Bill Fletcher’s Mea Culpa
I have to admit it, and I do so publicly, that I was wrong. I did not believe that the USA and their European allies were going to attack Libya. Please do not misunderstand me: I was clear that the USA and its European allies were quite capable of carrying out the attack and I was never fooled by their professions of morality. It is just that I thought that they understood the potential implications, from their own standpoint, of such an attack.
A few weeks ago, as the Libyan insurrection was under way, Secretary of Defense Gates suggested that it would be poor judgment for the USA to engage in another land war. I took this seriously, not at the level of morality, but more at the apparent realization within the US ruling elite of the potential financial and political costs involved in an intervention in Libya. Events, however, moved very quickly and in a different direction.
Let’s leave aside the hypocrisy of the attack on Libya. The ruling class in Bahrain is, along with their Saudi allies, crushing the peaceful opposition. The Yemeni allies of the USA are killing opponents. Yet the West chooses to focus on Libya.
Libya is in the midst of a civil war. It is one that pits a broad front of pro-democracy rebels against the irrational tyranny of Col. Qaddafi. The lack of coherent social movements and the vicious repression against peaceful protesters by Qaddafi’s regime led to a violent reaction that evolved into a full-blown insurrection.
While it appeared that the rebels were close to winning, they lacked organization and military training. Qaddafi’s forces, on the other hand, were well organized, well-equipped and obtained mercenaries. The rebels lost the initiative. Had there been a more significant split within Qaddafi’s forces, the rebels might have rolled onto victory but things did not play out that way.
The sabers that have been rattling around Libya by the West have been justified as not being about regime change or an outright invasion, but in order to enforce a cease fire. But this is a civil war. Leave aside the tyranny of Qaddafi, the bottom line is that this is a matter that the Libyan people must themselves address. While there is people-to-people support that can be offered to those fighting for democracy, the moment that governments get involved, things change, and often change quite dramatically, particularly when those governments are from the West.
I had an argument the other night with a good friend who was telling me that a US-led intervention was important to prevent Qaddafi from murdering thousands. My question to my friend is this: when has the US led an intervention, since World War II, that has actually addressed a humanitarian disaster and left the country independent and stronger than before they arrived? I know of no such examples and neither did my friend. If there was a genocide being prepared, along the lines of Rwanda 1994, I would still argue that the USA should not intervene unilaterally, but should be in support of an internationally recognized force.
Which, come to think about it, actually raises a few questions. The Arab League voted in favor of a no-fly zone but now says that they are against the attacks. This feels like a distinction without a difference. You cannot tell me that they passed a resolution in favor of a no-fly zone without thinking through the ramifications, particularly when the US and its European allies were making noises about military action.
Additionally, what about the African Union? Ironically, Libya was one of the principal founders of the African Union. Why was this matter not handled by the African Union? How did this fall to Obama to resolve?
It is far from certain where this intervention will end. Libya could find itself divided into an eastern and western zone. The rebels could go on the offensive. This could end up being a drawn out conflict. So, how long will the USA and its European allies remain involved? And toward what end.
We are told that we face budget deficits here in the USA and that, as a result, there is no money to do anything positive, yet there are resources to launch this aggressive attack. While the Obama administration may believe that this is a short-term venture, the facts on the ground may prove this to have been a major miscalculation. So, how does yet another war get funded?
We have witnessed an Arab democratic uprising spread WITHOUT the support of outside forces. And now the USA and its allies enter the fray potentially destabilizing the situation, including giving opportunists in North Africa and the Middle East (such as Iran’s President Ahmadinejad) a credible (but false) argument that the revolts are actually the work of the West.
How foolish. How arrogant.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president ofTransAfrica Forum and co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice(University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA. Click here to contact Mr. Fletcher.