Arab sceptics warn Western-backed victory may open door to new colonialism
After Muammar Gaddafi's regime fell in Libya, even Mideast
and North African commentators normally critical of Western policies in the
region generally affirmed the positive role played by NATO.
At the same time, some worried that NATO's triumph, in
supporting the rebels who overthrew the regime, would encourage a new
colonialism. Libya and other Arab states that are in crisis, they argued, are
vulnerable to exploitation of their natural resources by the West and to calls
for outside military intervention or another round of it.
Wrote Ibrahim Al Amine, chairman of the board of the
Beirut-based Al-Akhbar, a leftist daily opposed to US policy in the Middle East
that also runs pieces critical of the Syrian regime and the militant Lebanese
Shiite movement Hezbollah:
“The Libyans got rid of Muammar Gaddafi - this will be the
story carried by history. But the king of the African kings did not fall
because of the bullets of his own people. His people do not like him, they do
not want him and no one can doubt that. However, these people needed some help.
This time, the West, i.e. the coloniser itself, was the helper.”
“It will be hard for any Libyan citizen, [even one] who has
been oppressed by Gaddafi and his aides, to come out and yell: I do not want
Al Amine warned of the "harsh truth" that
colonialism will return “under a new form and with new faces.” Western leaders
who had embraced Gaddafi and had “plunged their hands in his pocket, which was
full of the wealth of his people, are the same leaders who are now embracing
the rebels and extending their hands directly towards the nation's wealth.”
This will have larger implications for the region, Al Amine
predicted. Having been caught unprepared by the Arab uprisings, he wrote, the
West has now taken the initiative, which can mean only one thing:
“We must expect some additional madness among some of those
who think they are leading revolutions, including leaders, media personalities
and intellectuals. These people will now increase their calls for external
interference in Yemen and Syria under the pretext of supporting the protesters
Sateh Noureddine, a columnist for the Beirut-based daily
As-Safir, took a somewhat different view. He agreed that outsiders played a
vital part in the important overthrow of Gaddafi's government. “The shame is
about to be erased off the face of Libya and the [Arab] nation,” he wrote, and
the "European West," a formulation that inexplicably left out the US,
scored a “definite” moral victory through its contribution.
However, Noureddine separated himself from blanket
assertions made by other commentators that the West was preparing to plunder
Libya's oil wealth. He wrote that Egypt's recent experience points to a
different story. In the wake of its revolution, he said, Egypt has regained
many of its rights and is in the process of reclaiming more income from its gas
resources. The Libyan rebels must therefore quickly prove that “they are now
masters of their decisions,” which means, first and foremost, asking the
Europeans to rapidly “end their interference in Libya.”
Noureddine expressed great confidence in the Libyan rebels.
He said they presented themselves "in an attractive manner even at the
pinnacle of the street wars, which seldom broke the honour and rules of
fighting, and which did not collapse into a civil war similar to the Lebanese
or Iraqi experience, in spite of many provocations and traps.”
Noureddine, who is Lebanese, wrote that the behavior of the
Libyan rebels is testimony that the Arabs of North Africa are “classier” than
their brothers living in the Levant and Gulf.
This latter group, he said, can’t even manage to proceed
with moderate reforms - such as those recently proposed by the King of Morocco,
establishing a constitutional monarchy - “without civil wars, mutual
accusations and lies that Israel is on the side of the opposition or that
change in any Arab country is a free favor offered to the Israeli enemy or
other enemies of the nation.”
Those worried about outside interference had an ally in
Abdel-Bari Atwan, one of the leading critics of Western policy in the region.
In the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi, Atwan wrote that NATO's “rush” to
implement the UN-supported no-fly zone was understandable “when the tanks of
Colonel Gaddafi were marching towards the city to commit a massacre.”
But he asked why NATO continued its air raids and military
operations even after the collapse of the regime, transforming itself into a
police force to hunt down the toppled dictator with the aim of assassinating
Referring to recent UK news reports of British and French troops
and British security contractors on the ground in Libya, as well as discussions
about a possible deployment to Libya of a European peacekeeping force, Atwan
charged that NATO “is behaving as if it is on a mission of permanent occupation
rather than engaged in an intervention bound by a specific time limit.”
Atwan wrote that Arab satellite TV stations like Al-Jazeera
were no longer performing the vital role of critics of and checks on Western
intervention - now rarely showing the victims of NATO bombings, for example.
And with the rebel leadership calling for Gaddafi's extra-judicial killing, the
country’s sovereignty, not to mention the rule of law, is being gravely
undermined, he argued.
For the NATO forces, without whom the Libya rebels arguably
would not have prevailed, the commentary was a good lesson in the limits of
alliances, and the long, bitter taste of colonialism.
(Nicholas Noe and Walid Raad are the Beirut
correspondents for the World View blog. The opinions expressed are their own.)
Yes, that is how it should end. Nato out, Libyans in control of their land and oil. Nato countries will be handsomely compensated for their help and support, but that does not mean that Libya will became Nato's backyard. Things can go from good to ugly really fast.