Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Stay out of Libya

Did you know that a civil war just recently started in Côte d’Ivoire?


I can’t blame you: The media has largely ignored it. Just like they mostly ignore the ongoing civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and only occasionally remember to mention Darfur or the 20-year-long reign of chaos in Somalia (which comes complete with a powerful Islamist insurrection).

Yet the conflict in Libya has taken center stage, and the U.S. military began bombing the country just weeks after the government of Muammar Gaddafi started its brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters and those protesters turned into an armed rebellion. Other tyrants have been happily doing this sort of thing for decades with no more than a slap on the wrist from the U.S. Granted, a lot of those tyrants are supported by the U.S., but so was Gaddafi in recent years (after 2004).

So why is the U.S. government suddenly so interested in the fate of the Libyan people, when it can’t seem to be bothered to do something about the rampant piracy, public executions, and generally very nasty situation in Somalia, for example? Call me cynical, but I think it might have something to do with the fact that Gaddafi is sitting on top of an ocean of oil.

I am by no means the first person to make this argument. Jon Stewart presented it far better than I could ever hope to, when he had a segment on his show about “America’s Freedom Packages.” It is blatantly obvious that the United States is acting hypocritically and inconsistently, picking and choosing which dictators to support with money and guns and which dictators to overthrow. The hope that Obama would bring about a new era in American foreign policy has been trampled to dust.

As a friend of mine pointed out a few days ago, Obama has now launched more cruise missiles than all previous Nobel Peace laureates combined (Henry Kissinger still holds the record for greatest use of Agent Orange, though). Still, a lot of people support the intervention in Libya anyway. After all, goes their argument, regardless of what the US military did or didn’t do in other places, isn’t it at least doing the right thing in this case? It certainly looks like the U.S. and NATO intervention is helping freedom-loving rebels against a bloodthirsty dictator. What could be wrong with that?

Such arguments are mistaken, because they assume that the American military support for the Libyan rebels comes to them free of charge. Nothing could be further from the truth. The history of U.S. military actions over the past sixty years shows that American “help” always comes with strings attached. I do not believe for a second that the U.S. government has any intention to help the Libyans take their country back and then walk away and wish them good luck.

In Iraq, the Pentagon riddled the country with military bases and American corporations took control of the oil industry, as well as much of Iraq’s economy. In Afghanistan, the United States is propping up a puppet dictator, Hamid Karzai, who rules with the help of drug lords. We can expect something similar for Libya if the rebels are put in power by U.S. military forces rather than their own strength. The U.S. will say to them, “We gave you power; that means we own you.” The oil industry will probably be sold off to western corporations immediately, with others to come later. Some of the rebels will object to this, no doubt, but what could they do to resist with NATO’s bombs hovering over their country?

We must also remember that the Libyan rebels are an extremely diverse group, with nothing in common except the fact that they hate Gaddafi. Some of them want Libya to be a progressive republic, a few may be socialists, others may want to see the old monarchy restored, and some would like an Islamic state. Then there are also quite a lot of opportunists – many of them ex-Gaddafi supporters – who only joined the rebellion because they saw which way the wind was blowing. Such people would not care very much about the nature of the future Libya, as long as they get to be in charge. If Gaddafi is overthrown by a NATO intervention from above, instead of a successful popular uprising from below, it is precisely those opportunists who are likely to form the next government. They would gladly go along with anything the U.S. demands, and if the people of Libya complain too much, they might even install a new dictator.

There can be no victory for the Libyan people as long as the U.S. military is running the show. That is why we must oppose the intervention – because intervention means that the U.S. will be pulling the strings. Without U.S .and NATO interference, the Libyan people at least stand a chance of taking real control of their own country. It’s far from a sure thing, but at least they stand a chance.

Mike Tudoreanu is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].

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