Thursday, 31 March 2011

Al Qaeda in Libya - Overblown Propaganda

It is to be expected that existing Al Qaeda recruits within Libya would join the struggle against the regime. It is also conceivable that Hezbollah would have sent support to Libya during the long period of deliberation that the UN undertook in reaching its decision to follow through on resolution 1973. Yet, to paint this as an Al Qaeda, extremist led uprising is a load of hogwash. And there is a very good way to test the assertion that Al Qaeda will capture the vacuum of power that might result when Gaddafi departs, resulting in a similar turnabout as was experienced in Afghanistan.

And this is the view that the Russian government, the opposite and equal partner in the cold war is now espousing. And a Russian propaganda has had a long history, and real-politik did not only exist in the Allied cold war camp - the Russians, for their sins, are equal and opposite progenitors of this modern day disease. So it's time to shame the Russians, as they are obviously playing out a sick cold war spin in favour of the Gaddafi regime. It seems the cold war antics have not ended.

So lets see - what are the inherent contradictions in this supposition?

It is clear that the Libyan rebels (pro-democracy fighters) are ill-equipped, ill-trained, and not organized enough to take on ground troops that are loyal to Gaddafi. They have fled most battles where they have encountered trained soldiers that know how to conduct a battle. Much emphasis has placed on the inadequacy of the Libyan rebel movement on the ground, and by all satellite television stations, blog spots, tweets, etc. The very reason why an intervention was made is because the rebels were summarily pushed back to Benghazi with the advance of Gaddafi's remaining troops. This, despite the fact that Libyan rebels are also supplemented by defecting army colonels and troops, who should know how to conduct a battle. Yet, by all accounts the Libyan rebels have not fared well and have appeared pretty disorganised in taking on Gaddafi's forces.

One has only to look to Iraq to debunk the idea that there are masses of Al Qaeda trained fighters in Libya, battling alongside civilians, waiting for their chance to take advantage of the power vacuum. In Iraq, the mobilisation of Al Qaeda forces have presented a constant and severe, well organised threat to American forces. Al Qaeda knows how to train fighters and have a long history of battlefield experience in various conflicts. Al Qaeda would not have survived as long as it has if it's actions were undisciplined and unable to mount well planned operations. If Al Qaeda was in Libya in great numbers, we would not see the disorganised, piecemeal resistance from the rebels that we have seen in Libya. Even now, the battle is to and fro. The rebels seem to be relying more on the defection of the army rather than all out battles to win territory. If Al Qaeda was in Libya in weighty numbers, then we would be seeing organised resistance on the ground, and well-trained fighters pushing forward against Gaddafi loyalists. We have not seen this. Instead, we have seen rebels push forward only to retreat quickly whenever they were faced with organised resistance from Gaddafi forces.

Al Qaeda maintained a long term resistance in Iraq that saw almost daily attacks upon American forces. It is an organised network of resistance that knows how to move arms and skilled fighters into conflict areas. Iraq acted as a magnet for Al Qaeda, and what we have seen in Libya does not in the slightest resemble what transpired in Iraq. The attempts that the Russian government in particular has made to paint a picture of a Libyan Afghanistan have been contrived, and if they're not contrived they're not very well thought through. One thing is for certain, the Russian government knows how to think strategically, and it is unlikely that this position has been generated by the strategists. Rather, it is more likely generated by the fearmongers amongst them, who have managed to capitalise on Russian fears over the threat that has emerged from the Caucasus. Moreover, it is politically expedient for the Russians to adopt the stance they have - it absolves them of the responsibility to participate in any action, and at the same time they make themselves more attractive to those that the West have spurned - much like China has managed to do. When the West spurned Robert Mugabe he looked to China for support. And Russia's calculated response is no doubt inspired by the very control of the very same oil reserves they claim that the coalition forces are greedy for. Russia are backing their old friend Gaddafi, and that is what their propaganda is in aid of.

To summarise - it is ridiculous to simultaneously claim that the rebels are disorganised rag tag groups, while at the same time heavily impregnated by Al Qaeda forces. Al Qaeda forces would know how to train and mobilise forces and would themselves be well trained and organised. We have seen none of this, and the Libyan army defectors are the ones conducting the training. While there may be Al Qaeda fighters amongst the Libyan rebels it is hardly likely, judging from their performance on the battelfield that Al Qaeda is a major force in the uprising in Libya. In this sense, recreated fears of a 1979 or Afghanistan styled power vaccuum being usurped by Islamist radicals are misplaced interpretations of the Libyan uprising, and runs the danger of acting as a diagnosis that eventually perpetuates itself. In this respect, what the Russian government is spinning out is dangerous and misleading, and if it is a genuine assessment, is more likely clouded by their own problems with extremists and only emphasizes how well both sides of the cold war divide mirror each other and their mutual paranoias.

Monday, 28 March 2011

The West-Obsessed Left

fIt is understandable that the global left expend a great deal of effort towards countering the many headed mythical beast referred commonly referred to as "the West", as the disproportionate concentration of wealth and power in the West has widespread consequences across the globe. It is true that the west has disproportionate influence over socio-economic and ecological trends that emerge in locales and regions across the globe that are often physically far removed from the daily lives and activities of people in Western countries - but is at the same time intimately linked to them. This is undeniable, and hence it follows that locating and challenge the locus of global power - for the global left that is - constitutes in attacking the hegemony of the west.

Yet this creates a selective blindness to the other, equally potent influences on the lives of people across the globe who suffer  - not just because of policies and actions that originate in the West - but because of regional and local issues that choke and frustrate the plight of the marginalised, poor and underprivileged. In many cases across the globe it is not the evil west that perpetuates grossly inhumane beliefs and practices, but local, national and regional actors that bring about the suffering of everyday people under their leadership and control. If charity should start at home, then surely so should activism and resistance? But perhaps starting at home isn't as sexy as taking on the forces of global dominance - after all, shouldn't a revolutionary be cast in the Che Guevara mold, and heroically pursue an agenda for global change?

Perhaps this is a cynical view, but the global left has more likely failed ordinary people everywhere by becoming so inextricably caught up with discourse on global power that is reinforced and fed by knee-jerk narratives on western hegemony. This is not to pretend that western hegemony doesn't exist, or isn't destructive in some ways, but rather that it is pulled out at every opportunity to recreate the west as bogeyman, to the detriment of the debate about how to solve the critical problems facing the "bottom billion" that reside on planet earth. In short, locating a singular scapegoat is attractive, but it does not help solve the problems that are facing the planet in the 21st Century.

In my view (and similarly, in Cornel West's view), the west itself needs to be understood in terms of its duality; that it is simultaneously hegemonic and the originator of the great project for freedom and democratic expression. Once you adopt this position, the safe, default positions adopted by the global left reflect a laziness to think through and act in recognition of the complexity of this duality. Placing the blame for all the worlds problems at the door of the west is dishonest and ignorant. The west, to start with, is not all powerful. It is not a God to which we must appeal or challenge. It is what it is and we are what we are.

For example, there are many local and contextual factors that have a strong bearing on creating and reinforcing socio-economic and gender inequalities, on keeping dictatorships and dictatorial regimes in power, on upholding culturally derived practices of discrimination, mutilation and continued human slavery. These are not phenomena that were created by the west alone, even though the west may have played a part in ensuring their perpetuation in many recognised cases. Patriarchal practices in particular, have a devastating effect on the ability of society to obtain mobility and freedom, yet in many regions of the world misogynistic practices are defended under the guise of maintaining cultural and traditional integrity of a locale, country or region. In respect of the project for human rights, the west has undeniably been a source of inspiration across the globe.
And it is not the west that daily humiliates people as much as the people they interact with everyday. Progressive activists in Eritrea, for example, might still have their cook sit under the kitchen table while they dine at leisure in their living rooms - the poor cook awaiting the end of dinner so her slave-ritual can end. South African lefties are also sometimes found wanting when it comes to everyday interactions with the marginalised underclass they claim to represent. The left tends to conveniently forget that even slavery was not a purely colonial phenomenon - indeed, slavery was upscaled to horrifying global levels by colonialism, but it did not start with colonialism. Neither does exploitation or genocide for that matter. Human oppression, in all its forms, originates with everyday people everywhere. It does not originate with one select group that can be marked and tagged and blamed for all of mankind's problems. And indeed, some people caught up in the rhetoric of the left actually might need something to direct their frustrated impotence at, so that it doesn't turn inwards and consume them. After all, some of us need our punching bags to avoid engaging ourselves more honestly about what role we play in bringing about the societies in which we live and the west is a convenient target in this respect.

And in this sense the left has conveniently fallen into apathetic patterns of analysis, choosing to adopt default positions that ultimately lead to placing blame outside of themselves and those they may be intimately connected or related to. In particular the avalanche of left anti-west voices that have assailed news networks in respect of the NATO led intervention in Libya all fail to address the role of their own governments and regional bodies. A case in point is Africa itself. Individual countries have not had the courage to take a stand on the situation in Libya, playing the situation from a distance, allowing the west to come in and take the heat from the beloved lefties they con into voting them in come elections. Indeed, the deafening silence from both African and Middle Eastern countries has gone unchallenged by the left, and they have said and done nothing to question the politics at play at home, preferring to lump all the blame at the door of the Obama presidency and EU NATO partners. In doing so, the left plays out a stereotypical and predictable role and helps prevent honest solutions from emerging, and local actors don't mind as they escape criticism entirely and can make a pretense of solidarity with the lefties, tut-tutting and shaking their heads at western intervention.

It's all too convenient, and quite frankly a disservice to the real and pressing needs that the understandably partisan left are tasked with representing. When the left claims to be representing the desperate needs of the Libyan people, while at the same time espousing their absolute rejection of any forms of intervention - denouncing the Libyan rebels as sellouts - a reality check is needed; one which jolts them out of mindless repetition about western hegemony and forces them to move beyond mere regurgitation of conspiracy theories towards a deeper understanding of how they can act upon actors around them to bring about change. After all, it is not just the popular narratives that the left are tasked with representing, but the deeply unpopular views and opinions that fall beneath the radar and remain out of sight. The left need to be able to act upon local and regional inadequacies as much as they deal with inadequacies on the global stage, and by focussing their attention exclusively on the western bogeyman they achieve little in the way of thinking up and acting upon practical solutions, preferring the comfy chair of derision to the bed of nails of action. Radical positions are comfortable resting places, radical ideas are not!

The positions that have been adopted on Libya by the left are farcical. The familiar narrative is to conflate conflicts in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan with the conflict in Libya, yet in none of these countries did a rebel group have the slightest chance of mounting resistance or indeed, directly asked for international intervention from the UN (maybe with the exception of Palestine). Moreover, the widespread push towards democracy in the middle east did not exist when these conflicts were unfolding, and neither did the technological platforms for communicating real-time information and news exist when these conflicts were undertaken. Instead, we had embedded journalists, and not real-time news. Those who pretend that somehow journalistic integrity has been compromised by the emergence of real-time news ignore the history of media manipulation and the manufacturing of consent role that the media played under the neoliberals and their predecessors. Media is now finally opening up to bottom up feedback from the grassroots, and with that comes a lot of uncertainty where real-time news is concerned, but on the other hand you hear the stories straight from the sources, warts and all and can decide for yourself.

When a call emerges for a no-fly zone from people who are being bombed, and the usually gutless UN makes a stand on it and decides to act, the left should support it - albeit warily and with vigilance, lest the campaign be hijacked by those with more base, material interests. The global left, of all people, should know that they have no right to speak for the people on the ground - they have the right to listen and represent, but not to impose their own dogma upon a people who are in the midst of a civil war or revolution or whatever you want to call it. You don't impose your own set of values, beliefs and norms upon people who are living under oppression and in the case of Libya, the constant threat of death. There is a humility that is required of the global left that has disappeared from their vocabulary. They speak and act as though they are lackeys of a forgotten dream, a dream that can save us all from ourselves, and in doing so become the very thing they wish to challenge - autocratic dictators who disregard the real needs of the pepole they claim to represent. And so they resort to the ultimate lie - that they can't bear to see people being bombed ... what absolute rubbish - the very same lefties played critical roles in marxist-lenninist uprisings around the globe and supported armed struggles that were conducted in the past. Which leftie can tell me that they didn't support the Cuban revolution, or the others that occurred around the world? Indeed, they heartily clapped their hands when Cuba came into Africa to rescue Angola, and left without taking a penny - a pure humanitarian intervention from an external power that eventually led to the end of the Apartheid regime. So please, before you start flashing peace signs in the air and spouting rhetoric about how much you hate seeing external powers intervene in domestic conflicts, sit back and reflect, because you may not be as much of a peace-lover as you claim.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Thought Factory: Libya and the Anti-War Left!

Thought Factory: Libya and the Anti-War Left!: "It is striking how similar the reactions of the left to the emerging crisis in Libya have been to the wests initial response to th..."

Libya and the Anti-War Left!

It is striking how similar the reactions of the left to the emerging crisis in Libya have been to the wests initial response to the Egyptian uprisings. At first, the west seemed confused about how to interpret the emerging events in Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt. Now, it is the global 'left' that mirrors this uncertainty and hesitation. When it came to Egypt the left firmly held the view that Mubarak was a western stooge, and deserved his come-uppance for his tresspasses against the greater 'solidarity' of the Arab world by making peace with Israel and embarking upon a close alliance with imperial powers. It is almost as if there wasn't an equal and opposite player in the cold war, that didn't create monsters of it's own ... a selective blindness of the left allows it to disappear from their vision and to slip through their fingertips. Gaddafi, on the other side of the cold war divide, still has his sympathisers on the left and in this respect the left ultimately mirrors the right that it so desperately tries to outdo.

Yet the illusory safety of old arguments provides little comfort to the left where the unfolding crisis in Libya is concerned. A vast range of theories prevail. NATO is oil greedy and - as in Iraq - have taken advantage of the opportunity in a quest for oil resources. Alternatively, it is the techno-industrial-military complex at work, stimulating war during a recession to create more weapons sales to sustain the complex itself, or it is an attempt to reassert western power as policeman of the world, a mafia godfather attacking a villain to reclaim a tenuous moral advantage over the rest of the world. NATO, vilified by the left, now proceeds amidst a storm of criticism, initially with the US as leader, in reality, a reluctant leader of the military operation to enforce a no-fly zone. 

Yet when one witnesses a Gaddafi speech, imploring the world to believe that the youth are out on the streets because Al Qaeda has drugged them with ecstacy that their coffee and milk has been laced with, even the most ardent lefty must lose confidence in their arguments? Gaddafi might be smart, but he is also senile at best and mad at worst and there is no way around that. And while lefties celebrated the 'revolution' in Egypt openly, they are reluctant to cheer on the UN and especially US and NATO forces in their attempt to intervene upon Gaddafi. After all, Gaddafi might have been a crazy dictator, but he was 'their' crazy dictator, not as bad as the others who worked for the west.

The brazen and violent words and actions spouted by Gaddafi, and his son Saif El Islam, seem to have fallen on the deaf ears within the left, and the grassroots and leadership level calls for action to be taken against the ever-looming purge that Gaddafi was embarking upon also seem not to move the left. They are too busy watching what America and the US are up to, fixated on their old enemy rather than the menace that has emerged within Libya, brought on by its illegitimate regime after 42 years of dictatorship. The conspiracy addicted left, ironically seem unable to hear the calls that have emerged from the Libyan people and their now defected leadership, and many within the left now suggest that a negotiated settlement with Gaddafi would have been more appropriate. Yet again, the left comes to the afterparty with 20-20 hindsight, an easy enough position to assume - a safe moral highground that has nothing to do with what is transpiring on the ground in Libya. Who indeed, can guarantee that Gaddafi - having broken every promise he's made (including self-declared ceasefires), would simply roll over and play dead because he was honoured with negotiations and asked to go nicely (pretty please with a cherry on top)? Who can guarantee that? 

And there is more that the left ignore in their never-ending quest for conspiracy. The US military has consistently bucked Obama on every suggestion he has made since he came to presidency, presumably because one of his campaign promises was to close down Guantanomo Bay, and to pull out of Iraq, into which America should never have gone. The US military did not want to have any part of Libya. They are already overstretched and seem to be trying to concentrate efforts for success in Afghanistan in particular, and are reluctant to disperse their efforts over the globe. Robert Gates, essentially the leader of the US military, has contradicted Obama too regularly for comfort, so the techno-industrial-military complex, if it is represented by the actions of the US military, seem not to be too interested in Libya, and neither are the oil industry, who are also closely linked to the US military.

And this is not all. While Libya was being put under the sword (or more accurately; sniper rifles acquired from South Africa in December, and automatic and anti-aircraft gunfire) by Muammar Gaddafi, another drama was unfolding in Bahrain that has far more significance to regional security that Libya ever could have, no matter how much oil there is in Libya. The movement of Saudi forces into Bahrain to quell uprisings against the Bahraini monarchy raised the eyebrows of Iran, whose government met to discuss unfolding events in Bahrain. Shiites under attack in the middle east, and a vacuum of international action, may have opened the way (justifiably) for Iran to take action. Indeed, Iran could well have cited Kosovo, where it took 7 years before any kind of intervention occurred to put an end to widespread genocide - as an example of the historical failure of the UN to do anything other than make resolutions when people were dying. Rwanda is also a case in point.

It is concievable that the 'rushed' (some say it took too long) UN resolution for a no-fly zone and to protect civilians was put into place to anticipate any claim that Iran might have made to the right to take action. By acting earlier, the UN might be anticipating the strategic movements in the region and be trying to pre-empt any moral 'right' that Iran might invoke to intervene on behalf of civilians in Bahrain. Morality as a reason for intervention or action of any kind is always dangerous, as the question of 'whose morality' should dictate the norms comes into play. Action should be based on principle, and while morality is important in one sense, it is far more important for that morality to be bound by principle, which in the case of UN should be humanitarian principles that are agreed upon at an international level. If the UN cannot do anything to instigate actions that are designed to bring about the security of peoples in crisis, then it has no purpose except as a symbolic, post fact first-world guilt alleviation body.

Several left oriented commentators and researchers have suggested that a negotiated settlement with Gaddafi would have been wiser than declaring him under investigation by the International Criminal Court. Yet this smacks of cold war logic, and neoliberal pragmatism - the very things that the left rail against. Moreover, there is no evidence that this works. Zimbabwe is a good illustration of why negotiated settlements with an entrenched regime can fail the opposition considerably. And accordingly, the consistent message that has emerged throughout the uprisings in the Middle East is the call for dictatorial leaders and their entire regimes to be removed. In this sense, the protesters are seeking system revolution, democractic elections and constitutional change that leads to the entire restructuring of insitututions and government, for the benefit of society. They are not interested in negotiations because they have never had any negotiating power within their dictatorship-led regimes, with no lengthy histories of free civil society mobilisation, and want to have the right to determine their own governance and leadership.

There was a clear call for a no-fly zone from Libyans under attack from Gaddafi forces, and the UN has followed suit, at great risk to its own reputation. I never thought the UN would pass a resolution to intervene, but now that they have, some successive phases can be put in place. If the ground battle continues to be a back and forth affair, then prolonged high frequency conflict may result, while if a wall was put up between the east and west of Libya then a low frequency conflict such as that conducted between Palestine and Israel may result.

The ground battle, as  in the Balkans, might prove intense and horrific, but that will only occur if tribes turn against one another and re-create the village-by-village style of ethnic cleansing that occurred in Bosnia and Kosovo - which at this stage seems unlikely. More likely, rebel soldiers and anti-Gaddafi protesters -turned-revolutionaries will experience fierce ground battles, and the eventual result will be subject to the twists and turns that these singular micro-turf wars take during the course of the Libyan conflict. The no-fly zone only takes out one (though very significant) component in the conflict, but does not level the playing fields. At worst, the rebels will lose entirely to Gaddafi's ground forces and a no-fly zone will be meaningless on the ground. 

However, the UN can pull on more of its resources in order to put peacekeepers on the ground to enforce the keeping of the peace and not just keeping a peace in general. The rules of engagement need to be framed around protecting civilians and territory and not just firing back when fired upon, or defending UN bases and compounds. The UN peacekeeping forces can also clear the way for much needed humanitarian assistance to be brought in, and for elections to be held at local council levels in order to obtain some level of representative governance in the new territories.

If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has taught us anything it is that UN resolutions that have no teeth are effectively useless pieces of paper that have no real authority in the world. The UN is a heavily funded organisation, and must earn its role through decisive, clear and principled action. Note that I emphasize that principle, and not morality, should govern their actions to a larger degree. Morality is dangerous as the question of 'whose' morality should prevail cannot be given a straight answer - principle, as articulated by Hannah Arendt, should be the backbone of action. The UN is the only organisation mandated with establishing the principles around which global humanitarian values are based - it is not there to argue for or advance a particular morality, but to achieve consensus on principle and then to act upon those principles for the greater good of the globe.

When it comes to Libya the left have chosen a position of convenience and not one of principle, choosing to re-invoke the quest for conspiracy instead of observing what is transpiring diplomatically, politically and on the ground in Libya. What the Libyan people have called for is consistent with calls throughout the middle east, that is; complete regime change and the end of dictatorship. They don't just want elections, they want to start from a clean slate because existing systems are so corrupt and inept that they just aren't good enough. That is revolution - and it doesn't have to follow any kind of marxist-lennist model in order to have legitimacy as revolution.

Negotiated settlements can also sometimes also work out, but there has to be a pre-willingness for a negotiated settlement, as was the case in South Africa. This has not been the case in Libya or in other Middle Eastern countries for that matter, and the spectre of negotiated settlement has only come up when these regimes have been taken by surprise by widespread revolt, indeed, much as Zanu-PF was surprised when it lost the elections in Zimbabwe. Under these conditions negotiations are not made in good faith, they are made purely to retain control through the structural power of the existing regime. Negotiated settlements, however palatable to the peace-loving left, will not lead to any real change and will open the way for widespread purges after the medias interest moves elsewhere, as we have seen in Zimbabwe. That the left is deaf to what Libyans at all levels are requesting is an reflection on how their own prejudices and long held gripes can blind them to the voices of grassroots uprisings, which ironically; they are quick to claim they represent. One might ask the question, are the lefties actually liberals not far beneath their 'down with the people' exteriors?


Sunday, 20 March 2011

War, Peace and Bullies

Now that Gaddafi's forces are being met with rockets and bombs from coalition forces to disable his air capabilities and drive back those in violation of the call for a ceasefire you would be forgiven for thinking that the war in Iraq is repeating itself. Indeed, as there is pro-war rhetoric that is driven by its own self-interested objectives there is also anti-war rhetoric that is driven exclusively by its own motives. Both do not frame their positions on the basis of contextual events. Rather, they are preformed positions - often due to deeply held beliefs and values. These inform what apriori positions people take on the subject of war, and must be respected in that light. But what practical use are these positions when looking down the barrel of a gun, or in confronting disproportionate use of force? When dealing with bullies, who do not have a position on anything but rather choose the convenience of whatever works to keep them in power over others, what options are available to the downtrodden?

Well for one - the downtrodden and oppressed can allow themselves to become cannon fodder, or they can resist the inevitable. When faced with real violence survival is the instinctive response. From a young age I have made careful observation of how this instinct drives people towards different responses - it is truly a binary; a fight or flight instinct that overcomes people under these circumstances. Most prefer flight, and choose to get out of violent conflict through whatever means are available for self-preservation. Bullies also respond in the same way, but they tend to employ whatever tactics they can - from guilt and pity to temper tantrums - to maintain a foothold over those under their spell. Bullies use whatever means they can to stay in power, and are often deeply convinced of their own right to leadership. In my experience, bullies need to be cornered and all options for escape need to be shut down on all sides. It is very rare that bullies actually fight to the death - dying nobly and martyring themselves is never high on a bullies agenda. For them, it is about survival first and foremost, despite the dramatic and theatrical performances they may put on for the public. Most dictators, for example, choose a comfortable life in exile rather than to die at home fighting on principle. Self-sacrifice is not their ultimate aim; their ultimate aim is maintaining power-relationships in their favour.

In personal confrontations with bullies I found that they break when they realise that the game is up - that is, when they are confronted by those who are willing to sacrifice themselves to see the end of a bullies reign. Bullies don't trust 'crazy guys' who don't care what happens to them and are bent on destroying them at all costs - in fact, they can scarcely relate to that level of commitment as they don't have a core that they can turn to; they are changelings, shapeshifters that adapt to emerging context. That is often why they are so difficult to break. They are wily, and will attempt to coerce those around them using any and all means that are available. Another thing about bullies is that they evade themselves and have limited ability to conduct any kind of self-analysis, except to emphasize their own merits or misfortunes - often retelling stories that reinforce the self-image they seek so desperately to create for the benefit of others. Indeed, they often have personal mythologies that they employ to justify whatever action they may choose to pursue, to the exclusion of other points of view. Bullies are not consensus leaders, they choose threat, coercion and manipulation as their instruments of power.

The  key argument put forward by anti-war lobbies is that Gaddafi should have been given the option to step down, like other leaders in the region, and that threatening Gaddafi with action from the International Criminal Court was a mistake as it has forced him into a no-way-out situation. Yet all indications of that are to the contrary - he thwarted every chance he was given. At no point did he show any respect for human rights, and used direct force against innocent civilians. In my view, Gaddafi will use any lifeline he can to delay action, build support and consensus around his own position, and entrench himself further. He may give the appearance of backing down, but all this is, is the strategic employment of delay tactics. After the UN announced the positive result of the vote for a no-fly zone, he quickly announced his own ceasefire, only to intensify his attacks against Misurata and Benghazi. Bullies are expert liars, and Gaddafi is a paramount exponent of misinformation and lies. Bullies are also experts at brinkmanship. They can go to the edge again and again, and perhaps derive a narcotic thrill from the experience.

Whenever you negotiate with a bully, you immediately assume a lower position in the power hierarchy. Bullies love negotiations, as that is where you become their audience. You are never an equal in a negotiation with a bully - you are a spectator to their drama and will always remain exactly that. They don't expect to negotiate - they expect a tactical engagement where tactics are employed to gain positional advantage. In this respect, brinkmanship is their main tactical ally. Bullies know how to wait you out and have supreme belief that in the end they will get their way. Chaimberlains biggest mistake was trusting Hitler, shying away from direct confrontation with Hitler. The result was the horrors of the second world war. Aggression, whether directed against another nation or against ones own people, when administered by a bully - must be met with direct and concerted force. If you don't set the boundaries for bullies then they establish them for themselves.

So where do the warmongers and the peaceniks feature in all of this? Being in favour of peace is not the same as being anti-war, and conversely, being in favour of war does not mean you are pro-war. Each situation must be judged on its particular context if an appropriate and adequate solution is to be found. Achieving peace sometimes requires violence - that is an unfortunate fact of life which nobody can avoid despite our deepest held beliefs. In this respect, rhetoric - whether pro-war or anti-war - is hardly useful, as it seeks to generalise war and conflict as an abstraction, independent of the context in which it operates. When dealing with dictators who have turned to violence, pleading with them to stop and providing multiple exit points from which they can escape responsibility hardly ever works as it plays into their own sense of vindication; that they have legitimacy. Where the peaceniks are correct, is that violence - once started - can often spiral out of control, or can result in cycles of violence that have no end.

Yet to pretend that the violence only started when coalition planes flew into attack on Libya is disingenous in the extreme. Massacres were already underway and Gaddafi was proceeding unhindered and unchallenged down the path of a bloody and absolute purge of the opposition. Indeed, he still refuses to even acknowledge that the opposition is anything more than a conspiracy contrived from outside Libya (i.e. Al Qaeda, America, Egyptians, Tunisians, ecstacy consuming youth, etc.) and is serious about conducting a door-to-door purge. My simple question is - is that peace? Is that the 'peace' that the anti-war rhetoriticians seek to preserve. Maybe if you've never had a gun to your face, or never had a knife to your neck then you can afford to dither about in disneyland, but if you have, then you know how quickly you can be reduced to absolutely nothing by a gun or knife toting moron, and how dangerous that can be.

A case in point is that Greenpeace itself uses force - althought not deadly force - to thwart Japanese whaling ships. They, in effect, do everything they can to declare a 'no-hunt' zone around the whales and put themselves in harms way to achieve this, yet their actions are seen as courageous and necessary by the very same people who seem happy to watch Libyans get bombed, dragged out of their homes, and mowed down in the streets by sniper rifles that South Africa sold to Libya in December. I am as flabbergasted by the knee-jerk reactions of peaceniks as I am by warmongers. They appropriate situations to champion their own deeply held beliefs, despite the realities of what the people facing the bullets are confronted with.

When people ask for your help, and when they can only survive a situation with your help, it is a humanitarian act to stand up for them, risk yourself for them, and to take action to help save them. It is not simply an act of war. Indeed, it can be an act of deep love itself. I am not philosophizing about this - I am drawing on my own subjective experience of violent confrontation, and I have never regretted using violence with good reason. I have regretted using violence inappopriately though, and I know the difference. It is far too simplistic in my view, to cast all violent efforts as fundamentally bad and all peaceful efforts as fundamentally good. It is a duality, and not a dualism or binarity of metaphysical opposites that peace and violence ascribes.

The same people who purportedly hate physical violence often have absolutely no problems with employing psychological and emotional violence. Perhaps because they are so afraid of recognizing the violence within them that it creeps out through other avenues. The soapboxing of rhetoric serves no purpose other than to elevate the one on the soapbox above others, and is often driven by that precise need. It is a violence of its own - the violence of utopia - which yields messianic visions and messiahs alike and tramples reality (and those caught within it) underfoot. Make no mistake, principle is a powerful tool for achieving humanitarian ends, but it can also suffocate and destroy the very humanity it seeks to protect. Principle, like violence, is a double edged sword and the idea that idealized, utopian positions taken on general principle are somehow noble is severely  misplaced and often destructive in itself.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

The Cost of Inaction

So Muammar Gaddafi is now dictating the momentum of events in the Middle East. Instead of the UN taking action to ensure the safety and security of civilians in Libya and the rest of the Arab world, Gaddafi’s actions have spoken louder than any words coming out of the so called ‘free world’.  Gaddafi’s actions have given the other dictators in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia the blueprint for survival – quite simply; the use of disproportionate and deadly force and intimidation and arrest. By declaring all out war on protesters, while calling for talks at the same time, the locus of power remains within the hands of the dictators.
In Libya the protesters are vilified, relegated to the categorisation of vermin and journalists have been killed. This kind of talk and action is dangerous, as it usually precedes genocide. This is something the UN should be well aware of, but sadly their track record in preventing the killing of civilians in emerging conflicts consists of a long list of failures. In Bahrain, Saudi troops have been called in to bolster the Bahraini state forces, who attacked the protesters to clear Pearl roundabout and then proceeded to take over the main hospital (Salmaniyah),  reportedly intimidating, arresting and beating unarmed patients and doctors in the hospital. In addition, Bahraini opposition figures have been arrested.
In both Libya and Bahrain, serious crimes have been committed by the very same states who are tasked with maintaining law and order.  In both cases, military and civil laws have been violated by the state – situations that should be unacceptable to the international community. And while there have been words  of disapproval, and calls for peace, the fact is that state imposed terror has continued un-abounded in both cases. The dictators are learning how to survive crisis, and the self-proclaimed great leader of Libya – Muammar Gaddafi – who has survived many prior crises, is showing them the way. Saif El Islam, the Libyan leaders son, has boasted that Benghazi will be taken in 48 hours, yet they are still fighting for control of Ajdabiyah. Another dictator in the making, he tries desperately to appear magnanimous and forgiving on the one hand, and threatening and rigid on the other hand. He has stated that the rebels are welcome to leave Libya in peace – subtly threatening to increase Egypt’s problems on the border by creating an even larger refugee crisis than already exists.
Yet the consequences of military crackdowns in both Libya and Bahrain will be long-lasting and severe. Clearing Pearl roundabout in the case of Bahrain, and re-taking Benghazi in the case of Libya will only push resistance underground, and after the disproportionate use of violence against opposition, it will create the conditions for more militant protest in response. In other words, those whose voices are being crushed with weapons will take up arms of their own in order to make their voices heard. This is a clear trend that persists throughout history. Even in South Africa, the killing of schoolchildren on June 16 1976 drove many towards more militant, armed action and many joined the ranks of the military wing of the ANC purely as a response to this event. When the state behaves in a manner where it regards the lives of its civilians as expendable in relation to its own survival it loses legitimacy. The first role of the state is to protect its civilians – this is also true of the army and state security apparatus’. In both cases, clear violations have been committed, and the prevarication of the UN and correspondingly the international community, have emboldened these states, which are now operating under an aura of ‘untouchability’ that must terrify its own citizens who must shudder at the thought of what is to come next, given that violations that have already occurred seem to have gone unpunished.
So the facade of using violence to create ‘stability’ has been employed as a strategy. Yet it won’t last. Just as the war in Iraq didn’t end by merely taking the capital city and declaring victory, the same will be true in both Bahrain and Libya. Urban conflicts will emerge.
In Libya, army members that have defected and civilians that have taken up arms will no doubt be in negotiation with tribal and other leaders in order to make arrangements to fight a more protracted, low frequency civil war. It is hard to envisage that after all that has occurred in Libya, the opposition will merely fade out of the picture and disappear across the borders never to be seen again. They have already become militant, and radicalisation will deepen. In the absence of support from the UN – for which they are literally begging – they will have to turn elsewhere for support, and it is clear that this is where the most dangerous positions can unfold. Abandoned in their quest for human rights by the UN and the international community, they will formulate deeper and more radical stances – and indeed, who can blame them if the organisations that purport to exist for the protection of human rights are unable to act. One only has to look at how long it has taken Israel to move beyond the distrust, paranoia and radicalisation that was brought on by the holocaust to realise what is being brewed.
The Bahraini situation is far more troublesome in terms of regional security than Libya, even though all out warfare has not yet ensued – this primarily because Bahraini protesters have remained peaceful while the government has oscillated schizophrenically; initially attacking the protesters, then backing off and guaranteeing their safety, then later inviting in Saudi forces and returning to violent means of dealing with the protesters. Yet Iran is watching closely at how the majority Shiite populations of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are being denied their basic human rights, and is already holding inquiries into the events that may lead to war. No doubt, this war has the potential to be cast in an epic light i.e. between the Sunni and Shiite populations in the region. This is potentially an explosively catastrophic development for the middle east, as it will mean a return to an age-old conflict over who has the right to the Islamic caliphate.  Yet, so far, all assurances from Bahraini protesters have been given that this is not a Shiite led movement for dominance but rather a movement for establishing human rights. As the Bahraini state increases its grip on the throats of the protesters this may change, and radicalization may follow suit.
Critically, in both the cases of Libya and Bahrain it is clear that the role of the UN is now under a microscope, and rightly so. How can the heavily funded international agencies of the UN be justified if they cannot act in a timely and effective manner to guarantee human rights when they are being grossly violated for all to see? Surely when states take armed action against their own civilians there has to be recourse to regional and international action. The calls for a no-fly zone in Libya and for help in Bahrain have been clear, and a clear response is needed. Otherwise, the much vaunted quests for regional security and stability in the Middle East may be a thing of the past. If a blind eye is turned to the events that are unfolding in Libya and Bahrain in the hope that dissent will fade away, the danger is that other, more radical helpers will step in to help the Libyans and Bahraini’s – and they will have no choice but to accept help from whence it comes.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Gaddafi's Forces Push East!

Muammar Gaddafi's supporters are making a concerted push eastwards towards Benghazi in anticipation of the possible declaration of a no-fly zone over Libya. Already, several towns along the route have fallen, with rebels retreating, presumably to make a stand in Benghazi where  they can consolidate their forces and mount a concerted defence. Yet it is a civilian rebel army without adequate military training that is battling against well-armed and well-trained soldiers that are loyal to Gaddafi - most of whom come from Gaddafi's own 'tribe' or clan. Rebel forces have the support of less well armed and trained army personnel and fast track military training is being provided to the rag-tag rebel units, in the hope of giving them some level of preparation against the advancing forces. The message from Benghazi is clear - they want a no-fly zone.

And while a no-fly zone would go some way towards ensuring that anti-Gaddafi forces stand a chance of keeping their territorial advantages in the East, it does not ensure that widespread massacre and civilian terror will be prevented. In Bosnia it took a long time for NATO's no-fly zone to force Serbian forces into capitulation, and it did not stop the genocide on the ground. In fact, it may make on-the-ground fighting more fierce and brutal, as without air support soldiers have to systematically take territory through bombardment and street to street urban warfare. This itself can render the urban population trapped in a vicious war zone where there is no escape. Moreover, the surreality of war leads people to take greater risks and it is not inconcievable that attitudes will harden and become fatalistic, and even if 'rebel' anti-Gaddafi forces are beaten in terms of conventional war, they will then turn to guerilla warfare and maintain a low frequency war against pro-Gaddafi forces, as is the case in Iraq and Afghanistan today. Rebel troops with inferior weapons and training will be forced into this mode of resistance, as there are simply no other alternatives. They will no doubt appeal for help to the international community again, requesting training, arms and ammunition in support of their fight against what has clearly become an illegitimate regime.

There are some dilemmas in respect of these requests. Declaring a no-fly zone is probably the best first choice. However, if a no-fly zone is declared, international helpers of the anti-Gaddafi forces will be reluctant to provide them with anti-air weapons, as the chances of untrained anti-Gaddafi forces shooting down the aircraft that are intended to help them is very high. International forces sent in to help Libyans under siege from Gaddafi’s forces may find themselves dodging friendly fire – a situation that may be unacceptable to them. If a no-fly zone isn’t going to be implemented then it might be that portable anti-air weapons may find their way into Libya (as they did in Afghanistan, when the now forgotten mujaheddin fought off Russian air support – especially helicopters). Libyans will then have to down aircraft themselves, and the prospect of fratricide still exists as if an aircraft is brought down over populated areas there will inevitably be casualties. Untrained or semi-trained operators may not have the wherewithal to make on-the-spot decisions that saves lives.

Lastly, Gaddafi’s resistance seems to be emboldening the governments in Yemen and Bahrain, where protesters have come under brutal attack and shows of force by the regimes in power are becoming more common and intense. Perhaps Gaddafi has unwittingly laid down a blueprint for survival for fading dictators in the middle east – when cornered, kill and intimidate as many as you can, even if the government around you has fallen to pieces and no legitimate support for your rule exists any longer. Prevaricating over a no-fly zone in Libya could have consequences in the rest of the region  in that it may help prolong and sustain the regimes in the middle east in the face of widespread public revolts, leading to even further breakdown in the region. Already, legitimacy of these governments have been brought into question, and it is clear that at the very least free and fair elections would be required in order to move forward.

If the UN and the international community does not come to the assistance of the civilians in the street, it is likely that other forces in the region will. It should not be forgotten that there are already groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas whose relevance can be boosted by becoming involved in these conflicts. Should these situations in the middle east devolve into civil wars, where civilians take up arms against the ruling elites and their backers, it is not inconceivable that anti-regime forces will turn to existing armed groups in the region for support. It makes sense to in any event, as Hezbollah and Hamas are well trained and prepared for urban warfare of the kind that is emerging in Libya. They know how to mount resistance against disproportionate force and anti-government forces would benefit greatly from their knowledge and training.

The situation in Libya, left to its own devices, is already setting a default precedent, and a dangerous one at that, that could lead to long terms instability in the region to the detriment of the people in those countries and to the world.  Finding an appropriate measure of intervention, that can be implemented timely is critical to maintaining stable transitions towards democratic governance in the middle east. Ignoring the human rights abuses that are unfolding are hardly likely to work - some action is necessary, and if the formal international bodies cannot rise to the challenge others will.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

No UN - No Fly!

The Arab League has called on the UN to put in place the arrangements for implementing a no-fly zone over Libya, joining the chorus of rebel fighters in Libya and Libyan representatives at the UN, composed of Libyan government representatives who stepped down from their positions when violence was unleashed by the Gaddafi government against peaceful protesters. These protesters have since resorted to violence and have joined ranks with Libyan army soldiers who defected when faced with the proposition of turning against their own people. The call for enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya has been clear and consistent throughout the crisis that ensued after the Gaddafi regime began using weapons of conventional warfare against it's own people. That much is beyond doubt.

Yet, while the calls have been clear, academic and non-academic experts have raised their objections to what they believe will constitute another illegal war in the Middle East perpetrated by US-led, western forces such as NATO, and which violates the sovereignty of Libya. Their core objection is that no action should be taken without clear UN security council approval, and that such action should not be used as a means for re-establishing America's dominance on the globe, and in the middle east. Some have taken great pains to point out the ironic and paradoxical role that the US has played in supporting the very same dictators that it is now calling upon to step down in the middle east, that is, with the exception of Muammar Gaddafi, who has always been regarded as a pariah in the West despite Tony Blair's efforts to cosy up to the Libyan leader. The imposition of a no-fly zone, 'expert' observers have warned, constitutes a declaration of war by itself, and will involve air strikes against key Libyan military and other infrastructure. To implement a no-fly zone without the approval of the UN would constitute a violation of Libyan sovereignty.

These same experts have been at pains to point out that many of those calling for a no-fly zone over Libya now, once voiced their disagreement with the illegal war on Iraq and are therefore taking a hypocritical stance; one that is incongruent with prior positions. Yet there is a great difference between what is unfolding in Libya now, and what occurred in Iraq (and Afghanistan, Vietnam and so forth), and the two situations cannot be conveniently conflated and/or treated with the same tools of observation, analysis and intervention. Moreover, the US has clearly stated that it will take no action without the support of the UN, and will act in concert with the greater international community in reaching a decision over imposing a no-fly zone in Libya. And indeed, the US military itself seems reluctant to take action, preferring not to intervene in Libya so that troops returning from Afghanistan can go home as planned, and get the rest they have been promised.

Yet the accusations of continued neo-imperialism under the Obama led US government have rung out loudly from a number of esteemed experts and analysts, who purport to look beyond the diplomatic line taken by the US government, looking deeper into the motivations that lie behind them. And while there is cause for concern in respect of the US's aspirations to global hegemony, merely casting the Libyan 'civil war', 'uprising', or 'revolution' as another event in a chain of opportunistic US military ventures in the global arena may also be a misrepresentation. Yes, Libya has oil, and where there is oil capitalist and non-capitalist interests will congregate - yet answering the question whether the US will stand to gain more than it will lose by implementing a no-fly zone in Libya isn't clear.

The US is fighting multiple wars, under severe pressure from opposition, and is in a financial crisis of its own. Getting involved in what might prove to be a protracted civil war in Libya might in the end prove a greater loss for the US than a gain. Indeed, it is easier to obtain oil from more stable and cooperative oil abundant countries using standard business agreements than to wage war in a region with a fast changing political momentum - the end point of which cannot be predicted at this stage. In this sense, going to war in Iraq constituted a much 'safer' bet that Iraqi oil would be made available for exploitation of US led oil companies. That is, the war on Iraq occurred in a more or less stable geopolitical environment, while going to war in Libya for the same reasons now would be foolish. There is no guarantee that the region will adopt diplomatic stances and forge relationships that are favourable to the US once democracy has been established across the region. In this sense, the conflating the war on Iraq with a military intervention in Libya is misleading - there is a lot more risk associated with the middle east now as it is in a process of grand transition, the true end-state of which cannot be predicted with great certainty at present.

Hedging oil benefits against the cost of war in Libya in the current geopolitical context isn't as simple as it might have been six or seven years ago. The world, and the region has undergone (and is undergoing) significant changes and the risks are too high to reach the convenient conclusion that this is all about oil. This is not to negate that these motivations might be present in some shape or form, but that these motivations are most likely severely misplaced if they are the core reasons for intervening in Libya and it is unlikely that strategists in the White House and the US military are unaware of this - indeed, it may well explain the reluctance of the US military to get involved in the unfolding crisis in Libya, preferring to wait it out on the sidelines and see which way the situation resolves and to get access to Libyan oil through less costly means i.e. when the unfolding civil war has rendered on or both sides weakened and desperate.

Moreover, there is a strain of convenience in the argument that intervention in Libya will constitute another attempt to reassert US dominance and/or obtain access to oil - and an inappropriate 'soapboxing' of old, long-held objections to western and US hegemony being conveniently taken out and polished up using the Libyan crisis (civil war, revolution, whatever) as the brush. Academics and 'experts' often cannot resist the temptation to grandstand their own versions and interpretations of global events and the underlying processes that are at work in generating these events, irrespective of the specific context that governs newly emerging events. The idea that history is repeating itself might be severely misplaced where events in Libya and the middle east are concerned. It simply isn't that simple anymore. It is unlikely that if the UN says no to a no-fly zone, that the US will force its own military into a conflict that it is not interested in becoming involved in. For now there seems to be global and regional agreement that if the UN says no, then there will likely be no intervention in Libya, and we will all stand by and watch Libyans descend into the nightmares of civil war. 

Avoiding Analysis!

The media war for control of the narrative of the unfolding events in Libya is underway. As one commentator described it, information is flowing like water, finding its way around obstacles, pooling in different basins and leaking through in a variety of ways to the surface. As yet, it has been difficult to verify information that has been coming out of Libya through the variety of information exchange mediums that are now available to the average citizen, journalists and governments. The core of the debate that is revolving around the situation (whether a civil war, an uprising, a revolution, a rebellion etc.) is whether the information is reliable. Al Jazeera and CNN have tapped into real-time sources of information such as twitter and blog sites in order to get an up-to-date idea of what events are unfolding. The key criticism is that information that cannot be verified is being used to compose the narrative of what is unfolding in Libya.

This has provided a number of analysts and commentators with the ideal excuse to sit on the fence, and to blame the quality of information being put out by media outlets for their reticence to provide analysis of the unfolding situation in Libya. Yet this is a distortion of its own. We never have complete, reliable information on any complex phenomena, whether it is emerging in real-time or has already occurred and is cast as 'history'. Historical events also find themselves subject to the same limitations - varieties of information sources all contribute their wholly subjective views of how an historical event unfolded. Yet does this mean that we are unable to reach fundamental conclusions on what has occurred or is occurring? Moreover, can this type of obscurism be justifiably employed to avoid arriving at a judgement about what is unfolding now or may have unfolded in the past?

There is a simple answer to this question, that is; the job of an analyst is to interpret information, whether the information comes from uncertain or certain sources. An analyst cannot get away with throwing their hands up in the air purely because they are overloaded with information from a variety of sources and which have a variety of levels of uncertainty associated with it. In reality, the value of analysis and expert opinion is the ability to integrate information that has various levels of uncertainty associated with it and to make sense of confusing and sometimes contradictory sources of information. Analysts do not have the priviledge of blaming the quality of information available to them for not performing analysis. While it is true that analysts should verify and cross-verify the information available to them and the sources from which information is obtained to the best of their ability, they do not have the luxury of refusing to arrive at an understanding of what is happening in Libya - otherwise, what is the point of having analysts? If all they do is perform mental 'calculations' upon information, can't they be replaced with computers?

Where Libya is concerned, there is a great deal of information emerging from different sources that can be cross-verified to some degree, and compared against other cases, whether current or historical. Analysts can make use of their judgement and experience to gauge what is going on in Libya. Indeed, we all accept that their views are subjective, and that there is great value in that. We do not expect them to have an all-knowing, all-seeing omnipotence from which they can derive ultimate truth. This is especially so where conflicts are concerned. Experts and analysts are always dealing with murky, often suppressed sources of information in conflict zones, and that won't change anytime soon. Such is the nature of conflict and war.

Moreover, it is disingenuous to criticize information emerging from Libya that cannot be independently verified by reporters on the ground, as it presupposes that reporters can play such a role without imparting their own level of subjectivity to the situation. Have the analysts forgotten the dangers of 'embedded journalism' and how effectively this was used to influence public opinion and create legitimacy for the war on Iraq? Have they forgotten how easily 'reliable' information regarding the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq proved to be worthless? Relying too heavily or exclusively on information and not intelligent analysis is dangerous and irresponsible. Information is only as valuable as the the narrative that can be constructed around it, and it is the responsibility of analysts to step into the murky waters of uncertainty and provide a worthwhile opinion. Where extreme situations such as Libya is concerned, if you have no analysis to offer then don't simply point out the uncertainty levels associated with the situation as a convenient excuse for sitting on the fence. Make a judgement with the information you have, and the expertise you have, and don't be afraid of changing your judgement should new information become available that requires a change in outlook. Waiting around for perfect hindsight will only result in another Bosnian debacle for the people of Libya, while the 'experts' will have the benefit of being correct long after the fact - a big fat, "so what?" for the Libyan people.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Thought Factory: UN & US Incapable of Acting on Libyan Humanitarian...

Thought Factory: UN & US Incapable of Acting on Libyan Humanitarian...: "If anybody is still in doubt about Muammar Gaddafi's murderous intentions they should have their sanity examined. It is inconcievable t..."

UN & US Incapable of Acting on Libyan Humanitarian Crisis

If anybody is still in doubt about Muammar Gaddafi's murderous intentions they should have their sanity examined. It is inconcievable that there could be any negotiation with Gaddafi. His strategy and tactics are clear. He will continue to lie his way out of responsibility, and is almost revelling in his ability to delay the international community from taking action against him. He has many tactics, and misinformation is one of the key tools in his battle for survival. So as journalists congregate in a hotel and Tripoli, waiting for five hours for Gaddafi to appear, he launches an all out attack upon Az Zawiyah using aircraft and 50 tanks. They sit there, quite literally cut off from anything of any relevance to their jobs, while he orders an all out attack on mostly unarmed civilians, whose only defence are defectors from the Libyan army who have chosen to take a stand against Gaddafi.

And all the while, the UN prevaricates like it did during the massacres in Bosnia that radicalised a whole new generation of young muslims - the message being clear; you aren't equal enough to save. So what good is the UN? Not much, apparently. The organisation tasked with enforcing internationally recognised human rights and peace, birthed after the horrors of the second world war, is still nothing more than a bureaucratic giant that consumes large resources to justify its existence, yet does nothing to help when it is needed most. So while the UN operates globally, it's employees enjoying benefits and large salaries, where they are needed they are unable to go. So again I have to ask, what good is the UN for? Are they nothing but a large fact-finding commemorative organisation that tallies up the dead when conflicts end. In Bosnia, UN troops were so frustrated by the rules of engagement (that forced them to stand by while genocide proceeded all around them) that many expressed their discontent after the war. They were strapped down, unable to do what was required of them, while their higher command structures sat back and watched the violence unfold, unable to act decisively enough to save the lives they were purportedly there to protect. So in the end, what is the use of the UN? Indeed, they are nothing more than a toothless bureaucracy that takes so long to respond that they should be rebranded as historians of human rights violations and failures. To be clear, action is different from taking a position - and the UN now has a critical role to play in ushering in a new global era, if it has the courage to do so. 

Thus far, however, it has been an unconvincing show of hot air that the UN has cast upon the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Libya that has already seen 200 000 refugees flee the country, which constitutes a humanitarian crisis in it's own right. My point is that the UN is tasked with solving these situations, and not merely issuing 'strong' statements regarding the morality of unfolding events. We all know what is happening in Libya has gone far past reason and morality. The big question is, is the UN going to stand by and watch yet another humanitarian disaster unfold? If so, for my part, all faith in the UN is and will remain seriously misplaced, and that was indeed the case in Bosnia, where intervention had to be made without the toothless dragon's permission. The UN is a waste of time, with all it's 'humanity-serving' Princeton and Harvard graduates embellishing their CV's for future political posts in the Whitehouse and similar corridors of power. It is an ironic role that the UN plays - it has no teeth. If Sarkozy decided to put down protests in France with military might there would surely be quick and effective intervention to put it to a stop. Why should it be different for any other corner of the planet?

And when it comes to the US, it is clear that the military have gone out of their way to deny their president the authority that he is entitled to as the elected representative of the American public. The military-industrial complex has neutered Obama. He has been unable to close down Guantanomo Bay. The military has publicly disagreed with Obama on how the war in Iraq should be conducted. It is clear that Obama is useful to the American ruling establishment in as far as he has garnered them international legitimacy and support, but they are unwilling to carry out the objectives he was elected to accomplish. The American military is in a low-key power struggle with their president, and they seem intent on embarassing him publicly, on showing the world where power really lies, and holding American foreign policy ransom to their cooperation. Any idiot knows that the US military can impose an effective, even if imperfect no fly zone on Libya, and that Libya's airforce are no match at all for US might, yet Chief Robert Gates has put out Gaddafi style spin of his own. Obama, for his part, seems unwilling to take them on directly. He should do what he was elected to do, that is; to usher in a new era. If he needs to fire Robert Gates in order to get the cooperation he desires then he should, but perhaps this would be a risky move, as for all the fanfare of election, Obama is more of a lame-duck president than George Bush was. They went roaring into an illegal war on Iraq on the flimsiest of evidence for George Bush, yet when they are called upon to perform low risk operations that do not involve troops on the ground they come up with nothing but excuses for why they cannot achieve what they are being asked to.

For the first time in American history, the US military is unable to act - that should be a warning sign about what is really going on in American politics. The US ruling elite's strategy has been to contain Obama, and so far they have been very successful. His gains have been paltry in comparison to what he promised. They have rendered him powerless - a token and figurehead. This is nothing new. Indeed, this is how institutions handle people they do not want to lead them, but are forced to accept. Yes, Obama is a token - good as an institutional figurehead and nothing more. With the tea party attacking him on one side, and the US military attacking him on the other his televised appearances seem to show a less confident, more withdrawn Obama, speaking softly on issues that his voice once rang out clearly and confidently on. What has happened to the Obama presidency? Is it effectively dead already? His comments on Libya are so guarded, that it is easy to guess that he is aware that should he decide to act, that he will not have the support of the key players involved.

Talk about a global crisis ... there is no existing international force that can or will take action in Libya. The US will sit alongside the UN, issuing stern statements, but it is difficult to see them taking action in support of an unarmed populace under attack from weapons of conventional warmaking. Their institutions are either unwilling or too ineffective to make a difference, and for his part, Gaddafi is now the one issuing demands. The anti-Gaddafi forces are no doubt running out of fuel, and their supply lines are under pressure after four weeks of armed conflict against vastly disproportionate force. As I write this the town of Az Zawiyah is under attack from around 50 tanks and the aircraft, and God alone knows that the body-count will be when the sun rises tomorrow morning. Where is the international leadership that heavily funded institutions are tasked with providing? Are they incapable of understanding that knowing the difference between thought, speech and action amounts to the difference between life and death and every day that goes by without action only strengthens Gaddafi and weakens the ability of anti-Gaddafi forces.


Sunday, 6 March 2011

Gaddafi Spin Continues ...

Celebrations are reported to have broken out when Libyan television reported that the towns of Misurata, Ras Lanuf, Tobruk and Az Zawiyah have been retaken by Gaddafi forces. Libyan television also reported that Gaddafi forces were marching on Benghazi. Yet reports from within these towns deny that this is the case. However, there is on-the-ground reporting from a reporter and informant in Ras Lanuf and MIsurata (respectively) that these towns are still under anti-Gaddafi control.  It may be that the celebrations in Tripoli are an orchestrated morale boost, designed to ensure that residents in Tripoli remain firmly under the grip of Gaddafi forces.

Indeed, if Gaddafi forces are moving towards Benghazi it is because his hand has been forced. Rebel forces from Benghazi were advancing towards Tripoli and had taken the town of Ras Lanuf, in preparation for an attempt to get through the Sirte Basin, which is Gaddafi's birthplace. When I last checked anti-Gaddafi forces have claimed that they have moved further westward, having taken the towns of Bin Jawad and al-Nawfaliyeh, exerting further pressure on Gaddafi.  It seems that Gaddafi has essentially been forced into taking action to stop this advane, yet my suspicion is that the advance on Tripoli will continue.

In the gulf war, Saddam and his cronies were claiming victory even as foreign troops were surrounding the capital. Until the end, they were still hoping to raise morale amongst their troops, hoping for a turnaround, a rope-a-dope. But it never came. For the Gaddafi regime to be claiming victories that do not seem to have actually occurred is probably not new to Libyans, yet psychological warfare is probably the only line of defence he has left. According to Tarek Yousef of Dubai University, Libya is in danger of falling into a protracted, low frequency war, which will ultimately result in the factionalisation of the country, fulfilling the prophecies that Saif El Islam Gaddafi was at pains to explain would be the ultimate fate of Libya in his initial interview - a self-fulfilled prophecy in the making.

Yet if Gaddafi forces manage to take control of cities that have fallen to anti-Gaddafi forces, it is also conceivable that armed resistance from civilian protestors and defected army members will continue as urban guerilla conflicts break out in cities, resulting in a total breakdown and failure of the Libyan state itself. Desperate requests have been issued for the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya. The National Libyan Council has been formed in Benghazi, in order to forge a politically representative body for the anti-Gaddafi protesters - in order to consolidate anti-Gaddafi support and prevent the fragmentation of the opposition. The ability of this representative body to garner support throughout the country will no doubt be key in ensuring that a national revolution is achieved through the efforts to depose the Gaddafi regime. However, the international community has to lend its support to this newly formed council by recognising the body and by enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya. Otherwise, we run the danger of watching another long and bloody civil war unfold in Libya that will take years to quell, if that is indeed ever achieved once fragmentation has reached a tipping point. 

But for now, there is unity in the anti-Gaddafi camps, and there is speculation that even the basin of Sirte has tribes and tribal leaders that are willing to turn against Gaddafi. Once the anti-Gaddafi forces have passed through Sirte the advance on the capital will be inevitable, yet what remains is for recognition and support to follow from the international community, and for a no-fly zone to be enforced over Libya, so that Gaddafi's forces are restricted to on-the-ground fighting where there will no doubt be even more defections to the opposition. It is easier to dispatch two war-planes into the war zone than to maintain supply lines and command lines to hundreds of troops. The no fly zone needs to be put in place now, and the UN needs to take the steps that are required to reach this decision, and soon. 

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Saif Under Pressure - Pleads With Journalists!

The town of Az Zawiyah has come under attack from Gaddafi forces, while Gaddafi and his son still deny using deadly force to put down opposition, and according to a recent report, 30 have been killed and about twice as many wounded. It is clear that battes are being waged while diplomatic lies are being used to buy time for Gaddafi's regime. Air and ground attacks have been waged, with air attacks being directed at strategic targets (arms depos and the like) while the ground war has been more vicious, with civilians taking on a combination of army, airforce, mercenary and pro-Gaddafi civilian armed militas (most likely drawn from security organisations within the state). 

Meanwhile, a revolutionary force is moving towards Tripoli, but this force might just be an attempt to exert pressure on the Libyan regime, which is trying to buy enough time to consolidate power through creating a layered defence in depth territorial advantage around Tripoli and along major routes to Tripoli. Gaddafi's efforts have so far focussed on attempting to regain the cities closest to him. His forces are probably weakened, as the allocation of airforce capabilities to targets in the immediate vicinity suggest that he cannot wage a war on too many fronts right now, preferring to preserve resources for a drawn out conflict. To be sure, he does intend to launch attacks as far as Benghazi at some stage, but for now he is employing a conservative strategy in respect of his most expensive military assets. He is perhaps hoping that the on-the-ground forces will gain momentum through cooperation with civilian populace. However, thus far, Gaddafi's forces, while seeming to have fought fiercely and incurred many casualties, have not advanced into territory that has been taken by Libyan protesters.

The territorial war is currently in the hands of the protesters, but the death count is mounting higher and higher as increasingly more draconian force is used to crush the populace within and outside of Gaddafi territory. It is evident, from today's post noon-prayer demonstrations in Tripoli, that underwent a security forces crackdown, that Tripoli's supposed peacefulness is a carefully constructed state lie, and one which is increasingly evident. It is primarily evident in the out-and-out denial that Gaddafi and his son, Safi El Islam have exhibited in interviews with the press. Their version of events is so unreal that they cannot be unaware that they are lying. They have decided to adopt a particular line, and will stick to it all the way to the International Criminal Court.

If the BBC is correct, then interpol has already issued warrants for fifteen members of the Gaddafi family in addition to Muammar Gaddafi. Even the head of the London School of Economics has resigned, presumably due to being funded to the tune of 750 000 pounds or so by the Gaddafi regime. Saif has exhibited all the signs of delusion, and has appeared stuttering and agitated in comparison to Gaddafi, who having first shouted warnings of "death" to all and sundry in a long-winded speech, has since calmed down signficantly, but he is still lying through his teeth, insisting that Al Qaeda is behind the attacks and that Libyans 'love him'. "They love me ..." he is at pains to impress, while his son has now gone on the complete defensive, denying that there is any chance that the Gaddafi family might no longer be wanted in Libya.

Meanwhile, the country has a force approaching from the East, that will have to fight it's way through a Gaddafi stronghold in order to be able to advance on Tripoli. But that has the potential to be progressively bloodier as the approach advances towards the capital. Gaddafi might want to keep the appearance of serenity for now, but when the revolution advances upon Tripoli there is no telling what he would do. His son, who seems to alternate the good-cop bad-cop role with his father, sometimes agitated and defiant, sometimes conciliatory and reasonable. Yet even when he appears calm, it seems more like a lid has been placed on his emotions and he is conscious of the need to appear serene and reasonable. He whispers, alternating between rebutting any efforts of the interviewer to ask a question, while reciting a prepared explanation of events that is so outlandish that his body language pleads with us to believe him while his words ring out surprising inconsistencies that should be evident to any reasonable person. It might be that Saif El Islam, after having had the world at his feet for most of his life, is breaking down. 

Saif's remonstrations ring out daily across multiple satellite channels, while Gaddafi calls on his own people not to watch the satellite channels, as they are conspiring against him. The farce at work here is unavoidably evident - it is clear that the Libyan regime understands the importance of swaying international opinion (indeed, much as the Apartheid government did). So far, the Libyan regime (what's left of it) have made every effort to present a 'conspiracy' to the international media, while at the same time claiming that the international media is responsible for it's demise. It doesn't take much to figure out that this is a wooing strategy in the delusional minds of Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif, that is intended to create enough 'reasonable doubt' in the international court of the media in orderto buy enought time to complete their purges and consolidate territory.

Even a baboon, without any language, would be able to see that Saif El Islam is lying through his teeth. I do not believe that he has been given false information. I believe he is a manipulative, blatant liar with no conscience when caught in a survival situation. He has not yet learnt, despite his larger-than-life father, how to stand on principle. His conscience is a public construct. It exists only outside of him, when he is justifying this and that to the media, but there is no real conscience behind his words. His words are designed for self preservation and not for principle. He is the ultimate neoliberal, with no sense of why anyone else exists, except in service to his highness himself. Saif has had it all his way for much too long. And like most trust-fund kids the age of reckoning has come upon him sooner than he expected. Everything was going so well ... he was going to be the next great leader. But now daddy's boy can't quite make the grade, and he is rebelling against all and sundry, insisting that his version of reality is the ultimate diagnosis of unfolding events. It has become difficult for him to accept that the dream he had is no longer within his grasp, and he is unable to adapt because he is trapped within his own reality, unable to reach out into any other.

So Gaddafi and his son are doomed to a precarious existence from this point forward, choosing to fight a war and incur the wrath of the ICC instead of relinquishing power. And the truth is, that Saif El Islam's stuttering has increased in interviews with the international community because he no longer has the option of exile. He is now a marked man, wanted by the International Criminal Court and Interpol. He is effectively an international fugitive, so he has quite unsurprisingly decided to pitch his stake in the ground and defend it. For Gaddafi and his son there is nothing to lose. He must have sensed this at the outset, because his scarface rendition in the first interview was clear indication that he was losing the plot in large measure. Saif is lost in a reality all his own. So the carefully constructed calming language is nothing more than an effort to pacify himself as the castle is falling on all sides, a pitiful attempt to maintain a grip on a reality that increasingly eludes him.

Journalists are also increasingly unconvinced, and challenge him on all fronts. For his part, Saif comes across as a person in an early mid-life crisis, jumping from one explanation to the next, with no consideration or awareness of whoever is listening. It is as if he is consumed within his own mind, and it is likely that having been adulated without question for so long that he has been trapped within his own universe for a long time now and is unable to break out. There is only one truth, that which emerges from the recesses of his mind, and that of his fathers. Yet nobody is fooled by the act and he has become a cautionary tale and all the hope that must have gathered around his 'reformist' views in the past are now in tatters. Oh how the mighty fall!