By Nicholas Noe & Walid Raad – Aug 29, 2011
Aug. 29, 2011 (Bloomberg) — After Muammar Qaddafi’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 U.S. 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 Qaddafi — 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 colonizer itself, was the helper.
It will be hard for any Libyan citizen, (even one) who has been oppressed by Qaddafi and his aides, to come out and yell: “I do not want NATO here.”
Al-Amine warned of the “harsh truth” that colonialism will return “under a new form and with new faces.” Western leaders who had embraced Qaddafi 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 there.
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 Qaddafi’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 U.S., 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 honor 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 Persian 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 Qaddafi 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 him.
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 Qaddafi’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.)
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