Monday, June 27, 2011

Liberal imperialism rears its ugly head over Libya

Scratch a liberal and you’ll find just about any political disease you care to name. Just look at the Lib Dems’ contribution to the reactionary coalition. Or just read The Observer’s call for Nato to “up its game and finish what it started in Libya”.

In the true spirit of the 19th century “liberal” Lord Palmerston, notorious for his “gun-boat diplomacy” used to advance Britain’s imperial interests, The Observer is concerned at the slow progress after 100 days of bombing Libya under the guise of enforcing a no-fly zone.

So the answer, as far as The Observer is concerned, is not peace talks and a negotiated settlement between the two sides of an apparent civil war but for Nato to “abandon its limited, cautious, low-risk approach and flex far more of its muscle”. You can’t get more bellicose than that.

Apart from the appalling use of the word “game” to describe attacks that have cost many lives, the appeal to intensify the bombing only confirms that all is not well in the war camp.

The US Congress has voted to block President Obama from going any further in Libya as he never sought their approval in the first place as required under the US constitution. The Arab League is split following civilian casualties and even Italy has called for a cessation of bombing to allow humanitarian aide to get through.

On the ground, the so-called rebels are making little military progress and the self-appointed Interim Transitional National Council based in Benghazi is divided about what to do next. Some have suggested that Colonel Gaddafi could remain in the country but not in power, for example.

David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, the prime movers in the bombing campaign, have discovered that the TNC is not exactly the rabid pro-Western alliance they dreamt would emerge. It contains discredited defectors from Tripoli, monarchists, militant Islamists and not a few opportunists.

To maintain a semblance of public support for the attacks, which have cost the British taxpayer about £260 million so far, Nato has, as usual, invented a series of mass rapes, genocide and assorted other atrocities to lay at the door of the Gaddafi regime. Amnesty International and others have discredited these lies.

The intervention in Libya has nothing to do with protecting civilians from the Gaddafi regime. He’s been persecuting them long enough with the tacit support of the US, Britain and France. Nor is it about delivering some abstract “democracy” to a Libyan or Arab people suffering under dictatorships because the Syrian, Saudi and Bahrain regimes have carte blanche to carry on killing. It’s not even particularly about access to Libya’s oil, which Western companies enjoy in any case.

What spurred Cameron (with Labour's backing) into action was a deep concern that the Arab Spring that swept away the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes was running out of control. Libya, with its brutal repression of its own uprising, seemed a good place to get a grip on the process.

The military intervention in Libya is aimed at delimiting the revolution’s direction and usurping the way it unfolds. It is a denial of Libya’s self-determination and, however cruel the Gaddafi regime has become, this is a good enough reason to oppose the bombing.

With Western influence diminishing as Egyptians renew their self-determination, Libya must have seemed a relatively easy way to establish a presence in the region. But, as the invasion and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated, it is easier to make such plans than carry them out.

Even the killing of Gaddafi might only add to their problems. A report in the Daily Record suggests that British troops will be deployed if Gaddafi is ousted or killed. A Whitehall source told the paper: "I always find myself getting to my knees and praying to God that we don't bomb Gaddafi that night because what the f*** would we do next?" Cameron’s war could turn out to be his own political graveyard.

Paul Feldman

Communications editor

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