What’s next in Libya?

I cannot and will not claim any expert knowledge on the topic, but what we are seeing does not bode well. There are now reports of executions on both sides (although massacres may be the correct description) and (finally) ever more concern about the stashes of weapons that have been plundered and carried away by rebels. (I’m discounting the reports of chemical weapons and nuclear material – as the CIA has not proven to be particularly reliable with their public announcements in such matters.)

There is practically no reporting on who those rebels are. In the media, they are being treated almost as a monolithic bloc – which is very unlikely to be the case. I wrote a comment on this topic yesterday, which I will quote and expand on after the break:

Pictures on TV have shown rebels carrying away large amounts of heavy (and not so heavy) weapons and munitions from Qaddafi’s compound. Alas, rebels rarely are just “the” rebels – in all experience they are a mixed bag of all sorts of people, some of whom you wouldn’t entrust with armor piercing weaponry if you had the choice.

 

Libya is not a rich country in the western sense of the word. Its wealth is not the result of a tightly integrated, grown-up economy that is using the abilities of all its citizens to the utmost in order to squeeze out the last little bit of productivity.

It is a resource-rich country and whoever controls those resources, controls the wealth. There is hope I’m wrong, but it would be foolish to deny that the lure of oil, gas and gold reserves may drive some rebel groups into skirmishes or outright fighting for control long after Qaddafi has passed from the scene. And that’s without any consideration given towards the interest of outside actors (OPEC, EU, USA, China etc.) who are just as interested (or even more so) in controlling access to the ever scarcer oil resources.

 

The last chapter of this conflict may not be written for some time – although there is hope that relative peace and freedom will be established, this should not be a foregone conclusion.

There can be no doubt that there is foreign involvement in Libya that goes beyond the air strikes. There is massive financial involvement by several countries, there are industrial interests (notably from German corporations), there are mercenaries and the inevitable involvement of secret services, probably far beyond just the CIA.

Libyans themselves have their own political interests that go far beyond getting rid of مُعَمَّر القَذَّافِي (Muammar Gadaffi or whatever the best transliteration may be). And those will only become obvious, once their shared goal has been achieved. Any militant groups in the country will have as much interest in getting rid of him as any “legitimate” groups whose goal is to build up a constitutional state rather than taking power by force.

Right now, everything is in the cards – from  protracted civil war to liberal democracy, but the (not officially acknowledged) global struggle for oil (and possibly soon natural gas) does not shift the balance in favor of the latter. There is also a certain interest to curtail oil supply in order to benefit from increased prices (although there is concern by oil producers that at the current price-level substitutes for oil dependent applications will be developed). So, we are bound to (not) see a lot of covert action in the country, which makes the situation rather unpredictable.

I wished I could share the optimism of some observers, but the experience of recent years does not point in that direction. And yet, Libya is just one point of concern – the rest of Africa (despite my general optimism) may face very similar trouble in the future. (A cynic might call that an improvement in the case of Nigeria or Kongo …)

The recent resurgence of realpolitik, combined with sometimes overbearing influence of transnational corporations, has proven to be a very unfortunate and unpredictable combination for most countries outside the blessed circle of the “developed” nations already. It is a combination that leaves self-determination and independence of many of those countries behind, which is at the very least a long term danger to create a surge of resentment in them – especially when they begin to grow out of their current position of powerlessness.

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