A State Called Libya

Over at The Week, Dr. Daniel Larison brings up the situation of a state called Libya.  One year ago the West led a bombing campaign that ousted the brutal dictator Moammar Ghaddafi.  A problem or two arose though:

The internal disorder and regional instability that the West’s assault created were foreseen by many critics. And yet, Western governments made no meaningful efforts to prepare for them. No one planned to stabilize Libya once Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown, and the National Transitional Council (NTC) rejected the idea of an outside stabilization force […]

The NTC Larison speaks of is, of course, the entity that the West has blessed with steering the Libyan state’s course to democratic paradise.  Think here of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.  It gets worse too:

Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of abuse and torture of detainees by local militias, and there have been many reports of reprisals against civilians living in perceived pro-Gadhafi areas. Militia rule is made possible by the weakness of the NTC, which never had real control over armed rebel forces during the war, and still does not. Plus, the council’s opacity and corruption have been rapidly de-legitimizing it in the eyes of Libyans […]

The continued role of militias in Libyan political life represents a serious threat to Libya’s political transition. There is also significant risk of renewed fighting in Libya: A survey of Libyan political attitudes found that 16 percent said they would resort to violence for political ends.

But the Libyan war’s worst impact may have occurred outside of Libya. The neighboring country of Mali, which also happens to support U.S. counter-terrorist efforts in western Africa, has been roiled by a new Tuareg insurgency fueled by the influx of men and weapons after Gadhafi’s defeat, providing the Tuareg rebels with much more sophisticated weaponry than they had before. This new upheaval benefits al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), and the Tuareg uprising threatens the territorial integrity of Mali. The rebellion has also displaced nearly 200,000 civilians in a region that is already at risk of famine, and refugees from Mali are beginning to strain local resources in Niger, where most of them have fled. “Success” in Libya is creating a political and humanitarian disaster in Mali and Niger.

Larison’s silver lining in all of this is found when he starts to sing the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine’s swan song:

A key requirement of the “responsibility to protect” is that intervening governments assume the “responsibility to rebuild” in the wake of military action, but this was a responsibility that the intervening governments never wanted and haven’t accepted. All of this has proven to skeptical governments, including emerging democratic powers such as Brazil and India, that the doctrine can and will be abused to legitimize military intervention while ignoring its other requirements. The Libyan experience has soured many major governments around the world on R2P, and without their support in the future, it will become little more than a façade for the preferred policies of Western governments.

I sure wish R2P would die a brutal death, but I refuse to bet on it anytime soon.  I would be broke very quickly!  Larison misses something big in his argument though.  He reports:

Libya is now effectively ruled by the militias that ousted Gadhafi, and some militias run parts of the country as their own fiefdoms independent of any national authority. The most powerful militias in the western cities of Zintan and Misrata have refused the government’s calls to disarm. These militias believe that remaining armed allows them to retain political influence in the new order that they fought to create.

This is not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, the West could help to turn this disaster into something quite worthwhile: build an international consensus and recognize the independence of the fiefdoms.  If the West does this now, there is a good chance that local players will be more agreeable in their claims on territory.  To secure independence from a Leviathan like Libya would guarantee a period of time for the local fiefdoms to regroup and rebuild what Ghaddafi had destroyed.

A parallel can be drawn to the velvet divorce of the Czech Republic and Slovakia just after the collapse of the USSR.  What made the divorce “velvet” was international cooperation.  When the international community doesn’t play the game smart, however, divorces look more like Algeria, Indonesia, the Congo basin, the Balkans, and, of course, Somalia.

If the West is to “do something”, and I think it should in most cases, then pursuing diplomatic relations that focus on decentralized governance and international trade are a good way to start.

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7 thoughts on “A State Called Libya

  1. What is it exactly that the author thinks that Gaddafi “destroyed?” Libya was the poorest country in the world during the reign of the Western-installed King Idris. Under Gaddafi’s Jamahiriya (state of the masses) Libya became the most developed country in Africa, topping South Africa as well as nations like Russia, China, and Brazil.

    The Libyan people never asked for this war and they certainly don’t want “fiefdoms.” These violent militia have blood all over their hands, especially targeting black Libyans and other minorities.

    Your claims that Muammar Gaddafi was a “brutal dictator” are verifiably false. In 1977, Gaddafi gave power to the directly democratic People’s Councils and had not held a political office in Libya since then, serving only as a spiritual leader. Anti-corruption legislation that he wrote was rejected by folks that would go on to join the NTC.

    You point out the presence of al Qaeda in these armed gangs yet still do not condemn them. The only transition occurring in Libya is one away from the socialist direct democracy engineered by Muammar Gaddafi to brutal capitalist dictatorship that is ruthless in oppressing women, blacks, workers, and minorities.

    • Nina,

      Thanks for enlivening the debate! Leftists are often good at making assertions that fit their beliefs (like other religious people), but the assertions usually turn out to be false when one scratches the surface of them. This habit of the Left, and its obstinate ignorance in regards to the capitalist benefits that have showered the world, makes it more and more irrelevant as time moves on. For example, you asked:

      What is it exactly that the author thinks that Gaddafi “destroyed?”

      Um, Ghaddafi destroyed the political, social, legal, and historical ties of the Libyan people that were painstakingly created over centuries of interaction with each other and with other peoples. Ghaddafi destroyed the indigenous political and legal institutions of the various Libyan nationalities, he destroyed the indigenous property rights system that had been created and protected over centuries by the Libyan nationalities, he destroyed the social institutions that had been created and adopted by the various Libyan nationalities to promote peace, harmony, and trade, and he destroyed the historical links that the Libyan nationalities had created and maintained with their European brethren when he sponsored the terrorist act of bombing the Lockerbie flight. Normally, when I see a bad apple like this, I am inclined to just toss the whole barrel and ask for a new one, but it is not every day that I get to argue with an apologist for brutal dictatorships, so I will keep going! Besides, I think you make some factual errors that need to be clarified, in the hopes that past mistakes will not be repeated. Onward! You continued:

      Libya was the poorest country in the world during the reign of the Western-installed King Idris. Under Gaddafi’s Jamahiriya (state of the masses) Libya became the most developed country in Africa, topping South Africa as well as nations like Russia, China, and Brazil.

      Again, I am tempted to throw this out due to the bad apples that I see. Libya was the poorest country in the world?! I’d have to see some statistics for this (anything will do; I am not picky).

      Now, your statement about Libya rapidly developing under Ghaddafi may be true. Again, it would be nice to see some statistics to back this up, but as I said, I am not picky. Socialist regimes were very popular in the colonial world due to the success that the (murderous) Soviet Union had in industrializing rapidly. However, comparing the dictatorship of Ghaddafi to the dictatorships of the USSR and Brzail, as well as Maoist China and Apartheid South Africa can hardly be taken to suggest that Ghaddafi’s regime accomplished much in the way of developing. Also, you’ll notice, through the recent historical record, that each of the states you mentioned had to undergo some form of liberalization in order to sustain their heavy-handed industrial policies and feed their populations. *sigh*

      The Libyan people never asked for this war and they certainly don’t want “fiefdoms.” These violent militia have blood all over their hands, especially targeting black Libyans and other minorities.

      It is nice of you to volunteer to be the stateswoman of the Libyan people. Nobody said that the militias didn’t have blood on their hands. In fact, the entire point of this post was propose policies that will end, or at least stunt, the flow of blood that is coming from Ghaddafi’s illegal ouster.

      If the Libyan people didn’t want this war, then why did they begin to fight Ghaddafi’s forces?

      If you say something about the CIA or other clandestine operations that nobody else knows about but you, then you are automatically disqualified from having any sort of relevance to the discussion at all.

      Here is the logic behind my reasoning for the Libyan revolt against a murderous thug: when black people riot here in the United States, it is because the oppression they feel – from the courts and especially from (unionized) police officers – and there is often no other way to have their voice heard except to resort to violence and destruction. Capice?

      Your claims that Muammar Gaddafi was a “brutal dictator” are verifiably false. In 1977, Gaddafi gave power to the directly democratic People’s Councils and had not held a political office in Libya since then, serving only as a spiritual leader. Anti-corruption legislation that he wrote was rejected by folks that would go on to join the NTC.

      Verifiably false? Really? Why don’t you head on over to Human Rights Watch’s webpage and enter the word “Libya” into your search bar.

      Obstinate ignorance, especially when it comes to defending brutal dictators, has never been a good way to convince others to respect, or even adhere to, your philosophy.

      Colonel Moammar Ghaddafi: serving as Libya’s spiritual leader since 1977!

      You point out the presence of al Qaeda in these armed gangs yet still do not condemn them. The only transition occurring in Libya is one away from the socialist direct democracy engineered by Muammar Gaddafi to brutal capitalist dictatorship that is ruthless in oppressing women, blacks, workers, and minorities.

      Libya was not a “socialist direct democracy.” It was a dictatorship in which thousands of people perished and millions more lived in fear every day of their lives.

      The whole point of this article, since you seemed to have missed it, was that bombing the Ghaddafi regime was a bad idea, and that the best the West can do about it now is focus on working with the various factions of Libya on politically decentralizing the state so that each of the factions has a say and are thus less inclined to wage war on each other.

      Defenders of dictatorships, like you, make me sick to my stomach.

  2. Brandon, I never resulted to name calling yet you have chosen to. I have the facts. Here is the United Nations report on Libya’s Human Development Index: http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/LBY.html

    As you can see, Libya’s index is higher than what is considered “high human development,” is far higher than the world average, and even higher still than that of “Arab states.” Libya is ranked 64th in the world, compared to Russia’s 66th (which has fallen dramatically since capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union), South Africa’s 123rd, Brazil’s 84th, and China’s 101st.

    This progress was achieved because oil profits were used to spend on social programs, healthcare and education. When he overthrew the King, Libya had a literacy rate of ~20%. Now, it stands at 88% with the number at 99% for those born after Gaddafi’s al Fateh revolution. This data is available in the UN report.

    “If the Libyan people didn’t want this war, then why did they begin to fight Ghaddafi’s forces?”

    Look at the “new” Libyan flag. It is the flag of Libyan monarchy. As you are likely aware, the ‘protests’ (attacking police stations) began in the eastern city of Benghazi, which was always favored by the former King Idris and thus he and his regime still have loyalists there. You say not to point to “CIA or clandestine operations that nobody else knows about but you” while even the decidedly anti-Gaddafi New York Times admitted that the CIA was on the ground in Libya: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/world/africa/31intel.html

    Mainstream media have also conceded that there were always “flickers of al Qaeda” inside the Libyan opposition. This was confirmed when the al Qaeda flag was raised above a courthouse in Benghazi: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8861608/Libya-Al-Qaeda-flag-flown-above-Benghazi-courthouse.html

    The anti-Jamahiriya narrative was also propagated by representatives of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a U.S.-listed terrorist group. http://www.nctc.gov/site/other/fto.html

    It is well established that the United States under both Presidents Carter and Reagan gave considerable funding and training to what later became al Qaeda and the Taliban, including this infamous picture of ‘Security Adviser’ Brzezinski meeting with Osama bin Laden: http://farm1.staticflickr.com/18/68772733_a94c2aafa2.jpg

    This template can also be seen in the war against Iraq, the ‘intervention’ against Libya, and the current effort to arm sectarian extremists seeking regime change in Syria.

    The vast majority of Libyans supported the Jamahiriya, with more than one million (of a population of ~7 million) rallying in Tripoli in July 2011 to voice their support to the legitimate Libyan government. You can watch footage of that event here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWzNhk3zv4U

    As for Human Rights Watch, it is funded by George Soros’ “Open Society.” http://www.hrw.org/partners “Soros leverages ‘human rights’ for personal gain – as does his global NGO empire.” http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2012/03/surpise-soros-is-convicted-criminal.html

    The charges that were leveled against the Libyan government at the UN were admitted to be fabrications. A documentary on this topic can be viewed here: http://www.laguerrehumanitaire.fr/english

    “Libya was not a ‘socialist direct democracy.’ It was a dictatorship in which thousands of people perished and millions more lived in fear every day of their life.”

    So you attack me as acting as a “spokeswoman for the Libyan people” while you act in the same manner, without having evidence?

    The Libyan people live in fear now because their government was replaced with terrorists and the gains made under the Jamahiriya are being destroyed — the physical, like infrastructure, schools, housing; but also the social and economic gains made under the planned Libyan economy. Why did NATO bomb the Great Man Made River, which turned desert land into arable land for the Libyan people and also provided them with much needed water? What is “humanitarian” in that?

    Libya’s resources are again being plundered by Western war criminals who like to talk a lot about “human rights” as they butcher the people of the global south.

    • Nina,

      As always, a very thoughtful response. I’ll bet you’re really hot, too! I have just a few rejoinders that I hope will clarify things a bit more.

      1) I didn’t ask for Libya’s current development index. I was already aware of Libya’s fairly high place in a lot of leading indicators. If go back and look at my argument, I said that comparing Libya to the dictatorships of the USSR and Brazil, as well as Maoist China and Apartheid South Africa, is not useful for gauging the level of freedom in a society.

      Where is the data for Libya’s standards of living during the Idris regime?

      As most people know, Libya’s oil wealth would make it very hard for the state to have low standards of living. Libya’s living standards, as defined by the UN, are grouped with other oil-producing regimes that are very unfriendly to human rights as well. States like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain are all oil-producing states with policies designed to “spread the wealth”. However, the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, the freedom to choose, and property rights are all very much assaulted in these oil-rich states.

      Where are the voting records, for example, in states like Libya and Bahrain? You appeal to your imagination rather than to facts.

      Incidentally, capitalist oil-producing states like Canada, the United States, Norway, and even Mexico all rely on market-based institution to allocate wealth, and as a result these states all have much higher standards of living than any of the states that have focused on spreading their oil wealth around.

      2) You actually have helped to prove my point. You correctly stated:

      Look at the “new” Libyan flag. It is the flag of Libyan monarchy. As you are likely aware, the ‘protests’ (attacking police stations) began in the eastern city of Benghazi, which was always favored by the former King Idris and thus he and his regime still have loyalists there.

      Libya has always been an artificial state that has tried to force cohesion upon its various factions. This is why the state has seen a succession of dictators, strong men if you will, instead of a flourishing of freedom and democracy. This is also why it would be better for the factions involved if the West and others were to recognize the independence of these various regions instead of trying to maintain an artificial monstrosity (it does not help that these states have pursued policies of state-run oil-production either; this just ensures power at the center and contributes to the ongoing struggle of succession at the top).

      Indeed, as you said:

      The vast majority of Libyans supported the Jamahiriya, with more than one million (of a population of ~7 million) rallying in Tripoli in July 2011 to voice their support to the legitimate Libyan government.

      1 out of 7 is about 14% of the population. What about the other 86%? Based upon the fragmentation and devolution that the various factions are trying to implement, it would seem to be a good idea for the West and others to recognize such actions as legitimate.

      3) While I was opposed to the bombing of the Ghaddafi regime, for reasons outlined by Dr. Larison above, it is not fair to castigate the West for attacking the Ghaddafi regime. He was, after all, a major sponsor of terrorism for many decades and the blood of Western citizens was on his hands.

  3. Haha. I really enjoyed reading these comments! Especially the part about her being hot. No response on that one yet?

    I don’t know all the facts in this particular discussion. But what I do know is that some of these brutal dictators at least have character. Pizazz! Rather unlike our brutal bureaucrats! Its like watching paint dry sometimes.

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