Leading Libya

14:48, March 03, 2011      

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By Luis Vega

One cannot defeat a dictator with pretty flowery words nor seduce an intellectual with a simple display of well-toned muscles. In both cases intended target audiences define the tools used to accomplish the goals, romantic or military. Today an effective modern leader must speak the language of reason peppered with a threat of force like being a Nobel Peace Prize winner willing to wage war or the first African American president willing to liberate an African country from dictatorship. In today's world of multiple media platforms, the most efficacious leaders must embrace contradictions to succeed.

Such is the case with Libya and the position President Barack Obama takes to halt the killing of thousands of unarmed protesters by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi so far. The current conflict has nothing to do with the American relations of the North African nation. Yet being the world's only military superpower means the United States is obliged to act soon to stop the carnage started by others. This is despite the fact Gadaffi is Europe’s Frankenstein not America’s. He is a dictatorial monster rich with oil money, around 90 percent of which goes exclusively to supply European markets.

As a result of the Libyan crisis, oil prices have soared to a two-year high, wreaking havoc on distant economies currently suffering low growth and high unemployment, like Europe and America. The world economy is hostage to the dictatorial whims of an out-of-touch non-elected African strongman. Just as Gadafi's voluptuous blonde private Ukrainian nurses, more than 140,000 people have escaped into Tunisia and Egypt, and 32,000 Chinese have been evacuated from the mayhem. Trade between Africa and China passed 100 billion U.S. dollars last year and will more than double to 300 billion U.S. dolalrs by 2015, according to Standard Bank. The world suffers from Libya's unrest.

Of course Colonel Gadaffi's international friends in Latin America, Nicaragua and Venezuela, accuse the United States of trying to intervene or invade Libya armed with imperial desire and oil aspirations without evidence because that is what they do: play victim, even when untrue, to American imperialism. None of these nations point fingers at Europe, which actually fills the dictator's pockets with billions of dollars while he represses his people, or the African nations that conveniently look the other way due to Libya's financial investment in their own economies. It amounts to paid continental neutrality.

"A number of people are quite surprised that the African Union and African states have been rather quiet on the goings on in North Africa and particularly recently in Libya. One of the challenges which African states have to address in this decade is the issue of becoming relevant players in global politics and on the reaction to what is going on in Libya, particularly the fact that unarmed civilians who were simply asking for their basic rights were being gunned down," said Okey Onyejekwe, former director of governance at the U.N. Commission for Africa. "We in the African Union should join the rest of the world because across Asia there is total condemnation."

Only in a world dominated by contradiction can a Western superpower led by its first African American president be held responsible for North African crimes financed with the oil profits received from their former colonial masters. It is becoming evident the Arab and North African street is more intelligent than aging Latin American leaders who follow old political scripts that instruct them to blame the United States first. And MENA governments deluded into believing citizens will continue to be fooled by official lies simply because they are broadcast on television networks controlled by the state.

"They love me. All my people are with me. They love me. All. They will die to protect me, my people," said Colonel Gaddafi in an interview with journalist Christine Amanpour. "No demonstrations at all in the streets."

His delusions are not something new or unheard in recent times prior to the military defeat of a national repressor.

"They are not even (within) 100 miles (of Baghdad). They are not in any place. They hold no place in Iraq. This is an illusion... they are trying to sell others an illusion. I can say. I am responsible for what I am saying, that they have started to commit suicide under the walls of Baghdad. We will encourage them to commit more suicides quickly," stated Iraqi Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf to the press during the American invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Gadaffi remains calm while isolated in Tripoli surrounded by opposition forces that already control Eastern Libya, fight in the Western part and advance in almost every region. So volatile is the situation that even exiled Libyan royal heirs are plotting a return to power from the safe distance of Italy, its old colonial power (1911-1942) and London. King Idris Al Senussi was deposed on Sept. 1st, 1969 during a trip to Turkey by Gadaffi, who at the time was a young rebellious soldier. Royal family members were placed under house arrest until authorized to leave the country.

Two heirs are positioning themselves for a return of Libya's monarchy: Prince Mohammed Al Senussi and Prince Idris Al Senussi. The first is considered the legitimate heir to the throne, and the second, who is married to a Spanish aristocrat, is his rival. Prince Mohammed resides in London, supports a foreign military intervention to end the massacre but leaves to Libyans the decision on whether to return the monarchy to power. By contrast, Prince Idris challenged his cousin in court demanding to be declared legitimate heir to the Libyan throne — a case he lost — before moving to Rome and dreaming of new Spanish kingdoms.

In some towns and regions controlled by rebels, the old Libyan royal flag flies again as the current regime collapses and liberated territory searches for a new sense of identity in its monarchical past. Quryna a news website with ties to Gadafi's son Seif Al Islam, has been put out of operation for days and Tuesday morning it showed the pre-Gadafi monarchist flag and a statement from the rebels announcing new management. If civil war has not already started in Libya it seems imminent and unstoppable.

Many question what role will the United States play as Libya descends into chaos and violence while the world's only military superpower figures a calibrated response that will not contradict its democratic principles and its leader’s Nobel Peace Prize credentials. The United States will be blamed for the turmoil regardless of its stated position while the rest of the world simple watches from a distance as gasoline prices rise and daily cost of living expenses go up as a result of global energy costs being threatened.

"In the years ahead, Libya could become a peaceful democracy, or it could face protracted civil war. The stakes are high," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton . "The entire (Middle East) region is changing, and a strong and strategic American response will be essential. We are taking no options off the table so long as the Libyan government continues to turn its guns on its own people."

"We are going to keep the pressure on Gaddafi until he steps down and allows the people of Libya to express themselves freely and determine their own future," stated Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to ABC's "Good Morning America. The United States has frozen 30 billion U.S. dollars in Libyan assets so far. Amphibious assault ships, the USS Kearsarge, which carry 2,000 Marines, and the USS Ponce, to support humanitarian efforts in Libya.

"We are looking at a lot of options and contingencies. No decisions have been made on any other actions," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, clarifying the United Nations had not authorized the use of force in Libya yet. While Libyan opposition groups debate if inviting foreign assistance is a feasible solution to their seemingly insurmountable problems. "We don't want another Afghanistan or Iraq, but there is no balance. He has all the weapons and the money," said one committee member on condition of anonymity to a Washington Post reporter.

"It doesn't matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice," said Deng Xiaoping brilliantly capturing the spirit of the moment. The question is: Can Obama meow?

This article is a People's Daily Online exclusive.

The article represents the author's views only. It does not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.


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