This is valid claim. The intervention is also backed by a UN resolution this time, rather than the illegal approach adopted by the British and Americans to attacking Iraq in 2003. The concern though has to be that it is Britain, the United States and France carrying out the intervention. To put it bluntly all have form in the region. Britain used to run Libya and was the big imperial power in the Middle East until the Americans took over. After the Iraq adventure, no one in the region will see Britain and America, even when backed by UN resolution, as liberators. This incredulity will be rightly stoked by the fact that many of the weapons Colonel Gadaffi has been turning on his own people were supplied by the British and Americans. Indeed, David Cameron was only recently on a tour of the Middle East, with a number of arms dealers as part of his delegation. The concern must be that the invading countries will be seeking to make Libya safe not for its people but for their own economic interests. They will be seeking to ensure a new leader who can be relied upon to deliver oil and other commodities for western corporations. Were Colonel Gadaffi to stay in place the prospects for such companies would not look very rosy. It has also been alarming to see some who so fervently opposed the war in Iraq seemingly using the same arguments that they opposed in relations to invading Iraq to justify the Libya action. There is a real lack of intellectual rigour going on, if not historical amnesia. The criticism made by supporters of the intervention will be: what would you do then sit by and let Colonel Gadaffi kill his own people? No, that obviously shouldn’t be the case but the reality is that Western nations do not act for humanitarian purposes, only economic ones. Otherwise, why did they not intervene in Rwanda to stop the genocide. What of Burma? Indeed, looking to the future will the military action be expanded to take in Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia as they turn against the people revolting against their tyrannous regimes. It would be nice to think that this intervention in Libya is for purely virtuous humanitarian reasons but history tells a different story. There is also every danger that the action will further destabilise and already unstable region. Learning the lessons of history should include looking to just how the US/British action in Afghanistan over the past decade has destabilised not only that country but Pakistan as well. Violence is not the way to win change or create democracy. Leopards do not change their spots and neither do imperial powers.