Foreign Policy Expert Warns Against Action in Libya

by James George Jatras,

Director of American Council for Kosovo
Deputy Director of American Institute in Ukraine



From an American perspective, almost as dismaying as the fact that president Obama has now mimicked his predecessors and blundered into his very own ill-advised foreign intervention, is puzzlement about the decision of Russia (and of China, which presumably followed the Russian lead) not to veto the Security Council resolution authoring force in Libya.

To address the Russian question first: it didn’t take a "Kristol ball" to guess that the Western powers would immediately exceed the UNSC’s mandate, in effect treating Resolution 1973 as a carte blanche to intervene in the Libyan civil war. Perhaps president Medvedev didn’t want to disappoint his "reset" partner, president Obama. Or perhaps Moscow was applying some geopolitical judo in facilitating America’s tumble into yet another sand-trap, and then criticizing us for it. (For all of Paris’ and London’s grandstanding and Riyadh’s and Abu Dhabi’s prodding, accusing fingers again will be pointed at the United States for lots of dead Muslims served up for Al-Jazeera’s cameras).

Evident disarray at the top militates against the likelihood that the Russian move was calculated. Prime Minister Putin castigated the Western campaign as reminiscent of a "medieval crusade" –an inapt characterization, first because the Libyan operation (as will be seen below), far from being anti-Islamic, instead is furthering the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and their ilk.

Secondly, Putin should appreciate that as a historical matter, the real Crusades were a legitimate if flawed Christian counterattack against centuries of jihad aggression, not an episode to be used as a term of opprobrium. Then, to further tangle things, Medvedev criticized him just for uttering the word "crusade," the mere sound of which offends delicate Muslim ears and aggravates the "clash of civilizations." In short, what the Russians really have in mind is not at all clear.

But the muddle in Moscow pales beside the latest outbreak of imbecility along the Potomac. The report is that Samantha Power, National Security Council special advisor to Obama on human rights and one of Obama’s campaign advisors on foreign affairs, was primarily responsible for convincing her dithering boss to proceed, with support from U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and, of course, from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Power became an obsessive advocate of "humanitarian intervention" during her stint as a journalist in Bosnia and advocates a philosophy called "responsibility to protect" (RTP), with military intervention ostensibly to protect human rights raised to a cardinal principle of American foreign policy. She outlined RTP in her 2003 book "A Problem From Hell: America in the Age of Genocide," that Richard Holbrooke of Balkan infamy commanded his underlings to read. Power’s militarism is boundless. For instance, at the height of the Second Intifada in 2002, she advocated military action against Israel to create and protect a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On the other hand, nobody’s holding his breath waiting for Power to demand we bomb Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates over Saudi and Emirati abuses against Bahraini Shia protesters).

In any case, the Power-Clinton-Rice triumfeminate was sufficiently potent to squelch cautionary advice from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough.

The U.S.-led action follows calls by the international Islamic party Hizb-ut-Tahrir, whose members have long been suppressed and killed in Libya, for Gaddafi to be overthrown by the Egyptian army, and for his assassination by a leading figure of the Muslim Brotherhood active in the successful Egyptian revolt. As an indication of the likely beneficiaries of Western help in overthrowing Gaddafi, a 2008 West Point analysis of a cache of al-Qaeda records discovered that nearly 20 percent of foreign fighters (actually, mainly suicide bombers) in Iraq were Libyans, and that on a per-capita basis Libya was nearly double Saudi Arabia as the jihadis’ top country of origin. Almost all of them were from the eastern region of Cyrenaica (Benghazi, and especially Derna), a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda and, not coincidentally, of the anti-Gaddafi insurgency.

While the spectacle of the Western powers and Islamic militants, including al-Qaeda, acting effectively as allies, may come as a surprise to some, it shouldn’t to observers of U.S.-led interventions since America supported Afghan mujahidin against the Soviet Union. Not only did Washington help create al-Qaeda itself during the anti-Soviet war, the pattern was set for subsequent "pro-Muslim" interventions: in Iraq (twice, under George H.W. Bush in 1991 and George W. Bush in 2003), in Afghanistan (Bush in 2001), Bosnia (Bill Clinton in 1995), and Kosovo (Clinton in 1999). In each case, an armed intervention justified as "rescuing" or "liberating" Muslims paradoxically resulted in greater Islamic rage against the United States. In each case, the hoped-for "democracy" – at least recognizable to Western eyes – eluded us. And in each case the resulting social order was more oppressively Islamic, as measured by treatment of women and non-Muslims.

For example, in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Islamic militancy was suppressed (along with other opposition forces) and women went unveiled. Now, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers, half of Iraq’s Christian population has fled in terror from Muslim militants and women had better cover up if they know what’s good for them. Similar patterns can be discerned in the venues of other interventions, notably the near-eradication of Orthodox Christian Serbs in areas of Kosovo under the control of Muslim Albanian drug, slave, and organ-traffickers. Already in post-Mubarak Egypt constitutional "reforms" favored by the Muslim Brotherhood have been approved by referendum, and fears are rising for the future of Coptic Christians – the largest remaining Christian population in the Middle East. Aside from the serendipitous fact that Libya has few Christians to persecute, prospects for a post-Gaddafi "democracy" in that country are decidedly slim.

However, in Western thinking, the repeated failure of a policy evidently is considered insufficient grounds to abandon it. With respect to Libya, perhaps policy-makers in Washington, London, and Paris calculate that this time for sure the Muslims will love us, no matter how many of them get killed along the way. This time for sure, when Gaddafi is gone, Islamic "democracy" will look a lot like Switzerland. (Just as it has in Gaza, where "democracy" has empowered Hamas, or in purple-fingered Lebanon, now under a Hizballah-led coalition). Each time we are surprised and disappointed, but we never learn. When the Muslim Brotherhood takes power in Egypt – and in Libya, in Yemen – Power and company will also be very surprised and disappointed.



(Posting date 25 March 2011)

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