Friday, February 26, 2016


"Already people are claiming that the euphoria and calm after the fall of Tripoli could have been predicted and can be easily explained. But such civility was not inevitable; it could not have been assumed from Libyan history or culture. Libya shares many features of countries where anarchy has prevailed. Like Afghanistan or Iraq, it has a distinguished history and has experienced periods of stability but lacks the essential trinity of the international state-building apostles: ‘a vibrant civil society’, ‘rule of law’ and ‘good governance’. It has a rapidly growing young population, which is only partially educated, and few jobs. The traditional forces of tribe and Islam co-exist with more cosmopolitan aspirations, as they do in the rest of the Islamic world.... But it would have been easy to take the same factors – a weak Gaddafi state, a light foreign footprint and a weak rebel government – and assume these were ingredients for disaster. This is why the major lesson of the post-1989 interventions should not be a renewed confidence in ‘the responsibility to protect’, or a belief that we have found a new secret recipe in targeted air-power. We shouldn’t think we know how to construct ‘a transitional administration’; even to attempt to pin down the common elements in the successful cases – population size, GDP per capita, ethnic composition – would be misguided.... The lesson of all this shouldn’t be inaction. Intervention isn’t doomed to fail – countries can turn out unpredictably well, as well as unpredictably badly. If we cannot come to any satisfactory conclusions on the London riots – a limited event, exhaustively documented, in our own capital – what sense can we make of why they did not riot in Tripoli?""
Rory Stewart, "Because we weren't there?" The London Review of Books. 9 September 2011, in
"U.S. warplanes carried out airstrikes against ISIS-linked militants in western Libya on Friday, killing as many as 40 people in an operation targeting a suspect linked to two deadly attacks last year in neighboring Tunisia. It was the second U.S. airstrike in three months against ISIS in Libya, where the hardline Islamist militants have exploited years of chaos following Moammer Gadhafi's 2011 overthrow to build up a presence on the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The Pentagon said it had targeted an ISIS training camp and killed a Tunisian militant linked to major attacks on tourists in Tunisia"
The Daily Star. "US warplanes strike ISIS camp in Libya, 40 killed". 19 February 2016 in
In retrospect it would be very easy indeed to make fun of the hopelessly optimistic prognosis of Rory Stewart, who is now an important Tory backbench member of Parliament, about Libya circa the autumn of 2011. At the time of course, his optimism appeared very justified indeed. We now know of course that many of the variable which he thought had been overcome: a weak Gaddafi state, a light foreign footprint and a weak rebel government – and assume these were ingredients for disaster, were and are indeed the very forces which have resulted in the chaotic morass that is contemporary Libya. A situation which appears to be no closer to being resolved or made any better. As the two (yes, two) weak governments contend with each other and at the same time prove completely unable to resolve either separately or in conjunction, the crisis of power and authority that exists in Libya at the moment. Truly a veritable Hobbesian 'omnium bellum contra omnes', which the terrorist hooligans of ISIS are only too happy to operate in. As they have in fact been successfully doing. American air strikes, while to some degree a 'good thing', is of course, much too intermittent and episodic to be of much underlying good. The only thing that can change the situation in Libya, is some form outside military intervention by Western forces. And by 'Western forces', I mean of course ground forces. Involving anywhere from ten to twenty thousand troops both to mop up and destroy ISIS and at the same time, provide the stability necessary for any semblance of order and authority to be restored. This idea of outside intervention is per contra to the utopian concepts of how to restore order in Libya that some commentators such as Mr. Teller of Eurasia Review have been offering up for the past few years:
"So, yes, something must be done – but it cannot be imposed from the outside. Libyans themselves must put aside local rivalries and come together to establish a government of national unity. A democratically elected parliament is the arena in which political battles are best fought 1."
Which in other circumstances would perhaps indeed be great words of wisdom. But in the current situation, it is a counsel of not only inaction but even despair. In the debacle and chaos that is contemporary Libya, something indeed must be done and quickly. Before a horrendous situation gets even worse on Europe's very doorstep.
1. Neville Teller, "Libya: Something Should Be Done". Eurasia Review. 19 February 2016, in


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