Just what we need in Libya: more guns.
Yup, as if the lawless no-man’s-land bedlam in the center of Maghreb Africa were not violent enough, the United States and its allies have decided to pour more arms into the anarchic region to help its new “unity” government fight off the Islamic State (IS).
In a joint decision announced Monday by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, during a 25-nation conference in Vienna to discuss how to combat the so-called caliphate, the world powers jubilantly opted to override a U.N. arms embargo and effectively “back” the still-not-installed government of newly elected Libyan Prime Minister-Designate Fayez al-Sarraj with a succulent array of weapons, tanks, jets and helicopters.
We are talking about a nation (and I use the term loosely here) that has, since the gory October 2011 overthrow of its autocratic leader Muammar Gaddafi, seen non-stop violence that has led to the deaths of thousands of civilians, the displacement of 400,000 and the emergence of at least 1,700 different armed militias, each claiming legitimate authority over the country or a part of it.
As a result of a contested election in 2014, Libya’s glaring political divisions even led to the creation of two rival seats of government, one in Tobruk and another in Tripoli, each boasting its own military capacity and legislative assembly.
Although these two opposing governments officially signed a U.N.-backed pact to establish a unity government late last year in an attempt to resolve the country’s six-year political standoff, so far their supposed leader Al-Sarraj, who arrived in Tripoli from Tunisia last March, has been unable to unite the supposed national accord government, because the Tobruk-based regime has refused to hand over power to the new administration.
But while the folks in Tobruk are still understandably leery of the would-be power consolidator, the world leaders in Vienna don’t seem the least bit concerned about the inherent danger of adding more fuel (and weapons) to an already highly combustible political landscape.
The way to bring stability to Libya is not the import of more arms, but rather carefully orchestrated diplomacy and a power-sharing or geographic splintering that will appease at least the majority (albeit not the totality) of the country’s warring sects.
Let us not forget that it was Western intervention and an impetuous obsession to overthrow Gaddafi (with the indiscriminate arming of anyone who said that they opposed the tyrannical dictator, regardless of their other political or militaristic affiliations) that created the conditions for the current anarchy that prevails throughout the country.
Libya today is a nation run by warmongering thugs and militaristic gangs, awash with weapons that have expropriated the political void that Gaddafi’s exit produced.
Yes, the West managed to oust Gaddafi, but at the cost of the destruction of what had once been one of the most stable and economically affluent nations in Africa, with one of the highest standards of living in the continent.
A country that was, before the civil war, producing more than one million barrels of oil a day, has seen its pumps grind to a standstill and is now one of the major sources of human trafficking across North Africa and the Mediterranean.
No, we do not need more guns in Libya.
We need serious amiable nation-building and carefully measured statesmanship to find a peaceful resolution to differences among Libya’s warring factions in order to avoid the military escalation of political confrontations.
Using words instead of weapons, international diplomacy can help to weave the fragile textile of national cooperation and union in a country that has seen the very fabric of its identity frayed by the inundation of more than 100,000 firearms in the last half decade.
Indeed, talk may be cheap, but it is a much better alternative to tanks.