Sunday, May 1, 2011

Regime Change Resurfaces

Ramzy Baroud, the editor of the Palestine Chronicle online magazine and perceptive commentator on Middle Eastern politics, has an article over at Counterpunch where he explains the return of 'regime change' as an objective of US policy in the Middle East. The Libyan uprising provided an opportunity for the United States to reapply 'regime change' logic to an Arab uprising, thus perverting the original objectives of a rebellious population into the broader goals of US geostrategic interests in the region.

The American Enterprise Institute, a neoconservative thinktank that has long advocated aggressive US military intervention against Arab countries, has now enthusiastically endorsed the leaders of the Libyan uprising. John McCain himself, a 'war-hero' and long-term proponent of US military interventionism, visited Benghazi last month to boost the morale of the rebels. Now boosting the spirits of an embattled rebellion is one thing, but promoting illusions that the US is motivated by the purest humanitarian intentions reeks of hypocrisy and duplicity. McCain's visit signals increasing US involvement in the Libyan war, because the situation on the ground has stagnated, as highlevel US military personnel have admitted that the Libyan ground war has become a stalemate.

The same thinktanks and neoconservative laptop mercenaries that enthusiastically lied us into the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are now hollering for an escalated US and NATO war in Libya in support of the rebels. Gaddafi's repressive rule is well known to interested observers, and his longterm collaboration with US and European imperialism is extensively documented. However, the emerging Transitional National Council, composed of former Gaddafi-regime officials, CIA assets, Islamist operatives and western-aligned politicians, indicates that any post-Gaddafi regime would be a proxy of the former colonial powers, opening up Libya's lucrative oilfields to multinational corporations.

There are emerging tactical disagreements about the extent of the United Nations resolution 1973 mandate for attacks on Libya. The Guardian newspaper carried the following story concerning doubts about the legality of air strikes after Gaddafi's second youngest son and three grandchildren were killed in NATO air strikes. The Russian foreign ministry stepped up its withering criticisms of NATO's war on Libya, while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denounced the latest strikes as premeditated murder. How did a no-fly zone escalate so quickly into regime change? How could a supposedly limited measure of a no-fly zone purportedly intended to protect civilians and rationalised as a necessary evil, escalate into an all-out war for regime change where thousands of civilians are now directly in harm's way?

Back to Baroud's essay - he does make the important point that since the US defeat in Iraq, the US ruling class has resorted to clandestine methods and unmanned drone strikes to politically and economically destabilise regimes that it considers 'unfriendly'. There were no drone strikes and secretive special forces operations in Libya during the 2000s, when the Gaddafi regime became a welcome ally of the United States and Europe. Now that the Gaddafi regime has been abandoned by its former partners, with French and British ruling elites spearheading the drive for regime change, I wonder what will happen to the rebels. If they are armed and financed by the former colonial armies, they will become the proxies of the West. When NATO armaments are in active use on the ground, the necessary consequence is that ground troops will follow.