Intervention, Then and Now

My articles focus on foreign intervention, particularly from US forces, both before and after the fall of Gaddafi. The American Conservative highlights the major flaws in US aid during the ousting of Gaddafi in 2011, deeming that the US attributed “values” they wanted to believe that Libya had, putting far more significance on the conflict than it truly possessed. US intervention was unpopular in the region because of distrust and resentment in the US. The author says this tells us that the US is far too quick to take sides in foreign conflict, and far too eager to throw their weight behind their side to make sure it wins, abandoning hindsight in situations by acting impulsively. From The Intercept, authors Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain discuss the issues on US intervention in Libya in terms of it being focused on short-term goals rather than sustained support for the reconstruction of civil institutions. US claimed that military force in Libya was crucial to address atrocities and human right violations, and that the US cannot “turn a blind eye” in upholding “universal values.” However, after the successful ousting of Gaddafi, US and humanitarian efforts ceased, leaving the country to pick up the pieces and re-build themselves from the ground up in the midst of social, political, and economic chaos and degradation.

Reuters reported recently that President Sissi of Egypt has called for US and European intervention in the Libyan conflict to counter terrorism and aid the Libyan army in their fight against Islamic militant groups, preventing the conflict from requiring intervention on the scale of Iraq and Syria.

In terms of US military intervention we can conclude that there were numerous deficiencies in their strategy to oust Gaddafi in 2011. They lacked in their sustained support to rebuild the institutions that were destroyed during and after the Gaddafi regime, and because of this the country dissented into chaos and militant violence. The US is too gung ho to protect “universal values” that they tend to assume these values are indeed universal. Rather than being so quick to take sides and settle foreign conflict the US should act more as a neutral mediator resolving conflict rather than initiating further bloodshed through their impulse to “do something” immediately. While we can turn back time, we can try to mend what we’ve broken. President Sissi of Egypt has officially announced his call for international intervention in Libya to help in the battle against Islamic insurgency. While the US has been condemned for their ad hoc management of Arab Spring intervention strategies in Libya in the past, they should really take time to consider how to offer aid that will in the long run fix what they contributed in destroying. We know that US intervention in the Middle East is historically condemned, so the fact that they are now calling on us for assistance makes it clear that they cant fight this battle on their own and they are in need of foreign allies to eliminate the escalating Islamic threat. Now the the chance for the US to be that “mediator,” doing their part to cease the violence and attempt to bring order to the anarchy.



Judges of Libya’s supreme court discuss the legitimacy of the country’s internationally recognised parliament during a hearing on November 6, 2014 in Tripoli (AFP Photo/Mahmud Turkia)

My two articles this week serve as an update for recent events. Time magazine reported on Libya’s Supreme Court’s ruling that the elected parliament is invalid. The parliament dismisses these claims due their belief that the verdict was influenced by the threat of militant arms. The Clarion Project article reported the most recent clash between groups at the Mitiga airport, the primary airport since Tripoli International was closed due to damages.

If nothing else we can assume from these two articles that the Libyan crisis is escalating tremendously. Like in Syria the Islamic militant groups are working to feed their power by dominating the most strategic parts of the country with the mentality that if they control all major ports, airports, and oil revenue, they can eventually gain control of Libya as a whole. They are also aiming to undermine the elected parliament in any way they can in order to gain support from civilians and fuel their popularity by exploiting the weak, instilling a false consciousness in Libyans that supporting Islamic politics and Sharia Law is the only way to peace and order. The struggle for power between the two opposing sides is moving closer to a point of no return, at this point both sides are so transfixed on the state of war, any notion of compromise or negotiation is unfathomable.


No War is an Island

(Neither Sunni Nor Shia But National Unity)

In order to grasp the many facets of the Libyan crisis I looked outward to regional struggles, gaining insight and understanding in a broader sense. My two articles focused on the concept of a ‘Thirty Years War,’ as well as how the many ongoing conflicts in the Middle East ultimately converge into one. David Brooks from the New York Times says that Richard Haas from the Council on Foreign Relations defines this 30 years war as “an overlapping series of proxy wars that could go on for decades and transform identities, maps and the political contours of the region. Brooks lays out the various rivalries that have surfaced such as Sunni-Shiia, Sunni-Sunni, Saudi-Iranian, and Israeli-Palestinian. He says that the last regional struggle in 1979 over the Arab-Israeli dispute was basically a clash of civilizations between Western Democracy and Middle Eastern autocracy, but now the regional struggle is a clash between Arab civilization and over what will come of its future. My second article also introduced this 30 year war concept but focused more on its sectarian elements. Douglass Murray from the spectator alluded this regional struggle to Europe’s 30 year religious war in the 17th century between Protestants and Catholics. He says that there will need to be a Treaty of Westphalia-style solution in which the Middle East will need to redraw the boundaries that have already been “bursting for decades.” Douglass says that the conflict is based on religion, Sunni vs. Shiia, and behind these two sects are the two opposing regional powers, Saudi and Iran, with their affiliated proxies driving the conflict(s) forward.

In terms of Libya, we can conclude that the country has become a battleground for proxy war due to aid and air strikes offered from Egypt and UAE to Operation Dignity, and arms from Qatar for Operation Dawn. The Islamic militants in Libya seeking governmental authority and theocratic rule serve as another battle ground for regional sectarian war. Rather than creating 2 full-scale armies and engaging in some primal civil war, the Middle East has routed more towards modern warfare, in a sense. In the Controversies in Globalization chapter about International conflict, whether or not great powers are likely to go to war with one another, Goldstein conveys that modernity has altered the concept of war entirely due to our global interdependence, trade networks, and the risk of mutually assured destruction, and it has as a result pivoted to a smaller-scale proxy realm. Instead of Saudi, Egypt, and UAE waging a full-scale war on Iran, Syria, and Islamic groups, they do the best they can at containing and eliminating their opponent through more subtle, smaller-scale, state conflicts, aiding the people within country in which the battleground currently resides to assist them in ousting Islamic influence. So when we look at the Libyan conflict we can say that its ultimately an offshoot of the regional ’30 years war’ rather than a separate and distinct conflict. It would be wrong to claim that any Middle Eastern conflict is uncorrelated with the rest.

“Fear” of Influence

Isil’s new offshoot in Derna, Libya, has been carrying out floggings, here on a man reportedly caught drinking wine

ISIL has asserted itself within Libyan borders, reportedly claiming occupation of Derna and Benghazi. My first article from the Telegraph accentuates the driving factors to the ongoing insurgency of ISIL in Libya and how the threat is even more extreme than that of Iraq and Syria, especially in the Eastern city of Derna which is the historic recruiting ground for Jihad fighters to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. One reason being the Islamist ideology in itself, rejecting any form of a modern state and the institutions that accompany its success. For example in Libya the leader of the AS branch declares that his militants will not disarm or demobilize until sharia law is imposed. Second, during Gaddafi’s rule he unleashed a crackdown on all Islamic expression. The brutality shown towards Islamic groups during this time has fueled their resentment towards sectarian rule and has urged them to push for the rejection of state institutions even more so. My second article conveys AS’s occupation of Benghazi, claiming it to be the newest Islamic emirate.

Historically we can conclude that anarchy and civil war, especially between Islamic and sectarian groups, is a breeding ground for ISIL insurgency. The IS is known to prey on weak warring states in order to announce themselves as the way to peace and order, the same way most authoritarian regimes come into power. The ongoing civil war and militant conflicts coupled with obsolete government authority has laid the foundation for the birth of IS in Libya. As a terrorist group ISIL lacks the resources and conventional warfare capabilities to gain power through traditional means, so alternatively they must rely on highly visible, symbolic attacks that will undermine the target population simultaneously fueling their support. With these major cities in Libya now occupied by the IS has really impacted my understanding of the regional proxy war. These proxy actors such as Egypt, UAE, Turkey, and Qatar providing military aid to opposing militant groups are not only urging for stability, but rather fighting in a war much more significant. Outsiders may view Libyan anarchy as another Middle Eastern state in need of a stable government, but thats only how it began. The conflict has escalated to a regional battle between ISIL supporters and ISIL opposers.


Oil, oil, oil

As militant infighting in Libya escalates, the two rival governments fight for control over oil policy. According to Reuters, internationally recognized Prime Minister Thinni has publicly announced that they have full control of the country’s oil fields and revenue, even from their displaced headquarters in Tobruk. Officials at the state owned National Oil Co. and the central bank receives payments from oil buyers said revenues are flowing to the Tripoli-based accounts, so oil for now is in the hands of the state.

Press TV says Islamic militants have continued to launch attacks on major oil fields such as Sharara with the hope of establishing claims to further their control like in Syria, using the revenue to extend their insurgency and manifest their authority over Libya as a whole, but Thinni assures the international community that this will not happen.

From reading Controversies in Globalization we can see that oil is a huge factor in Middle Eastern diplomacy and Western countries foreign interests. Because of Libya’s instability, OPEC is concerned with future assets. We also know that in Middle Eastern economies, who ever controls the oil controls the wealth. The hands in which the revenue ends up is a vital part of the equation. If islamic groups are successful in taking over these major oil fields and plants, it could be significantly detrimental for the elected parliaments ability to maintain control. In the Global realm, OPEC members and international actors are uncertain in how to address the Libyan chaos. Preventing the Syrian situation, where ISIL has taken control of major oil fields and use it to fund their insurgency, is vital in Libya. Slipping deeper into the grave of a failed state and collapsing into anarchic warlordism is not only detrimental to Libya’s future, but also to its regional neighbors and international ties.

Proxy War

My two articles focus on the Libyan conflict and its escalation into a regional war by proxy. According to VICE news US officials have directed accusations towards Egypt and the UAE for conducting air strikes on Islamist militias in Libya in secrecy without consulting the international community and subsequently denying all allegations. Analysts fear that Libya has become an “arena for a battle between regional rivals.” UAE and Egypt are backing General Haftar’s Operation Dignity and other countries such as Qatar and Turkey are funding the Islamist Operation Dawn. My second article from New York Times accentuates the confirmation that the Libyan conflict has turned into a regional struggle with evidence of car bombings outside the UAE and Egyptian embassies. These bombings by Islamist militants are an obvious backlash against the two major countries aiding their opponents.

This interference from regional actors may be beneficial to militants fighting against an Islamic state, however it has completely exacerbated Libya’s degradation ultimately undermining any chance the country has at a democratic transition or even simpler, a peaceful resolution. I think fact that this civil war has become a religious war is the component that makes it so controversial. If it was just domestic in-fighting due to the lack of a stable government and institutional structure, regional actors wouldn’t really feel compelled to intervene. But given the current atmosphere of the region as a whole and the ISIL insurgency, actors across the Middle East are doing their part to contain the fire.

Tabula Rasa

Utilizing articles regarding Libya’s reconstruction after the ousting of the Gaddafi regime I focused this week on the insurgency of militant groups. In an article from News Week Author Dirk Vandewalle paints a picture of the extent to which Gaddafi’s reign completely dismantled all structure within Libyan society. He uses the phrase “a political tabula rasa” which is Latin for a political blank slate, conveying that Libya is tasked with ultimately rebuilding their society from scratch, which is a burden that typically takes countries centuries to complete. He highlights major events that led to the downfall of both the Gaddafi regime and the Libyan state and how these components have fueled the fire of civil unrest, provoking the rise of armed militant groups to compete for future power over Libya. Controversies in Globalization deems the Libyan conflict as a “low-grade low-tech civil war” which is why the UN and US have been reluctant to intervene beyond humanitarian aid.

Coupled with this, my other articles basically lay out the dynamic of these militant groups, conveying their values and desires for Libya’s future highlighting their motives and values. The root of the issue is that when the GNC took power, they funded the militant groups for their own insurance rather than working towards their disbandment. The Islamist coalition dominated parliament, and as chaos deepened and they realized they would loose the election, they just delayed having one all together. The forces are basically  pro-Haftar  and Operation Dignity verus pro-Congess and Islamist Operation Dawn. In other words, Islamist and Islamist affiliates versus secular. The Author says “We are like a class of kids where the bad teacher is suddenly dead,” he said. “Now we all fight each other.” When the light finally comes to a country that was for so long in the dark, it is excruciatingly blinding.