A friendly American reader of my blog wrote back last night that I was ‘ahead of the curve’ in my prognosis of a US-led coalition of the willing’ on Libya. It seems the Eagle has landed in Libya already. Debka File just reported that US, British and French advisors and intelligence officers were air dropped into Cyreniaca, Libya’s eastern breakaway province from warships and missile boats at the coastal towns of Benghazi and Tobruk on Thursday. Debka says their mission is 3-fold: a) To help ‘revolutionary committees’ maintain civil supplies for population; b) To organise the popular opposition to Gaddafi into ‘paramilitary units’, teach them use of weapons they’ve captured from Libyan army, so that they can assume law and order functions as well as offer effective resistance to the country’s armed forces; c) To prepare the infrastructure for the arrival of forces of the ‘coalition of the willing’.
So, the Eagle has landed in Libya. Barack Obama has finally got his own war, like every incumbent in the White House in modern American history. This war will, hopefully, be a ‘unifier’ of Democrats and Republicans and assuage the Israeli lobby’s Manichean fears that US is scooting from Middle East. Obama gains politically. He is actually one up on George W. Bush. There is no dissent in Europe – no Chirac, no Schroeder to spite and ridicule him. Even the Kremlin may not protest, thanks to Obama’s reset policy with Russia. And China hates to be a lone ranger anyway, and will look away in all probability. Oil binds Obama and the europeans tightly together. The temptation to seize control of the Libyan oil fields in a post-Gaddafi setting ahead of the Chinese must have outweighed all other considerations. But the neocon ideology of ‘humanitarian intervention’ has been overnight dusted up. After all, invasions need to be legitimised on the court of world opinion.
I say, gud ol’ Fidel never really goes wrong in sensing the circuitous American thought processes! He predicted so accurately about the inevitability of a NATO intervention in Libya. (How else could he have survived in the snake pit of Central American regional politics in the Cold war era for half a century?) The NATO is indeed getting ready for the invasion of Libya. An informal meeting of NATO defence ministers was urgently held in Hungary on Friday. NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen has spoken of ‘humanitarian assistance for the Libyan people! This will be the first time that NATO acts in full concert with EU – a step froward on security. Catherine Ashton attended the meeting in Hungary. A neat division of labour is being worked out. Ashton will focus on sanctions against the Gaddafi regime while Rasmussen will work out the nuts and bolts of the military intervention. Obviously, NATO will work on a low-key for the present, lest it provokes Gaddafi into harming the europeans estimated to be in the region of 5-6000 still stranded in Libya. G is a mercurial man and may react violently. This is evident in the French word of caution about not yet holding an emergency session of the North Atlantic Council, which is a pre-requisite for the alliance to embark on a military intervention. But AP has quoted Spanish Defence Minister Carme Chacon as saying that NATO should forthwith deploy radar-equipped AWACS aircraft off Libya’s coast “to know what is happening in the country”. Chacon said warships should also be deployed out of the NATO’s naval force in the Mediterranean known as Active Endeavour.
Another UN SC meeting on Libya would be likely. Maybe the first step, on the Iraqi pattern, will be for sanctions to be imposed so as to degrade the Libyan armed forces and isolate Gaddafi.
Interestingly, Rasmussen said NATO should also assume the role of “enabler and coordinator” of evacuation and repatriation of foreign nationals in Libya if individual countries seek such help. So, the despatch of the two Indian warships to the Mediterranean – an unprecedented move – falls into perspective. India has huge choices to make. Will the Indian warships link up with the NATO force? No matter whether this happens under a UN mandate or not, the point is India will be working ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with the western alliance? Of course, political justification can be given – democracy, human rights, humanitarian considerations, needs of urgent evacuation of Indians, etc. EAM Krishna’s rhetoric on democracy is suddenly carrying a new verve, a swagger. En route to Kuwait yesterday, he told Hindu’s Sandeep Dikshit that India won’t mind advising the Arab oligarchies on the ABC of democracy. But the coming days will be extremely revealing as to how far UPA government will openly advance the creeping subsoil moves over the years to forge India’s partnership with NATO. Today it is humanitarian intervention and relief work and democracy lessons but tomorrow it could as well be cooperation over missile defence to secure the ‘global commons’ in space and on earth. All long journeys must begin with small steps, after all. It seems to me that a massive new template of Indian foreign policy, of far-reaching, almost-historic proportions, is struggling to be born.
– February 26, 2011