A Partial Geopolitical Explanation for Our Failures in Libya

James Stafford, who runs the Oil Price.com website, has often shared items he thinks Gates of Vienna readers would want to know. Unfortunately, his good deed — a weekly digest of his top energy stories — has too often been put aside. This neglect is partly due to the Baron’s unending Counterjihad work and for my part, simply not enough energy to post what I read.

At the moment I’m having a burst of energy and that factor coincides with this new report, so that I’m not forced to leave it aside until I ‘feel better’, as in mañana…

I am pleased to be able to post this particular essay because I feel strongly about the fiasco we created in the bombing of Libya. It didn’t make sense then and it still seems as though our foreign policy initiatives are fueled by the fumes of the President’s random assertions of U.S. military might. Sometimes his response to crises is robustly manic and sometimes he appears to be content to simply sit on his throne watching the world go by. No one I’ve read can explain the method in his madness; often they say he seems not to have a cogent philosophy beyond “America bad. I will cure her sins” [Cue music for the infamous Nobel Peace Prize].

The strikingly similar deaths meted out to Ghaddafi and to our foreign service officer in Benghazi ought to make us all demand an accounting of our government’s behavior a year ago September.

Given that Mr. Stafford explains the mess we left in Libya, don’t expect the MSM to investigate this story, even though it’s an important one with lots of questions left unanswered as to what we thought we were doing there, besides leading from behind, of course.

And now Mr. Stafford’s essay. Please note that I have omitted links that are behind Oil Price’s subscription wall.

Don’t Be Fooled by Libya — This is a Failed State

Gunmen today [10 October] seized Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan from a hotel in central Tripoli, releasing him shortly afterwards, but making it clear that post-Gaddafi Libya is a failed state and that the government is incapable of taking full control over its oilfields and export terminals.

While the markets have been responding lately with unfounded optimism over Libya, anyone who has been privy to the intelligence briefings and executive reports from [our] Oil & Energy Insider would know that announcements of progress emanating from the capital Tripoli are hot air. There are too many roving militias who want their piece of Libya’s fossil fuels largesse — and the government is impotent.

Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the seizure of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan on 10 October from the Corinthia hotel in central Tripoli.

More to the point, the prime minister was apparently seized by militias linked to Libya’s Interior and Defense Ministries, which makes one ask whether he was kidnapped or arrested, or indeed whether it is even worth getting into the semantics.

His arrest was not about oil, specifically, it was in retaliation for the US special forces capture of a Libyan al-Qaeda suspect in Tripoli over the weekend. Militant groups — many of whom control various branches of the impotent government — were angered at the US capture of Abu Anas al-Libi, wanted for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in which more than 220 people were killed.

Look no further than Libya’s National Congress, which was adamant that the US return the captive, which it labeled as a kidnapping and a violation of Libya’s national sovereignty.

Upon his release Prime Minister Zeidan took to the international media, calling on Western powers to step in — again. In an interview with BBC Newsnight, Zeidan said the country was being used as a base to export weapons across the Sahel and that “the movement of these weapons endangers neighboring countries too, so there must be international cooperation to stop it.”

Regardless, the situation should be clear even for those Libyan enthusiasts who are under the impression that this is a functioning state. Ali Zeidan’s days are numbered without another direct Western intervention.

This is the same reason the oil cannot flow as planned.

At we noted in a September executive report on Libya in Oil & Energy Insider, the crisis began two years ago with the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi, but in August things took a definitive turn for the worse, with armed groups seizing major oil export terminals and demanding autonomy for the eastern region. Now the crisis has reached the west where other militant formations ominously charged with guarding the country’s pipelines and oil fields are seeking to profit on the momentum of the strikers and protesters in the east.

The interim government cannot manage this crisis. It’s already been forced to compromise, agreeing earlier in September to a 20% wage hike across the board for civil servants, and including oil security forces in this mix. At the same time, the government has issued warrants for the arrest of strike organizers in the east.

While the government will not be able to enforce these warrants, the blowback for this still will be severe and will result in a violent upheaval unlike anything else in the past two years.

This will reverberate throughout the already volatile Sahel region*, threatening security in Tunisia and Algeria most immediately. It is also leading to a tightening of world oil supplies.

Source: OilPrice.com says Libya is a Failed State by James Stafford.

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Note: While some of the information at OilPrice.com is available only through subscriptions, much of the site is free and open to all. See here.

*   Information on the Sahel region for the geographically challenged, like me, can be found here, at the wiki.

4 thoughts on “A Partial Geopolitical Explanation for Our Failures in Libya

  1. “… the crisis began two years ago with the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi, …”

    And their you have it folks, no use crying over the spilled oil of neoliberal humanitarian intervention and regime change Mr. Stafford.

  2. When I protested the Libya intervention towards my MP (in Denmark), I earned a stark rebuke:

    “You do not comprehend what it means to go against the will of NATO!”

    That I took to heart. I’ve been trying to understand NATO ever since. It used to be a defence alliance, now it is merely an ‘Alliance’ – with its own will and agenda.

    Heavily infiltrated by Turkey, too. That’s important to be aware of.

  3. With all due respect to the author, and the wealth of details bolstering his thesis, that Libya is was and will be a failed state is easy. It’s known to anyone who follows MSM like the NYT or Times and, repeat, and, has the inner filtration tools to extract cited facts from the frame of hopeful wishfulness, lunatic messianism whether of the progressive or Neocon variety and so on. However, that the states that intervened in Libya are themselves failed states — there you have an original nugget. And so they are, or rather, have become by assiduous and entirely self conceived-and-implemented effort, over the last 50 years. This, however, requires considerbale elaboration, for unlike Libya all those states still appear mighty, rich and highly evolved though they are now consuming the remains of their huge surpluses of wealth, culture and social capital accumulated in the past and now beyond renewal.

  4. This doesn’t explain the failures so much as put their magnitude in perspective.

    Of course, once you realize the magnitude of Obama’s failures, it becomes easier to eliminate mere incompetence as an adequate explanation.

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