Magazine article The American Conservative

One Cheer for Colonialism

Magazine article The American Conservative

One Cheer for Colonialism

Article excerpt

Libya needs a state. Egypt can provide one.

A few years ago, just before NATO began its disastrous armed intervention in Libya, I received a call from Brussels asking me to come on short notice to an EU conference on the matter. (The EU official who invited me, a Frenchman, said, "I assume like most Americans you love France but wish it were not inhabited by the French.") I declined because I know what such conferences are like.

Instead, I sent a short paper. It could be short because the situation was obvious, written on walls all over Iraq and Afghanistan. NATO intervention in Libya to oust Gaddafi would not merely overthrow his government, it would destroy the Libyan state. Libya would become another Petri dish for non-state, Fourth Generation war entities. That's just what happened.

Now we're about to do it again. Worse, instead of trying to destroy a government, we are taking on the mission impossible of creating a state. And we think we can do that by dropping bombs. In January the New York Times reported that

Worried about a growing threat from the Islamic State in Libya, the United States and its allies are ... Preparing for possible air strikes and commando raids ... 'It's fair to say we're looking to take decisive military action against ISIL in conjunction with the political process' in Libya General [Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph R] Dunford said. 'The President has made clear that we have the authority to use military force.'

General Dunford is an intelligent, thoughtful man. But if we deconstruct his statement, it is nonsense.

First, a pinprick campaign of air strikes and commando raids will not be decisive. It has failed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Why are we doing it again? Because it is all the U.S. armed forces know how to do. They could of course invade Libya, occupy it, and try to recreate a Libyan state. But Washington has figured out that yields a very expensive failure. So we will enjoy a bargain-basement failure instead.

Second, the "political process" to which the JCS chairman referred consists of a bunch of exiled Libyan politicians sitting in a hotel room in Tunis. Why not in Libya? Because their lifespans on Libyan soil would be measured in hours. The reality on the ground, to quote the Times, is "a patchwork of Libyan militias that remain unreliable, unaccountable, poorly organized and divided by region and tribe. …

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