Oil war or humanitarian mission?

I’ve woken up today to hear we’re in yet another war to protect oil supplies, this time in Libya.

What’s actually happening is that a bunch of dodgy people are trying to take control from the existing a dodgy government by force of arms. The UN (a label of convenience) is weighing in on the side of the anti-government faction that controls the oil fields (or did yesterday, things are moving fast). The excuse is that they’re protecting civilians.

Now this is something of a civil war. There are four groups involved. Firstly there are the government forces. They’re not civilians and it’s their job to protect the state. If we had an armed uprising in the UK (such as the IRA), the state army is there to protect the government. The Libyan army likewise.

The second group are the anti-state “army”. Actually they’re not an army; they’re several groups of civilians with guns and bombs. The state army is defending the state against them, as would be expected. Is the UN protecting these “civilians” from the state army? It looks like it; or more specifically the UN is providing military support to this groups, against the government.

The third and fourth groups are the pro and anti-government civilians. By siding with the anti-government lot (simplistically, those in the east) you could argue that you’re protecting those civilians, but as you’re not (apparently) protecting the pro-government civilians in Tripoli from the rebels, it’s a very thin argument.

All governments in the region are dodgy (Israel is the only real democracy as we know it). The rebels are dodgy. It’s a dodgy place, and there are dodgy people around. It’s the way things are, and we should be leaving them alone. Otherwise we’re imposing our version how things should be on someone else. But unfortunately a lot of these places are financed by the oil we’re dependent on buying from them, which is what makes Libya a special case (along with Iraq).

Pretending that it’s a “no fly” zone for humanitarian reasons, basically siding with the rebels, is a scandal. If we’re going to war we should be honest about the reasons, not making them up after the event (like Blair and Bush). And if they think they’re backing the right horse with military support and they’ll be rewarded later, they know nothing about the culture in that region. I’m not even sure they’ve backed the right horse; Gaddafi’s government doesn’t roll over easily.

One Reply to “Oil war or humanitarian mission?”

  1. I met a friend yesterday who thought that the idea that this was all about oil was probably a conspiracy theory. He’s the first, but it’s always worth thinking about.

    I’d argue that “protecting civilians form a dictator” is rarely, if ever, featured in European or American foreign policy. Africa and Asia are full of dictators doing terrible things to civilians and it’s considered an “internal affair” and ignored for years. Okay, foreign ministers often refrain from inviting these dictators to tea, and sometimes they implement economic sanctions (hardly necessary; they’re quite capable of wrecking their own economy).

    The only difference here is that Libya has oil that the west needs.

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