Glenn Greenwald points out that Libya is a classic example of something that happens over and over again: War hawks drum up some case for attacking some country, the ‘humanitarian interventionists’ gleefully sign on to the war effort and condemn those who think that the wars are wrong, there is great gloating among the war hawks when the invaded country’s leaders are toppled at the beginning of the war and a ridiculing of the war’s opponents, and then silence as things go badly awry, leaving the situation worse than before
The unraveling of Libya is now close to absolute. Yesterday, the same New York Times editorial page that supported the intervention quoted the U.N.’s Libya envoy Bernardino León as observing: “Libya is falling apart. Politically, financially, the economic situation is disastrous.” The NYT editors forgot to mention that they supported the intervention, but did note that “Libya’s unraveling has received comparatively little attention over the past few months.” In other words, the very same NATO countries that dropped bombs on Libya in order to remove its government collectively ignored the aftermath once their self-celebrations were over.
Into the void of Libya’s predictable disintegration has stepped ISIS, among other groups. ISIS yesterday released a new video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, which they carried out in Libya. This, in turn, led to all sorts of dire warnings about how close ISIS now is to Europe – it “established a direct affiliate less than 500 miles (800 kilometers) from the southern tip of Italy,” warned AP – which in turn has produced calls for re-intervention in Libya.
Yesterday, the U.S.-supported Egyptian regime bombed targets in Libya. Meanwhile, “Italy warned that ISIS is at Europe’s doorstep as France and Egypt called for the United Nations Security Council to meet over the spiraling crisis in Libya.” It’s only a matter of time before another western “intervention” in Libya becomes conventional wisdom, with those opposed being accused of harboring sympathy for ISIS (just as opponents of Libya intervention the first time around were accused of being indifferent to Gadaffi’s repression).
What we see here is what we’ve seen over and over: the west’s wars creating and empowering an endless supply of enemies, which in turn justify endless war by the west. It was the invasion of Iraq that ushered in “Al Qaeda in Iraq” and ultimately ISIS. It has been the brutal, civilian-slaughtering drone bombing of Yemen which spawned Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in that country. As Hillary Clinton herself acknowledged, the U.S. helped create Al Qaeda itself by arming, recruiting and funding foreign “Mujahideen” to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (“the people we are fighting today, we funded 20 years ago”). And now it is the NATO intervention in Libya which has laid the groundwork for further intervention.
We are now ready for the next stage of this process. Both the warhawks and the humanitarian interventionists will claim that yes, things are bad in Libya now but that ‘everyone’ felt at that time that the war was justified and that no one could have predicted that it would be a catastrophe, despite the fact that many people predicted just that. And they will bemoan the fact that the locals just don’t seem to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that have been presented by our bombing that country and completely destroying its infrastructure.
And then it is on the next great humanitarian intervention!