Joe Thorne writes on NATO’s role in post-Gaddafi Libya, and whether its ‘humanitarian intervention’ is really cause to re-think anti-imperialism
Less than a month before the fall of Tripoli, the BBC suggested that rather than a rebel victory, “what may emerge is a complicated deal struck between rebels and erstwhile Gaddafi loyalists to get the Libyan leader out of the picture and open up the way for a national transitional government.”
no tears for Gaddafi, no cheers for NATO
Indeed, I argued in the last issue of The Commune that this was precisely NATO’s strategy. They saw such a compromise as the best means to ensure the political stability they want. It would allow the NATO powers, as the brokers of any compromise, to play king-maker, and perhaps facilitate acceptance of foreign troops on Libyan soil, as ‘peace-keepers. But this was far from certain: the rebels were neither NATO pawns nor idiots, and many would oppose such impositions.
In the event, Gaddafi’s army collapsed quicker than most had predicted. The stalemate which had prevailed since late March was broken on 29th July, when rebel fighters in the West took five small villages in the plain below the Nafusa mountains. This opened the way for the push to the coast and the taking of Zawiyah on 19th August, and the severing of the coastal artery supplying Tripoli with petrol and food. Thus followed a collapse of morale in the loyalist army.
The end, then, was not so much the “grubbier” compromise that the Western powers were hoping for, but a far more straightforward rebel victory. In consequence, the Libyan rebels are in a much stronger position to define the form of a new Libya than they otherwise would have been, and than NATO hoped they would be. In consequence it seems, for example, that a Western base is off the agenda and there are signs that some rebel elements are resisting the imposition of ex-Gaddafi loyalists. Read the rest of this entry »