Neither the Afghan nor the Syrian front create as many problems, in foreign policy, to President Obama's Administration, as the Libyan civil conflict. So, now that the situation in the former Italian colony seems to get out of control, it looks like the U.S. government remembered the special role that Italy has always played in that land: Italy's fourth shore; as someone had called it at time of the Empire.
The following article originally appeared, as an editorial, on the Italian on-line magazine Analisi Difesa, and was published here with permission. (Thanks to J.J.P for reviewing the English text).
Your comments, as usual. will be greatly appreciated.
Now they have the gall to ask for our help.
by Gianandrea Gaiani. (Translated from Italian by L. Pavese).
“Italy, thanks to the privileged relationship that she has with Libya, could have a crucial role in the stability of that country, and we want to work with Rome.” These were the words of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the end of the meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, during which Libya (as the two officials emphasized) was at the core of the talks. From what has been revealed, the newly appointed Italian foreign minister highlighted the preoccupation, shared by Italy and the U.S., about “the turn of the events on the ground” in the African country, but Mr. Kerry’s statement is paradoxical in at least two aspects.
First of all, Libya is falling apart due to the massive infiltration of al-Qaeda — in Cyrenaica, in the Fezzan and in even in Tripoli — and the chaos created by the dozens of tribal militias who turned the country into a feudal land, after the lynching of Muammar Gaddafi; to the point that, in the past recent days, London and Washington have reduced the number of the diplomatic personnel and alerted their special forces for possible evacuation operations.
It is a disastrous situation, which is the consequence of the aerial war that the U.S., Great Britain, and France wanted to conduct in 2011 at any cost against the Gaddafi’s regime; but they lacked the will (and the “cojones”) to take on the job of stabilizing the country with “boots on the ground”, as it was done in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. The result is that the already very weak Libyan institutions have reached paralysis, and the parliament has been forced (under the threat of the militias who are besieging the building) to pass a law that forbids everyone who was involved in any way with the old regime to hold public office.
Practically speaking, the entire new Libyan ruling class risks erasure, including the leaders of the revolt against Gaddafi, who were all, in the past or even recently, more or less loyal servants of the Raìs. For that reason, when Mr. Kerry stated that “there are still a lot of challenges in Libya, and Italy could play a crucial role in bringing stability,” it would have been appropriate if someone in Rome had put aside the usual attitude of prone subjection with respect to the United States and had answered him, at least symbolically, with an Italian “vaffa”; a word which was considered vulgar when politics and diplomacy were serious matters, but that unfortunately has become part of today’s political language in Rome.
|John Kerry and Emma Bonino|
In 2011, the Americans unloaded a torrential rain of missiles and guided bombs on Libya to unhinge the defenses of the regime, which was threatened by a revolt orchestrated by the French and the British; a revolt that had the-not-so-hidden objective to diminish the Italian influence in Libya and subtract a share of her business. Washington then passed the ball to NATO, on the basis of the Obamian doctrine of “leading from behind,” and the organization took seven months to get rid of Gaddafi, leaving the country in chaos and in hands of al-Qaeda and the salafis; as the United States discovered at their own expense with the September 11, 2012 attack against the Consulate in Benghazi in which the U.S. Ambassador Stevens, and three other Americans, were murdered.
The White House tried to hide the terrorist matrix of that crime, which Washington has so far left unpunished, since the Obama administration has not authorized yet any military intervention against the al-Qaeda-affiliated camps in Cyrenaica.
Now that the eggs have been broken but the omelette hasn’t come out right, and Libya is out of control, Mr. Kerry remembers the crucial role that Italy could have “to bring back stability.” Actually, Rome had already achieved stability in the relations with Libya for a long time, at the price of very difficult negotiations with Gaddafi, who was certainly a “son of b..ch,” but, to paraphrase what President F.D. Roosevelt used to say about Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, he was our s.o.b. In fact, the Gaddafi government was an important commercial partner, not only for Italy but for the entire western world, and a trusty ally in the fight against islamic terrorism.
There is also a second, and not less important aspect of the question, for which it would be justified to tell Mr. Kerry to take a walk (maybe even in Libya). Nobody seems to remember that it was actually the now Secretary of State Mr. Kerry who virtually imposed on Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi a more active role in the war against the Tripoli’s regime. Notwithstanding the pressure exercised on him internationally and by the highest Italian institution (the President of the Republic) to take a side against Gaddafi, Prime Minister Berlusconi refused for more than a month to employ Italian airplanes in the operations against the Jamahiriya, a country to which Italy was tied by a non-aggression pact: an agreement that Italy had in any case already betrayed providing an Italian base for the aircraft of the NATO coalition.
The Italian Prime Minister at the time declared that the Italian aircraft “have not bombed and will never bomb Libya”; but on the Friday before Easter, Mr. John Kerry, who at the time was Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, arrived in Rome. Mr. Kerry was President Obama’s “special envoy,” with the task of handling the most thorny international issues, like the very tense relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In Rome, Mr. Kerry only met with PM Berlusconi and delivered to him a letter from President Obama, who followed up with a phone call to Berlusconi on Easter Sunday. Maybe that wasn’t just a Happy Easter call, since the following day, April 25th, the Italian Prime Minister announced that the Italian aircraft were going to bomb Libya.
The conflict not only opened the doors wide to the destabilization of the central-eastern Mediterranean area and of the Sahel, but it coincided with the lowest level of national sovereignty expressed by the Italian republic.As of today, it seems like the Italian level of national sovereignty has not risen a lot; since nobody has cordially invited Mr. Kerry and the United States to stabilize Libya all by themselves, or maybe with a little help from France and Great Britain.
Gianandrea Gaiani is the editor of the Italian on-line magazine Analisi Difesa, and contributes regularly to several other Italian publications.
If you are interested in another article by Mr. Gaiani about the situation in Libya, please check out: "Libya Delivered?", on this blog.
Thank you very much.