Tuesday, February 17, 2015


"Egyptian war planes pounded jihadi targets in Libya as the chaos in the north African state began to suck in its neighbours and European leaders raised the alarm about the growing threat on their doorstep. Egypt and France called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the deteriorating situation in Libya after Cairo said it had launched dawn air strikes on positions of Libyan jihadi groups affiliated to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Isis. The Egyptian military said the attacks on targets in the eastern town of Derna, which is controlled by a confederation of jihadi groups, were carried out to avenge the slaughter of Egyptian Christian workers in Libya by groups loyal to Isis. The brutal slaying of the workers in territory which is outside the control of both the rival governments vying for power in Libya underscores the risks to both Arab and European neighbouring states of the country’s disintegration. In an interview with La Repubblica, Angelino Alfano, the Italian interior minister, called for a UN peacekeeping mission to be deployed in Libya, for “the future of the western world”. "There is not a moment to lose," he said. Egyptians were shocked and outraged by a chilling video posted on the internet by the extremists on Sunday night showing masked men in black beheading the Egyptian hostages on a Libyan beach said to be in Sirte, the central coastal town now largely in the hands of the jihadis. The militants were shown threatening to “take Rome” - a threat which has reinforced fears in Italy that they will seek to export their jihadi campaign across the Mediterranean and into Europe. France is also concerned. The office of Francois Hollande said the French president spoke with Abdul Fattah al -Sisi, the Egyptian leader, on Monday and that the two had "underscored the importance of the security council meeting and for the international community to take new measures" against the threat from jihadis in Libya. The Egyptian foreign ministry said the country’s air force bombed training camps and weapon stores belonging to the extremists, and called on the international coalition fighting Isis in Syria and Iraq to take measures “to confront the terrorists of Isis and other groups in Libya”. It said that by launching the air strikes Egypt had used its legitimate right to self defence under international law".
Heba Saleh,"Egypt bombs jihadi targets in Libya after beheadings". The Financial Times. 16 February 2015, in www.ft.com.
"The last two decades of intervention suggest one thing: that interventions are intrinsically unpredictable, chaotic and uncertain. They can work: the international community played a prudent and constructive role in Bosnia, and the Bosnia of 2005 was far better than that of 1995. But in Iraq and Afghanistan, disorder and chaos seemed predestined. Guilt at lost lives, embarrassment, pride, fear of Islamists and hubris all prevented the West from acknowledging failure: instead of pulling back, they dived ever deeper. And their occupation bloated, warped and corrupted the fundamental structures – social, political and economic – of the countries they were purporting to help. The lesson for Libya was that the West should not be dragged too far in and that it should anticipate chaos. The language of the UN resolution emphasised restraint: there were to be no troops on the ground and the military operations were designed to protect civilians, primarily in Benghazi, not to topple Gaddafi. But Nato was soon flying 400 miles away from Benghazi, targeting Gaddafi’s headquarters in Tripoli. Lawyers assured me that no one was using the bombing raids to try to kill Gaddafi, generals whispered that Gaddafi could only last another two weeks, and diplomats denied that the rebel government was extremist or divided. But five months later, there had been numerous raids on Gaddafi’s compound; Gaddafi was still in power; and the rebel general, formally arrested on the orders of the rebel deputy leader, had been tortured and executed by an Islamist faction. Yet so far Libya has proved, not unpredictably awful but unpredictably good. After 15 years working around interventions, I was watching for any hint of disaster. I noted, for example, that a Berber militia had occupied a prime hotel beside the arch of Marcus Aurelius on the grounds that the owner ‘was a Gaddafi sympathiser’. But even after 24 hours, I couldn’t escape the sense that things were not that bad: that Libyans were delighted and confident, and with justification."
Rory Stewart, "Because we weren’t there?". The London Review of Books. 22 September 2011, in www.lrb.co.uk
In retrospect, it is difficult to recapture the illusion, shared by both Rory Stewart and myself among others, however brief in retrospect, that the outcome in Libya would be positive and thus join those seen in Bosnia and Kosovo. Instead of course, what has occurred since a little time after Stewart penned his original article has been a tale of woe and desolation. In fact a smaller version of what occurred in Afghanistan circa 1992-1994. With a minimal to non-existent Western presence on the ground, the victorious warlords were able to fight it out in an increasingly vicious and bloody series of battles. So far of course, Libya has not quite reached Afghanistan levels of violence and mayhem. Unfortunately, Libya unlike Afghanistan is on the southern shore of the Mediterranean and not in Central Asia. The West has chosen so far chosen to pretend, that regardless of the violence and the almost total breakdown of state and increasingly of society in Libya, that the country is indeed located in Central Asia. To-day's bombing by Egypt of Islamic bases and or cells in the eastern portion of the country shows that this Western pretence is becoming more and more illusory and tread-bare by the day. The only question that remains to be answered is: will the Western powers take action now, before the disorder and Islamic madness comes to them (from Libya or elsewhere in the Near and Middle East) or will they wait until afterwards. One can only hope that the Western powers react by conceiving a policy, applying it forcefully and at the very same time, thinking in concrete and strategic terms, before it is too late. Or in the words of Anthony Cordesman, who is perhaps the leading military analyst in the United States to-day:
"Strategy does not consist of stating a broad policy goal and empty rhetoric. It consist of stating an actual plan with clearly defined goals, specific means to achieve, milestones for action, estimates of the necessary resources and their availability, estimates of cost-benefits and risks, and metrics to measure success. A sound bite that fits in Twitter or a fortunate cookie is not a strategy 1."
In other words, convening White House Summits on 'Countering Violent Extremism', is at this point in time, as Libya, along with Iraq and Syria appear to be going up in flames, nothing more than meaningless and empty rhetoric 2.
1. Anthony Cordesman, "Boots on the Ground: The Realities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria". Center for Strategic and International Studies. 13 February 2015, in www.csis.org.
2. Maya Rhodan, "White House Prepares for Summit on Countering Violent Extremism". Time. 16 February 2015, in www.time.com


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