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

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid