Caught up in a social media frenzy, the likes of which have never been seen before, the French, UK and, after some anxiety, US governments charged into Libya after missing out in the public revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Colonel Gaddafi’s war machine, outdated products from his new enemies, quickly fell apart as three of the largest militaries in the world saturated his bases, all in the name of freedom and democracy – oh, and a fantastic publicity opportunity: it’s not often that one subject can appease both those on the right who admire conflict, and those on the left who adore freedom’s crusade.
The Libyan War/Conflict/Rebellion – it doesn’t seem to have a fixed name, at the moment,as it ticks too many boxes – is so different to those two grand revolutions that preceded it. It was not the will of the entire people to oust Gaddafi, Libya is an incredibly divided county thanks to a largely untouched tribal system, rather it was an educated elite from Benghazi, mostly solicitors, who led the initial movement in the East to overthrow the dictator, and are still at the head of it. This isn’t to say that this elite is corrupt, but when an unfair proportion of the National Transitional Council are made up of them (9 out of the 40 members come from Benghazi, when only 5 come from Tripoli, a city double the size) it all seems pretty odd, and not the democratic dream that the West was hoping for.
…we know hardly anything more about them now.
This is the key problem, we knew nothing about the leaders seven months ago, when military action was first taken to support them – not just aid in preventing a genocide, something which may be happening in Syria, but actively supporting a rag-tag new government nobody knows anything about – and we know hardly anything more about them now. So easily, in a few years’ time, could there be another more cunning dictator or dictatorial council, like that which rules far larger states around the world, or could a political/religious ideology sweep the country in the face of growing malnutrition and a continuing western military presence overhead – no doubt a few military bases will be set up for the NTC’s allies.
It seems the most odd and peculiar war to have. There were and are far more reprehensible figures around the world who have enslaved their populations, who have denied real elections, but have never felt the kick of a squadron of F-18s and succession after succession of heavy bombing, why is it now that leaders seek to overthrow one of their previous friends? Is it more to do with Libya’s plentiful oil supplies? This answer can’t be side-lined as unduly villainous against our governments when similar theories have become true in Iraq.
…Sarkozy, Cameron and Obama, are trailing in their countries’ polls…
Perhaps it’s partly to do with the surprise governments had to the initial uprisings, supporting this one makes the seem more in-step with Middle Eastern affairs, especially after a decade of quasi-colonialist rule of Iraq and Afghanistan; but it’s also coincidental that all three of western leaders, Sarkozy, Cameron and Obama, are trailing in their countries’ polls: a nightmare for Sarkozy and Obama’s 2012 presidential election bids. It seems the threesome remember the great public admiration that came from the Falklands and Grenada in the 1980s, and think that it can all be replicated in Libya. It’s one thing to liberate your own countrymen, or to put to rest a crisis so close to home, but to put your faith in an unelected bunch who promote no democratic credentials is perverse.
Visually, through the media, the our military presence isn’t there: you never see any troops on the ground, but they are there, training, giving guidance, undergoing covert operations. They are working closely with a group of former Gaddafi soldiers, who prefer to be on the winning side – like all mercenaries – and an educated elite from Libya’s East whose intentions are impossible to decipher: the West may have powerful intelligence agencies, but they are by no means clairvoyant, especially in Middle Eastern matters.
Gaddafi was arguably one of the more friendly dictators…
What can either follow is a continued US/UK/French presence that will make Libya a dependency because of the country’s tribal divides and subsequent smaller rebellions, you can already see this in the reports of torture occurring from tribe to tribe, or France, the UK and the US will leave, and the NTC will collapse under its own weight, bringing about a much-needed divide, a West and East Libya, which for a large part of the conflict was the de-facto result.
Was the West right to enter Libya in the first place? Gaddafi was arguably one of the more friendly dictators, and with the lack of action against Syria or Bahrain, it doesn’t send an ideological message to anyone from the West. On the one hand a democracy has been born, but has it been birthed too early? The West’s military steroids have made it so strong that without them it will surely shrivel up and die.