Home / Robert Farley / “The Roots of the Crisis”

“The Roots of the Crisis”


This is just hopelessly lazy:

To understand the roots of the crisis in Libya, after all, would mean examining how, for years, the United States helped Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and other Arab leaders hold on to power and terrorize their opponents anywhere in the world, in the name of the “war on terror.” It would mean exposing successive administrations’ rendition and torture policies, and their collusion with despotic Arab regimes to carry them out. Though many Arabs targeted by the United States remained focused exclusively on challenging the regimes in their home countries—and refused to harm civilians to achieve their aims—some came to regard the United States, its assets and civilians as legitimate targets in some circumstances.

There are surely some time periods and some leaders for which the “hold on to power and terrorize their opponents” would be an appropriate description of US policy; in the case of Libya, the US became more willing to cut Qaddafi slack after 2003, in return for cooperation on the Libyan nuclear program and for the assistance of the Libyan intelligence. For approximately the 34 years prior to the nuclear deal of 2003, US policy (pursued with uneven enthusiasm) was to support the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime. It’s entirely reasonable to complain about US willingness to cooperate with the Libyan security services after 2003, but it should bear mention that Qaddafi was rather adept at holding onto power and terrorizing his opponents anywhere in the world without any assistance from the United States. In face, active US opposition was incapable of preventing Qaddafi from undertaking these two projects. Moreover, I don’t recollect that the Nation was particularly enthusiastic about US policy towards Qaddafi prior to 2003.

It isn’t just Qaddafi; I feel like pulling my hair out every time I read that Mubarak was a US puppet/creation. There’s an element of truth to the claim, but only an element; Mubarak was the third in a line of dictators, the first two of whom had demonstrated every capacity for holding onto power even in context of active US opposition. Similarly, the United States has been more and less willing to deal with the Assads over the years (including utilizing Syrian security services), but it makes no sense whatsoever to claim that the resilience of the Assad regime is because of US assistance. Simply because the US is periodically willing to work with a particularly dictator does not indicate that the US is responsible for the survival of said dictator; it may be convenient for domestic opponents to make such an argument, but authoritarian regimes can survive with no assistance whatsoever from the United States.

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