August 31, 2011 14 Comments
It’s time for my opinion on the hot story of the moment: Libya. This is something I’ve purposely avoided so far because so many of the facts have been blurred.
First off, Gaddafi has to be one of my least favourite despots around, even by the standards of the real dregs the Middle East and Africa regularly churn out. The Gaddafi philosophy has been a mixture of Islamic socialism, pan-Arabism and Afro-centrist nonsense that could be the dream-stuff of a SOAS postgrad student. Interestingly, during an interview with Al Guardian, Gaddafi’s son, Saif, claimed Libya is very similar to Switzerland.
Switzerland it certainly wasn’t. Some of my favourite Gaddafi stories have to include his infamous invite to Jews of Libyan origin to return to their old abodes (Gaddafi had expelled the last Jews of Libya in 1971). His terms were enticing: “If they come as warriors, we will fight them… if they come trading cheese, we will buy cheese”. Another great one came in 1977. As part of his many efforts for Libya to achieve self-sufficiency, Gaddafi decreed that every Libyan family should raise chickens at home. Live chickens were delivered to every home in the country, even to apartments in the inner cities of Tripoli and Benghazi that had no capacity to engage in chicken farming. The smell of cooked chicken wafted over Libyan cities for weeks. The list of ridiculous arbitrary decrees instructing Libyans on what to wear or read have become the stuff of legend, but far too long to list here. Of course, he was also fond of public hangings on university campuses if there was discontent among the young or the intellectuals. It wasn’t always funny under Gaddafi. You just know he’s the type to have a ‘human rights’ award named after him, and that Nelson Mandela and Louis Farrakhan would have it. Shame he wasn’t around long enough for our friend Ezra Nawi to get one.
Gaddafi is a liar. Look at the video above. Sometimes he’s secular, sometimes he’s an Islamist. Oh, and the step-daughter he claimed was killed by Ronald Reagan in an air-strike has turned out to be alive. It was all part of a plot to gain sympathy.
It surprises many that I am very sceptical of the revolution, pessimistic about Libya’s future and have spoken against intervening in Libya since the rescue of Benghazi. This is because, like pretty much all Muslim countries, there is no tradition of liberalism on the ground in Libya. Western societies, like the ones most of my readership are comparatively lucky to live in, were not built from the top-down by powers thousands of miles away. It was a process that took centuries of trade and economic advancement, consensus building, and revolutions in ideas, industry, science and the political sphere. The Muslim world remained largely retarded through most of this. Trying to mould another America out of the devout Muslim country of Afghanistan, which has an 80% rate of illiteracy, and all in about a decade or so, has failed miserably. Muslims in Tower Hamlets and the suburbs of Paris are headache enough, thank you.
It became clear in the very early stages of the revolt that opposition to Gaddafi was as much based on tribal grievances as it was on governing principles. Then there is the Islamist factor. We know Al Qaeda has been involved in the rebellion, and that the rebel stronghold of Bayda has been declared an ‘Islamic Caliphate’ by them. Islamists are behind this in a big way, even if it was not orchestrated by them from the beginning. I for one don’t expect the rebels to have enlightened views when it comes to Jews or other infidels. Not surprisingly, the Libyan Draft Constitution says “Islam is the Religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia)”. Oh, here we go.
If Libyans end up with government that represents them better, that is probably for the best. I’d just have preferred we remained more cautious and avoided assisting the rebellion. Aside from the financial commitment involved in the midst of an economic depression, we just don’t know what kind of negative blowback will result. The assistance given to Libya could very well help bring about the death of westerners someday soon. It appears that some of Gaddafi’s stock of 20,000 SAMs have already surfaced elsewhere in the Middle East, including Gaza.
It may even help bring about the deaths of black Africans in Libya. Libya has imported many African migrant workers in recent years as Gaddafi has sought to build bridges with African Union countries (he’s fallen out with much of the Arab leadership). This has proved unpopular with many Libyans. In 2000, there was a pogrom against blacks in which dozens were killed. Now bad news abounds concerning violence against blacks on the part of the rebels.
One of my favourite descriptions of the war came from the great libertarian commentator Ilana Mercer. Referring to the philosophy of interventionism behind the Libyan adventure espoused by the unbearable Irish-American leftist Samantha Power, Susan Rice, as well the Wicked Witch of the White House herself, Hillary Clinton, Mercer dubbed Libya a “war of the womb. A product of the romantic minds of women who fantasize about an Arab awakening. It is estrogen-driven paternalism on steroids… In Libya, the casus belli for war consists of nothing but silly assertions. This “angels and demons” approach befits a children’s Disney production: Once upon a time an evil dictator was killing his noble people. Then Lauren of Arabia rode to the rescue…”
One final point. A few commentators such as Mercer and Robert Wenzel of the Economic Policy Journal have pointed out a truly disturbing factor that could alter our understanding of Libya completely. So it’s being ignored by the mainstream media of course. It is interesting to note that (from Mercer):
In 2009—in his capacity as head of the African Union—Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi had proposed that the economically crippled continent adopt the Gold Dinar… Had a gold revolution engulfed oil-rich African and Persian-Gulf states this would have spelt trouble for the debt-strapped West.
If only symbolically, a gold revolution across Arabia and Africa would have outweighed by far the significance of a democratic revolution…
A Gadhafi-driven gold revolution would have… imperiled the positions of central bankers and their political and media power-brokers. The former surreptitiously print away the fruits of the people’s labor; the latter scramble their brains so that they don’t know they are being robbed blind.
Funnily enough, according to Bloomberg, a rebel group known as the Transitional National Council last week released a statement announcing that they have created a Central Bank in Benghazi to control monetary policy in the new regime. They have even appointed a governor to this Central Bank of Libya, temporarily headquartered in Benghazi.
Since when has a central bank been created in just a few weeks out of a popular uprising? How ‘rag-tag’ are these rebels? What help from foreign powers have they been enjoying to organize something as sophisticated as this?