Stay Out of Libya

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We’re back
in Libya
, with US warplanes bombing targets in the city of Sirte, on a mission
that, according to the Pentagon, has “no
endpoint at this particular moment
.” And that statement sums up perfectly
the Sisyphean
task that presented itself to US policymakers when the Terrible
Triumvirate
– Hillary Clinton, national security honchette Susan Rice, and
UN ambassadress Samantha Power – prevailed on President Obama to overthrow the
regime of Libyan despot Moammar Ghaddafi.

Take a look at what we’re getting ourselves into: with no less than three governments,
lawless Libya is a perfect example of Ronald Reagan’s famous dictum that “government
is the problem, not the solution.” Yes, that’s right, the former domain of Ghaddafi
has three rival “governments.” Go ahead and count ‘em:

  1. The General National Congress
    (GNC), headquartered in Tripoli, is controlled by Islamist militias and backed
    by Turkey, Qatar, and Sudan.
  2. The Council of Deputies, located in Tobruk, is basically the instrument
    of Gen. Khalifa Hiftar, a known CIA
    asset
    who used to live a few miles from the Agency’s headquarters.
  3. The UN-appointed “government of national unity,” which was never elected
    by anyone and had to be shipped into the country by boat because the Tripoli
    authorities wouldn’t
    let their plane land
    .

While the ostensible reason for the US air strikes is the elimination of ISIS
from the country, there is no escaping the “nation-building” aspect of Washington’s
mission. For the logic of the mission means ISIS must be replaced with something,
and that something is bound to be the UN-approved “government.” Yet this is
likely to provoke further conflict, as the Islamists in Tripoli and the followers
of Gen. Hiftar in the east are not likely to be pushed aside so easily.

The divisions that ensure a future of perpetual conflict are rooted in the
history of a country that isn’t really a country at all.

The
fiction
that is the nation-state of “Libya” was only maintained by the brute
force of Ghaddafi’s military: when that was defeated and dissolved, the “Libyans”
rallied around what have always been their authentic allegiances: tribe and
faith. Indeed, “Libya” has only existed since the end of World War II, when
the UN moved in and forcibly joined together three regions that had no common
history or culture: Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the
east, and the southern Fezzan area, a desert mostly inhabited by Tuareg and Tebu
tribes. The UN was merely replicating the plan carried out by Mussolini, and
his Italian predecessors, who colonized the region and sought to abolish tribal
boundaries. When King Idris I, installed by the UN, protested that he didn’t
want to rule over Tripolitania, and preferred to extend his domain only…

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