- (august 2011)
Libya and NATO.
The war in Libya means three different things to the three winners: the Libyan
people, who successfully deposed their dictator, the countries that trained
and armed the rebels (Qatar and the United Arab Emirates), whose main interest
seem to be the modernization of the Arab world and who now officially
play a double game, both supporting the remaining Arab dictators and working to
get rid of them, and NATO, that bombed Qaddafi's forces from the air.
The third one, NATO, is the one troubled by this victory. It is troubled because
it has exhibited yet again the same problems that plague the European Union
and the eurozone: they are all institutions (whether military, political or
economic) that try to exist without a real boss. NATO countries split over
Afghanistan and especially Iraq. NATO countries split again over Libya.
This time the split was not only of willingness (they were all willing and they
all agreed it was a good idea, except that the USA was much more reluctant
to get involved than France and Britain) but also of capabilities.
To start with, the European front was even more fractured than in the Iraqi
war: France and Britain gave everything they had short of committing troops
on the ground, while Turkey and Spain refused to participate in missions that
were not directly related to saving civilians, and Germany and Poland refused
to take part at all. Furthermore, even the two who did act decisively (France
and Britain) revealed that they are wildly unprepared for these relatively
simple missions. British and French ships and planes proved unreliable to say
the least. Both ran out of ammunitions. Neither could provide the intelligence
needed for surgical strikes. Both the ammunitions and the intelligence came
from the USA. So did the cruise missiles, drones and electronic warfare
that really broke the back of Qaddafi's forces.
Just like the European Union is a chaotic community of countries that are
not under one political boss, and just like the eurozone is a chaotic
union of economies that are not under one centralized financial boss,
so NATO is a similar experiment, a chaotic alliance of countries that are not
under one military boss.
These are interesting experiments in forging multinational policies
(whether political, financial or military) but clearly are no match for
the emerging political, economic and military powers of the 21st century.
TM, ®, Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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- (april 2011)
War to naive dictators.
The "Arab spring" has deposed two dictators (in Tunisia and notably Egypt)
and has started a full-fledged civil war (in Libya), while the rest of the
regimes that were affected (Bahrein, Yemen and Syria, not to mention Iran
before them) seem to be getting away with a successful bloody represseion of
the popular uprising against them.
The signal that the West sent was, unfortunately, very clear. Mubarak was
naive enough to trust the USA: he granted some freedom to its people and
refrain from massive repression. The USA even convinced him to keep the
Internet up and running when it was used to finish him. The result, of course,
is that Mubarak lost. On the other hand, the regimes of Syria and Yemen, and
before them of Iran, that did not hesitate to crack down on dissenters are
still in power. Qaddafi made an even bigger mistake in the eyes of the other
dictators: years ago he decided to surrender his weapons of mass destruction.
The reason he is being attacked today by NATO is obvious: he doesn't have
a nuclear bomb. Nobody dreams of attacking North Korea, a regime no less
crazy than Libya's, because it has nuclear bombs. Let alone Pakistan, another
nuclear power, despite the fact that it hides the leadership of both Al Qaeda
and the Taliban, Nobody dreams of
attacking mainland China, one of the world's worst offenders of human rights.
NATO attacked Qaddafi precisel because Qaddafi accepted to surrender his
nuclear program to the West. The lesson to be learned here is to speed up
your nuclear program. Once you detonate a nuclear device, even if it is as
primitive as North Korea's, your survival is guaranteed.
The contrast between Qaddafi of Libya (who is being chased out of power by NATO
bombs) and Assad of Syria (against whom NATO is doing absolutely nothing)
is particularly educational. Qaddafi alienated his old allies (namely Russia
and Iran) when he switched sides and befriended the West. The result is that
nobody opposed NATO at the United Nations when NATO asked permission to bomb
him under the pretense of protecting Libyan civilians. On the other hand, NATO
is not even thinking of bombing Assad (who is probably killing more civilians
than Qaddafi) because such a resolution would never survive a vote at
the United Nations. Assad is respected even by the Arab regimes that distrust
him and dislike him. Qaddafi is considered a demented clown by the other
Arab regimes that have witnessed how unreliable his policy has been over the
years. Bottom line: a consistent hardline pays off in diplomacy more than
The fragile network of alliances in North Africa and the Middle East is
rapidly disintegrating. One has to wonder what the regimes of
Saudi Arabia or Jordan have to
gain from an alliance with a superpower (the USA) that will dump them
if and when the population rises against them, and that is preventing them
from building the very weapons that would keep the USA from bombing them
in the future.
The USA and Western Europe are worried about the course that the new
government of Egypt will take, but they also need to worry about what their
old friends in the Middle East will do to protect themselves against
Someone in the USA has to come up with a really good idea on how to convince
these regimes that democratic reforms and no nuclear weapons is a good
strategy for them. Obviously it is not.
The alternative would be to speed up their downfall, but that would involve
a military campaign against them which is, in practice, unthinkable.
So the USA will have to pretend to be their friend while conspiring to
undermine their power (as it did with Mubarak) and persuade them to give
up nuclear weapons while retaining the right to bomb them (as it did with
The West is probably relieved to see millions of Muslims marching against their
governments instead of marching against Israel and the USA; waving their
national flags instead of burning the USA flag; hailing freedom and democracy
instead of the Quran; learning how to use the Internet instead of cursing
Danish cartoonists. The effect on the Western public will probably be
momentous: instead of seeing every Muslim as a potential suicide bombers,
the Western public will start seeing them as nation builders.
But the only way the West can help them build their nations is by abandoning
the old regimes, a fact that is certainly not escaping the old regimes.
More cynical powers like mainland China and Russia (the only ones willing to
support the existing regimes and willing to sell them nuclear technology)
may be the net beneficiaries of any "Arab spring" that fails.
TM, ®, Copyright © 2011 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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- (january 2009)
A letter to the New York Times
The New York Times published a lengthy
article by Libya's dictator Qaddafi on the Palestinian problem. In that
article Qaddafi advocates a one-state solution in which Jews and Arabs (and
presumably Christians) would live together.
In reaction to Qaddafi's article, the New York Times published a number of letters by readers. Here is the letter that i sent them today.
In reaction to Qaddafi's article, you published a number of letters
that repeatedly refer to Libya's involvement in a terrorist attack
that killed the 259 passengers of a USA flight. It would be fair to mention
that a few weeks earlier a missile fired by a USA warship downed
an Iranian civilian plane and killed all 290 passengers aboard,
an event much less advertised in the USA press, but no less painful for the
relatives of those victims.
One of your readers accuses Libya of "a history of terrorist crimes and
continued human rights abuses". The whole world thinks that the USA has
been guilty of the same over the decades, culminating with torture in Iraq
and Guantanamo. Ordinary people from Nicaragua to Iraq can exhibit plenty of
evidence of USA atrocities committed against their relatives and friends.
If Qaddafi is not qualified to advance a proposal for peace
in the Middle East, the world probably wonders why the USA should be.
It is a sign of the times that in 2009 Qaddafi sounds like a moderate and
one of the few people with common sense.
As for Qaddafi's article itself, it has some merit and a multi-ethnic nation
like the USA should certainly appreciate the idea of Muslims, Jews and
Christians living in peace within the same state. However, it would be nice
if Qaddafi also advocated that Saudi Arabia became a multi-religious state.
Saudi Arabia is another state that embeds in its constitution a racist view
of relibion, and even forbids non-Muslims to enter two of its cities.
It is unthinkable to build a Catholic church or a Hindu temple in Mecca,
whereas there are Muslim mosques in both Rome (the capital of the Catholic
world) and the major Indian cities. Saudi Arabia seems to me a much worse
example of religious and ethnic intolerance, and unfortunately it is held
as a role model by millions of Muslims worldwide. Non-Muslims are even
forbidden to criticize the Quran, to dispute the legitimacy of Mohammed as
a prophet, to point out that he personally murdered people, and even to make
fun of him. One wishes that Qaddafi had creative solutions also for the
big problem of religious intolerance in Saudi Arabia and not only for
the relatively small problem of Palestine.
TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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- Articles on Libya before 2011