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Introspection over Libya

12 SEPTEMBER, 2011: As Libya writes its difficult second chapter, countries involved in the early military intervention – albeit without boots on the ground – and those that hesitated are going through a period of introspection that has little to do with Libya. It is more a deep self-examination of national foibles as well as fantasies for a new world order. In the end, Libya has proved a stalking horse for all manner of agendas.

Said Aljazeera, the sabre rattling “prompted a renewal of triumphalism in the US media... No doubt, the US and its NATO proxies tipped the military balance in favour of the Benghazi-based rebels... Still, it was Libyans who took the biggest risks and paid the highest price. They deserve the credit.”

While Jessica Rettig at US News said that “Obama, can take at least partial credit for the rebels' success,” Justin Raimondo at deems it a pyrrhic victory. He writes, “The unelected National Transitional Council (NTC), which claims to be the only legitimate government, has already issued a draft ‘constitution,’ one replete with references to all sorts of ‘rights’ – free speech, assembly, democratic elections, etc. There’s just one little provision – stated right up front, in Part 1, Article 1 – that could throw a monkey-wrench into the new regime’s public relations campaign. It reads: ‘Islam is the Religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).’

Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper believes the “pressure” on the Pakistan government to recognise the new Libyan government is “reckless advice”. Meanwhile India’s Times of India newspaper quotes US State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland who suggests an inclusive approach to Libya. “India, for example,” she says, “has lots of experience in democratic governance, has lots of experience in working in small towns and villages on democracy issues." This was in response to a question on US expectation from BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), which baulked at NATO air strikes and now has some rethinking to do.

According to the Hindu’s Bidanda Chengappa in Business Line, “Along with Russia and China, India has been critical of... western air strikes launched against Libya on the ground that ordinary Libyans would be affected and the air attacks would prove counterproductive.” He argues this “moralistic” position is “unrealistic” as “from an Indian national security and foreign policy perspective, the regime in Tripoli needs to be a friendly one since Libya is an oil rich country and eternal shock — western air attacks or civil war — could affect Indian industrial investments and energy security interests there.”

Also in The Hindu, James M Dorsey wrote, “Alarm bells rang out... in the Chinese and Russian capitals after Abdeljalil Mayouf, a manager of the rebel-controlled Arabian Gulf Oil Company (AGOCO) warned that China, Russia and Brazil, in contrast to Western nations, could face political obstacles in reverting back to business as usual.”

In Bagehot’s Notebook, The Economist says, the “early success in Libya does not mean that Britain has invented a new world order in which the British always get their way... Big emerging democracies, from South Africa to India and Brazil, do not share Britain’s enthusiasm for getting involved in the affairs of other countries.”

The Egyptian Gazette said Egypt could have played a more clear and leading role but didn’t. “It took the Egyptian Government more than six months to make its position clear.”

And what of Libya itself? UK’s Guardian in an editorial, ‘Libya: a hard road ahead’, wrote that, “Libya's oil wealth has created a distorted society in which much of the hard work has been done by foreigners for more than a generation. If Libyans were politically oppressed, they were economically pampered. That pampering very much included the business class, which, when not actually drawn from the ranks of the ruling clan and its allies, benefited from sweetheart deals of various kinds. Libya therefore needs economic as much as political reform because these economic bad habits, if unchecked, could undermine any political progress.”

Says The Economist magazine in its 27 August, 2011 edition, “The toppling of Colonel Qaddafi... will be a boon to the Middle East and Western powers. Helpfully, Libya has no sectarian divide, its society is relatively homogeneous but grievances abound after four decades of oppression.”– Vijay Verghese