Libya Is Europe’s Job

As conditions continue to deteriorate in Libya and the prospect of a bloody, protracted internecine conflict looms greater everyday, the question of outside assistance to end the conflict and to end the rule of Muammar Qadhafi increasingly enters the conversation. Inevitably, the possibility of the United States taking a lead role in whatever response the international community conjures is among the potential solutions. Thrusting the United States into a leadership role would be a mistake. Doing something about the unfolding tragedy in Libya is Europe’s job. The United States may be a part of the effort, but in a supportive, not a lead role.

Why should Europe lead? In mulling the situation from afar, I can think of four very obvious answers, although there may well be more: Europe is closer, it has historic ties to Libya, the beneficiaries of Libyan oil are mostly European, and any refugees who cannot be absorbed by Egypt or Tunisia are going to head for Europe. Let’s examine each of these for a moment.

The first point is proximity. Sicily and the toe of the the Italian boot are only several hundred miles from Libya. This means, for instance, that if the international community (in this case, effectively NATO) decides to do something militarily about Libya, Italy and Spain are logical launching points, especially for air strikes that are likely the first (and possibly only) form that direct intervention will take: non-American NATO forces can do that job much better than U.S. carrier-based aircraft. So let them!

Proximity is more than geography. Libya is economically tied to Europe much more closely than it is to the United States. Italy receives more Libyan exports than any other country (approximately 38 percent of Libyan exports are to Italy), and Libya’s other top five trading partners are, according to CIA Factbook figures, Germany, France, Spain, and Switzerland; the United States finishes a distant sixth in receiving exports from Libya. The pattern of Libyan imports is similar, headed by Italy and Germany, in that order. The U.S. has no personal economic stake in Libya.

Second, Libya and Europe share history not shared with the United States. Other than a line from the Marine Corps hymn (“to the shores of Tripoli”) associated with the Barbary pirates during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, all lines tie Libya to Europe. Notably, Italy occupied the country from 1912 until World War II, and France and Great Britain shared mandatory responsibility after WW II. Presumably these experiences give Europeans a sense of understanding of Libya that we lack (although ignorance has rarely stopped us from bumbling into situations aboyut which we have no clue, e.g. Iraq and Afghanistan).

Third, about all that is important about Libya is its oil, and the United States doesn’t get hardly any of it. Petroleum IS the Libyan economy: 95 percent of its export income comes from oil, as does 25 percent of its GDP and 80 percent of government revenues (2009 estimates from the CIA). As import/export figures indicate, the oil goes to Europe; this suggests who should be primarily worried about it.

Fourth, there is the question of refugees. The flow has already begun, but is mostly foreigners (especially Egyptian) petroleum industry workers fleeing the war. If the conflict drags on and/or if there are increasing recriminations, that flow will almost certainly increase and include Libyans, and there is no indication that either neighboring Egypt or Tunisia can or will absorb them. If not, where will they go? You guessed it: Europe, and especially Italy, which is no longer a small craft voyage away from north Africa than, say, south Florida is from Haiti. These refugees cannot get to the United States unless we invite and transport them, which we almost certain will not do. The only wayto avoid the flood is for a reasonably quick resolution that includes the overthrow of Qadhafi. It is not hard to determine whose interests are particularly served by a quick resolution.

There are also good reasons for the United States NOT to take the lead. The most obvious is overcommitment. The United States is, after all, already mired in two Middle Eastern wars that are sapping American military and economic resources. Do we need a third war? Granted, intervention meets the recent criteria for such involvement: instability in a country where we lack either knowledge or understanding, but the negatives are overwhelming. Even the most feckless, clueless chicken hawks can hardly drag out the tried-and-proven “soft on national security” argument here; the United States does not have a sufficient dog in this hunt to even imagine sticking out military nose in the middle of this one. Europeans arguably do.

There is yet another reason for us to stay in the background that is seldom mentioned, probably because it is a bit embarassing. In recent days, as the Libyan armed forces have stepped up attacks on civilians, there have been increasing calls to capture and try Col. Qadhafi as a war criminal, presumably before the International Criminal Court (ICC or War Crimes Court). Great idea, and almost certainly justified, but if the international community is going to do so, it is best to have the Americans in the background, not up front.

Why? Simply because the United States not only is not a member of the ICC, but was (particularly under the neo-conservative influenced Bush White House) positively opposed to acceptance of the jurisdiction against Americans (on the grounds that the U.S. would lose sovereign control of its own soldiers). In this circumstance, how can the United States be the champion of bringing Qadhafi to justice before a tribunal whose jurisdiction we refuse to accept without appearing hopelessly hypocritical? The question is not rhetorical: the reason George W. Bush cancelled his plans to go to Switzerland earlier in the year was because he might well have been arrested on war crimes charges and potentially been brought before the ICC for actions taken by the United States in Iraq and at Guantanamo. The Europeans do not have the same problem.

The case for European, not American, leadership in dealing with Libya is, in my judgment, overwhelming. That does not mean that European NATO will step up to the plate and accept that responsibility, simply that they should. If they do not (as they well may not), Libyan blood will be much more on their hands than ours.

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2 Responses to “Libya Is Europe’s Job”

  1. Let them kill each other, thats in America’s best interest.

  2. Libya and Colonialism
    Hasnain Imam
    Are we being duped? Yes we are being duped.
    What happened in Libya is no surprise. After Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and the others, it was clear that public discontent with old and repressive Middle East regimes was spreading faster than fire in dry grass. It should be noted that all these repressive regimes were openly supported by the Western Powers including the European Union. The Western leaders are now speaking about rebuilding Libya. These open ended promises may, or may not, metamorphose into a new colonial involvement in Africa. The main parties to this issue are the British and the Italian governments. They have a major stake in the Libyan Oil industry. Till yesterday the rogue turned friend Ghadafi was being courted by the British and was being supplied with weapons to suppress his people but today he is being touted as the biggest rogue in the Middle east.
    The so-called opposition has been named as “Interim National Council”. Who is the projected leader? An unknown lecturer Guma El-Gamaty in the Grafton College of Management Studies. Who has found him capable of leading a country? The British. Do the people of Libya recognize him or is he just one of the MI6 operatives being groomed for the job? Libyan politics depends mainly on tribal alliance so to which brig tribe does this man belong? The same is true for Shammam and Mahmoud Jabril whom America is courting. Dr. Abdulmonem Hresha ios said to be a prominent figure of Muslim Brotherhood in Libya. He taught physics at the University of Tripoli but was exposed as a Western plant in the Muslim Brother so he escaped to Canada and is now living in Britain. Now the west regards his organization as a terrorist set up so how come he is being sheltered instead of being arrested for the crimes of his organization? It is strange that the Western powers still believe that they can replace on tyrant with another stooge in any country they wish and call it a democratic government. From the Shah of Iran to Muammar Ghadafi the western powers have supported only tyrants. Even today they are blinded to the massacre in Bahrain by their supporter the Khalifa family who are in the minority but with the explicit support of the Western powers and the Wahhabi Arabs led by Saudi Arabia is able to crush the majority of the population who happened to be Shia Muslims.
    By fomenting regime changes in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria and Libya the US government is securing a safe passage for gulf and central Asian oil via the Atlantic to its shores. Democracy as we all know now is the rule of the industrial powers with the help of the corrupt officials over the un-suspecting majority. American forces are already stationed in the Gulf States, Central Asia and Egypt and so the oil is secure. A monopoly over the oil reserves of the world is slowly but surely being established. The growing economies of the third world will soon have to buy oil from this Western cartel at whatever rate its fixes. This however, cannot be done without the commitment of ground troops and this is where the strategic partners of the Western powers like Pakistan, India, and Indonesia will have to commit themselves. The citizens of the US and its allies are not amenable to the idea of body bags of their sons coming home. They do accept the idea , at least to some extent, that their countries are fighting the “bad guys” but now they wonder that such powerful forces as theirs have not been able to establish “:good guys” under a democratic set up in Iraq and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda remains undefeated after nearly a decade.
    In Libya, the rebels on the eastern side are free while the main oppression is on those who live in the west side controlled by Ghadafi so why are they being bombed? Al-Amin Bilhaj and Kemal el Helbawy two other Muslim Brotherhood’s so-called leaders are now also stationed in Britian. Yusuf al Qaradawi — an Egyptian preacher in Qatar widely viewed as the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief spiritual guide — issued a fatwa or religious ruling obliging any Libyan soldier who had the opportunity to do so to assassinate the leader. Qatar is another protectorate of the Western powers. This makes one thing very clear and that this regime change was being planned from the time the Muslim Brotherhood (Libya) was compromised by the British Intelligence services and they were instrumental in bringing Ghadafi close to Britain. This was the great betrayal of the aspirations of the people of Libya. These people are helping the colonization of Libya in the name of democracy. It should also be noted that Muslim Brotherhood is a Wahhabi organization financed to a large extent by Saudi Arabia and its gulf allies. The same will be the case in Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria. Muslim Brotherhood will support the so the new so-called democratic governments in these countries. The Passage of oil to the western countries is now ensured.
    But why are Europe and the US so anxious to overturn Gadhafi after more than 40 years? It seems mighty strange that the “Allied” forces were able to act so quickly on this one. The quick action indicates preplanning that has been going on for weeks. If the agenda is to stop the killing of protestors protesting dictators and their corrupt reigns, then why not make it a clean sweep of it everywhere throughout the entire world? What is the major difference between Qaddafi and all the other dictators throughout the world that requires such immediate action now? When Israeli aircraft and missiles are used against civilians in Lebanon or Gaza, I don’t see the West threatening anything at all — no embargo, nothing to prevent Israel from flying and bombing, and surely no attack on tanks or armored vehicles used to kill civilians. More than 20,000 civilians have died in such attacks.
    According to Seymour Hersh a group of radical neoconservatives hijacked US foreign policy agenda in order to pursue a crusade of the ancient order similar to those back in 1096-1099. The objective is “to change mosques into cathedrals. That is the attitude pervades a large percentage of the Joint Special Operation Command (JSOC)” (Foreign Policy dated 18 January 2011).
    Hersh went on to disclose that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC before becoming the top US commander in Afghanistan and his successor Vice Adm William McRaven as well as many within JSOC ” are all members of Knights of Malta.” The Knights of Malta dates back to the 11th century. Its mission is to avenge Islam and Muslims for the decline of Christianity. It is a sovereign entity that has diplomatic relations with more than 80 nations.
    Are we being duped through democracy? Yes , there is not an iota of truth in what the Western powers are saying.

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