3 things we’ve learnt on Libya
1) This isn’t just a No Fly Zone.
Today, there have been reports of French planes bombing Libya, and firing from the air at tanks. So, the first thing that we have learned is that, as predicted, there is no such thing as a No Fly Zone which is only a No Fly Zone. This action means air strikes. It is surely time to bust the myth that the West would only impose a No Fly Zone. This is a full scale air intervention. It was always going to be.
2) This isn’t about democracy.
The Pentagon is planning to train the Saudi Air Force. This is coming out only days after Saudi forces oppressed the democratic uprising in Bahrain. This is coming despite the Saudi government’s record of democracy and freedom of expression… If this training is the price we are paying for the Saudi government not kicking off about the intervention in Libya, then what we have effectively done is stop the cruching of one rebellion by training the crushers of another.
For Western governments, this isn’t about the brutality of dictatorships, and it’s not about supporting the revolution. We may believe that it is better to have our leaders intervene in Libya despite peverse motives, but please don’t believe that our governments support democracy in the Middle East. And if we ever wonder why it is that many in the Arab world hate us, it is not because we oppose their governments. It is because we support them.
3) Our governments don’t care about chocolate.
Over the last few months, tens of thousands of refugees have fled Cote d’Ivoire as the elected president and the encumbent president Gbagbo have done battle. Gbagbo was defeated in the election, but is refusing to leave. He is digging his heals in and his people are digging graves as organised forces on each side clash. In other words, democratic forces are battling a brutal dictator, and people are being killed in the middle. Sound familiar? We have done almost nothing to intervene. Today, this violence has intensified. Libya is a major oil producer. The Ivory Coast is the world’s biggest producer of cocoa. Is that why we are talking about Libya, but not looking a few hundred miles to its South?
None of these are, on their own, reasons to support or oppose the military action taken by France. But let’s not pretend that the argument is a simple one, and let’s not be so naive as to trust the motives of our governments.