Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Libya

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  • Neil Morrison, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    It's almost certainly true that the high quality oil that Lybia produces (much higher quality than from Suadi Arabia) and the supply of that oil to France in particular might have some role in the UN actions.

    The alacrity of Sarkozy's actions has much more to do with criticism he faced for not acting over Tunisia. France has strong cultural connections with North Africa with a large number of the French having roots in that region.

    It wasn't a coincidence that one of the other countries that put forward the UN resolution was Lebanon - another French-speaking country.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    It's interesting that it's still being called a NFZ - both the resolution and subsequent actions make it quite a bit more than that. Reports of destroyed tank columns outside of Benghazi etc...

    In effect, they're saying they'll defend citizens from the big, chunky stuff (tank and artillery bombardment, air strike etc) but that's not going to stop sniper fire, urban death squads, disappearances, protest crackdowns etc and without ground invasion there's no way you can. In itself, I think that's an entirely worthy start - when you CAN do something about artillery bombardment of a civilian population then you bloody well should, even if there are other nasty means of oppressing and supressing that population that you aren't stopping.
    And I think that's why all the calls for equivalence are partly missing the point - Bahrain isn't shelling its protesting citizens via sitting duck artillery rigs and openly strafing them from air force jets. Without ground invasion, NATO et al are leaving the Libyans in pretty much the same spot as all these other "nasty" regimes...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Gareth Ward,

    It's interesting that it's still being called a NFZ

    A very strongly enforced NFZ at that...

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5430 posts Report Reply

  • Gary Elshaw,

    So much has happened since this was shot, but this is the clearest indication of what the Libyan National Council wants for the future of Libya: Libyan National Council

    Apia, Samoa • Since Mar 2011 • 22 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    Attributing the current actions to an oil grab is very counter-intuitive.

    Not going there Don, Obviously the ultimate protection of oil production (given that crude prices have been increasing as the situation has deteriorated) would surely be a factor in the decision to intervene, amongst numerous economic considerations. But to simplify it as such doesn’t seem to be the right tack. Based on this intervention, whatever is at stake in Libya could be perceived to be of more value to the UNSC than what Sudan had to offer. That Libya’s military is supplied by Brazil, China and Russia is surely relevant, as is the increase in gold and oil prices.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to Russell Brown,

    another Kosovo?*

    It would be good if the goals could be as well summed-up as “Serbs out, peacekeepers in, refugees back”, in the words of one NATO spokesman. Not sure if that’s the case though.

    which is far preferable to “another Bosnia”.

    Which was the risk.

    There are some very real differences here. The use of force by NATO in Kosovo was aimed at stopping ethnic cleansing. In particular:


    President Clinton, on March 24, 1999 stated that the objectives for the United States were :

    1. To demonstrate the seriousness of NATO’s opposition to [the Serb] aggression [against Kosovar Albanians] and [NATO’s] support for peace.
    2. To deter the Serbs from attacking helpless Kosovar Albanians and to make them [the Serbs] pay a price for their actions if they continued to do so.
    3. To damage Serbia’s capacity to wage war against Kosovo by seriously diminishing [Serbia’s] military capabilities.

    Just a few days later the NATO Secretary General gave these as objectives :

    1. Stop the killing in Kosovo
    2. End the refugee crisis; make it possible for them to return
    3. Create conditions for political solutions based on Ramboulliet Accord

    Now what happened was political considerations meant NATO gradually escalated the air war. But they never conducted a "Suppression of Enemy Air Defences" (SEAD) campaign meaning NATO air was kept about 15000 feet and was relatively ineffective against ground forces and let the Serbs accelerate their ethnic cleansing.

    In Libya there have been no such constraints and the Allies started with a SEAD campaign so now have air superiority across Libya.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    I'm quite surprised that a UN resolution for no-fly actually got through the security council.

    OK kids, here it is. Libya has a lot the magic stuff which makes all the machines go, and they're our friends because they give it to us for our machines.
    A little while back, the people in Libya had a disagreement over which one of them would be the one to give us the magic stuff. The guy who lost that argument blowed up some of the pipes that put the magic stuff in our big boats, so he's done now. We're just fixing things up, with some bombs.

    Since Nov 2006 • 610 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison, in reply to John Holley,

    In Libya there have been no such constraints and the Allies started with a SEAD campaign so now have air superiority across Libya.

    I'm not 100% sure but I think that's because the US now has the technology to take out radar-guided missile stations more accurately which they did not have back in the mid-90's. That forced the US to bomb from higher altitudes which lead to civilian casualties.

    One other very notable difference to back then is the relative ease with which the European's have reached a concensus on how to manage this intervention. Compare that to Bosnia and Kosovo where their squabbling delayed action for three years. They appear to have learnt that lesson.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Clint Fern, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    Don't think the europeans are entirely to blame for the timeframe in the Balkans. Action was also delayed in Bosnia because the Clinton administration had been burnt by the farcical operation in Somalia. Kosovo action only came to the top of the agenda after the Lewinsky affair broke, hence being known in some parts as the war of Bill's penis.

    I'm just hoping that the bombing isn't quite as poorly directed this time, OK civilians have already been hit (hopefully no cluster bombs this time), but if they bomb a Chinese target again there will be massive repercussions.

    Nelson • Since Jul 2010 • 64 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison, in reply to Clint Fern,

    Action was delayed in Bosnia was also delayed because the Clinton administration...

    It's true that Clinton needed some convincing - by Blair - but why people turned to the US was because the Europeans were incapable of acting themselves.

    Something else of interest is the role that Susan Rice, Samantha Power and Hilary Clinton have played in this. They all had first hand experience of dealing with Milosevic and now play important roles in Obama's foreign policy team.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to Clint Fern,

    Nope. NATO was the reason. The NATO targetting process was a nightmare along with a reluctance to risk allied aircraft. The USA, for example, deployed at great cost, a AH-64 SQN, but never used them due to the AD threat.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    The US/NATO did have the technology but terrain and weather made it harder. There was a belief from air power advocates that Warden's "Five Rings" theory would work and that Serbia could be brought to heel by air power alone - it wasn't until there was a threat of land invasion (NATO forces lined up on the border) that Serbia gave in.

    If anything, the campaign highlighted that air power alone cannot achieve strategic objectives. In Libya, allied air power is providing freedom of action to the rebels that they did not have until the no-fly zone was enforced.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • Clint Fern, in reply to John Holley,

    John, in general the bombing may have been a NATO issue but the Chinese embassy bombing was directed by the CIA - no I'm not a conspiracy nut, I'm taking the word of the agencys then director George Tenet.

    Neil, absolutely no dispute that the US was the only one with the air power to undertake the campaign. For all Blair's posturing the number of planes the British airforce could offer was miniscule.

    I'd also like to state I am not blaming the US for the situation in Libya either - Blair again should be shamed for his liaisons with Gaddafi. This is one dictator that the States has never cosied up to.

    Nelson • Since Jul 2010 • 64 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to Clint Fern,

    Chinese embassy is an outlier. It was the only CIA directed strike of the campaign, but Tenet never admitted that the CIA deliberately targeted the embassy. The circumstantial evidence relates to the fact that Chinese agents were buying up F117 parts from downed aircraft so there is a suspicion this may have been to counter their intel gathering, but you can read more at Wikipedia

    As an aside, the US provided around 70% of the aircraft used.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Clint Fern,

    This is one dictator that the States has never cosied up to.

    That used to be the case but the CIA has developed very close links with Libyan intel in recent years in the name of the War on Terror.

    The CIA-Qadhafi spy agency working relationship was so close the U.S. handed over to Libya some anti-Qadhafi Libyans captured in its campaign against terrorism. The relationship was so rosy, the Americans allowed Libyan agents to visit Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba to interrogate Libyan detainees.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    That used to be the case but the CIA...

    Getting intelligence from does not have to imply support for and I can't see any action of the Obama admin that suggests they supported Gaddafi and they have certainly not bought into Gaddafi's line that the Eastern-Libyian opposition is dominated by Islamic extremists.

    And it was info on Islamic extremists the US was being fed by Gaddafi. But they clearly have taken that with a grain of salt.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    But they clearly have taken it with a grain of salt.

    Always appreciate your insider info, Neil

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Clint Fern,

    This is one dictator that the States has never cosied up to.

    Sorta. In 2009 John McCain was all over Gaddafi, and wasn't alone, as Salon has pointed out:

    What McCain is apparently forgetting is that, apart from the past few weeks, the last decade has been a period of rapprochement between the United States and Libya. It started with President Bush announcing in 2003 that Gadhafi had agreed to give up his "weapons of mass destruction" programs. In 2006 Bush removed Libya from the official list of state sponsors of terrorism. In September 2008 Condoleezza Rice traveled to Libya to have talks with Gadhafi. And just a few days before the 2008 presidential election, Bush signed a settlement under which Libya compensated families of victims of Lockerbie and other '80s-era attacks.

    Who else was involved in the effort to forge better ties with Gadhafi? John McCain. In August 2009 he led a delegation of senators, including fellow hawks Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, on a trip to visit the Libyan leader in Tripoli. Discussed during the visit was delivery of -- get this -- American military equipment to Gadhafi (a man with American blood on his hands no less).

    "We discussed the possibility of moving ahead with the provision of non-lethal defense equipment to the government of Libya," the AP quoted McCain as saying at a press conference. McCain also noted that "ties between the United States and Libya have taken a remarkable and positive turn in recent years."

    There was certainly a good argument for some sort of rapprochement, but McCain's political amnesia -- he lately described Gaddafi as "insane" -- is fairly amazing.

    This is his (in)famous tweet from 2009:

    Late evening with Col. Qadhafi at his "ranch" in Libya - interesting meeting with an interesting man.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks,

    A perspective on Libya and the Left from Immanuel Wallerstein.

    … Helena Sheehan, an Irish Marxist activist, well-known in Africa for her solidarity work there with the most radical movements, was invited by the Qaddafi regime to come to Libya to lecture at the university. She arrived as turmoil broke out. The lectures at the university were cancelled, and she was finally simply abandoned by her hosts, and had to make her way out by herself. She wrote a daily diary in which, on the last day, Mar. 8, she wrote: “Any ambivalence about that regime, gone, gone, gone. It is brutal, corrupt, deceitful, delusional.”

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Clint Fern, in reply to John Holley,

    I think it'd be very charitable to believe that the embassy wasn't deliberately targeted.

    Thanks Russell & Simon for pointing out that I had been too charitable in suggesting the US hadn't cosied up to good ol' Mad Dog.

    I guess wherever there's a dictator you're sure to find members of the US congress, UK / French arms dealers or Ann Tolley doing a deal.

    Nelson • Since Jul 2010 • 64 posts Report Reply

  • Christiaan,

    Libya is a civil war. Like it or not Gaddafi has support.

    I understand why liberal interventionists are always so keen that "we do something" but why do they kid themselves that our powerful and power hungry Western leaders care about people in Benghazi. Our leaders couldn't care less. What they care about—and what the history of Western intervention in the Middle East has borne out—is their own narrow economic interests. And every time there's a new intervention the liberal interventionists are rolled out to explain how "we have a chance for a clean slate and it's going to be different this time," and "if it's the right thing to do, then who cares?"

    Liberal interventionists ignore the real reasons and are then either surprised by the consequences or jump in bed with conservatives who are jumping through hoops to re-write history (such as Kosovo, where we're told that the NATO intervention stopped ethnic cleansing instead of intensifying it).

    If liberal interventionists actually have principles beyond whatever intervention seems fashionable then why not intervention in Gaza? 2009 massacre of 1400 people anybody? <crickets>

    London, UK • Since Dec 2006 • 121 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks, in reply to Christiaan,

    I think most of the group of people you refer to as “liberal interventionists” would say that they are not at all happy about the hypocrisy of the UN’s approach to intervention. But why be against one justified case of intervention (if that’s what this is) because we happen not to be intervening in Gaza or what have you? And would you have approved of an intervention in Gaza if it could have prevented the 2009 massacre?

    Like it or not Gaddafi has support.

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting otherwise. Which side do you support, Christiaan?

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Pete,

    I get the impression that Obama wanted the wave of people-power revolutions in the Arab world not to be endangered and he acted quickly because the events have rolled out quickly. The people in the uprising look pretty damn disorganised as far as being an effective fighting force is concerned but they're getting plenty of practice.
    The US were the best armed for the initial strikes to take out anti-air systems (note British cruise missile contribution was 4% by weight) and seeing as Sarkozy is so damn keen to pull a post-Falklands Thatcher popularity trick I think that the next stage in the war will be for Obama to throttle back the US military to token levels and play brinksmanship with the Arab League saying- "you wanted it, you help enforce it".
    The Saudis have got plenty of US-supplied planes to do it.

    If I were more cynical I might suggest that the AL leave the French and British carrying the can but I'll shut up now in case someone calls me Ken bloody Ring

    Since Apr 2008 • 106 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Rees,

    "... the difference(s) between George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the current United Nations action in Libya ..."

    ... is George W Bush, surely?

    Wales • Since Nov 2006 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    Gaza? 2009 massacre of 1400 people anybody?

    If you can list any more of the missed opportunities for intervention Christiaan, it would surely help to build a broader picture as to what distinguishes the Libyan conflict from the other genocides of say the past decade. I'm certainly a little disconcerted that our two key points of reference here are Iraq and Kosovo. When we've recently seen 1000s killed in less visible or relevant yet comparable conflicts.

    If anything truly sticks out for me it's that here, for the first time in a decade, the US have total mandate to advance their WOT against a known terrorist leader and yet in another first, for whatever reason, aren't really nailing it.

    But why be against one justified case of intervention (if that’s what this is)

    To be fair to Christiaan, I don't think this is what it is. For my part it's more mystification as to what criteria necessitates intervention:

    A perception and hence suspicion of hypocricy or at least double standards.

    idealism, although not ideal is a necessity for progress.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

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