[Marxism] The latest on Libya from Gilbert Achcar

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Aug 17 07:09:38 MDT 2011


"Conspiracy" against the Libyan Revolution

In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal (19 July 2011), 
Max Boot— the aptly named neoconservative author and military 
historian known for his support for “democracy promotion” at the 
point of a gun, and an ardent supporter of full-scale US military 
engagement in Libya—referred to a Financial Times article (15 
June) that compared the current aerial bombing campaign over Libya 
and the Kosovo air war in 1999 in order to emphasize “the lack of 
firepower in the Libya operation.” Boot commented, dwelling on the 
same comparison with additional details:

     The earlier war was hardly “Apocalypse Now”—it was tightly 
limited in its own right. But after 78 days in Kosovo, NATO allies 
had committed 1,100 aircraft and flown 38,004 sorties. By 
contrast, in Libya NATO had sent just 250 aircraft and flown 
11,107 sorties. Not coincidentally, after 78 days Slobodan 
Milosevic decided to relinquish Kosovo, whereas even after 124 
days—and counting—Gadhafi continues to cling to power.

NATO’s Libyan Paradoxes

In Operation Desert Storm launched by the US-led coalition against 
Iraq in 1991, it took only 11 days to equal the above number of 
air sorties flown over Libya in 78 days. The total number of 
sorties in 43 days of Desert Storm reached 109,876—an average of 
2,555 per day. After the devastation brought about by that “storm” 
and further bombing campaigns during the 12 embargo years between 
1991 and 2003, 41,850 sorties were flown during the first 4 weeks 
alone of so-called Operation Iraqi Freedom. Of these, 15,825 were 
strike sorties, averaging 565 per day. Andrew Gilligan could write 
accordingly in The Spectator (4 June):

     For all the ritual incantations about “intensified” attacks 
and “heaviest bombing yet,” the bombing is and always has been 
relatively light. Across the whole operation, the number of Nato 
strike sorties—only a proportion of which actually result in 
airstrikes—has averaged 57 a day, less than half the number in the 
alliance’s very similar mission in Kosovo, and a mere fraction of 
what the US and Britain did in Iraq.

  Add to this that it takes much more pressure to force a dictator 
to relinquish power than to force one to abandon a section of his 
territory. Since Gaddafi’s chance of regaining control over 
Benghazi is close to nil, he actually would have been happy to get 
rid of the rebellious city and with it the whole region east of 
Ajdabiya in a bid to save the throne of “King of kings of Africa” 
for which he has been lavishly buying allegiance since 2008. That 
is why he concentrated so much military power and violence on 
trying to seize Misrata, the key rebel-held city in western Libya 
that prevented him from de facto partitioning the country. And 
that is why insurgents have clung obstinately to Misrata despite 
the heavy violence inflicted upon them, even though they had the 
option of being evacuated by sea with the rest of the city’s 
inhabitants, like the thousands of migrants and wounded who were 
moved out of the city in this way.

The early propaganda accusations against the insurgents alleging 
that they were carrying out a plan to partition the country have 
been thoroughly disproved by their relentlessness in fighting for 
the liberation of their country’s whole territory from Gaddafi’s 
dictatorship. This is happening despite the very high cost for 
them due to the wide disproportion between their ground forces and 
those of the regime—a disproportion in armored vehicles, 
artillery, missiles, and trained combatants that is only partially 
offset by NATO’s intervention. Military correspondents reporting 
from the various fronts of the Libyan ground war emphasize both 
the poorly-armed, poorly-trained, amateurish and chaotic character 
of the insurgents’ forces and the amazing dedication of a large 
number of civilians turned into fighters for the liberation of 
their whole country. This dedication explains the rebels’ 
determination to continue fighting against such heavy odds, 
confronting the well-equipped and well-trained forces that are 
generously paid by Gaddafi’s regime.

The crucial questions are then: why is NATO conducting an aerial 
campaign in Libya that is low-key not only in comparison with the 
air component of the war to grab similarly oil-rich Iraq, but even 
compared to the air war for economically unimportant Kosovo? And 
why is the Alliance at the same time refraining from providing the 
insurgents with the weaponry they have consistently and 
insistently requested? On the face of it, there are two striking 
paradoxes at play here.


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