Monday, March 14, 2011

Can US Lead While Europe Scrambles for Oil

Can US Lead While Europe Scrambles for Oil
Saeed Naqvi

Peoples’ power in Tunisia and Egypt not only swept away symbols of dictatorial tyranny but also mobilized Arab masses behind a liberal agenda. Not once in Tunis or Tahrir Square was an anti Israeli slogan raised. Nor was anti Americanism in evidence. How little it takes for people to soften, once the weight of injustice is lifted from their shoulders.

Against this backdrop consider Libya. Is “people’s power” being allowed to prevail in that country or is foreign intervention the dominant image? Yes, I did see the BBC’s principal foreign correspondent ask a rather forlorn lady in the vicinity of Benghazi whether she thought the “protestors” would win?

The lady kept pointing a finger at the sky, circling it rather like children flying toy helicopters. “Impose no-fly-zone” she chanted, “impose no-fly-zone”. She asked for guns, tanks so that the “mad man does not finish us”. She was well attired and clearly not from the trenches.

Who was she? Did she live in Benghazi? Or had she walked over the nearby border with Egypt? In a dictatorship, people can revolt but will they invite foreign intervention on live foreign TV? Has anyone studied the mosaic of Libyan tribes?

Precursors to foreign intervention, a dozen or so British Special Forces with two diplomats cross over from Egypt. They are promptly detained by the protestors, causing a convulsion in the House of Commons.

With egg on his face, Prime Minister David Cameron, persists before TV cameras. “The world can’t stand by if Qaddafi brutalizes his people”.

Coincidentally, in Ivory Coast a determined Laurent Gbagbo, refusing to accept electoral defeat against Allassane Ouattara has been for weeks “brutalizing” the “victors” in and out of Abidjan, the capital.

Cameron’s compassion for the Libya people coincides with his principal ally in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai, beating his breast in his Kabul palace. “O’ they have killed my cousin; O’ they have killed my cousin”. Apparently NATO forces stormed 65 year old Mohammad Karzai’s home in Kandahar.

Imagine, how the Al Qaeda, Taleban, ordinary Afghans and across the border, the murderers of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti in Pakistan are watching the situation in Libya.

There is utter lack of clarity on what the Western game plan in Afghanistan is. The date of withdrawal of US troops is, well, shall we say, “sometime” in 2014? In 2012 President Obama must seek re election.

A spectacular war would be an election winning devise! The sheer spectacle of it would obscure indecisiveness on Af-Pak. But isn’t the US Gulliver pinned down by its own disapproval of unilateralism? And by China, Russia, deep divisions in Europe between those who had sweet oil deals with Qaddafi and those who didn’t.

Europe allowed the Bosnia war to continue for five years without intervening because Germany and Vatican’s premature recognition of Croatia had caused Britain and France to gear up on the opposite side. To prevent another intra European war, all sides held back their horses.

So what if the Muslim Bosniacs were “brutalized” (Cameron’s term) for four years, with Gen. Sir Charles Rose toting up figures of the Bosniac dead at his daily briefings. European nations avoided falling over each other in a war. But for Europe the collateral damage was enormous. TV images helped bring the Islamic party to power in Turkey.

It was then, even as Europe prevaricated, that the US came to the help of Muslims. Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic was removed. A Muslim dominated state of Kosovo was formed. Millions of Muslims in Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and even Bosnia are the only ones of that faith who are positive about the United States. There are avenues in Kosovo named after Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright.

Good sense prevented Europe from starting another war. That is what would have happened if they had taken sides on Bosnian Muslims.

But greed for oil in days of economic despair is causing Europe to fall over each other.

Can good sense prevail in Washington once again? Military action in Libya will generate anti Americanism, which will swell the ranks of Al Qaeda and cause the “Arab Youth” bulge to find a frightening outlet. Asking Saudis or Britain to arm rebels will boomerang unless focus is also kept on Palestinian-Israeli peace.

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