By Scott Taylor
For those who read through to the back pages of the world affairs section, the conflict in Libya has been back in the news of late. For a country that has been consumed by violent anarchy since NATO led rebels toppled the Moammar Gadhafi regime in October 2011, a renewed outbreak of hostilities hardly seems worthy of note. However, this time around there was a bizarre new twist.
The capital Tripoli is presently under heavy attack from the Libyan National Army, which is commanded by a warlord named Khalifa Haftar.
Defending Tripoli is a collection of tribal militias, and troops loyal to the UN recognized government of Libya.
There is a second self-proclaimed Libyan government based in the eastern city of Tobruk.
In actuality, these rival regimes are impotent administrations with the real power lying with the militia leaders, and warlords like Haftar.
So far, there is nothing really new about this situation since the former anti-Gadhafi rebels began fighting among themselves immediately after their common enemy was murdered in the streets of Sirte: Libya quickly devolved into a failed state divided into a myriad of armed fiefdoms.
What did make the latest Haftar offensive against Tripoli newsworthy was the U.S. reaction.
On Sunday, April 7, it was announced that the American military was going to withdraw a contingent of troops from Libya. “The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable,” noted a U.S. Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser. “Even with an adjustment of the force, we will continue to remain agile in support of existing U.S. strategy.”
First of all, who even knew that the U.S. had a contingent of troops in Libya in the first place? Even during the rebellion in 2011, the deployment of U.S., British, French and yes, even Canadian special forces, troops on the ground was officially denied. Canada unofficially let the cat out of the bag by having members of the Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) march in the Nov. 24, 2011 victory parade on Parliament Hill, but no official announcement was ever made.
As for the U.S. troops in Libya, no mention was made of how many were withdrawn, or how many remain on the ground.
While I understand that tactically the U.S. commanders would hate to tip off the enemy, the fact is that America is not presently at war with Libya. If U.S. troops are fighting and killing people in Libya, exactly who are they battling? Just as important is the question of who exactly are they fighting in support of, and under what legal authority?
General Waldhauser states that his command will still be able to support “existing U.S. strategy.” Given the past seven and a half years of instability and widespread carnage perhaps it is time for the U.S. planners to revisit that “existing strategy.”
It was similarly announced last December by U.S. President Donald Trump that U.S. troops were to be withdrawn from Syria. It was simply accepted without question that America somehow had the legal authority to deploy their troops on foreign sovereign territory.
In 2014, the U.S. had been invited back into Iraq to lead a multinational coalition in the fight against Daesh (aka ISIS or ISIL). This coalition included Canadian fighter jets and special forces personnel, and it is by extension under this agreement that Canadian military personnel remain as trainers in Iraq today.
However, even though Daesh operated on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad never invited U.S. forces to assist him in battling Daesh. In fact, Assad instead enlisted the military assistance of both Russia and Iran.
If the U.S. truly respected international law, they would not be withdrawing troops from Libya and Syria, because they should never have been deployed there in the first place.
The NATO cheerleaders and apologists pride themselves on claiming that we, as alliance members, are part of a ‘rules-based international order.’ This, they tell us, is what sets us apart from rogue states like Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Pakistan, etc. who simply play by their own set of rules.
If the true rule of the jungle is that ‘might is right’ then let’s start being honest with ourselves and quit the hypocritical moral posturing.
Rules are only for the weak.