Western intervention in Libya: a new militaristic hell

Printer-friendly version

Since March 19th,  there has been no let-up in the military intervention in Libya under the dual banner of the UN and NATO. But we needn’t worry: the last G8 summit has reaffirmed that the members of the coalition, putting their differences to one side, are 'determined to finish the job', having called on the Libyan leader to relinquish power because he has 'lost all legitimacy'. Russia has allied itself with the new anti-Gaddafi front, offering its assistance to mediate with the man it 'no longer regards as the leader of Libya'. As a sign of their support for the 'Arab revolutions' and thus also for the Libyan people, world leaders are split over pressing Saudi Arabia to put its hand in its pocket for a gift to the 'Arab revolutions' of 45 billion dollars.

Meanwhile, this beautiful outpouring of 'solidarity' towards the anti-Gaddafi insurgents united in the National Transitional Council of Libya, whose representatives spend more time in Western embassies than in the combat zones, seems incompatible with a war that has got more and more bogged down. Gaddafi’s forces, despite  being on the end of some 2700 aerial attacks, continue to pound the rebels, both in Benghazi and Misrata. We are far from seeing the eviction of the Libyan forces, denounced by the 'international community' for their cruelty, and from the advent of democracy that was the pretext for this new imperialist military adventure. The 'leader of the Green Revolution' is desperately clinging on to power. The country presents a spectacle of desolation, far away from the hopes and enthusiasm that were raised by the movements in Tunisia and Egypt. There are dozens of deaths every day in Misrata (according to the World Health Organisation) and carcasses of tanks and military vehicles litter the roads, while the towns are looking more and more like Beirut in the 1970s and 1980s. Evidently our hallowed representatives have continued castigating the Libyan government, demanding that 'those responsible for attacks against civilians be made accountable' and threatening them with being brought before the International Criminal Court for these crimes. It’s a familiar refrain based on dishonesty and hypocrisy: they are themselves responsible for deaths on both sides, including those of civilians. For those who advocate 'aerial attacks', it’s only those on the side of the 'baddies' that get killed, just like it is in the B movies. Let’s recall specific examples, such as the so-called 'targeted' attacks in the two wars in Iraq: they resulted in hundreds of thousands of 'collateral' deaths; there’s the situation in Afghanistan where logistical 'errors' have regularly led to whole villages being devastated. The list of civilian deaths that the great powers are responsible for is very long – though that’s not to minimise the part played by the small states.

Thus, the commitment of the last G8 summit to increase military pressure on Gaddafi by deciding to deploy French and British attack helicopters to be 'closer to the ground' is leading towards a longer term presence 'on the ground'. If the military intervention was launched on a rather unsure and unsettled basis, with the United States dragging its feet, along with Italy, and with Russia opposed, it now seems the goal is clear: to fight over the spoils. The Libyan people, that all the champions of Western democracy have come to 'help' and to 'rescue', are now suffering the same plight as those suffering under the yoke of any dictator or from international terrorism. The future, in the post-Gaddafi period, will be one of a more or less simmering  confrontations between the various  Libyan tribal groups, supported by the various regional powers, with the motto: every man for himself and all against all.

And the question that is posed today is whether the same fate is soon to face the Syrian population, which has seen at least a thousand killed since the anti-Assad protests began there two months ago, with tens of thousands imprisoned by the repressive forces of the Damascus government. Torture, beatings and murders are the daily lot of the Syrian population: in fact the same brew which in Libya has so 'offended' the representatives of the European Union. Registering their half-hearted objections to the 'bloody repression in Syria at the UN Security Council, France, Germany, Great Britain and Portugal called for 'international sanctions' to be imposed on the Syrian regime, which is about as frightening for it right now as the story of the big bad wolf.

Unlike what happened with Libya, the UN is far from reaching any agreement and adopting a resolution that would commit it to military action against Syria. First, because the Syrian state has a military machine much larger than Gaddafi’s, and because the region is far more significant strategically than the terrain around Libya. And this is the true measure of the Western powers’ support for the 'democratic Arab revolutions'. Their words gush from the mouths of patent liars who have supported the Assad family regime for many years.

The imperialist stakes concerning Syria are of the highest order. Neighbour and ally of Iraq where the United States is still struggling to find a credible military exit, Syria is also increasingly supported by Iran, which in the recent events has supplied it with seasoned militias that have a long experience of carrying out massive repression against the population.

The world’s leading power cannot afford to find itself in a new quagmire in Syria, a quagmire that would discredit it still further in the Arab countries at a time when it is having more and more difficulty calming Israeli-Palestinian tensions, which are being fuelled by Israel and Syria in particular. In addition, the momentary bonus achieved in the world arena by the United States - and particularly Obama, virtually assuring him the prestige for his future re-election – thanks to the elimination of bin Laden, which the media hyped as “washing away the discredit of September 11”, does not mean the eradication of terrorism, which has been proclaimed as the great goal of the American crusade for the last ten years. On the contrary, this situation exposes the world to a growing upsurge in deadly attacks, as the recent bloody attacks in Pakistan and Marrakech were quick to demonstrate. Everywhere there is a multiplication of military conflicts, a headlong rush into imperialist tensions heightened by the rivalry between the big powers.

Mulan 28/5/11


General and theoretical questions: