I have a sense of déjà vu. Here we are again. Civilians in Libya are in danger as armed men advance close to a major urban centre. Will the United Nations act, will a resolution be passed? Well, they did the last time, passing the vague and precipitate Resolution 1973, intended, so the line went, to ‘protect’ civilians. Ah, but protecting civilians in Benghazi and the east was one thing; protecting civilians in Tripoli and the west quite another; for there the Minotaur sits in his labyrinth.
Things are moving rapidly in Libya, with rebel forces now fighting for control of the port of Zawiyah, a mere twenty-five miles east of the capital Tripoli. The end, supposedly, is near for Mummar Gaddafi, - how often have we heard this? - one of the longest standing tyrants in the whole of the Arab World.
The end is also near for a lot of unarmed civilians, facing death at the hands a rag-tang army of ‘freedom’ fighters, carried to their homes on a carpet of NATO bombs, dropped relentlessly, month after month, aggressive action under a UN mandate that mandates death.
Gaddafi will not go without a fight. The people he is fighting against have ensured that, rejecting any form of compromise. The West has ensured that by announcement that he will be treated as a criminal, to stand trial at the international court in The Hague. He has nowhere else to go. He is entrenched in Tripoli, his power base, with no option but to fight and fight to the end, regardless of the cost.
I am a child of Cassandra. If you have never heard of her she is a figure from Greek mythology, the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. She had the misfortune to be gifted and cursed; gifted with the power of prophecy and cursed that nobody would believe what she had to say. I’ve been writing about this issue since March in my Cassandra-like frustration. I remind myself now of a partial prediction;
Consider what Cameron, Obama and Sarkozy have done, look at the possible outcomes. The Colonel’s offensive may be halted, frozen exactly where it is, leaving him in control of Tripoli and the west with the rebels holding on to Benghazi and the east. This may be a permanent state, with Libya hereafter a divided nation, a political fracture caused by tomahawks. I would hazard that the whole region will be destabilised as a result…
But it’s the ignorance of our great world leaders that perplexes me most, their complete incomprehension when it comes to the Arab world, the tribal nature of the Arab world, the tribal nature of places like Libya. The Colonel for all his lunacy at least gave the place unity, a sense of national identity. David Cameron says he does not want a failed pariah state on Europe’s southern flank, “potentially threatening our security, pushing people across the Mediterranean and creating a more dangerous and uncertain world for Britain and for our allies, as well as for the people of Libya.” But…a failed state is exactly what Libya is almost certain to become, one of constant civil war between competing tribes, Somalia on the Med.
Somalia on the Med gets closer by the day. I would not plan any cruises close to the southern shores at any time to come, if I were you, especially as the near victorious ‘freedom’ fighters contain some pretty unpleasant elements in their ranks. If the Colonel does go not only is the country likely to fragment, driven to anarchy by competing tribal forces, but the Islamist militants will come increasingly to the fore.
Whatever the Colonel’s faults, and they are not light, he was no friend to the Islamists of al-Qaeda. I can’t be sure how well this story is being reported across the world, especially the States, but did you know that the rebel army contains many of the fighters previously involved in the Iraq insurgency? Over the past months they have been growing ever stronger, recently even shooting General Abdel Younes, a rebel commander, and two of his aides, going on to mutilate their bodies.
I do not believe for a moment that a post-Gaddafi Libya will embrace democracy. What I predict, in my hopeless Cassandra manner, is that the radicals, those who have already expressed contempt for the ‘infidel’, will move into a commanding position, just as they look like doing in Egypt and Tunisia.
Somalia, a failed state, yes, that’s one possibility; the other is Afghanistan, where the west, in short-sighted hostility towards the Russians, nurtured the Taliban and al-Qaeda. There are some things worse than Mad Colonels, as we will find to our cost. Cassandra feels like weeping.