What an utter disaster. The military intervention in Libya hasn’t ended in disaster.
What are we to do? There are Arabs on the streets of Tripoli praising, not condemning, the west. Praising them I tell you. For goodness sake. What happened to our world view? It’s been obscured by the joyous crowds thronging Green Square.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. We were promised a quagmire. Or at the very least, a good old fashioned stalemate.
Gaddafi has been overthrown. Yes, I know when Tony Blair strode into his tent and flashed that winning smile we condemned him as an evil dictator and neo-con puppet. Gaddafi, that is, not Blair. But that was back then, when the golden rule was Tony’s friend is my enemy. Didn’t you get the memo? That’s been superseded; now it’s Cameron and Sarkozy’s enemy is my friend.
“At its most rapacious, the British empire produced David Camerons in job lots”, wrote Jon Pilger back in April, “Unlike many of the Victorian ‘civilisers’, today’s sedentary Westminster warriors – throw in William Hague, Liam Fox and the treacherous Nick Clegg – have never been touched by the suffering and bloodshed which, at remove in culture and distance, are the consequences of their utterances and actions”. Just for good measure, he added, “Remember that when you next take to the streets in your hundreds of thousands, as you must”.
I most certainly will. As I march to demand the resignation of David Cameron, and the immediate re-instatement of Libya’s patrician Colonel, the chant “What do we want? An end to Westminster’s sedentary warriors? When do we want it? Now!”, will echo from my lips. I don’t think they’ll quite understand what I’m up to in Benghazi. But what do they know?
This is not a police action or a liberation. It’s an imperialist invasion. “Nato’s intervention in Libya is a threat to the Arab revolution”, warned Seamus Milne in the Guardian, “only when Nato and its bagmen are forced to leave Libya can Libyans truly take control of their own country”.
Damn straight. OK, some could argue Gaddafi’s tank divisions and AK47 toting henchman were a bit of a threat to the Arab spring as well. But that’s a mere detail. Get those troops out now.
Actually, there aren’t any NATO troops in Libya to get out. But there might be. Just ask Seamus; “The British government’s refusal to rule out sending troops to take part in a ‘stabilisation operation’ is an ominous sign of where Libya may be heading. And if Libyans end up with the kind of democracy foisted on Iraq and Afghanistan, courtesy of their western advisers, that will be no liberation at all”. Absolutely. If there’s one lesson we learnt from Iraq it’s on no account have a stabilisation plan ready for when the fighting’s over.
But learn the lessons we must. Because Iraq truly was the war to end all wars. It is written in stone. Or blood.
Every military and foreign policy initiative must now be run through the prism of that catastrophe. We cannot look at Libya in isolation. It is not an individual state, shaped by its own unique domestic and geo-political currents. Instead it is the extension of a morality play, one whose heroes and villains are reassuringly well defined.
So here we have one more example of western adventurism. Even though Barack Obama spent most of the crisis doing a passable impression of `Neville Chamberlin. We’ve seen another attempt to corrupt the drive for Arab self-determination. Despite the fact the operation was endorsed by the Arab League. The political and military warmongers have triumphed yet again. Even though the generals spent most of their time briefing the operation was impossible to sustain, and the politicians most of theirs wondering how the hell they were going to pay for it.
The fall of Gaddafi could, indeed, should be a moment for rejoicing. A dictator has been overthrown. As the Arab spring turns to autumn another domino has tumbled.
But that would be a betrayal. It would mean surrendering the legacy of Fallujah and Baghdad. Acknowledging there is still a place for “hard” rather than “soft” power. Accepting the “Blair Doctrine” is alive and well.
On the streets of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria people continue to pay the ultimate price to secure their freedom. And we will stand in solidarity with them. So long as we are not asked to give too much. In particular, our iron clad liberal certainties and comfortable progressive pre-conceptions.
We can accept disaster in Libya. We can come to turns with a stalemate. But success? Sorry. That’s just too hard to stomach.