The biggest threat to Libya’s revolution

April 14, 2011

CHRISTIAN WRIGHT says in a Readers' Views article ("Is intervention a necessary evil?") that Eric Ruder and Tom Arabia ("Nothing humanitarian about U.S. intervention") "copped out" by not saying whether the initial NATO bombing against Qaddafi's offensive on Benghazi deserved support, even though they wrote after that bombing had already happened.

Though the criticism of Ruder and Arabia is misplaced, Wright's own points in support of intervention deserve a response.

The Libyan uprising is part of the revolution spreading across the Arab world. This grand regional thrust toward self-determination, as a whole, threatens U.S. imperial control over oil and trade routes. These form its main geo-strategic leverage over global rivals.

Imperial interests compel them to intervene against this fundamental threat--thus, the Libyan campaign. So the stakes are higher than Wright, who discusses Libya in isolation from the wider region, accounts for.

Wright claims intervention saved the Libyan revolution from physical destruction. But Phyllis Bennis and other writers have asserted that Western propaganda may have exaggerated the military potential of Qaddafi's offensive. Qaddafi's army remains small, poorly trained and reliant on mercenaries, as well as his certainly fearsome air and artillery power.

Yet even had the offensive on Benghazi succeeded militarily, it's less than likely that this would have permanently pacified the city and thus wiped out the revolution.

But what Wright fails to mention entirely is precisely the biggest danger--that dependence on the West will destroy the revolution from within. Already, the Transitional National Council in Benghazi, soliciting Western support, has agreed to honor Qaddafi's oil contracts.

Dependence on U.S. bombs means the U.S. will likely choose who rules Libya after Qaddafi. It also strengthens the possibility of the disastrous (for Libyans and for the broader Arab Revolution) partition option.

This dovetails with the interests of the former regime and elite strata of the opposition, who seek imperialist support for a superficially new structure of rule that prevents the mass empowerment aspired to and even glimpsed by the working classes in the early days of the uprising. This is why, even though the Benghazi rebels may have called for and welcomed the air strikes, solidarity with their cause calls on us to explain that this was a mistake.

Contrary to Wright's claim that "long-term" questions were not on their mind, rebel forces clearly articulated that they hoped the air strikes could be carried out in a way that would allow them to resume their fight against Qaddafi on the same independent basis as before. It is our duty, with the advantage of an inside view of the empire, to explain that the air strikes could only happen because the U.S. believed such independence would not be possible.

Libyan rebels and revolutionaries across the Arab world have shown unbelievable courage in their death-defying fight for freedom. Solidarity requires that we not treat their freedom as lightly as Wright does.
Avery Wear, Lemon Grove, Calif.

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