Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Libya Intervention More Questionable in Rear View Mirror

Inter Press Service

While the tenth anniversary last month of Washington’s invasion of Iraq provoked overwhelmingly negative reviews of the adventure except among its most die-hard neo-conservative proponents, a more recent – albeit far less dramatic and costly – intervention has faded almost completely from public notice.

Nonetheless, nearly 18 months after Western-backed rebels killed Moammar Gaddafi in the city of Sirte, the intervention by the U.S. and its NATO allies in the civil war in Libya appears increasingly costly on several levels.

That assessment applies not only to Libya and its North African neighbours, especially Mali, but also to relations among the great powers – most immediately with respect to Syria, where Russia and China have firmly resisted any western effort in the U.N. Security Council to undermine the government of President Bashar al-Assad or support the insurgency against him.

While the decision of China’s new president, Xi Jinping, to make his first overseas visit to Russia last month was by no means attributable only – or even primarily – to Western intervention in Libya, their strong objections to the way NATO interpreted a Security Council resolution to protect civilian lives as licence for “regime change” in Tripoli certainly contributed to a renewed sense of solidarity between the two former Communist rivals.

“We are living through an era of flux and change,” Xi told a university audience in Moscow in a thinly veiled reference to the West. “No country or bloc of countries can again single-handedly dominate world affairs.” For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the two countries’ “strategic partnership” on the Security Council.

Indeed, the Libya precedent was even evoked during this week’s crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

“This land is neither the Balkans nor Iraq and Libya,” boasted the official North Korean news agency in a reference to three other recent U.S. interventions against countries that, unlike Pyongyang, either lacked or, like Gaddafi, abandoned their efforts to obtain nuclear weapons that could presumably have been used to deter external attack.

Acting on a verbal threat by Gaddafi to exterminate rebels in their stronghold of Benghazi in the early stages of the civil war, the U.N. Security Council approved Resolution 1973 by a vote of 10-0 with five abstentions – Russia, China, Germany, Brazil, and India – on Mar. 17, 2011.

Pursuant to the emerging “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) legal doctrine, the resolution authorised member nations to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians under threat of attack, including by creating a “no-fly zone” over the country’s air space.

As the civil war intensified – albeit inconclusively – over the following months, however, some Arab and key Western governments, notably Britain, France, and the U.S., took more aggressive measures in support of the rebels. These ranged from on-the-ground training to supplying arms and providing real-time tactical intelligence, until Tripoli fell in late August and Gaddafi was killed two months later.

Thus, an operation undertaken purely for humanitarian reasons eventually became one dedicated to regime change.

While a comprehensive assessment of the costs and benefits is premature, an initial balance sheet would appear to confirm the notion that military intervention often reaps unintended – and negative – consequences.

On the positive side with respect to Libya itself, a long-ruling and ruthless dictator is no longer in power, and the country’s oil production has bounced back with surprising speed.

On the other hand, the central government has proved unable to reassert its control over much of the nation, leaving a huge security vacuum filled by a multitude of militias – including radical Islamists who may have been responsible for the killing of the U.S. ambassador and two of his staff in Benghazi last September.

“Libya has gone from being a tyrannical state to being barely a state at all,” according to Robert Kaplan, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). “(A) descent into worse chaos cannot be ruled out.”

That vacuum also permitted the wholesale looting of Gaddafi’s massive arsenals. “The weapons proliferation that we saw coming out of the Libyan conflict was of a scale greater than any previous conflict – probably ten times more weapons than we saw going on the loose in places like Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan,” Peter Bouckhert of Human Rights Watch told the Washington Post earlier this year.

That looting resulted in the first instance in the destabilisation of Mali where Tuareg mercenaries previously employed by Gaddafi returned home to northern Mali, quickly evicted the army, which, in turn, overthrew Bamako’s democratically elected government.

With the intervention of French and Chadian military forces earlier this year, Bamako has since retaken control of the more populous parts of northern Mali. But the region, now being patrolled by U.S. drones, is still subject to attack by Islamist forces aligned with Al-Qaeda, and the country’s future and unity remain uncertain at best.

Nor has Mali and other Sahelian countries been the only destination for Gaddafi’s former arsenal.

Substantial amounts of Libyan weapons have been traced to Syria, fuelling that civil war, and to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula where Bedouin tribes – some with ties to radical Islamists – have defied local authorities and occasionally even challenged the army in the tumultuous post-Mubarak period.

But the Libyan intervention may have wrought its most consequential damage on great-power relations, particularly with respect to the prospects for future agreement among the five veto-wielding permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to authorise military intervention in civil wars, even for humanitarian purposes.

“The operation took place under the auspices of the Responsibility to Protect,” noted Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, “but it turned into a mission of regime change, and that has made the Russians and Chinese feel that they were deceived.

“And that perception in Moscow and Beijing has fed into their position on Syria and makes it unlikely that China and Russia will anytime soon again approve a humanitarian intervention,” he told IPS.

And just as North Korea feels Gaddafi’s fate vindicated its decision to risk international isolation by building a nuclear weapon, hard-liners in Iran, who are convinced that Washington also seeks to overthrow the Islamic Republic, have been citing the Libya precedent in the run-up to this week’s talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, with the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany, to argue against any concessions on the fate of its nuclear programme.

According to former top CIA Middle East analyst Paul Pillar, Iranian leaders have only to look at Washington’s intervention in Libya “that overthrew a Middle Eastern regime after it had reached an agreement with the United States to give up all its nuclear and other unconventional weapons program.

“In hindsight, the intervention in Libya makes clear that even interventions that appear successful in the short term can have negative knock-on effects that call into question their value,” according to Kupchan.

Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.lobelog.com.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the more effective U.S. lobbying outfits, aims to ensure that the United States backs Israel regardless of the policies Israel pursues.


Donald Trump’s second attorney general, William Barr is the focus of a growing controversy over the Robert Mueller report because his decision to unilaterally declare that the the president had not obstructed justice during the Mueller investigation.


Gina Haspel is the first woman to hold the position of director of the CIA, winning her confirmation despite her history of involvement in torture during the Iraq War.


United against Nuclear Iran is a pressure group that attacks companies doing business in Iran and disseminates alarmist reports about the country’s nuclear program.


Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, is the president’s senior adviser, whose dealings with the Persian Gulf leaders have come under scrutiny for conflicts of interest.


Erik Prince, former CEO of the mercenary group Blackwater, continues to sell security services around the world as controversies over his work—including in China and the Middle East, and his alleged involvement in collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia—grow.


Robert Joseph played a key role in manipulating U.S. intelligence to support the invasion of Iraq and today is a lobbyist for the MEK.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

President Trump’s announcement that he would recognise Israeli sovereignty over the western part of the Golan Heights destroys the negotiating basis for any future peace between Israel and Syria. It also lays the groundwork for a return to a world without territorial integrity for smaller, weaker countries.


The Senate on Wednesday passed a measure mandating the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Saudi/UAE-led war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The vote marks the first time since the War Powers Act of 1973 became law that both chambers of Congress have directed the president to withdraw American forces from a conflict.


The Trump administration’s failed “maximum pressure” approach to Iran and North Korea begs the question what the US president’s true objectives are and what options he is left with should the policy ultimately fail.


In the United States, it’s possible to debate any and every policy, domestic and foreign, except for unquestioning support for Israel. That, apparently, is Ilhan Omar’s chief sin.


While Michael Cohen mesmerized the House of Representatives and President Trump resumed his love affair with North Korea’s Kim Jong, one of the most dangerous state-to-state confrontations, centering in Kashmir, began to spiral out of control.


The Trump administration’s irresponsible withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement undermined Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and emboldened hardliners who accused him of having been deceived by Washington while negotiating the agreement. However, the Iranian government could use the shock of Zarif’s resignation to push back against hardliners and take charge of both the domestic and foreign affairs of the country while Iran’s foreign opponents should consider the risks of destabilizing the government under the current critical situation.


Europe can play an important role in rebuilding confidence in the non-proliferation regime in the wake of the demise of the INF treaty, including by making it clear to the Trump administration that it wants the United States to refrain from deploying INF-banned missiles in Europe and to consider a NATO-Russian joint declaration on non-first deployment.


RightWeb
share