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PORTSIDE  March 2011, Week 4

PORTSIDE March 2011, Week 4

Subject:

In Libya, the Empire Awakens

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Thu, 24 Mar 2011 19:47:32 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (116 lines)

In Libya, the Empire Awakens 

by Billy Wharton

http://www.examiner.com/bronx-county-independent-in-new-york/in-libya-the-empire-awakens

Throughout history, running an empire has always been
about more than just sheer economic dominance or the
exercise of overwhelming military force.  Even a modern
empire without colonies, like the one operated by the
US, requires more finesse than brawn.   It is the
skillful adaptations to changing conditions that make
empires last.  Or as the old saying goes, "don't swim
against the tide."  Finally, after months of
desperately attempting to appear on the right side of
history with words alone, the US may have some swimmers
in the water.  The military intervention in Libya is a
signal that the empire has awoken from its seeming
slumber.  The formula for arousal includes a
dictatorial gadfly, a perhaps ill-timed insurrection
and a generous supply of oil.

In North Africa, and elsewhere in the region, the US is
preparing for the great adaptation to Arab democracy. 
No longer able to rely on a network of authoritarian
rulers in the region, the diplomatic machine that is
the US State Department is now focused on relating to
the new pro-democracy forces.  In truth, the US was
never solely tied to the Hosni Mubarak's of the world. 
They enjoyed equally cozy relations with the military
establishment in each country.  And this establishment,
unlike their political counterparts, has certainly not
been overthrown.  The military in North Africa and the
Middle East is every bit the military and economic
actor it was before the pro-democracy protests.

We can see this in Libya where the Faustian bargain the
opposition cut with the US, has been extended to
relations with the Egyptian military.  Egyptian
weapons, certainly with the permission of the US, are
flowing across Tunisia into Eastern Libya. 
Military-to-military links throughout the region
represent an important resource for the US adaptation
to this monumental process of change.  Thus far, the
military in several countries has managed to place real
limits on the extent of the transformation by keeping
it contained to questions of political representation
and the form of government.

The Libyan process has granted the US even greater
access, as Eastern rebels have now endorsed a largely
US-led bombing campaign aimed at weakening Libyan
forces loyal to General Muammar Gaddafi.  In doing so,
the Eastern rebels might be about to learn the hard
lesson that the revolution cannot be outsourced.  US
intervention comes with a price - and this bill will be
paid politically, economically and militarily.  There
was no way to cleave the military away from the regime
in Tripoli, so intervention from outside was sure to be
the primary strategy once the insurrection in the East
was underway.

Clearly the US is interested in enhancing its strategic
position in the region while also giving some substance
to its pro-democracy claims.  Other European nations
have also, somewhat more reluctantly, tailed along
mimicking the same platitudes as they go.  Yet, it is
the oil that has really accelerated US foreign policy,
moving it from general claims of democracy and freedom
to a costly military intervention.  The mere thought of
a militarily victorious Gaddafi regime peddling large
amounts of oil to US economic opponents pushed Obama to
don yet another war cap.  While the Arab streets may
have shifted the political debate in the region,
pushing the US in a particular direction rhetorically,
it is still their oil that attracts the unwelcome
attention of Empire.

The Eastern rebels in Libya may yet win the day.  A
perhaps premature and certainly ill-equipped
insurrection may be saved from annihilation.  The
awesome might of the US military can ensure things like
this.  However, if 20th century political
transformations serve as any kind of guide, how you win
may be just as important as if you win.  The closer
this movement in Eastern Libya slinks toward the US,
the less independence they will have once the political
transition begins.  And, later, when the oil begins to
flow again, a heavy bill will come due.  Will the
rebels be ready to pay it?  And at what cost to their
political dreams of democracy?

*** Billy Wharton is a writer, activist and the editor
of the Socialist WebZine. His articles have appeared in
the Washington Post, the NYC Indypendent, Spectrezine
and the Monthly Review Zine. He can be reached at
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