Libya Just Keeps Getting Worse, Ctd

by Dish Staff

Juan Cole finds the US response to yesterday’s revelation that Egypt and the UAE had carried out airstrikes in Libya pretty ironic:

According to the BBC, “the US, France, Germany, Italy and the UK issued a joint statement denouncing “outside interference” in Libya.” Seriously, guys? Except for Germany, these are the NATO countries that intervened in Libya in the first place, in large part at the insistence of an Arab League led by Egypt and the UAE! It is true that the UAE and Egypt don’t have a UN Security Council Resolution, which authorized NATO involvement (I supported the then no fly zone on those grounds). But the newly elected Libyan House of Representatives has openly called for international intervention against Libya’s out-of-control militias and it is entirely possible that the Libyan government asked, behind the scenes for these air strikes. In any case, “outside interference” isn’t the issue!

Claims that the airstrikes caught us unawares are also beyond belief:

“With as many Aegis-class ships as the U.S. Navy has in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean, there is no possible way the UAE could pull this off without the U.S. knowing it,” said Christopher Harmer, a former Navy officer and an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War.

Harmer said that he had no information about U.S. involvement, “but the U.S. government knows who bombed what,” he said. Egypt and the UAE are highly motivated to strike out at Islamist fighters, whose gains in Libya are only the latest reminder that a new wave of religiously aligned political groups and militias threaten secular regimes and monarchies across the region. … Despite denials from the Egyptians and American claims that the United States knew nothing of the airstrikes, there’s no doubt that the UAE’s Air Force, which is newer and more advanced than Egypt’s, could attack Tripoli.

But Keating wonders if this isn’t a sign that the US is no longer running the regional security show in the Middle East:

Despite all the various ways that regional powers have sought to influence each other’s internal politics, the U.S. and Europe (and on a few occasions Israel) have largely had a monopoly on airstrikes and direct military intervention. With crises elsewhere taking up diplomatic attention, U.S. involvement in the worsening situation in Libya has been limited. It shouldn’t be too surprising that others have stepped in to fill the void. The New York Times, which originally reported on the strikes, puts them in the context of a larger proxy battle in the Middle East between Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia—which have sought to roll back the gains made by Islamist groups—and Turkey and Qatar, which have largely supported them. This battle will mostly be fought within the region’s most unstable countries, including Syria, Iraq, and Libya

Michael Brendan Dougherty, meanwhile, blames the chaos in Libya on the failures of the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine advanced by Hillary Clinton:

In the most obvious form of moral hazard, this pernicious “R2P” norm lowers the price of civil war in the developing world, encouraging rebels to make provocative attacks, then lobby for Western air support when the local bad guy punishes them for it. Uncle Sam or NATO deploys resources in a civil war these rebel groups could never win with their own blood and treasure. They often fail to win even when they do get help. The expectation of Western air power has exacerbated and intensified conflicts in Serbia, the Sudan, Libya, and Syria. As an international norm, R2P adds nothing but a noble-sounding gloss on getting more people killed than usual.