The extent to which Libya has rendered the concept of political correctness irrelevant on not only the left, but the right, is breathtaking. For instance, Juan Cole writes:
I am unabashedly cheering the liberation movement on, and glad that the UNSC-authorized intervention has saved them from being crushed.
To Cole — whom I’m uncomfortable criticizing because of how valuable he usually is — those who felt otherwise bear a heavy burden.
If the Left opposed intervention, it de facto acquiesced in Qaddafi’s destruction of a movement embodying the aspirations of most of Libya’s workers and poor, along with large numbers of white collar middle class people. Qaddafi would have reestablished himself, with the liberation movement squashed like a bug and the country put back under secret police rule. The implications of a resurgent, angry and wounded Mad Dog, his coffers filled with oil billions, for the democracy movements on either side of Libya, in Egypt and Tunisia, could well have been pernicious.
But the Telegraph reported that the rebel forces incorporate elements of al Qaeda.
Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, has said jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. . . . In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited “around 25” men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq.
The libel put out by the dictator, that the 570,000 people of Misrata or the 700,000 people of Benghazi were supporters of “al-Qaeda,” was without foundation. That a handful of young Libyan men from Dirna [reflecting the Telegraph piece, no doubt — RW] and the surrounding area had fought in Iraq is simply irrelevant. . . . All of the countries experiencing liberation movements had sympathizers with the Sunni Iraqi resistance; in fact opinion polling shows such sympathy almost universal throughout the Sunni Arab world. All of them had at least some fundamentalist movements.
However true that may be, it’s awkward, to say the least, when supporting a U.S. action requires defending possible al Qaeda involvment. Equally as difficult is defending our intervention in Libya when we’ve abstained in other hot spots (not to mention the Congo and Darfur). As Conn Hallinan writes in a Focal Points post titled Is the Libya Intervention Directed at China?: “Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, or Yemen, where civilians are also being shot up, beaten, and generally abused.” By way of explaining he cites the familiar refrain “It’s all about the oil.”
Okay, here is the cynical joke: “Is it all about oil? Nope. Some of it is about natural gas.”
Not just our access to it either, but blocking China’s.
Insuring access to oil and gas is a major focus of Chinese foreign policy, particularly because Beijing is nervous about how it currently obtains its supplies. Some 80 percent are transported by sea, and all of those routes involve choke points currently controlled by the U.S.
Thus, the Chinese, no doubt, understand a key reason
. . . why the U.S. is bombing Libya and not challenging Bahrain and Yemen: Bahrain hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet [which] controls the Hormuz Straits, through which Saudi Arabian, Iranian, and Omanian oil passes. [Meanwhile] Yemen’s port of Aden dominates the Red Sea [and the Fifth] dominates the straits of Bab el-Mandab that control access to the Red Sea and through which Sudan’s oil is shipped into the Indian Ocean. In addition the Malacca Straits between Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula is the major transit point for oil going to China. The U.S. Seventh Fleet controls that choke point.
In the end, it is not so much about oil and gas itself, as the control of energy. Any country that corners energy supplies in the coming decades will be in a powerful position to dictate a whole lot of things to the rest of the world.
A part of me wants to believe that because it’s international and has, one likes to think, a humanitarian component that the Libya intervention has the potential to be a new model. In fact, the current of energy needs always runs through actions such as this like a transcontinental oil pipeline.
First posted at the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.