Libya

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Articles on Libya after 2011
Libya and NATO
War to naive dictators
Articles on Libya before 2011


  • (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 compromises.
    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 Western doubletalk. 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 Qaddafi).
    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

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