Libya's Moment in the Sun

Routinely, politicians and pundits make grand statements about the unfailing correctness of certain of our nation’s foreign entanglements. If one were ignorant of history, he might be able to take it seriously when men like Rumsfeld and Bush refer to our successes in Afghanistan, and how these successes will provide templates for similar accomplishments in Iraq.

Enough has been written about the Afghan quagmire to establish that the US record in the resolution of that situation is one of, at best, mixed success. So why are we supposed to take seriously assurances that the US government can “control” Iraq in any meaningful way? A telling occurrence on cable news recently was when a newscaster referred to a “peaceful” Shi’ite protest, implying that the lack of armed conflict was a positive sign. While no one who matters is willing to go on record saying that Iraqi street combat is a positive thing, one might find it troubling – if he supported the US role in Iraq – to note that peace only came to the situation when US troops withdrew. In the case discussed above, the troops turned their vehicles around and left the locals to their own devices.

Indeed, it’s telling that most “global security” situations are resolved when the US decides to mind its own business. What’s been going down in Somalia lately? I’ve been waiting for some word from Brit Hume, but so far – nothing. Likewise, the nuclear threats posed by India and Pakistan – both potential enemies of the US at least on par with Canada – don’t get much play from Lou Dobbs. There’s no reason to mention such matters, as they would detract from our battle with that faceless, stateless monolith that has conspired, since the days of Woodrow Wilson, to take away our freedoms.

Some called it, once upon a time, Communism. Beware the Chi Coms! Fortify your home and meager possessions against the dreaded Sandinistas! Before that, there was Nazism. No mention need be made of how US business concerns acted as enablers for certain regimes we later found it necessary to oppose. To be honest, I get bored typing that list over and over again; it just seems so dreary.

And, besides, when the US cultivates an ally, it’s for keeps. Consider the way John Wright, author of the 1969 Praeger edition of Libya for the “Books That Matter” series, closed his detailed version of that proud nation’s history.

“Most of Libyan history is the record of the doings of foreigners in Libya, and of domination from Tunisia or Egypt, Europe, or Western Asia. But things have gone well for Libya since 1943, and a country that achieved and consolidated independence and became one of the world’s main oil producers in less than two decades can no longer be dismissed as a ‘buffer state of sand." Libya is ready for more important things than in the days when, like Shakespeare’s Bohemia, it was merely a ‘desert country near the sea.'”

Gadhafi must have thought so. You remember Moammar, don’t you? Them bastards in Washington pre-empted Head of the Class to hit one of them there pre-emptive whatdayacallits, taking out one of the despot’s babies. Moammar liked Libya’s strategic position so much, apparently, that he toppled King Idris in 1969 in what CNN calls a “bloodless coup.”

The Nasserite Gadhafi, to borrow a phrase from Marge Schott regarding another of the “world’s worst leaders," was “good in the beginning, but went too far.” Wallets were flush in Libya for a while, with an estimated $9000 per capita income at one point. But by the time Reagan protected us from the Libyan menace in 1986, the per capita income was less than a fifth of that former number.

The parallels between Libya’s decline and Baathist Iraq’s fall from grace are unmistakable. Both countries were led by men the US couldn’t do business with, and both peoples suffered as a result. The lesson to be learned by leaders of “developing nations," clearly, is to let the US control all meaningful aspects of every nation’s development.

Imperialism, like the war protesters said. But what else is to be done by the current administration, locked into subsidy arrangements with the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex, and agribusiness that are such bad business that controlling the world’s economy [and, by extension, its people] is the only way to make good on our unserviceable, ever-mounting debt? We are in what certain neo-cons rightly call World War IV for economic reasons, and any argument to the contrary [such as that we are “avenging 9-11”] is hokum, for show, designed to titillate the addled masses.

May 23, 2003


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