The U.S. air war on Libya is a case of imperialism. Imperialism is why it is happening, and that is fundamentally why I oppose the war. Imperialism is when a weaker nation is forced to act in the interests of a stronger nation or multinational coalition. The intention of ‘our’ air war is to force Libya to give over sovereign control of its economy, including of its oil industry, to the forces of corporate globalization, in particular and especially to the corporate interests of those doing the bombing. Find a simpatico perspective in Diana Johnstone’s Why are They Making War on Libya? but also definitely don’t forget these two Pepe Escobar paragraphs from back on March 19:
History may register that the real tipping point was this past Tuesday when, in an interview to German TV, the African king of kings made sure that Western corporations – unless they are German (because the country was against a no-fly zone) – can kiss goodbye to Libya’s energy bonanza. Gaddafi explicitly said, “We do not trust their firms, they have conspired against us … Our oil contracts are going to Russian, Chinese and Indian firms.” In other words: BRICS member countries. …
When Gaddafi threatened Western oil majors, he meant the show would soon be over for France’s Total, Italy’s ENI, British Petroleum (BP), Spanish Repsol, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, Hess and Conoco Phillips – though not for the China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC). China ranks Libya as essential for its energy security. China gets 11% of Libya’s oil exports. CNPC has quietly repatriated no less than 30,000 Chinese workers (compared to 40 working for BP).
But the actual proof of Western intentions is in the history. Ten or so days ago the UN Security Council passed its ‘no fly zone’ resolution. Libya then offered an unconditional ceasefire and begged UN inspectors to come to Libya and make sure the ceasefire was real and that civilians were well-treated. Now, at that point, the intimidation of the ‘no fly zone’ obviously had worked. If the West had simply said ‘yes’ and put its efforts into making sure the ceasefire worked, then its intervention, the passage of the Security Council resolution and subsequent military preparations, could plausibly have been called ‘humanitarian intervention’ rather than imperialism.
However, as we know the Western powers rejected Libya’s peace offer. Why? Well, because of their imperialist intentions. That is the _only_ explanation. I’ve written two diaries here and haven’t heard another. (Note that many who defend the war, such as John Judis, predictably pretend the preceding offer did not occur; if it didn’t happen then they can pretend those opposed to the war don’t care about Libya’s civilians; since Libya’s ceasefire offer did take place it is war proponents who seem to disregard civilian lives.)
Instead of proposing some other reason for this war than imperialism, all I’ve heard from proponents is that _this_ one act of imperialism is good, because (as these off-topic ‘defenses’ usually go) the ruler of the target country is a very bad man and we must snuff him out. But the ceasefire offer makes that argument nonsense. Seriously, WAR would be better than a ceasefire and then a national compromise in which the West could force elections and also what really needs to happen, an even split of national wealth and power among the three or four regions that make up Libya? That’s what ‘we the people’ should want, not another hollow victory for a different Libyan minority, which in fact will be a victory for the military forces of the major Western imperialist powers. Whoever ‘rules’ Libya will know who has the most powerful guns, and will know from direct experience what those powers do when a weak nation strays from the imperial powers’ interests.
You know, I’d almost prefer debating the business elite press. They’d say I’m just being old fashioned with ‘this national sovereignty stuff’, that it’s a good thing to let the “international investor class” — they sometimes lie and call it ‘the market’ — take over and tell Libya to do all those sensible things it always recommends: cut back on safety net and other transfers to citizens, privatize at bargain basement prices, cut taxes for businesses and the rich, make labor costs lower and ‘more flexible’ and so on.
Not living off my investments and dependent someday on transfer payments from my government (and hopefully on an ‘inflexible labor market’ union), I would disagree, and say economic sovereignty, in the people’s interest if we fight for it, is a better way to go. But, at least the business elite knows what’s going on and doesn’t pretend this is ‘about Qaddafi’ or ‘civilians’. We’ve known that’s not the case since the Western imperialists rejected Libya’s ceasefire offer.
P.S. “The only important intellectual difference between neoconservatives and liberal interventionists is that the former have disdain for international institutions (which they see as constraints on U.S. power), and the latter see them as a useful way to legitimate American dominance.” – Stephen M. Walt, March 21, 2011
UPDATE: A glitch in myfdl doesn’t allow me to respond (at least right now) to the various responses that “Libya didn’t really ceasefire” when it said it was declaring a unilateral ceasefire. Why it did not do so is uncertain, though the West universally says the fact that Libya did not shows that it is untrustworthy. First of all, there may have been good reasons, such as being under military attack by the rebels, why the Libyans did not completely ceasefire. We don’t in fact know the battlefield circumstances. I’m not blaming the U.S. and its allies for not telling the rebels to stop fighting, but I’m also not accusing the Libyan of bad faith for continuing to fight the Libyan rebels they were already engaged in battle with, if that was in fact the case. Second and more important, common sense could have interpreted the Libyan declaration as an opening for reciprocation. Why not respond with a confidence-raising measure of some sort, which would’ve indicated the U.S. and its allies in fact also wanted an immediate ceasefire? Instead of ridicule, accusations of bad faith, and then cruise missiles. I think I know why. The U.S., Britain, France, and Italy want a war in which they will reclaim firm control over Libya’s oil resources, through the rebel government that will know who the real bosses are.