Libya: NATO sets dangerous precedent

It is very likely that the days of Moammar Gadaffi’s regime are numbered. Rebel troops, backed by massive NATO bombing raids, have broken through to Tripoli, the Libyan capital. The NATO intervention has been decisive, and that should trouble us.

Had the people of Libya risen up entirely on their own, without outside intervention, and overthrown Gadaffi, he would have had nobody to blame but himself. After a promising start when he overthrew the monarchy of King Idris in 1969, Gadaffi and his colleagues wasted the opportunity to build truly democratic and progressive institutions for their oil and gas rich country. Instead, they chose an individualistic and repressive style of rule, which ended up antagonizing many Libyans and their neighbors. This is why, when Resolution 1973, which authorized armed action to create a no-fly zone in Libya, was introduced in the United Nations Security Council, neither Russia nor China saw fit to use their vetoes. Even though there were warnings that the no-fly zone could easily morph into massive military intervention, they opted to abstain.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was set up after the Second World War, with three goals, according to its first Secretary General, British Field Marshall Lord Ismay: “To keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.” The last goal was soon abandoned, as the newly rebuilt West German armed forces were deemed essential for NATO’s operations.

“Keeping the Russians out” turned out to involve, also, sinister interference in their internal affairs of NATO countries. In France, Italy, Greece and elsewhere, NATO set up secret “stay behind” organizations whose purpose was supposedly to resist a Soviet conquest, but who engaged in illegal activities aimed against the left. In Italy, these entities carried out bloody acts of provocation. In Greece, they were implicated in the coup d’état of 1967 and the resulting dictatorship.

In 1955, the Soviet Union and its allies formed the Warsaw Pact as a counter to NATO. But from 1987 to 1991, the socialist governments in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe collapsed, taking the Warsaw Pact with them. Logically, NATO should have been disbanded too. Rather, it started looking for a “new mission,” which turned out to be projecting force, in the interests of the Western powers and international monopoly capital, to areas of the world far from the “North Atlantic.” The disintegration of Yugoslavia brought it into the Balkans. The Afghanistan War brought it into Central Asia. And now it is in Africa.

The double standard of NATO intervention is striking. There have been uprisings in the Kingdom of Bahrain, also violently repressed: Why just pious words and no intervention there? And in many ways Saudi Arabia is a more repressive and despotic regime than is Gadaffi’s Libya; why no NATO destabilization efforts? The leaders of the main NATO countries seek to portray it as an “international organization” working for “world peace” and “democracy.” Yet when a wide range of institutions, nations and individuals, ranging from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to the African Union, and including China, Russia, India and other large and important states, called for a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement in Libya, they were contemptuously brushed aside. And it remains to be seen what kind of “democracy” will now be created in Libya.

Libya has massive oil, natural gas and water reserves, and has used its wealth to become a financial powerhouse in African affairs. It has provided development aid to a number of the smaller, poorer African states, thereby, along with China, giving them an alternative to dependency on the former colonial powers, France and Britain. Libya’s presence in African affairs included, also, illegitimate interference, and was not liked by the African left. Will the poor African countries, formerly recipients of Gadaffi’s sometimes dubious largesse, now find themselves completely at the mercy of their former colonial oppressors, who, in exchange for any aid or even trade, impose the notorious neoliberal program of “free” trade, privatization and austerity?

The precedent set by the Libya intervention is also very dangerous. Governments who have friction with the United States have taken note: Venezuela, for example, has announced that it is going to repatriate its gold reserves, in part probably so that these reserves can not be seized by the United States, the United Kingdom or others, as Libya’s assets were seized and then handed over to the rebels.

Building up NATO as a bogus “international organization” to project force all over the world must be opposed. Rather, we should demand that our leaders work to strengthen, rather than undermine, genuine international organizations, such as the United Nations, which work for peaceful solutions to humanity’s problems.

Photo: BRQ Network // CC 2.0


Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Emile Schepers was born in South Africa and has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He has worked as a researcher and activist in urban, working-class communities in Chicago since 1966. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He now writes from Northern Virginia.