15 February 2016

Returning to Libya

My position on ISIS is that it was a product of the American-led coalition's invasion of Iraq, therefore it is up to the coalition members to deal with it. As my dear mother taught me, if you make a mess, you clean it up. Fortunately, we wisely chose not to participate in the coalition, consequently we have no obligation to get involved in the cleanup.

Unfortunately, we were part of another American-led coalition, the one that assisted Libyan rebels in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, and that too created a mess. As a result of the overthrow, Libya has descended into chaos. Taking advantage of the chaos is ISIS which currently has an estimated 6,000 fighters in the country. Naturally, the presence of the Islamic extremists on a new front immediately across the Mediterranean from Europe has Western nations nervous. The Pentagon wants to expand the campaign against ISIS into Libya and has already been sniffing around the country to make contact with local forces and get a clearer picture of what’s happening on the ground.

And where are we on all this? According to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Canada could soon be joining yet another coalition, this time to take on ISIS in Libya. What this will entail, he has not said. Considering the Libyans don't want foreign forces in their country, I presume it will be about bombing.

Having said what I did about messes, and Canada being partly responsible for this one, I suppose I am obliged to support our participation. But my heart isn't in it. After all, I never supported the government that got us into Libya in the first place, and getting militarily involved in the Middle East with the imperialists that have caused most of that region's troubles is not something I like to see our country doing.

If we are to be involved, we must have the permission of the Libyan government. The problem is that there are at least three: one based in Tripoli, another in Tobruk, both backed by alliances of armed brigades and former rebels, to say nothing of foreign sponsors with conflicting interests, and yet a third—a unity government cobbled together under UN auspices that awaits approval of the other two.

However we decide to participate, it should only be with the approval of the UN, the unity government should it actually come to be, and other countries in the regon. This is an oil-rich nation and there are a lot of other nations with agendas that don't put Libya's interests first. We can't beg off this one, as we ought to do with the Iraq/Syria ISIS debacle, but we shouldn't accept anything that doesn't have an excellent chance of improving Libya for the Libyans. It will be interesting to see what Minister Sajjan and his colleagues have in mind for us.


  1. We, Canada in conjunction with NATO, buggered up Libya. First we waited for months mulling what to do. During that interval the Islamists (al Qaeda at that time) openly announced they intended to exploit the chaos from the Libyan civil war to get established in North Africa. They even went on to explain how they regretted missing their opportunity to become established in Egypt during the overthrow of Mubarak and did not intend to make that mistake twice.

    Back then I wrote that the Americans needed to give the Egyptian military their marching orders to get their M-1A1 Abrams tanks and wings of F-16s into Libya to oust Gaddafi quickly and allow an orderly transition to the rebels who were well organized to establish a government.

    Well after that we decided on a bombing coalition that took 8 months plus one day from the first bombing to the removal of the dictator, all the time and more the Islamists needed to set up shop. One of the first things al Qaeda did was to assassinate the rebel leader who was earmarked to be the first post-Gaddafi president. And, with that, any hope of a peaceful installation of a democratic government was crushed.

    If we are to go in - by invitation - it must be in overwhelming force and we must be prepared to kill a lot of bad guys. A repeat of the "whack a mole" war we waged in Afghanistan won't work any better in Libya than it did in Kandahar province.

  2. Perhaps, Mound, but I suspect many Libyans, for example the Muslim Brotherhood–led government in Tripoli, may not welcome an "overwhelming force" of foreigners.