Tag Archives: nato

The Libyan revolution and the impact on the American – arguably far – left (Part Two)

“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…

The Libyan revolution and the impact on the American – arguably far – left (Part One)

I should perhaps edit the title of this article to read, “The Libyan revolution and the impact on the left in the Global North,” — particularly the far left of Western Europe and the United States. While the vast majority of progressives in these regions are wary of NATO and its history, they do recognize the organization’s intervention in Libya as a humanitarian one. Yet, I have been encountering an increasingly prevalent level of push back regarding the intervention, and in some extreme cases, a downright delegitimization of the Libyan peoples’ struggles.

Before I delve into my thoughts regarding the possible impact that this attitude will have on the left and its future relationship with a new Libya, both abstractly speaking and on a practical, domestic policy based level, I think the downfalls and dynamics of this specialized narrative merit serious mention. Several commentators (see Juan Cole’s “Top Ten Myths about the Libya War“) do a much better job at explaining some inadequacies of arguments raised by folks who are against the intervention – so I will leave that task to rest. However, I did want to point out that there is a stark contrast between the populace that holds this view in the US/Europe and that in MENA. In MENA, the narrative belongs to those who are defending the current status quo – and the leaders in charge of ushering and maintaining it (or were in charge, ie Gaddafi). In the US/Europe, it is narrated by those who are against western imperialism. In this case, the narrative inadvertently works to serve the purpose of the likes of Gaddafi, Assad, Saleh, etc. who –  whilst holding their states’ developmental capacity and general civic freedoms hostage – maintain that the sole possible explanation for the rebellion of their people is due to infiltration from the West.

This misguided narrative, most importantly, shows a severe lack of historical knowledge on the Libyan liberation movement. To claim that this is a “NATO war,” that “massacred an armed and civilian population”is irresponsible, unjustified, and groundless. It ignores the decades that the Libyan people – nay the people of North Africa as a whole – had to suffer at the hands of this merciless, insane dictator. It ignores how much of the country’s potential was wasted in favor of personal greed and power. It ignores the whips on an uncle’s back, and the bruises on the inside of a woman’s thighs. It ignores this. Further, it is an affront – indeed a dire insult – to the Libyan people, discrediting them of their desires, hopes, and suffering.

There is no doubt that each country will want to stake its claim in a new, post-war, post-Gaddafi Libya: the country is resource rich and has a very real potential to end the relative economic dry spell plaguing the region. At the end of the day however, this is the Libyans’ revolution – those who were on the front lines had nothing to lose but their dignity. What possible indication do we have that they will be lead around like cowards by NATO? How dare we?

In Part Two, I will be discussing the more internal impacts that these attitudes can have in the Global North, paying particular attention to the United States. I initially planned on having it in one entry – but the topic will be shifting a bit and it made no sense to have it all lumped into one.

Note: this entry is temporally bound. Clearly, the situation may change in Libya – and then we may have real reasons to fear. But as it stands, the Libyans cried, fought, and died for their liberation. We must not only respect that, but deeply honor and admire it.