Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Lessons from Libya - and Caroline Lucas on ethical foreign policy

As the battle for Tripoli continues, the Gadaffi regime appears to be tottering towards collapse, but huge question marks remain over the future of Libya. The western backed rebels are a loose and contradictory confederation of tribal, political and religious interests; and the intervention of Britain and France in particular in the bombing of the country, which has been largely ascribed as the crucial factor in the rebels' success, is likely to be one requiring payback from any new government. Britain alone has fired over £250,000,000 worth of missles and bombs into a country that last year the Con Dem Government was happy to sell almost as much "crowd control" equipment to, while the British SAS trained the Leader's elite guards (though maybe not so well as it has turned out).

Like Iraq, Libya is one of the few Arab states with a large public sector, boasting clean water, free education (for males and females) and health services unrivalled in the rest of the region. Along with state controlled industries, these are now ripe for the capitalist "liberation" of the economy which has so often gone hand in hand with supposed political liberation in the history of US and UK military intervention. With the rebels already hundreds of millions of euros in debt to the EU for loans to cover their war effort, the level of western influence and pressure on any new administration to comply with European demands for access to the Libyan economy is already massive. Oil is perhaps less of an issue, as it was already substantially in western hands. But public sector privatisation and the sanctioning of the Desertec solar array plan, which Gadaffi's regime opposed, are clearly tempting prospects for western business interests.

While an overwhelming number of British parliamentarians have meekly gone along with Britain's military role, which far exceeded any "mission to protect civilians", Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas, was one of just 15 MPs who voted against the intervention (compared to 557 in favour). Today, she has issued a statement which, while welcoming the fall of Gadaffi, warns the West not to intervene, but rather that the Libyans be allowed to run their country free from external interference.

But the lessons from Libya Caroline Lucas calls for include acting on the need for a greater ethical dimension in British Foreign and trade policies - both the last and current British governments happily engaged with Gadaffi in return for cash. And while Deputy PM Nick Clegg talked about Britain aiding freedom in Arab states earlier this week, the same Government he leads with David Cameron just weeks ago happily hosted the Crown Prince of Bahrain, whose regime brutally crushed protests and calls for democracy earlier this year. And who can forget Cameron's opportunistic appearance in Egypt's Tahrir Square at the head of a delegation of arms merchants?

British Governments have to practice what they preach; for now, their policy reeks of the rank stench of rotten hypocrisy and self-serving sanctimony.

Caroline Lucas' full statement can be read here.

Kill all you like - Cameron & the Crown Prince, batting for British business in Bahrain


  1. Some leading Greens backed intervention - http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/03/10/if-libyan-rebels-want-it-why-arent-we-calling-for-a-no-fly-zone-too/

    “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” George Orwell

  2. Indeed; except that what was created was not a no-fly-zone, which I supported myself. Rather, NATO used that as cover for very proactive intervention, not merely preventing the Libyan airforce from flying, but attacking ground troops, bombing targets across Libya - even now. Bear in mind that so much ordinance was dropped on Libya that NATO ran out of bombs and had to borrow more from Germany. The result is that, even when Gadaffi was offering talks and the rebels were refusing, NATO continued to support the rebels war, breaking the UN resolution. Gadaffi was a bad man no doubt; but the groups that are now set to tear Libya apart could have been brought to the negotiating table by NATO several months ago and an ordered transition agreed - but now, the war continues, many have died in the intervening weeks, and there is no guarantee at all that what comes next will in any way be better for Gadaffi other than better for western business interests.

  3. So you support intervention, albeit limited to a no-fly zone. There are never any any guarantees that new governments will be better than the tyrants they replace - but they are more likely to listen to us, having helped them with proactive intervention. Don't see why the '51constitution that established a federal state, can't be brought back. The rebels are waving the flag and pictures of the late King Muhammad Idris.

    Gadaffi was good for western business interests too.

  4. O wrote in the past tense; Supported. I am not against interventions in all cases and had the nfz been confined to what it was meant to be, or even the wider concept of protecting citizens (on both sides), I may have continued to support the idea. The UN resolution agreed the intervention specifically and explicitly to force a negotiatied settlement, but instead NATO has participated on the rebels side with gusto, even running out of bombs at one point. It continued to support their aggression when they refused offers of negotiation from the regime and now, far from protecting the citizens of Sirte, NATO is busy bombing the town to soften it up for the rebels attack.

    The result is that the NTC itself reckons the damage done to Libya's infrastructure will take at least a decade to repair - I wonder who will get the rebuilding contracts?

    The West's intervention has extended the war rather than shorten it, and left the rebels with no dynamic to either prevent their own revenge or to hold them together in the way that pushing them to negotiate could have.

  5. On a "business case" for western interests seeking regime change, check this link: http://viridislumen.blogspot.com/2011/06/libya-solars-missing-link.html

    And on providing proactive support to court the rebels favour, that was never approved by the UN and so any such war would be/ is illegal.