News / Middle East

France, Not US, Takes Lead in Libya Democracy Building

Abdul Basr, 45, center, chats with his neighbor as he sits in front of his damaged pizzeria on Tripoli street in Misrata, Libya, September 2, 2011.
Abdul Basr, 45, center, chats with his neighbor as he sits in front of his damaged pizzeria on Tripoli street in Misrata, Libya, September 2, 2011.
David Arnold

As Congress prepares to address a federal deficit of historic proportions and decide how much to spend on foreign affairs in 2012, U.S. lawmakers will also look at the cost of re-building Iraq and Afghanistan after over the past decade and consider what to do in Libya.

The costs in those two wars were high: $1.28 trillion for both and subsequent national reconstruction over the past decade, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service.  Nation building was a portion of the overall price tag.  But given the United States’ fiscal restraints looking forward, the Obama administration is unlikely to commit to buttressing a third nation any time soon.

Fortunately, France and the United Kingdom have expressed willingness to step into the breach to help the new Libya get on its feet since the U.S. is preoccupied with other engagements.  As a leader of the NATO air campaign to support the rebels, the U.S. is still a major player.

“I think we have gotten involved,” said Brookings Institution analyst Michael O’Hanlon days before Libyan rebels succeeded in penetrating and taking over the capital city Tripoli., “So the question is, do we consider whether we put boots on the ground as far as a peacekeeping force or a stabilization force if and when there is a moment when that’s appropriate. That’s different from the way we got involved in Iraq or Afghanistan.”

Of course, the cost of Libya’s reconstruction is not yet known. In February, the European Union initially offered six billion Euros to aid democratic reform movements in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and others observing an Arab Spring. As the United States’ engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate, estimated reconstruction costs have a tendency to balloon far beyond initial projections. O’Hanlon estimates the U.S. has spent $50 billion each for Iraq and Afghanistan in nation building alone.  

“If we indeed we’re going to do another invasion operation in the Middle East,” said O’Hanlon, “even if we were part of a broad coalition, you just have to be braced for, say, even if it goes pretty well, a half trillion dollars in costs and probably a thousand or more dead Americans. And I don’t think anybody is in the mood for that.”

Learning from the United States costly experiments in trying to rehabilitate Iraq and Afghanistan, other governments apparently willing to try their hand of re-building a country they did not invade by proceeding cautiously.

As the conflict in Libya narrowed to Gadhafi’s tribal stronghold of Sirte and other communities, France was one of the European nations that stepped forward. The ties between the two countries have been strong if not always constructive:  Under Gadhafi, France has hosted thousands of refugees; the two countries maintained robust trade relations; and France, which is the world’s eighth-biggest consumer or oil, depends on nearby Libya for some of those imports.

A crater, which the Libyan government said was caused by coalition air strikes, is seen at an area in Bab al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli, April 23, 2011 (picture taken on guided government)
A crater, which the Libyan government said was caused by coalition air strikes, is seen at an area in Bab al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli, April 23, 2011 (picture taken on guided government)

France finally responds to a Middle East revolution

“From Washington, the enthusiasm of the French for intervention in Libya is seen with a mixture of relief and puzzlement,” wrote Dominique Moisi, a founder and senior advisor to the French Institute for International Relations in Paris, when European powers began supporting rebels in eastern Libya.

“Americans do not want the job and are happy that someone else does,” Moisi wrote. He described the United States’ dilemma over calling for direct action against Moammar Gadhafi and President Barack Obama’s inclination to restraint. “President Nicolas Sarkozy’s willingness to intervene, with the aid of British Prime Minister David Cameron, helped close a dangerous gap” for the world’s leader in state-building.

France re-opened its embassy in Tripoli by the end of August. The government hosted a September 1 Friends of Libya conference on the question of reconstruction and the French foreign minister urged the European Union to send observers to Libya to assess the need for reconstruction. President Nicolas Sarkozy took the lead in marshalling global forces to help Libyans building the institutions that will sustain a new democratic country. So one could argue France’s interest in Libya’s rehabilitation has begun in earnest already.

A Libyan worker chats with two rebels in a vehicle as they patrol an oil refinery controlled by anti Gadhafi forces on the western outskirt of Zawiya city, Libya, August 19, 2011
A Libyan worker chats with two rebels in a vehicle as they patrol an oil refinery controlled by anti Gadhafi forces on the western outskirt of Zawiya city, Libya, August 19, 2011

Why did France volunteer?

France stepped forward for many reasons. Oil is certainly one of them, because Libya is a significant supplier of oil to Europe, France in particular. According to estimates published last week in the Guardian, Libya was producing approximately 1.6 billion barrels per day when the civil war halted production. Moisi assumes Libya’s revenues from those exports can repay the donors and developers helping with its reconstruction. “It is a rich self-sufficient country that needs help but that help will be repaid,” Moisi argues

Repairing France’s brand in the Middle East was another reason Sarkozy has led by example, said Moisi in an interview with VOA. “Of course, there were political reasons for France, one of them being the fact that France had been caught by surprise by the events in Tunisia and Egypt and initial reaction to the two events was quite negative.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy greets Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi at his arrival at the Elysee Palace in Paris, December 12, 2007.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy greets Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi at his arrival at the Elysee Palace in Paris, December 12, 2007.

The French government, like many western powers including the United States, has supported authoritarian regimes in the past, Gadhafi in particular. Gadhafi and his entourage pitched their Bedouin tents on the grounds of the Elysee Palace in 2007.

When the uprisings began in Tunisia, France offered riot control assistance to President Zine el-Abadine Ben Ali. It wasn’t until the success of the movement in Tunisia and Egypt became assured that France decided it was on the wrong side of history in the Middle East. And also, perhaps, it was time for France to take a pro-humanitarian stance in the region.

“And France clearly wanted to compensate Libya for what she had failed to do in Tunisia and Egypt,” Moisi said. “But humanitarian reasons played a major role in our intervention in Benghazi and later on altogether in Libya. At the time Benghazi was about to fall to Libyan forces led by Colonel Gadhafi, we started on a humanitarian basis.”  

Learning from America’s mistakes

As France, the United Kingdom and other European powers discuss a course of action with the United States, they will study what happened on Iraq and Afghanistan, said Moisi. “There are many scenarios, many alternatives. We are trying to learn from the negative lessons of Iraq.”

The first lesson learned in the last decade that has sunk in as a guidance for the future is this: to take on a nation on your own is costly and can prove unpopular. Go go multilateral. “You can’t go alone without an international resolution, without some kind of Arab support and Arab involvement,” Moisi said. “And once victory is achieved, you don’t disband immediately all the security apparatus of the country you have liberated.”

France’s approach may vary from the United States where leveraging existing political and economic assets may prove more fruitful than a wholesale dismantling of the past regime.

 

 

فرنسا تأخذ زمام المبادرة في الجهود الرامية إلى المساعدة في إعادة بناء ليبيا تواجه الولايات المتحدة القيود المالية يتطلع. ولذلك، فإن دولا أخرى مثل فرنسا المرجح أن تأخذ زمام المبادرة في بناء الدولة في ليبيا.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid