Eric,Why not, exactly?


Why not, exactly? Gaddafi has been there for more than forty years. Time for a change. The French have recognized the Libyan National Council as the transitional government of the country.

Why not?  I have been consistent on all of my points to date, but I do understand that this thread has been going on for 3 weeks now.  I will quote myself from earlier days:

The point that I am not doing a good job of expressing, is that when the common cause has been realized and Gadaffi is gone, the "resistance" is going to fracture and start fighting amongst themselves for control.  That is going to be even more horrible to watch, but we have to let the Libyans decide their own fate.
...Machiavellianism is the law of nature outside our Western bubble.  Of course we despise the idea, and wish to intervene to bring more modern concepts of social harmony that we enjoy in our world.  We don't have the stomach for violence.  We want to fast forward human history and see other nations be peaceful and democratic.  In the process, we become just another faction in the civil war.  We essentially become the kingmakers when we try to install peace.

In a nation still mired in tribalism, this might be a mistake.  Democracy is rather meaningless in the absence of pluralism.  People are going to vote according to ancient affiliations.  Democracy at that point becomes a census on tribal, ethnic, or sectarian populations.  This does not mean the winner is the most capable leader, or will not merely use the power for corruption and nepotism.  In this sense, Democracy can be seen as rather illegitimate, as it is simply the justification for doling out the wealth of a society to an overrepresented social network.  If ever there was a way to undermine the appeal of democracy, it would be to impose it upon a society that just isn't ready for it.

So, back we go to the question.  We are bringing our Western democratic biases into the paradigm of Libyan tribal warfare.  If you are going to intervene, what is your exit strategy?  Do you help one faction until they prove themselves to be just as barbaric as the ones you thought you were protecting them from?  Do you switch sides at that point?  Do you abandon the mission in failure and disgrace?  We helped the Bosnians against the Serbs, and then when they had the power they engaged in ethnic cleansing also.  We handed the keys of democratic leadership to Hamid Karzai and then he stole the next election right under our noses.  We liberated the Shi'ites from Saddam and sanctions, and they became our most vocal critics.  What are we getting ourselves into here?

Gadaffi is a monster, but what are the alternatives?  Who do we support instead?  In this particular affair, my opinion is that we stand back and let the Libyans fight it out.  Let the new king arise in the way that Darwin intended.  When the Libyans decide that they no longer want this type of system of deciding a ruler, perhaps they will give democracy a chance.  However, if we make it our moral crusade to stop the bloodshed, we are just delaying their national political development.

In Libya, who would we be "engaging".  We could topple Gadaffi with a flick of our wrist, but then what?  Are you suggesting that we merely help the resistence get rid of Gadaffi, and then withdraw as the rest of the civil war rages?  This is going to go on for years, I believe.  I also believe that it will resemble Somalia or Afghanistan in the sense that once "the opposition" defeated Said Barre or Mohammad Najibullah, the opposition fractured and began fighting amongst themselves for ultimate control.  In this instance the stakes are much higher, and so will be the level of violence.  The Lebanese slaughtered one another for 15 years over basically nothing.  Can you imagine how they would have fought if the winner would have claimed a mountain of oil wealth?

There are two options for the West.  Fold, or go "all in".  A limited intervention to remove Gadaffi is naive and myopic, and will accomplish basically nothing aside from establishing that the British and the French are still not above meddling in their former colonial playground of North Africa.

"Libya" is a geographical abstraction created by the Italians.  It is another example of the problems created by European colonialism.  There is no Libyan national consciousness in the same way there is a French or British national consciousness.  Libya is not a nation state, nor is it a state like America with an identity based on shared values, experience and struggle.

It is a collection of states bound together by the coincidence of the former extent of Italian control.  There is Tripolitania in the northwest, Fezzan in the southwest, and Cyrenaica in the east.  If Gadaffi had spread the wealth of Libya around evenly, there wouldn't be a problem.  However, he acted like he was doing the Benghazis a favor if he invested a little money in the east, but spared no expense on himself and his playboy sons.  The "Cyrenaicans" have a right to be disgusted by this, and have tremendous incentive to rebel and potentially "seceed from the union".  The majority of the nations natural assets are located beneath their feet.  If they can gain control of the oil leaving Tobruk, begin selling it, and begin buying weapons, I can't see them being interested in asserting control over the rest of the country, or even remaining in "Libya" itself.

The situation is very complex, and it could go anywhere.  The United Nations may well find itself with a few new members when this is all said and done.

I would advise you to harden your heart.  The score is 9-6 for the rebels, but this is a basketball game that just started.  The fall of Gadaffi will only mark the end of the first quarter.

Synopsis: there is no coherent opposition in Libya, no strong national institutions (like a national army or opposition parties) that can assert some authority over the country after the government falls, and the various factions will continue to fight until there is a clear winner and the society is exhausted.  The LPNTC that France recognized is a group of Benghazian intellectuals and former military leaders that does not have any authority--either real or perceived--outside that city itself.  I doubt the Warfallah tribe will obey them simply because they have been recognized by France.

Perhaps this is the legacy of the Bosnian conflict, where Europe agreed to intervene too late, that Europe has now intervened too early.  You won't like the idea, but you have to let them fight so that a leader can emerge.  Quite simply, Libya is not ready for democracy just yet.  This has nothing to do with the nature of the Libyan people, but everything to do with the way that Gadaffi operated the country.


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