Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why it may not be a good idea to arm the rebels in Libya

The US and the UK are considering to arm the rebels in Libya. This may not be a very good idea. There are the considerations already touched upon in the article (linked to above): al-Qaeda involvement with the rebels and a further splitting of the international coalition. But there is one other consideration that may have far longer term repercussions.

For this you only have to know a little recent history. How did the arming of the rebels in Afghanistan work out? In the short term it worked out great - from the viewpoint of the Mujahideen and the US who wanted the Russians out of the region. However in the long term it did not work out so well.

What happened was that young people were trained in using arms. Young people with a lot of anger in them. Young people who knew no life other than the fighting kind. Then, once the war was fought the US just acted like Afghanistan had never existed and pulled the plug on any further support. Afghanistan was left with a martial youth and little or no idea how to form a nation from the rubble left by years of war. They were left hanging at the time when financial aid for education and rebuilding was what it needed. Result: extremism flourished and now the coalition forces are reaping what they sowed: war against a foe they created themselves.

The chance of the same thing happening in Libya is big. Like the Mujahideen, the rebels in Libya have al-Qaeda elements among them. Not all of them will adhere to the extremist views but neither did the Mujahideen. However when you have lived under an oppressive regime all your life, when you have nothing and your former ally has buggered off and left you stranded, an extremist promising you heaven makes you pull the trigger pointing any which way the extremist tells you to. What have you got to lose?

The US and the UK do not have a great track record for supporting a country after it has been freed of its dictator. Afghanistan and Iraq are only recent examples. Will Libya become the next ruin they leave behind? Or will it become an example of changed politics? I doubt it. I doubt Obama has the power to pull the right strings to mount a massive, long term relief operation to help rebuild a peaceful Libya. Let's hope I'm wrong.

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