Libya: The stalemate that the West fears – writes Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

Indications are clear that the powerful states of the West have chosen to wear their military prowess like a badge even though it is not helping solve the crisis that made them rush into Libya more than a month ago.

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The admission by the US Admiral Mike Mullen that the Libyan situation is reaching a stalemate confirms what some of us foresaw at the very initial stages of the armed rebellion against the Gaddafi regime and wrote on. We are not surprised that it has taken the US (and maybe, its European and Arab League allies) so long to recognize this reality.

These are forces that know nothing but flexing their military muscle as they rush into crises that they least comprehend. It is for this reason that the US is sending its sophisticated unmanned armed Predator drones to add to the already heavy artillery lined up against the pro-Gaddafi forces despite the clear signs of the fighting not producing any winner. Obviously, this addition will not provide the solution for the crisis.

These powerful countries in the West trust their military capabilities and the devastating impact of their military arsenal so much that they easily become impervious to reason in their madness to unleash such sophisticated weapons on less powerful countries whose people’s only weapon for self defence is their will to die for their countries or the political causes that have sustained them all this while. These are the people who stoically bear the brunt of massive devastation but still press on to defend their national interests with an unbendable will until the invading forces retreat in disgrace. The US ran away from Somalia in 1994 despite its superior armaments and it doesn’t want to return there ever.

Happenings in Libya (and elsewhere) confirm how these Western powers have been deaf to all entreaties to use options other than the military one to resolve crises in other people’s countries. In the end, they realize the futility of their stubbornness only after the fact. Sadly, though, they don’t even learn any lesson from such experiences and easily repeat such follies in later events.

From the resilience of the Libyan government forces—even in the face of the thousands of destructive daily sorties made by NATO that has destroyed between 30% and 40% of the Libyan government’s ground forces and military/civilian infrastructure—we can tell that the stalemate that the West fears is at hand. It will take more than the military option to break the back of such forces. The truth is that the flexing of military muscle won’t intimidate or cow such a determined people into submission. They have a lot more to concretize their resistance than the West knows. Let me refer to only one major source of inspiration for these pro-Gaddafi forces to substantiate my claim.

The history of Libya is replete with that country’s resistance to foreign domination or interference in its internal affairs. The pride with which Libyans recall their ancestors’ battles with such foreign powers as Italy, Britain, and France is a motivation for anything they do today that ties in with that record. Having before defeated Italy and Britain, especially in the pre-independence era, the Libyans fighting in support of Gaddafi know that history will always repeat itself and be on their side. The accomplishments of Omar Moukhtar and all other martyrs serve useful purposes and encourage today’s pro-government forces to position themselves in a similar confrontation with the very forces that their ancestors had defeated. Such a resolute people are not easy to defeat.

On the other hand, the West (particularly Britain, Italy, and France) has nothing but a dark past to haunt it as it continues to force history to repeat itself all too soon in Libya. The Benghazi rebels are not as determined as the pro-Gaddafi forces are; nor are they impelled by patriotism to kick Gaddafi out of office. They are driven more by personal ambitions and a common hatred for Gaddafi, which will not produce any enduring motivation for them to engage in a long-lasting battle with the pro-Gaddafi forces without any backing from the West.

The European powers (especially Britain, France, and Italy) should bow their heads in shame for their colonization of Africa—a crime that no sane African will recollect with glee. These countries have a long history of intimidation and exploitation behind everything they do, especially in Africa. They may see their involvement in the Libyan crisis as an extension of what they had done in the past. Others will see their current operations as a modern-day form of limited colonialism.

The involvement of the United States, however, raises the importance of history to a whole new level. It seems those in power in that country don’t want to learn any useful lesson that the history of their involvement in other people’s internal affairs or their heavy reliance on military firepower alone teaches them. Let me raise a few instances to prove why the involvement of the US in the Libyan crisis (to the extent as to deploy new forms of military hardware with more precise devastating capabilities) is intriguing.

The US might not be guilty of the crimes that the European powers committed when they colonized other parts of the world but it is also culpable for the negative fallouts from its colonialist agenda, however limited it might be. In fighting Mexico to annex the part that is called Texas and in dislodging Spain from the Philippines, the US entered a new era of imposing its will on other people.

Then, in rushing to the Korean Peninsula to take sides, it succeeded in establishing itself there after overseeing the division of Korea into two (North Korea, which it regards as a pariah state and does everything to undermine; and South Korea, which is its pet to be propped up with every form of assistance). Since 1953, these two Koreas have been at each other’s throat and destabilized that part of the world—which the US relishes for its own ideological or psychological warfare purposes.

The US has ulterior motives for establishing its presence in the Korean Peninsula. Of course, seeking to win the ideological war with China, its proximity to China is regarded as a blessing. South Korea provides that window through which to peek into Chinese secrets and also serves as the launching pad for military hardware churned out by the US’ military-industrial complex, which nourishes the US economy. No doubt, no one is looking for a political or diplomatic solution to the Korean crisis, apparently because solving that problem means a loss of a vital nerve-center and the opportunity for the US to rake in profits.

The presence of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan has implications that are too fresh for me to recount. We all know what motives drove the US to launch its “Operation Shock-and-Awe” in Iraq in March 2003 even though the main cause of irritation was Afghanistan that had provided a safe haven for Osama Bin-Laden and his terrorist group.

The massive destruction that Iraq suffered and the fact that the country is not fully back on its feet after the main objective (disposing of Saddam Hussein) had been achieved, the award of contracts for rebuilding Iraq to US companies, and the main US fighting forces pulled out should tell us how the US profited from the crisis in that country. Then, the shift to Afghanistan and the intended withdrawal of the US forces by July this year (even though the country hasn’t got back to its feet yet) should also tell us how the US handles affairs in regard to the conflicts that it either creates or rushes into, thinking that the best and most immediate solution is the military option.

For the US’ Barack Obama, the writing is clear on the wall already. According to a New York Times report, “Americans are more pessimistic about the nation’s economic outlook and overall direction than they have been at any time since President Obama’s first two months in office, when the country was still officially ensnared in the Great Recession, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.” The report has it that “The dour public mood is dragging down ratings for President Obama” (April 22, 2011).

Some arguments suggesting that by ushering the US into the Libyan crisis, Obama was proving his critics wrong that he couldn’t be a “war hawk” are as absurd as one can’t imagine. What does Obama think committing the US financial and material resources to fight a losing battle in Libya will add to his dwindling political fortunes? Or is he so naïve as not to know that he was elected into office to solve the existential problems of the American people and not to perpetuate the war-mongering image of the US that the country’s activities in many parts of the world have created?

If the International Coalition’s main aim for entering the fighting in Libya was to solve a humanitarian crisis in the early days of the uprising, later developments seem to discount that objective. Certainly, that aim seems to have vanished with the new dimensions that the military option has assumed to confirm fears that the West has ulterior motives for being in Libya.

In broad daylight, the West is undertaking a military venture that will not end the Libyan crisis soon or be the acceptable solution that the Libyans need to contain the so-called Gaddafi nuisance. Better solutions through political and diplomatic means are beckoning; but will the West see them clearly enough to use?

Continued in the next installment

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