Articles on Libyan Civil War from around the world page 2

March 2nd, 2011 | Source: Economist

FOR a fast rising power, China remains unusually shy about military deployment beyond its shores. But its decision to dispatch four military transport aircraft to Libya and a guided-missile frigate to waters nearby suggests that it might be rethinking its posture. The Ilyushin-76 aircraft took off from the far western region of Xinjiang on February 28th bound for the Libyan city of Sabha. The ship, Xuzhou, which had been engaged in anti-piracy duties in the Gulf of Aden, set sail for the north African coast on February 24th.

The assignments could prove little more than symbolic. Of the 30,000 Chinese estimated to have been in Libya when the unrest began there, some 29,000 are said to have already left the country. China’s defence ministry says Xuzhou will not arrive until March 2nd. It is not clear when the aircraft will reach their destination. Gabriel Collins and Andrew Erickson of China SignPost say they will have to stop for refuelling.

The deployments are a sign that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which includes the air force and navy, is gaining a bit in confidence following its dispatch of a small flotilla in December 2008 to join international operations in the Gulf of Aden. That was a turning point in China’s military history: the PLA navy’s first active-duty deployment beyond East Asia. China had long been diffident about long-range engagements, fearing they might stir anxiety about China’s military ambitions while at the same time revealing frailties to its potential enemies (America being the biggest concern).

Western powers have long been trying to cajole the PLA into playing a more dynamic role, both in UN peacekeeping (China is a big contributor of troops, but not of front-line ones) and disaster relief (the PLA did not send forces to help out after the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004). The PLA’s decision to get involved this time, however, is likely far more to do with domestic considerations than a desire to show solidarity with the West. A perceived failure by the PLA to show concern for Chinese lives in Libya would not have gone down well with the country’s fiery online nationalists (to whom the country’s leaders appear to pay considerable attention).

In 1998, when riots targeting ethnic Chinese broke out in Indonesia, nationalists in China accused the government of a limp-wristed response (see this analysis of the event by Christopher Hughes of the London School of Economics). The Communist Party does not want a repeat of that, especially at a time when it is already worried about possible contagion from the pro-democracy movements in North Africa and the Middle East. Nationalism and anti-government sentiment can be a powerful cocktail in China.

China’s propaganda machinery has been playing up the significance of the deployments. What the state-run media call the biggest operation in China’s history – which includes the dispatch of civilian aircraft—to rescue Chinese overseas is being touted as a sign of the country’s emergence as a “responsible great power” (see this dispatch, in Chinese, on the website of Guangming Daily, a Beijing newspaper). The term echoes the appeal made in 2005 by Robert Zoellick, then America’s deputy secretary of state, for China to play its part as a “responsible stakeholder”. It is one aimed at pleasing nationalists at home while trying to show the outside world that China is merely doing what is expected of it.

China’s vote on February 26th in favour of a UN resolution imposing sanctions on Muammar Qaddafi and calling for an international war-crimes investigation will certainly be looked at with favour by the West. It too appeared to mark a shift, China having usually avoided punishing countries for behaviour within their borders (sanctions imposed on North Korea for its testing of nuclear devices being a notable recent exception). Again, the reasons for China’s actions are likely to be domestic. Mr Qaddafi’s political control appears tenuous and Chinese lives are at risk. The Communist Party does not want to appear to be propping up the man endangering them.

China has long condemned what it describes as “interfering in other countries’ internal affairs”. Since 1989 it has been particularly fearful of setting a precedent for international action against itself should it stage another bloody crackdown on dissent such as on the Tiananmen Square protests that year. But China sees the situation in Libya as very different from that in China after Tiananmen—when the Chinese leadership, despite its squabbles, maintained a firm grip on power and largely kept the armed forces on side.

A blog entry published on February 27th on the website of Caijing, a Beijing magazine, (here, in Chinese), suggested that it was time to give up the non-interference policy in the case of Libya. The article, boldly titled “Support the dispatch of American troops to Libya”, argued that “human rights come before sovereignty”. Its author, a Chinese journalist, said that when “a tyrant enslaves his country and tyrannises and massacres his citizens” talk of non-interference is “dog farts”. That, very probably, is going further than the party would like.

Dan Simpson

Shame on us for pulverizing Libya

The war may have started with good intentions, but now we're just wrecking the place

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

By Dan Simpson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Two questions troubled me over Memorial Day: Why is the United States destroying Libya, and why do I care?

For nearly three months America and its pony pal Pokeys -- Denmark, France, Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom -- have been busily destroying Libya.

The war started out as at least vaguely comprehensible and well-meaning. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi had responded to the Arab Spring stirrings against his government with furious threats against the Libyan population. The U.N. Security Council, at the urging of three permanent members (France, the United Kingdom and the United States) but with significant abstentions by Brazil, China, Germany, India and Russia, agreed to military action to protect Libyan civilians from the potential ravages of the government's armed forces. That limited objective made some sense in humanitarian terms.

Libyan rebels launched an effort to oust Mr. Gadhafi from power but quickly ran out of gas. The allies began fighting under the banner of NATO, with the United States in principle having handed over leadership of the effort -- which became, clearly, aimed at regime change, allegedly a "no, no" for the regime of President Barack Obama because it saw this as a major fault of the preceding administration of President George W. Bush. The allies, having eliminated Mr. Gadhafi's air power, began bombing not only government military targets but also making parts of Tripoli, the Libyan capital, look like Joplin, Missouri, after the tornado. This was done in the name of hitting military installations, although it has become evident that Mr. Gadhafi himself was their real target.

The U.S. role moved into semi-clandestine mode. CIA and special operations forces were on the ground, helping with targeting and providing other intelligence support to NATO air forces as they demolished targets in Libya.

In the meantime, the rebels' provisional "government" in eastern Libya -- in Benghazi, formerly known as Cyrenaica -- continued to take an informal approach to military action, in principle taking advantage of the NATO air strikes to move westward toward Tripoli. In fact, it remains divided by tribe, ill-disciplined, indifferently led and, in the end, lightly motivated, in spite of all the bold talk about fighting for freedom. The "government" now has 40 ministers and has eliminated women from all significant positions of leadership.

When preparing to go to Libya in 1963 one of the first books I read was on the tribes of Cyrenaica. The Cyrenaicans still operate on a tribal basis. They oppose the tribes of western and southern Libya.

I haven't figured out yet whether the geniuses who run U.S. foreign policy don't know that, or whether their reasons for proceeding to destroy Libya as a nation were so compelling that they were willing to put their nickels on the eastern Libyans in spite of the legendary divisions among their tribes and the problems these present.

Mr. Obama is moving ahead even though he is in clear violation of the terms of the U.S. War Powers Act. So what is behind his adherence to a policy of pounding Libya?

It is oil, to a degree. Even though Libya produces only 2 percent of the world's oil, the companies that Libya nationalized after Mr. Gadhafi took power in 1969 were owned in part by British and American companies with long memories and a lot of lobbying clout in Washington due to their political contributions to parties and congressmen. France, the United Kingdom and the United States would just love to get their concessions back.

It is also clear that Mr. Gadhafi is not anyone's idea of an enlightened ruler. Even though he handed over his nascent nuclear weapons program during the Bush years, winning big points, he also took down Pan Am 103 in 1988. He paid compensation to victims' families but that tragedy remains an unsettled score between the United States and Libya. But is he worse than some of the Persian Gulf emirs -- not to mention Saudi Arabia's royalty -- that we cuddle up to for oil, arms sales, military bases and whatever else?

Which leaves the fundamental question, what business is it of the United States to decide who should rule Libya or any other country in the world that poses no threat to us? Do we see no conflict of principles between taking the greatest of pride in our own independence, glorifying our founding fathers and praising our troops who fight and die to preserve that independence, while at the same time bombing into rubble some other country's capital to try to change its current leaders?

My own personal question is, why do I care? Or at least, why do I care more than most Americans? There is no noticeable resistance among Americans or in Congress to the destruction we are bringing to Libya.

The answer is, I think, because I have seen and lived in the Libya that U.S. and NATO armaments are now pulverizing. It is hard for Americans to imagine Libya. There are places where robed women and men with donkeys raise water from wells just like the pictures in the books in Sunday school. There are green hills of Cyrenaica where it is possible to wander through Greek and Roman ruins alone.

It is also hard for Americans to imagine the destruction that modern arms can bring to a city. The videos of Joplin and eastern Japan give us some idea. Grainy black-and-white footage of post-war Europe shows us more. But why Libya? In the name of exactly what?

We as a people are acting in Libya like some maddened pit bull that just has to attack something. It is shameful.

Dan Simpson, a former U.S. ambassador, is a Post-Gazette associate editor (, 412 263-1976). More articles by this author

First published on June 1, 2011 at 12:00 am

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