My Review of “Global NATO And The Catastrophic Failure in Libya”

Review of Global NATO And the Catastrophic Failure in Libya by Horace Campbell (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2013). Within twenty one chapters, Horace Campbell makes a convincing case that the North Atlantc Treaty Organization (NATO) is “a rogue military entity outside the bounds of the prejudices of a democratic society” (187). This military entity essentially serves the financial and military interests of Washington and Wall Street by advancing U.S. imperialism in North Africa. NATO is the scapegoat the Obama administration used as of March 19, 2011, to militarily occupy North Africa, assassinate Moamar Gadafi all under Obama’s historic claim that there are “no boots on the ground.” In his preface, Campbell stated that his book is written as one effort “to link the global anti-imperialist movement in finding new ways to cooperate” (13). His book is a necessary tool for anti-imperialists within the West who seek to understand arguments by African intellectuals that are ignored by the Western media and academia who “presented the Libyan intervention as a major success” (30). His book argues the opposite and its title comes from a quote by Seumas Milne that the Libyan intervention was in fact “a catastrophic failure.” He writes that African intellectuals wrote that: “the governments of the United States, Britain, and France had no interest in a peaceful and inclusive resolution of the Libyan conflict. Rather their objective was to replace Colonel Gadafi’s regime with a Western client state , regardless of the cost and consequences for the people of Libya” (33). Consisting of twenty one chapters, each point to the unique role that Gadafi’s resource nationalism played in the multifaceted U.S. colonial presence in Libya. The first three chapters describe how NATO formed on April 4, 1949 as an alliance of only five countries—Belgium, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and the United States—to defend Western Europe against the Soviet Union (38). However since then it expanded seven times to twenty eight nations in 2009. It now exists, especially during the imminent deployment of troops to the Ukraine, in Campbell’s words, to “protect ‘globalized’ capital” (40). After Libya’s 1970s nationalization of oil that was a precursor to Iranian nationalization in 1979 and Saudi Arabia’s full takeover of Aramco in the mid 1980s, Campbell ultimately shows how NATO acted to essentially counter this growing trend of resource nationalism in oil rich producing countries. The next three chapters describe the tactical errors that Gadafi made, from Campbell’s Pan-African perspective in not utilizing the wisdom of the African intellectuals he quoted in his Preface. Libya’s loss of resource nationalism was steady and ended precipitously with the 2011 NATO invasion. Campbell essentially argues that the intellectual apparatus of the Libyan leadership was hollow and how consequently, the Gadafi family “went all out to ingratiate itself with Washington and the associated networks of U.S. capitalism” (54). In 2003, the Libyan government entered into agreements with the IMF and privatized offshore land and resources that were formerly owned by the state: “Gadafi had enabled the imperial intelligence services by sharing information, financing their governments, purchasing junk equipment as weaponry, and cooperating with their intelligence agencies” (65). Wikileaks cables reveals that Gadafi intended to enact resource nationalism on Western oil companies by “forcing them to renegotiate their contracts,” and that this “created a dangerous international precedent” (60). This prompted Western leaders of Britain, France and the United States to lobby the United Nations Security Council to pass Resolution 1973 that invokes a “responsibility to protect” the citizens of Libya which essentially criminalized Gadafi’s leadership. Campbell shows how these Western leaders use the U.N. to serve the interests of private Western capital that worked within the Gulf Cooperation Council against Gadafi (75). The military invasion was enabled by imperial intelligence which Gadafi himself initiated while having a hollow intellectual apparatus. This book becomes a cautionary tale for any Pan African leader about the danger of excessive ingratiation to the West without a sufficient intellectual apparatus. The next three chapters describes the Western intellectual and media apparatus that justified the NATO invasion and bombing of Libya. Campbell describes current Samantha Power “as a journalist without serious historical training” who was “elevated to a professorship at Harvard” based on her media exposure (69). With Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, she promoted the NATO bombing of Libya. Western companies like the American Bechtel, Germany’s KWE, and France’s Veolia, which is now in a significant struggle with Boston Local 8751 over wages, have been calling for “privatization of water resources” and the end to resource nationalism (91). Campbell writes that the Libyan leadership, devoid of a structured intelligentsia, spent millions of dollars to finance the election of Sarkozy who since this book’s printing was jailed by France in 2014 over campaign finance violations. From March 19 to October 2011, Campbell writes that NATO carried out 9,700 bombing mission which made an average of 150 air strikes per day, “killing hundreds—if not thousands—of people” (119). Meanwhile in the United States, the “corporate media worked to marginalize any opposition in U.S. society to relentless bombing of Libya” (127). While Amy Goodman did interview Campbell, she strategically ignored the anti-imperialist perspective of Cynthia McKinney who visited Libya personally. Goodman in Demoracy Now! ignored McKinney’s and others reporting on Libya that countered her own reporting sympathetic to the NATO bombing. In the next six chapters Campbell details several important developments: the disagreements within NATO the various methods the West used to occupy Libya including propaganda. Campbell writes that of the twenty eight member states “the majority refused to participate in this military operation” (121). However the NATO occupation of Libya did not only include a military. It “depended on drones, special forces, intelligence assets, and private military contracts working with regional militias” (148). Citing the 82-page report by Human Rights Watch, Campbell argues that while the entire propaganda was based on the idea of protecting civilians, “it was clear that the NATO operation was not for a no-fly zone, but for regime change” (157). Campbell deconstructs the myth that dark skinned Libyans during this conflict were “Gadafi’s African mercenaries” quoting the chairman of the Commission of the African Union, Jean Ping who said “Blacks are being accused of being mercenaries…Sometimes when they are white, they call them technical advisors” (166). In the sixteenth chapter, “The Execution of Gadafi,” Campbell calls the assassination a violation of the Geneva Convention and describes how NATO’s press release distanced itself from the assassination. NATO’s overall purpose was “to allow the Western powers “to regain ground lost in Tunisia and Egypt” after the 2010 Arab Spring: “Western countries dictated that the new Libyan leadership follow the path of the IMF” (182,191). Campbell’s arguments here are vindicated by the Smith College students who protested Christine Lagarde speaking at their commencement. In the next four chapters, Campbell details exactly how the U.S.-led NATO bombing of Libya was a catastrophic failure, from the death of U.S. Ambassador James Stevens, to the resignation of U.S. General David Petraeus. He attributes the death of Stevens to “inter-militia warfare” not “demonstrations” that the Western media claimed (213). He describes the U.S. military culture as one of “deception” that emanates from “a sense of excessive pride and arrogance” that believes that “the United States could unilaterally lead preemptive wars and that the world would…be safer with U.S. leadership” (222). Campbell makes a slightly revisionist claim when he writes that the U.S. has “escaped” the worst aspect of fascist ideas (251). This book argues otherwise. So does Christopher Simpson in his book Blowback that details a kind of American recruitment of Nazis after the Second World War similar to the collusion of Libyan Khalifa Hifter that Campbell describes. Paul Robeson in a 1960 interview with the New Zealand People’s Voice described NATO as a “fascist” organization in content. Campbell’s exhaustive research supports this and exposes the serious limitations of U.S. foreign policy. In his conclusion, Campbell writes that resource nationalism continues to be a threat to European domination of Africa and that “there can be no guarantee that the well laid plans of Western military planners along with Israel, will end up favorably for Western Europe and North America” (256,265). This supports a central claim he makes in his Introduction, that “from the work of Kwame Nkrumah to the stewardship of Nelson Mandela, there has been one overriding principle: Africans must dictate the pace and rate of the unification and freedom of Africa” (33).

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