By Andrew Williams
The immense firepower of imperialism, aided by Russia’s capitulation to Western demands that it call for Gaddafi to go, is beginning to drive back the Libyan government. After eleven weeks of bombardment and ten thousand sorties opposition forces have made some advances into the areas held by the Libyan government. Although not currently advancing on the capital Tripoli, the opposition have managed to shift the front line. Their progress has been slow so NATO last week prepared public opinion for a long war, announcing a 90 day extension to its campaign and then sent in attack helicopters to participate more directly in the combat on the ground.
Imperialism’s advance is being impeded by a determined resistance, with the regime retaining a large degree of popular support in the western half of the country. In Tripoli there have been regular pro-government demonstrations, although there has also recently been one against the regime. To overthrow the government this resistance will need to be crushed, so imperialism is intensifying its assault.
The Western powers’ claims that their intervention is for humanitarian reasons is just empty rhetoric. NATO opposes any possible compromise that could immediately end the fighting. They target Gaddafi’s family residences in order to decapitate the regime and dismiss out of hand all proposals for a ceasefire. The past weeks’ peace initiatives of Russia, followed by the African Union, proposals which Libya’s government was willing to conceded to, were immediately rejected by the West. Instead it stepped up the bombing, including heavy attacks on Tripoli. Buildings in residential areas and government offices are being hit as the civilian infrastructure is increasingly targeted. Far from protecting civilians, urban bombing is resulting in a rising toll of dead and wounded. The aim is to reduce morale, instil panic, to grind down the government’s popular support and encourage disaffection.
Should the West succeed in bringing down Libya’s government, it is at pains to install an entirely subservient client regime. So military and economic assistance to the opposition is provided in a way that maximises its subordination, with access to the financial assets the West seized through sanctions from the Libyan government being strictly controlled.
The US initially played the predominant role when the West’s missile and bombing attacks commenced in March, and even two weeks ago the Guardian was reporting a detailed breakdown by country revealing the US had carried out the most air sorties over Libya, with Britain in second place, followed by France and then Italy. The US is determined Europe takes more of the military strain. So at the recent G8 summit, dominated by issues of the Middle East and the Arab revolution, the US pressed its imperialist allies for a more aggressive orientation. The summit also produced a victory for NATO as Russia announced its shift to calling for Gaddafi to go and agreed to act as a G8 emissary. This increased diplomatic isolation of the Libyan government was followed by China opening relations with the opposition in Benghazi. The G8 forum allows the US to coordinate with its imperialist allies around its more assertive agenda and press Russia into complicity. G20 summits, where China and the largest semi-colonies are included, have been relegated to just an annual exchange. The US, as its financial system is out of acute crisis is no longer compelled to cooperate, so is back on the offensive.
For Libya the West agreed to embark on its new phase of war, aimed at establishing some momentum. In addition to the aerial bombardment, military action is focussing more closely on engaging with the ground war, with the new French and British helicopters deployed to manoeuvre and destroy targets in built-up areas.
In response to imperialism’s intensified assault, the anti-war and peace movements need to step up the campaign to end military action against Libya. The forthcoming activities of the Stop The War Coalition and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament should be supported.