February 25, 2012
Libyan situ commentary, Americans thinking Berbers were Pro Qadhdhafi...
Reproducing a comment I made on a pretension to an analysis of the Libyan situation (via Sullivan):
The author, who seems to suffer from the typical "small wars" military/security commentator disease of superficial half understanding, advances some fairly questionable observations (although I wouldn't disagree with the thesis that the Libyan experience does not encourage an intervention in Syria - in fact I agree).
A Preliminary Evaluation of the U.S. Intervention in Libya » Gunpowder & Lead
We’re just over a year past the beginning of the uprisings in Libya that ultimately produced (along with, of course, NATO’s intervention) Muammar Qaddafi’s ouster. And there are now increasing calls for some form of military intervention in Syria. As such, this seems like an important time to evaluate the aftermath of NATO’s intervention in Libya, and how it intersects with American interests.
Essentially, there is a dearth of information publicly available about the state of affairs in Libya, but we nonetheless know a number of facts unambiguously:
Unfortunately the facts advanced are not facts.
The TNC has yet to establish its authority within Tripoli. However well-meaning its endeavors may be, they are not being executed or enforced outside a very small geographic area.
The overwhelming majority of the country is ruled by local militias under commanders with no accountability or common code of conduct.
Several towns (including Zintan, Misrata, and Benghazi) are dominated by local warlords who have power equal to, or greater than, the capital. Indeed, the emergence of a western council in the Nafusa Mountains that directly opposes the TNC is a testament to its weakness.
More Zintan and Mistrata, Benghazi is in fact Benghazi is the 'national' government's power base.
Qaddafi loyalists (more tribal than ideological in nature) have successfully retaken Bani Walid, and have not been displaced.
Well, to call the Bani Walid incident an issue of Qadhdhafi "loyalists" is bootstrapping. It is, as noted in parentheses, a tribal issue.
The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group is well established in parts of Tripoli and Derna. Its rise is directly correlated to attacks against Sufi shrines, and the movement of foreign volunteers going to fight in Syria.
There has been a rash of ongoing retaliatory ethnic and tribal fighting against communities perceived to be pro-Qaddafi, most notably Tuaregs, Berbers, and black Africans.
As I note below this just shows a complete lack of knowledge of Libya. Calling the Berbers a community "perceived to be pro-Qaddafi" is pure nonsense.
The influx of weaponry and returning Tuareg mercenaries after Qaddafi’s fall has helped to destabilize a not-inconsiderable part of Mali. Violent incidents occurring in Algeria, Niger, and Tunisia have also been traced back to Libya.
Well, yes. But the cat was out of the bag well before hand, and in evaluating the situation it is dishonest to cite incidents in Tunisia (post-Revolution rather rare) and glossing over the pre-Revolution, Qadhdhafi backed incidents.
The destabilised part of Mali, the vast desert expanse where the Tuareq live is "not -inconsiderable" however it is also virtually unpopulated Sahara. Nor has it been particularly stable pre-Libyan revolution. AQIM and the Tuareq on-and-off again rebellions / banditism are issues that pre-existed the Libyan revolution and hardly can be blamed on it. An outflow of Taureq mercenaries post-Libyan revolution was always going to happen.
The incidents that I am aware of re Algeria are all quite marginal, and trivial relative to Algeria's ongoing and pre-existing security problem.
My comment was:
I am afraid it is very hard to take seriously an analysis that contains the phrase “There has been a rash of ongoing retaliatory ethnic and tribal fighting against communities perceived to be pro-Qaddafi, most notably Tuaregs, Berbers, and black Africans.”
The Berbers (who are the same people as the warlords of the Nafusa Mountains – the appellation itself is one preferred by the Berber speaking community), are most certainly not perceived as pro-Qadhdhafi. Quite the contrary, they are well known as among the most antti-Qadhdhafi communities in Libya. To write the above rather highlights a lack of knowledge about Libya.
The Tuareq (themselves, of course, linguistically Berber, but distant from the settled Berberophone communities) are another matter, having long served as mercenaries for Qadhdhafi – particularly the Taureq from Mali, for reasons particularly their own.
The Black African attacks, however, are nothing new. Populist violence against Black Africans has long been a feature of Libyan society, and was rarely punished with any real severity. Resentment againts The Guide pissing away billions on his African dreams and old racism in Libyan society, not a Libyan revolution, are the reasons.
This is, overall, a silly, superficial analysis.
For the issue of no interests, the primary interest was not having a counter-revolutionary Qadhdhafi – after the inevitable massacres in Benghazi – destabilising Tunisia and Egypt. Already before his own revolution started, in Tunisia there were credible signs of Qadhdhafi funding the Benalistes, issues that not-at-all-coincidentally evaporated once Qadhdhafi had his hands full on home territory.
As for Good Will in the Arab Street for the Americans, no magic wands exist, but in the Maghreb where I operate as an investor and have for a decade, this gets positive comment.
In all, a rather dishonest or stupid evaluation.
I would add to this comment that the underlying point that Libya does not encourage the idea that intervening in Syria. One need not, however, indulge in factual misrepresentations (or just plain ignorance) to make that point.
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I have even heard of Berbers claiming the LIbya revolution as a Berber Revolution, which is vastly exaggerated and inaccurate, but it reflects the general awareness that Berbers were significant in the anti-Qaddhafi movements. Strange observation.
Personally being a freakishly ideological anti-interventionist, I was against specifically the US involvement in Libya on several grounds. Two of them were NOT, however, a) that it would increase anti-Americanism locally, or b) that it would, regionally and morally, necessarily be a bad thing for it to happen. :-)
Posted by: matthew h at February 26, 2012 11:58 PM