Monday, January 30, 2012

Did NATO's Libyan "Liberation" Blow-Up In Their Faces

During NATO's bombing campaign to dominate and destroy the Libyan revolution liberate Libya last year, I wrote that their real interests lie with intervening into the Arab Spring in such a way as to bend it towards European and American ends. The other driving motivation behind the intervention was to counter China's growing hegemony on the African continent.

For a number of years China has quietly been increasing its capital investments and trade relationships with a number of African countries. From the point of view of the African governments - more or less democratic or repressive - China's involvement has been more heartily welcome than that of Europe and North America for the simple reason that China's money, etc. comes with no (apparent) strings. No doubt this is a product of two factors. The first is that European and North American governmental policies with regards to Africa are based upon a set of vile racist and colonialist assumptions about Africa. And going along with that is a never-ending jogging for influence via proxy armies and direct interventions.

Secondly, China is the new kid on the block, or the new store on the block. And they have learned from lengthy experience that the way to break into new markets is by offering better deals than the old stores. This is the oldest trick in the export market book. Think way back to Japan's Honda cars, which were basically disposable, cheap cars way back in the 1970s. Now they are semi-luxury sedans. Ditto Hyundai from the South Koreans. And, of course, with China you can say that about everything they make. From dollar store trinkets and laughably constructed toys for kids they are now the manufacturer of choice for every high tech company in the west from Apple to HP to IBM (who sold off their PC division to China, which renamed it Lenovo and made it massively successful - oops!).

Now, transpose that method into one that is geared towards the developing world and building the influence of China as a nation that needs major raw material inputs. You begin to see their method and its success. It also makes clear the real reason why China (along with Russia) is so opposed to Syria becoming another Libya. It has nothing whatsoever to do with national self-determination and opposition to imperialism - any more than western hand-wringing and sanctions has anything to do with concern for human rights or democracy. If you don't believe me about the latter, I will only point out that the US gives $1.3 billion to the Egyptian army every year specifically to finance the security services - never mind the money and weapons that are sold or given to every dictatorship in the region. As for China's interest in self-determination - Tibet and Xinjiang provide clear and bloody refutation of any delusions in that direction.

All of that is background to the fact that NATO's intentions in Libya seem to be blowing up in their faces - a reminder that besides death and misery, the thing that war produces most of is irony. Within Libya itself, the prospective client regime is having its own difficulties living up to the hopes of NATO. Not only are elements of Gaddafi's former supporters giving it military troubles - witness the recent recapture of Bani Walid by a pro-Gaddafi militia - but even in the TNC stronghold of Benghazi there have been violent protests against the new bosses.

In the rest of Africa the knock-on effect of NATO's forceful intervention in the Libyan conflict has not been to make Africa more compliant and open to western demands. Rather, it has pushed African governments deeper into China's embrace, as evidenced by the keynote delivered at this past week's African Union summit delivered by a senior Chinese diplomat in the new AU HQ that was built with Chinese money and with the announcement that China would step into the financing void left by Gaddafi's overthrow. While this irony has a certain deliciousness to it, it also has serious and potentially bloody dangers. Europe - with its old world sense of aristocratic entitlement - and the USA - with its belligerent, cowboyish sense of entitlement - are unlikely to let the matter lie. What is more likely is that the immediate future of Africa will see an intensifications of covert and over interventions to try to regain hegemony. That, of course, is a recipe for further instability and war in Africa and greater inter-imperialist rivalry more generally.


African Union embraces generous Chinese financing - The Globe and Mail:

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