I’ve held off commenting on Libya, because it’s very unclear to me what is actually happening. Obviously, getting rid of Qaddafi is a good thing, but (a) he’s not gone, and (b) it’s not clear what follows him. In the Egyptian uprising, getting rid of the Mubarak was a lot easier than getting rid of the military dictatorship that Mubarak represented. In Libya, getting rid of Qaddafi is a lot easier than getting rid of the oilyocracy on which Libya has been so long dependent. So, comments by Phyllis Bennis are a useful counterpoint to the triumphalism one hears throughout most of the western press:
we have to look at the speech, for example, of the Leader of the National Transitional Council, who spoke yesterday at a very celebratory press conference, I think rather prematurely, in which he thanked the international community as a whole for their support but went on to specifically single out the countries that had provided specific support to the TNC and to the opposition in Libya and indicated very directly that they would be given—they would not be forgotten. They would be given, presumably, special privileges in the future, if the TNC, when the TNC, in his view, should take power. The assumption I made was that his reference is to privileged access to oil contracts, privileged access to perhaps bases, to the very strategic location of Libya, that all of that would be made available in a more privileged way to those countries that had played such a direct role in this civil war.
I think that access to oil contracts was very much a part—it wasn’t the only part, but it was one part—of the reasons that this war went ahead. It wasn’t directly a war for oil, in the sense that the U.S. and European oil companies, all these international companies that you just mentioned, already were in bed with the Gaddafi regime. They were already giving—getting enormous access to Libyan oil. So it wasn’t simply to get access. It was in recognition that there was a change underway.
they want to position themselves in a way to get continuing access to those oil contracts. It’s not about access to the oil itself. That will be on a global market. It will be part of it. It’s about control. It’s about controlling the terms of those contracts. It’s about controlling amounts that are being pumped at different times. It’s about controlling prices. It’s about controlling that crucial resource.
What I was saying earlier, I think, is crucial about the lack of clear support for the TNC from many different sectors in Libya, including important sectors of the revolutionary forces themselves, the opposition forces, the rebels, whatever we want to call them. The anti-Gaddafi forces are themselves incredibly divided. And in that situation, the U.S. and its allies have honed in on one sector of that opposition force, the TNC, the Transitional National Council, and said, “We’re going to anoint you the officials.” And, of course, by doing so, they give them even more power.
There’s now talk of releasing frozen Libyan assets that are in U.S. and European banks, in the billions of dollars, billions of euros. And if that money is immediately released and turned over to this unrepresentative TNC, it’s going to empower them, disempower other forces within the opposition movement, and set the stage for ongoing and very serious chaos…
Gaddafi never had an official title other than Brother Leader or Colonel sometimes. He wasn’t officially the president. There was no presidency. So, the institutions of governance never really existed.
So, there you have it. Bennis says
1) The dictator is gone, but the country has no experience with government.
2) The people the West is supporting represent a small fraction of the population, and they probably represent the ones the West thinks it can control.
3) It’s a recipe for continuing civil war and fragmentation similar to what we see in Iraq.
As in Egypt, this will take months or, more likely, years before we see clearly what has been wrought in our name. Much will probably depend on whether the people of Egypt can force the Arab spring in their country into a full harvest of democracy. May God guide all the people of MENA.
Update: My concern about what is actually going on is heightened by this, from Tanya Branigan, The Guardian:
China is seeking to reaffirm its ties with Libya as it looks ahead to a future without Gaddafi, calling for its investments to be protected after rebels suggested they might freeze out countries that had not supported them.
“China’s investment in Libya, especially its oil investment, is one aspect of mutual economic co-operation … and this co-operation is in the mutual interest of both the people of China and Libya,” a commerce ministry official told reporters on Tuesday.
China and the West are jousting for global power. The overthrow of Qaddafi represents an opportunity for the West to displace China from access to Libyan oil. I found this truly amazing quote about China’s oil operations in Sudan, where it supported the bloody suppression of the Darfur region to keep the oil flowing:
To fend off growing criticisms, Chinese officials say they are emulating the policy of Zheng He, the famous Chinese navigator, who travelled to more than 30 countries in Asia and Africa 600 years ago.
“Zheng He took to the places he visited tea, chinaware, silk and technology. He did not occupy an inch of foreign land, nor did he take a single slave. What he brought to the outside world was peace and civilisation. This fully reflects the good faith of the ancient Chinese people in strengthening exchanges with relevant countries and their people. This peace-loving culture has taken deep root in the minds and hearts of Chinese people of all generations,” Liu Guijin, Chinese ambassador to South Africa, told the African Business Leaders Forum in Johannesburg in October 2006.
If you think American leaders are delusional, welcome to Alternative Reality 6.0.