By Jane West
Despite claims it was supporting the ‘Arab Spring’, NATO bombed Libya for its own time-honoured reasons – to depose a regime that was unreliable for Western interests, a frequent nuisance in OPEC, and sometime supporter of various anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggles.
The 2004 ‘Deal in the Desert’ opened a phase of collaboration between Libya and imperialism, but did not mean Gaddafi was seen as sufficiently reliable.
This was the latest in a history of wars, or proxy-wars, against what the West calls ‘rogue’ regimes – i.e. regimes that are not fully compliant with its interests.
The bombardment of Libya stands in a tradition that includes interventions in the Congo, Cuba and the attempt to overthrow the regime in North Vietnam in the 1960s; the invasions of Grenada, Panama and the Contra war against Nicaragua in the 1980s; the Iraq wars, bombing of Serbia and invasion of Afghanistan in the 1990s and 2000s; and many others.
Having won this war on Libya, the West is securing its interests. Militarily, this may include a future NATO base in Libya. Some reports suggest one is already secretly agreed.
Immediately the West is focused on commercial and economic gains from the war. Britain’s share of the costs of bombing Libya is estimated at possibly £1 billion. But the value of contracts to rebuild Libya’s schools, hospitals, housing, roads, electricity supply and so on are estimated to be worth £200 billion over the next 10 years. NATO first smashed the country with bombs and will now charge it for rebuilding.
Under Gaddafi, Libya’s natural resources were mainly in public hands. Also some taxes on foreign oil companies were at 93%. This income was at least partially pumped back into Libyan society, funding a healthcare system, an 88% literacy rate and it had the highest average per capital income in Africa (£9,640 before the 2008 crisis).
As the NATO governments seek to cash in on their support for the rebels, they are applying intense pressure on Libya to ‘liberalise’ i.e. hand over its assets to foreign companies. The French newspaper Liberation revealed that the Libyan rebels had promised France 35% of Libya’s oil reserves in return for its support in the war.
This is what imperialism means by its ‘successful war’ in Libya. Buoyed up by this success it is now turning with renewed energy to tightening the noose around Iran and replacing Assad with a compliant regime in Syria.