Libya is neither Tunisia nor Egypt. The (Gaddafi) bloc in power and the forces fighting against it have no analogues in Tunisia or Egypt. Gaddafi has never been anything but a clown whose vacuous thought is reflected in the famous “Green Book.” Operating in a still archaic society, Gaddafi could get away with adopting successive “nationalist and socialist” discourses — with little real impact — and then embrace “liberalism” just like that. He did so “to please the West” (!), as if the choice of liberalism wouldn’t have effects on society. But he did it anyway and — no surprise — aggravated social difficulties for the majority. That created the conditions for the explosion that we have seen, the explosion immediately exploited by forces of Libyan political Islam and regionalisms. For Libya has never truly existed as a nation. It’s a geographic region that separates Maghreb (Arab West) and Mashreq (Arab East). The frontier between the two runs right in the middle of Libya. Cyrenaica, historically Greek and Hellenistic, has become Mashreq. Tripolitania, which was Latin, has become Maghreb. That fact has always been a basis for regionalisms in the country. We do not really know who are the members of the Transitional National Council in Benghazi. There may be democrats among them, but there certainly are Islamists and, the worst of them all, regionalists. From the beginning, “the movement” in Libya took the form of an armed revolt firing on the army, not that of a wave of civilian demonstrations. This armed revolt moreover immediately appealed to the NATO for help. That then became the opportunity for a military intervention of imperialist powers. The objective pursued is certainly neither the “protection of civilians” nor “democracy,” but the control of oil and the acquisition of a major military base in the country. To be sure, the Western companies were already in control of the Libyan oil, following Gaddafi’s turn to “liberalism.” However, with Gaddafi they could never be sure of anything. Would he switch sides tomorrow and play the Chinese and Indian cards? More serious still: in 1969, Gaddafi demanded the evacuation of the British and American bases established after the Second World War. Now, the United States needs to transfer AFRICOM (the United States Africa Command, an important piece of the mechanism to control the planet militarily, still located in Stuttgart) to Africa. And yet the African Union refuses to accept it and to this day no African state has dared to do so. A lackey installed in Tripoli (or Benghazi) would obviously go along with the demands of Washington and its subaltern allies of the NATO.
Samir Amin is the director of the Third World Forum in Dakar, Senegal. The original article “2011 : le printemps arabe ?” from which the above paragraph was excerpted was first published in Nouveaux Cahiers du socialisme on 22 May 2011. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com).