Libya in turmoil four years after NATO bombing

egypt libya air strikes

AIR STRIKES: Egyptian war planes bombed Islamic forces in Libya

by Bill Bonnar In 2011, Nato attacked Libya at the head of a reactionary alliance leading to the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime and the effective collapse of the country. This may sound blunt but is essentially true. The Nato assault was presented to the British people on a foundation of lies even more glaring than that which saw the invasion and destruction of Iraq. The first lie was that there had been a nationwide uprising against a highly unpopular regime. In fact there was a regional uprising in one part of the country in a situation where large swathes of the population supported the regime.

The second was that the revolt was basically a democratic revolution to establish freedom and civil rights in the country. One look at the anti-regime alliance put paid to that idea. They were a heady mixture of regional and tribal based groups, Islamic fundamentalists and disaffected elements of the army. Hardly a democrat among them.

Thirdly that the Nato intervention was essentially humanitarian in nature aimed at defending a defenceless civilian population against attacks by the regime. In fact Nato intervened in a civil war to ensure one side triumphed and played the lead role in the conflict.

It was the Nato airstrikes which proved decisive in a conflict. Day by day rebel forces were only able to advance into areas cleared by Nato bombardment. Without Nato the rebels would have been easily defeated.

Since the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime the country has effectively disintegrated into civil war and economic collapse and in fact hardly exists as a functioning state at all.

There are two rival governments overseeing a patchwork of territories run by as many as 300 militias. The economy functions at a fraction of its pre-war level while the hitherto extensive system of social provision has disintegrated.

Thousands of Libyans have fled abroad while the political agenda is largely a battleground between Islamic fundamentalists who want to establish an Islamic state and regional and tribal forces who want to defend their own narrow, sectional interests.

The majority of Libyans including many who opposed Gaddafi must wonder at what has happened to their country and long for a return to the pre-war situation. They are not blind to the faults of that regime; it was authoritarian and corrupt.

However it also presided over an economy which was the most advanced and stable on the continent, living standards at almost European levels, highly developed social services and a secular state which protected and promoted the rights of women and ethnic minorities.

For the former their situation has been thrown back decades while the latter mostly African population are among many of those refugees desperately trying to reach Europe and often dying in the process.

The Western intervention; like the intervention in Iraq has proved to be disastrous; even to western interests. Their motivation was to overthrow the Gaddafi regime, not because it was a dictatorship but because it could not be relied on to acquiesce to western dictate. They wanted a regime which would put western interests first.

They also wanted strategic control of Libya’s huge oil reserves. What they have actually won is a monster. If Libya survives it is most likely to be in the form of a fundamentalist Islamic state and if it finally collapsed it will lead to widespread instability in the entire region.

Only the Libyan people can resolve the crisis; without any more disastrous western intervention. Most Libyans want a return to a stable, secular society and strong central government. They are fearful of the Islamic fundamentalists on the one hand and the regional and tribal militias on the other.

One ray of hope is that in neighbouring Arab states such as Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt Islamic and regionalist forces have been defeated and the secular nature of their societies has been consolidated. These governments now look on with growing concern at events in Libya and are increasingly intervening.

Two weeks ago, Egyptian war planes bombed Islamic forces near the Egyptian border. While western intervention should be vigorously opposed, pan-Arab intervention is an entirely different matter.

For Libya to be saved from disaster the Islamic and tribal/regional forces need to be defeated and disarmed and strong central government restored in Tripoli.

The country must re-establish the secular foundation of its society as the only way towards a stable future and while the Gaddafi regime and its excesses need to be brought to account as the spark for this conflict the country must return to the kind of social and economic programme which brought such benefits and advances for the Libyan people.

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