People often say that generals don’t see change coming and prepare the next war as if it should resemble the previous one. The same thing applies to political commentators: they interpret new events not for what they are, but as if they repeated those which preceded them.

At the time when popular mass movements deposed Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt many believed they were seeing a ’Jasmin Revolution [1] and a ’Lotus Revolution [2] in the style of the colour revolutions organised in sequence by the CIA and the NED after the fall of the USSR. Certain facts appeared to confirm this view, such as the presence of Serbian agitators in Cairo, or the diffusion of propaganda material [3]. But the reality was entirely different. These were popular-based uprisings, which Washington unsuccessfully attempted to hijack to its advantage. In reality neither Tunisians nor Egyptians were aspiring to an American Way of Life, but on the contrary, to get rid of puppet governments manipulated by the United States.

When the unrest erupted in Libya, these same commentators tried to get abreast with reality, telling us that a real popular rebellion was at hand, this time against Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator. They accompanied their editorials with sweet lies portraying the Colonel as a timeless enemy of Western democracy, omitting to mention his active collaboration with the United States for eight years [4].

However, when taking a closer look, what we see happening in Libya is, first and foremost, the resurgence of the historical antagonism between Cyrenaica on one side, Tripolitania and Fezzan on the other. It is only of late that this conflict has taken on a political tinge, when the insurrection identified itself with the monarchists and was soon joined by all sorts of opposition groups (Nasserists, Khomeinists, Communists, Islamists et cetera). In sum, at no time has the rebellion spread to the entire country.

The voices which denounce the fabrication and exploitation of this conflict by a colonial cartel are invariably met with scorn. The majority opinion considers that foreign military intervention enables the Libyan people to free themselves from their tyrant and that the excesses of the coalition cannot be worse than the crimes of a genocidal killer.

However, history has already shown the falsity of this reasoning. For example, many of the Iraqis who were hostile to Saddam Hussein and welcomed western soldiers as saviours are now saying - eight years and one and a half million civilian deaths later - that life in their country was better under the despot.

Above all, this judgment is based on a series of erroneous premises:

 Contrary to western propaganda allegations, which the chronological and geographical proximity of events in Tunisia and Egypt may have appeared to validate, the Libyan people did not rise up against the Gaddafi regime. Gaddafi still enjoys popular legitimacy in Tripolitania and in Fezzan, regions where the Colonel has distributed arms to the population to resist against the advancement of both Cyrenaica insurgents and foreign powers.

 Contrary to western propaganda allegations, which some of the incendiary declarations by the ’the brother leader’ himself may even have corroborated, Gaddafi has never bombed his civilian population [5]. He has used military force against putschists without worrying about the consequences for the civilian population. This distinction makes no difference to the victims but in international law it separates war crimes from crimes of humanity.

 Finally, contrary to western propaganda allegations and despite Bernard Henry-Lévy’s farcical revolutionary romanticism, the revolt of Cyrenaica was anything but spontaneous. It was prepared by the DGSE, MI6 and the CIA. The French put the National Transitional Council together by drawing on the information and contacts of Massoud El-Mesmari, ex-companion and confident of Gaddafi who defected in November 2010 and was given asylum in Paris [6]. With the aim of reestablishing the monarchy, the British reactivated the network of Prince Mohamed el-Senoussi, pretender to the throne of the United Kingdom of Libya, currently exiled in London, and distributed the red, black and green flag brandishing a star and crescent [7]. The United States seized military and economic control by repatriating Libyan exiles from Washington and placing them in key ministerial and military positions within the National Transitional Council.

The ongoing debate about the cogency of the international intervention is the tree which hides the forest. If we take a few steps back, we will realise that the strategy of the leading western powers has in fact changed. Of course, they continue to indulge in the rhetoric of genocide prevention and the duty of humanitarian intervention, or of brotherly support for people who are struggling for their liberty, (provided they open their markets!), but their acts are different.

The "Obama doctrine"

In his speech at the National Defense University, President Obama defined several aspects of his strategic doctrine, pinpointing what distinguishes it from those of his predecessors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush [8].

He primarily declared : In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners. To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians. It took us 31 days.

Such speed contrasts with Bill Clinton’s time. This has two explanations.
On the one hand, the United States of 2011 has a coherent project (analysed below), whereas in the 90’s it vacillated between taking advantage of the collapse of the USSR and enriching itself commercially or building an empire without equal.
On the other hand, the Obama administration’s ’reset’ policy, which seeks to substitute confrontation with negotiation, has borne some fruits with Russia. In spite of being one of the major economic losers, Russia has nevertheless gone along with the principle of the Libyan war even if nationalists Vladimir Putin [9] or Vladimir Chamov [10] must have developed stomach ulcers as a result.

Then, in the same 28 March 2011 speech, Obama further stated: Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and the no-fly zone. Last night, NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians. This transfer from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday. Going forward, the lead in enforcing the no-fly zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to our allies and partners, and I am fully confident that our coalition will keep the pressure on Gaddafi’s remaining forces. (...) The United States will play a supporting role — including intelligence, logistical support, search and rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications. Because of this transition to a broader, NATO-based coalition, the risk and cost of this operation — to our military and to American taxpayers — will be reduced significantly.

After having placed France in the lead whilst pretending to trail behind, Washington admitted to having "coordinated" all military operations since the beginning. But it was only to announce the immediate transfer of this responsibility to NATO.
In terms of domestic communication, it is understandable that Nobel Peace Prize Barack Obama should not wish to project the image of a president leading his country into a third war on Islamic soil after Afghanistan and Iraq. However, this public relations aspect should not eclipse the overriding issue: Washington no longer aspires to act as the policeman of the world, but to exert its leadership over major powers, to intervene in the name of their collective interest, pooling the costs. In this perspective, NATO is slated to become the military coordination structure par excellence, to which Russia, and subsequently even China, should be associated.

Finally, President Obama concluded: There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are. Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and our common security -– responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us. They’re problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.

Barack Obama has broken with the inflamed discourse of George W. Bush who attempted to extend the American Way of Life across the world through the use of force. While Obama is willing to deploy military means for humanitarian causes or for peace-keeping operations, he doesn’t contemplate resorting to war except for the sake of ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce.

This merits a deeper explanation.

The strategic shift

By convention or convenience, historians label each strategic doctrine by the name of the president that puts it in place. In reality, today the strategic doctrine is elaborated by the Pentagon and no longer by the White House. The fundamental change was not generated by the arrival of Barack Obama to the Oval Office (January 2009), but by that of Robert Gates to the Pentagon (December 2006). The last two years of the Bush presidency did not emanate from the "Bush doctrine"; they were already foreshadowing the "Obama doctrine". It is because he has succeeded in this mission that Robert Gates now plans to retire from office with the pride of a job well done [11].

In order to explain myself better, I will make a distinction between the Rumsfeld doctrine and the Gates doctrine.
In the first case, the primary objective was to supplant political regimes, one by one, everywhere in the world, until they were all in tune with the United States. This is what is known as market democracy, being in reality an oligarchic system in which pseudo citizens are protected from the arbitrary actions of the state and can choose their governments but not their policies.

However, indicates Barack Obama in the same discourse: Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq’s future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.

In short, the objective of a Pax Americana, meant to protect and, at the same time, dominate all the peoples of the earth, is economically unachievable. And so, too, the ideal of converting the whole of humanity to the American Way of Life.

Another, more realistic, imperial vision has progressively surfaced at the Pentagon. It has been vulgarised by Thomas P.M. Barnett in his book The Pentagon’s New Map. War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century.

The world to come will be divided in two. On one side, the stable centre constituted around the United States by developed countries that are more or less democratic. On the other side, a periphery - left to its own devices - plagued by under development and violence. The role of the Pentagon will be to ensure the civilised world gets access to the necessary natural resources located in the periphery, which is inept to make use of them.

This vision implies that the United States will no longer be in competition with the other developed countries but will instead become their security leader. This could work in the case of Russia, inasmuch as President Dmitry Medvedev paved the way for collaboration with NATO on the occasion of the commemorative event marking the end of World War II, and again during the Lisbon summit. It may prove to be more complicated with China whose new ruling class seems to be more nationalistic than the previous one.

The division of the world into two zones - stable and chaotic - where the second only serves as the reservoir of natural resources for the first, poses evidently the question of delimitations. In Barnett’s book (2004), the Balkans, Central Asia, nearly all of Africa, the Andes and central America are relegated to the shadows. Three member states of the G-20 (of which one is also a member of NATO) are condemned to chaos: Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. This map is not etched in stone and changes are still possible. Hence, Saudi Arabia is currently earning its stripes by crushing the revolt in Bahrain.

As it is no longer a question of occupying a country, but only of securing zones for exploitation and to pillage them whenever necessary, the Pentagon must implement throughout the entire periphery a process of fragmentation, of remodeling, which has already started in the Greater Middle-East. In this context, the aim of war will no longer be the direct exploitation of a territory, but the suppression of all possible resistance. The role of the Pentagon will be to control maritime routes and aerial operations while sub-contracting ground operations as much as possible to its allies. This is the phenomenon that was initiated in Africa with the partition of Sudan and the wars in Libya and the Ivory Coast.

If, from the perspective of democratic discourse, the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime would be a welcome development, it is neither necessary nor in the Pentagon’s interests. According to the Gates doctrine, it is better to put up with a hysterical and humiliated Gaddafi in a downsized Tripolitania than to be faced with the spectre of a great Libya capable one day of resisting imperialism anew.

Of course, this new strategic vision will not occur painlessly. There will be ever increasing numbers of migrants fleeing the hell of the periphery in order to reach the paradise of the centre. And there will always be some incorrigible humanist who believes that one’s paradise should not be built on someone else’s hell.

This is the project which is at play in Libya and it’s in relation to this that each one must take a stand.

Julian Hunter

[1"Washington facing the ire of the Tunisian people", by Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire Network, 25 January 2011.

[2"Egypt on the brink of a bloodbath", by Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire Network, 1 February 2011

[3The U.S. colored revolution user manual for Egypt, Voltaire Network, 2 March 2011.

[4"Gaddafi’s photo album: a festival of hypocrisy!", Voltaire Network, 26 March 2011.

[5Russian military: "Air strikes in Libya did not take place", Voltaire Network, 2 March 2011.

[6"French plans to topple Gaddafi on track since last November", by Franco Bechis, Voltaire Network, 25 March 2011.

[7"Libya: When historical memory is erased", by Manlio Dinucci, Voltaire Network, 2 March 2011.

[9Remarks by Vladimir Putin on the situation in Libya, Voltaire Network, 21 March 2011

[10Russian Ambassador to Libya tags Medvedev as traitor, Voltaire Network, 27 March 2011.

[11Robert Gates on his way out, Voltaire Network, 11 April 2011.