I was opposed to the Libyan adventure from the outset, yet another act of shallow moral imperialism based on no coherent reasoning, based on no understanding of the likely outcomes. In March, just before the air attacks began I wrote article on my personal blog, a piece I called Keep out of Libya! Here is part of what I said;
“How much of this kind of self-righteous interventionism can the world take, I have to ask? How many more pyrrhic ‘successes’ must we celebrate; how many more Kosovos, Afghanistans and Iraqs? But there is more here, a more pertinent question: what business is it of ours, what business is it of Europe and America, to go dashing from here to there around the Third World setting wrongs to right? What incredible arrogance, what hubris, this displays, a nineteenth century gunboat mentality with a twenty-first century gloss of canting hypocrisy.”
Here we are months later and no closer to a resolution. The bombs still fall and the undeclared aim – to murder the head of state of a sovereign nation – still unsuccessful. Now a top South African diplomat has said that his country ‘regrets’ voting for the no fly zone when the matter was debated in the United Nations, not quite understanding exactly what this would entail.
Yes, that’s right, Jerry Matjilla, Foreign Affairs Director-General, told the members of the South African parliament that the government was ‘in the dark’ about the intensity of the bombardment that would be required to enforce a no-fly zone. Now, along with other members of the African Union, South Africa has condemned the attempt by the NATO powers to bring about regime change, never part, as they interpret it, of the original resolution.
How many more ‘regrets’ are there I wonder among the international community over this ill-judged and precipitate aggression, an act that looks more foolish by the week? How ill-served we are by our politicians, people who supposedly act in our interests, nowhere more so than over the intervention in Libya.
The question of regime change was another point I touched on in my March article, asking if people like ex-President Bill Clinton and David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, both in favour of air attacks, had paused to consider what a post-Gaddafi Libya would look like? Did you know, for instance, that al-Qaeda has been active among the Libyan rebels? I suspect that most people do not.
It would be rash to speculate exactly when the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ will end, not just in Libya but across the whole region, including Syria and Yemen. One thing I will hazard though: the outcome will not be a democratic summer, more an Islamist winter.
In Tunisia, where the whole affair began, it looks like the Islamist parties could win the elections scheduled for the coming month. Egypt has seen violent attacks on the ancient Coptic Christian minority, who have roots deeper in the country’s history than their Muslim neighbours. Mobs attacking churches were heard to shout slogans favoured by the supporters of al-Qaeda.
We now know from documents obtained in the raid on Osama bin-Laden’s compound in Pakistan that this organisation was involved in events in the Middle East right from the outset. In Yemen the terrorists are well established, effectively controlling the southern city of Zinjibar. They are certainly present in Libya, in areas, as the US military should know, that supplied the highest proportion of Jihadists during the Iraq insurgency. In passing it’s worth noting that Gaddafi, for all his faults, was the chief enemy of al-Qaeda in the region.
And so it goes on. In Syria the Muslim Brotherhood is active among the opposition to President Assad, an organisation whose chief aim is to re-establish the Caliphate based in Damascus. If you want to see into Syria’s possible future then look to Iran’s present, or perhaps even in to a more distant and medieval past.
In looking at events in the Arab world I think one should always be mindful of the words of Edmund Burke when he wrote about the upheavals in France over two centuries ago, before the Revolution in that country entered its most malign phase;
The effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they please: we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations.