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Our Blood and Treasure, for Britain and France

They have strategic interests and defined objectives in Libya. We do not.

by
Abraham H. Miller

Bio

March 23, 2011 - 12:00 am

There is not a no-fly zone over Zimbabwe, where an oppressive dictator capriciously murders its citizens while condemning them to a life of poverty. There is not a no-fly zone over Bahrain, where the Saudi National Guard is reinforcing a regime shooting its people in the streets. There is not a no-fly zone over Yemen, which is also shooting demonstrators. There is not a no-fly zone over Syria, where the Assad dynasty is once again killing the opposition, and where decades earlier — without a hiccup from the international community — it destroyed the entire city of Hama to suppress an uprising.

None of the pious rationales for intervention in Libya seem to square remotely with the way in which the international community generally, and the United States specifically, deals with tyrants.

Just days prior to our intervention in Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was before the cameras admonishing everyone that no-fly zones don’t work, using Iraq as a case in point.

So what changed?

If we are to believe Andrea Mitchell, the Arab League convinced Hillary Clinton to persuade the administration to bring down the murderous Libyan dictator. This explanation is so comical that it should be a skit for Saturday Night Live. The Arab League is made up of some of the most ruthless, oppressive, and illegitimate regimes on the planet. The league is best-known for issuing the infamous “Three Nos of Khartoum,” condemning Israel for its very existence, and lobbing fiercely just weeks ago for a UN human rights accolade for the same Libyan dictator it asserts that it now wants to remove from power.

Persuaded by the Arab League, so the story goes, Hillary Clinton found an ally in UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and these “courageous women” joined forces to get the administration to support the UN no-fly zone.

This tale of the Arab League and Hillary Clinton seems to be one of those typical contrived leaks for which Washington is famous. Indeed, within twenty-four hours, the Arab League shifted sides, and is now condemning the Western powers for the fierce bombing.

Libya has a no-fly zone because the British and French want Libyan oil, and they no longer view the ever-bellicose and irrational Moammar Gaddafi as a responsible partner. Nations have interests. They do not have friends. They have allies as a matter of ephemeral convenience.

When CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt reinstalled the Palavi dynasty in Iran after the CIA-sponsored coup that eliminated Mohammed Mossadegh, among Mohammed Palavi’s first acts was to replace the Anglo-French oil companies with American oil companies.

If Zimbabwe had oil, it too might get a no-fly zone.

Britain is so desperate for drilling rights in Libya that it engineered the release and repatriation of the Libyan bomber of Pan American Flight 103, ignoring international outrage. France is one of the major importers of Libyan oil, and France accepted trivial compensation for a Libyan mid-air bombing of one its flights, UTA 772. The incident, like Pan Am 103, was settled by Gaddafi’s government paying monetary compensation to the victims’ families.

After tolerating the murder of its citizens in order to get access to Libya’s  easily refined oil, Britain and France saw in Libya’s uprising the handwriting on the wall. Gaddafi might end up on the scrap heap of history, and what Britain and France needed was a new Libyan partner.

With Britain and France ostensibly standing up for the “democratic” opposition and the media bringing the visual horror of Gaddafi’s words and deeds to the world, the Obama administration could not continue to sit on the sidelines. Yet the media has been beating the drums over the “democratic” opposition, but there has been no real analysis of what the opposition will bring to the political process, if they do win.

In the meantime, Hillary Clinton’s earlier warning that no-fly zones are ineffectual because they don’t stop troops and tanks has been superseded in this conflict by the French. Their air force has been doing more than just keeping Libyan planes out of the air. They shot up Libyan tanks and armor, carving out seemingly new rules of engagement without objection, until the Arab League began to complain.

If the Arab League wanted to stop Gaddafi, they didn’t have to wait until his forces were near victorious, nor did they really need the West to carry out the attacks. Egypt and Saudi Arabia alone could have defeated Gaddafi, but ultimately they had no desire to do so. What they had was the desire to rhetorically enter the fray and to posture appropriately for the international community when it appeared Gaddafi would win. After all, the continual fall of Arab tyrants and despots threatens the Arab League itself, an organization comprised of despots and tyrants.

Obama has dragged us into yet another endless war in the Islamic world, a war where the military mission is clear, as it was in the early days of Iraq, and where the strategy and endgame are totally undefined. Britain’s and France’s strategic interests in this conflict are unambiguous. America’s?  They are no clearer than they are in Zimbabwe and a host of other places where people are wantonly oppressed and killed by tyrants.

Obama’s ineptitude made him an easy patsy for the strategic interests of Britain and France. American blood and treasure will be needlessly spilled because we have elected a president who is too disengaged to lead and too naive to understand the consequences of his actions.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science and a former head of the Intelligence Studies Section of the International Studies Association.
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