Every now and then, and this should reassure us, American diplomats demonstrate that they have learned a thing or two from their various military misadventures over the last few decades. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan – maybe it hasn’t all been completely in vain.
“Any kind of intervention or foreign intervention won’t help Libya get out of chaos,” concluded state department spokesperson Jen Psaki at a press conference on Monday (August 26). “Libya’s challenges are political, and violence will not resolve them. Our focus is on the political process there. We believe outside interference exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya’s democratic transition.”
Psaki was echoed by the United Nations’ representative in Libya, who was even less equivocal in his verdict: “Any kind of intervention or foreign intervention won’t help Libya get out of chaos,” said Bernardino Leon, who argued that the only way to end the current instability in Libya was to figure out an inclusive political process in which all Libyans felt represented in the various institutions of state.
Hear, hear. But while the State Department dishes out a rare dose of common sense, other countries are not exhibiting similar restraint. Psaki and Leon’s comments came in response to the news that last week’s air strikes in Libya were launched by the United Arab Emirates, using Egyptian bases as launch pads. Psaki denied that the US had had any prior knowledge of the attacks.
It was an unprecedented unilateral military action from the wealthy little Gulf State – and one that could signal a new phase in the relationship between the western world and its Arab allies.
“On the face of it, this is one of those baffling moments that seem to occur with increasing frequency in the Middle East these days: why has the United Arab Emirates, a small, wealthy Gulf state, been secretly bombing targets in distant Libya from bases in Egypt – and without telling the US, its closest ally? Looked at a little more closely, however, the news reflects wider changes in the region, and a sense that Washington is retreating from it,” wrote Ian Black, the Guardian’s Middle East editor.
“The US, UK and France went to war to overthrow Gaddafi in 2011. But now that the hopes of the Arab spring are a distant memory, they insist that military support for Libya’s warring factions will not help restore desperately needed stability and that only dialogue can succeed. The Emiratis and Egyptians clearly disagree,” Black said.
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Simon Allison covers Africa for the Daily Maverick, having cut his teeth reporting from Palestine, Somalia and revolutionary Egypt. He loves news and politics, the more convoluted the better. Despite his natural cynicism and occasionally despairing tone, he is an Afro-optimist, and can’t wait to witness and chronicle the continent’s swift development over the next few decades.