“It is a stolen revolution – if you can even call it a revolution.”
The claim that NATO’s intervention in Libya has somehow tainted the Libyans’ quest for human rights has been addressed already. By using the term stolen, we are attributing all credit to NATO: even when the credit is intended to ostracize Western powers, we are in effect stealing the Libyans’ genuine effort and attributing it to NATO. When the protestors of Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain are all cheering on the Libyan revolutionaries, such a claim adopts a human dimension that introduces the collective hopes and desires of a people thirsty for freedom that is difficult to ignore. Yet my fear is that this twisted narrative has a real capacity to grow, especially in progressive circles in the Global North. In the US, some of the Arab peoples’ closest allies have chosen to spew this rhetoric. The theory is admittedly tempting – which increases my worries for the quality of future interaction between post-war Libya and the US left.
By and large, the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts have been internalized as peaceful protests that have only encountered violence from their respective former state apparatuses. From what I’ve remarked, this seems to particularly earn the respect of American leftists as more “pure.” Libya, on the other hand, been forced to form its own “rebel” armed units to counter the thousands of mercenary brigades that Gaddafi was bringing in from other African nations, amongst other reasons. Due to the indiscriminate killing that Gaddafi’s state pursued, the people also needed additional protection and armed support and called for the help of many (not just NATO). We should recall that the earliest form of intervention in Libya in regards to the revolts has kicked off with the Arab League asking the UN Security Council to pass a resolution authorizing other countries to protect the civilian population. It is unlike anything that occurred in Tunisia or Egypt. The US progressive community is very aware and sensitive to any forms of foreign intervention and is alert in perceiving signs of neo-colonialism (and rightly so) – thus comes the increased focused on the intervention. I fear that Libya will be start to be institutionally categorized as an exception to the triumphs of the Arab Awakening by those who would typically be considered its staunchest allies. Some elements of the Libyan case simply do not fit the US political-left schema, and I am seeing that for many, it is difficult to reconcile the elements.
This has some very real implications for the way the US provides support to a nascent Libya and MENA in general. On an internal level, we may start seeing levels of support divided along political left-center-right cleavages. Or it may remain contained as a division amongst the left. In either scenario, there is the possibility that Libya will be alienated by some of those who are most able to help. A practical example of this fear is the US Congress voting on an aid package to Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. Some strong liberals may get carried away in this narrative’s illusion and oppose sending any aid to Libya. Obviously this is an extreme example (I heavily doubt we have that strong of liberals in our current Congress) – but it gets the point across.
Most importantly in the way the Libyan regime’s fall is perceived is how some theory might spill over onto the rest of the Arab world’s revolts. By possibly harming the Libyan revolutions reputation, there is the possibility that Tunisia and Egypt’s revolutionary progress will also be impacted. It may also impact Yemen and Syria – in fact, it already is influencing a lot of the rhetoric surrounding the Syrian revolts. “How come NATO is not intervening in Syria?” I can say this much: it is not due to any lack of – economic but especially political – interest in the region. There is much of that in Syria.
This intersection between pro/anti revolution and pro/anti international intervention is a very interesting one that simply does not fit into any traditional narratives It is, I believe, creating a new political outlook both in the Global North and in MENA that is bound by different priorities and desires…