Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

What Lay Behind the Libya Intervention?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

What Lay Behind the Libya Intervention?

Article excerpt

Since the start of the Franco-British intervention in Libya, which on British and American insistence last March was turned into a NATO affair, some commentaries on the left have interpreted the action as Western imperialism. It was called an effort to seize control of Libya's enormous oil reserves, in the guise of humanitarian intervention.

Although I am willing-more willing than most-to think the worst of the motivations of states, I find it hard to see why the Western countries would want an expensive war to seize the oil to which they already had ample access through purchase on the international market.

Barack Obama, already taking punishment on other issues from the Republican presidential primary Punch and Judy Show, had the sense to tell NATO that he preferred to lead from behind. That way he was able to take credit for Victory (as his flacks and the more gullible sector of the U.S. press have already done), while allowing the French and British to conduct the principal combat operations, without unduly troubling the Pentagon.

Since the late Col. Muammar Qaddafi decided in 2003 that re-establishing friendly relations with the Western powers was to his advantage-handing over the Bulgarian nurses and naming the alleged authors of attacks on American and French airliners, even producing a scapegoat for Scottish jailing-the colonel has been the best of friends with Western governments, pitching his tent near the Elysée Palace in Paris, staying as a guest at the White House, and diligently participating in the CIA pursuit of real or fancied Arab terrorists.

The CIA had already prepared the way for this friendly cooperation. For example, the man who led the rebel assault on Tripoli earlier this month was a Libyan dissident and Islamist veteran of the Afghanistan war against the Russians.

He was subsequently handed over to Colonel Qadaffi by the CIA and the British, then tortured and imprisoned for seven years. As the Middle East expert Patrick Seale writes, "his attachment to Western interests should not be counted upon."

The Western intervention this year, initiated by France, was ideological in origin, deriving from the liberal interventionism Westerners espoused after the NATO Kosovo victory. Subsequent experience has cooled this enthusiasm, one reason President Obama has just decided to let the Iraqis defend themselves without help from uniformed U. …

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