Monday, August 8, 2011

Why We Fight in Libya: An Italian Perspective

Since the United States first intervened, via the security Council and NATO, in the Libyan uprising, neither the American public nor those from whom it expects explanations, seem to have a convincing backstory. An Italian on-line revue:, suggests five explanations for America’s involvement that I haven’t seen/heard here.

1. Oil.  After 2003, Libya opened its oil fields to western companies, but  took 90% of production. NATO is assisting the rebels of Benghazi in anticipation of much more favorable contracts for American, English and French oil companies. The German company Wintershall would be eased out, as would the Italian company ENI, which recently paid a billion dollars for concessions up to 2042.

2. Access to the African continent, which has an abundance of raw materials, and is governed by weak post-colonial states. The most powerful developed countries have long been competing for Africa’s riches. Now they are using ethnic and tribal proxies (abetting their ancient hatreds), to redesign their respective areas of influence. This new style colonialism will be administered by local elites.

3. To impede African unity. Over the past ten years, Gaddafi was instrumental in increasing the power of the Organization of African Unity, and pushed for the creation of an independent economic area.

4.  To block penetration of Africa by China, that is exploiting the continent’s riches on an ever wider scale.

5. To reestablish the US and NATO bases that Gadaffi had expelled forty years ago. (In a similar strategy, US support for Kosovo Albanians in their struggle against Serbia allowed it to establish its largest European base, camp Bondsteel.)

Italy reluctantly sent about 2000 soldiers to Libya as well as war planes and aircraft carriers, joining the coalition in order not to be shut out after the fall of Gaddafi. Although it was not in Italy’s interest to go to war, Prime Minister Berlusconi had no choice, given his country’s weak international situation. (Germany could afford to stay out of the conflict while being assured of its share of oil, thanks to its better economic situation.) The conflict drags on beyond initial expectation, straining Italy’s finances, and together with the African Union, the BRIC countries and several Latin American countries, it is calling for negotiations. But Europe’s military and financial instability suits the United States, therefore it has rejected the call.

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