Notes on Libya

In April 2011, when the schol­ar Horace Camp­bell met with a small group of Angolan youth in Luan­da, he did some­thing unusu­al. He warned them to be care­ful in how they resist­ed their gov­ern­ment. He said Ango­la was rich with resources, and it would not take much for “the mil­i­tarists to drum up some pre­text to occu­py Cabin­da,” an enclave province sit­ting atop some of the country’s most abun­dant rich­es. The source of Campbell’s cau­tion is clear. For such desta­bi­liza­tion is exact­ly what was hap­pen­ing then, and what is hap­pen­ing now in Libya – a coun­try in chaos, effec­tive­ly state­less, speck­led with uncount­able mili­tia, now pocked by slave mar­kets, and with all the “lib­er­a­tion” of law­less­ness and encom­pass­ing dan­ger and dis­or­der.

How that hap­pened is the sub­ject of Campbell’s cru­cial book: Glob­al NATO and the Cat­a­stroph­ic Fail­ure in Libya. ((Horace Camp­bell, Glob­al NATO and the Cat­a­stroph­ic Fail­ure in Libya: lessons for Africa in the forg­ing of African uni­ty (New York: Month­ly Review Press, 2013).)) The sto­ry he tells is only par­tial­ly the sto­ry of the Libyan upris­ing, only by neces­si­ty the sto­ry of trans­for­ma­tions inter­nal to Libya. Fun­da­men­tal­ly, it is the sto­ry of the sus­tained and destruc­tive inter­ac­tion between Libyan state and cor­po­rate organs, and those of the Unit­ed States, the Euro­pean Union, and their com­mand posts amongst the Gulf states. Put sim­ply, it is a book about impe­ri­al­ism. And appro­pri­ate­ly, it begins with a Libya total­ly sub­servient to the Unit­ed States, to the point that the Air Force was able to secure bas­ing rights there in 1954.

That lack of sov­er­eign­ty marked Libya as under the sway of impe­ri­al­ism. And the anti-impe­ri­al­ist col­or­ing of Muam­mar Qadhaffi’s colonels’ rev­o­lu­tion became clear when it revoked those rights by expelling the U.S. Air Force from its Wheelus Base in 1969. What sort of rev­o­lu­tion would it be? Camp­bell endors­es the descrip­tion of Ruth First, who chris­tened it “the elu­sive rev­o­lu­tion,” with its dubi­ous links between state and soci­ety, and the mud­died – if not clogged – chan­nels for polit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion which that rev­o­lu­tion brought with it.1 Ini­tial­ly it gar­nered over­whelm­ing pop­u­lar sup­port. As Ray­mond Hin­neb­usch has observed, “The removal of the dis­cred­it­ed ancien régime was in itself enough to pre­dis­pose most Libyans to the new rulers.”2   

Its for­eign pol­i­cy strength­ened such a sen­ti­ment. The polit­i­cal zeit­geist across the glob­al South was anti-impe­ri­al­ist. Nasserism was the Arab iter­a­tion of that sen­ti­ment, more of the Mashreq than the Maghreb, but with Libya a promi­nent excep­tion. The gov­ern­ment stead­fast­ly sup­port­ed the Pales­tin­ian and the anti-apartheid strug­gles. Along­side such con­tri­bu­tions, Qad­haf­fi made some very bad calls, ones which cost – his sup­port for Idi Amin of Ugan­da, his inter­fer­ence in Chad’s inter­nal affairs. That incon­sis­ten­cy was nowhere more marked than in the government’s ear­ly ver­bal oppo­si­tion to the Dho­fari rev­o­lu­tion, slid­ing into open sup­port with and against the Shah’s inter­ven­tion on behalf of British pow­er.

Nev­er­the­less, such ear­ly errors clear­ly did not extend to social claims. One of the lead­ing schol­ars of Libya argues, “If social­ism is defined as a redis­tri­b­u­tion of wealth and resources, a social­ist rev­o­lu­tion clear­ly occurred in Libya after 1969 and most espe­cial­ly in the sec­ond half of the 1970s.”3 Cer­tain­ly such a redis­tri­b­u­tion must redis­trib­ute down­wards if the word is to retain any mean­ing. Fur­ther­more, we may object at lim­it­ing social­ism to mate­r­i­al dis­tri­b­u­tion. Social­ism can also more broad­ly refer to self-man­age­ment, includ­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion in polit­i­cal insti­tu­tions. In Libya, the char­ac­ter of state insti­tu­tions was pro­hib­i­tive of that par­tic­i­pa­tion – a struc­tur­al defect which laid the grounds for Libya’s lat­er dete­ri­o­ra­tion.

But social­ism should also be under­stood as what Boli­vian Vice Pres­i­dent Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era calls the “bat­tle­field” between cap­i­tal­ism and com­mu­nism.4 Such a bat­tle­field is nec­es­sar­i­ly glob­al, with advances and defeats linked to one anoth­er. The advances of people’s strug­gles around the region, and indeed the globe, gave strength to oth­ers, at the lev­el of morale and mate­ri­al­ly, too, since the bat­tle­field was quite often lit­er­al­ly that. But even at the glob­al and fig­u­ra­tive lev­el, as with any bat­tle­ground, advances upon it are par­tial, at least until vic­to­ry. They are often fol­lowed by retreats, and can have unpre­dictable effects else­where on the larg­er land­scape of strug­gle. More­over, no advance is per­fect. In a cap­i­tal­ist world-sys­tem, they may take the form of what Gar­cía Lin­era calls “dis­persed skir­mish­es,” the con­stant, scat­tered, des­per­ate, pas­sion­ate, flawed, and above all human “ten­den­cies, poten­tial­i­ties and efforts to bring pro­duc­tion under com­mu­ni­ty own­er­ship and con­trol.”

Such skir­mish­es are often dead­ly fights, end­ing in trag­ic fail­ure. Less fre­quent­ly they cul­mi­nate in messy trans­fers of social pow­er, to the bet­ter­ment of those look­ing for some space and time to live their lives in some kind of dig­ni­ty. A require­ment for such change is a trans­fer of resources from the hold­ers of pow­er to the dis­pos­sessed.

The point is not to debate whether or not Libya was a social­ist state. Much more inter­est­ing is under­stand­ing what were its strengths and what were its weak­ness­es. Such a per­spec­tive may help us to under­stand that a vital means of self-defense of anti-sys­temic projects is self-man­age­ment, or the people’s pos­ses­sion and own­er­ship of the strug­gle on insti­tu­tion­al and ide­o­log­i­cal planes. But one must also under­stand projects such as Libya’s on their own terms, as the Libyan expe­ri­ence of and con­tri­bu­tion to the rise of the South. By side­step­ping method­olog­i­cal nation­al­ism, we might see what bloomed in Libya as part of an efflo­res­cence of Marx­ist and non-Marx­ist gov­ern­ments across the tri-con­ti­nen­tal are­na. Such states made great improve­ments in people’s lives, ones which came at great cost and sac­ri­fice, includ­ing, often, the phe­nom­e­non of such move­ments and rev­o­lu­tions eat­ing their own. Dur­ing the years after 1969 deep changes in Libya’s inter­nal dis­tri­b­u­tion of wealth and pow­er occurred. Libya was one of the North African mod­els of what was called Arab social­ism. If one wish­es to rue its shad­ows one ought to do so while also account­ing for its lights – such as putting bread on the table for the hun­gry, or help­ing oth­er peo­ples else­where claim con­trol over their own des­tinies.

It is in this very spe­cif­ic sense that it should not be ignored – although it almost uni­ver­sal­ly is in the pop­u­lar com­men­tary on mod­ern Libyan, in what comes close to a reac­tionary brand of his­tor­i­cal-ana­lyt­i­cal revi­sion­ism – that a fun­da­men­tal real­lo­ca­tion of Libyan wealth took place in this peri­od. Indeed, it was dur­ing this time that forced redis­tri­b­u­tions reached their peak, with pri­vate enter­prise basi­cal­ly elim­i­nat­ed. The result was that Libya had the high­est per-capi­ta GDP, and much more sig­nif­i­cant­ly, one of the high­est stan­dards of liv­ing in Africa. As Dirk Van­de­walle, a his­to­ri­an extreme­ly crit­i­cal of the Qad­haf­fi gov­ern­ment, com­ments, the aver­age Libyan was “pam­pered by the egal­i­tar­i­an dis­trib­u­tive poli­cies of an oil state,” and lived well.5 The ear­ly Green Rev­o­lu­tion was a gift for Libya’s peo­ple. And not one from any mes­si­ah-on-high. It was, rather, the gift of what then seemed to be an irre­press­ible wave of move­ments sweep­ing the globe – less a gift, then, than the vic­to­ry of the peo­ple. And as with any achieve­ment of the peo­ple of the glob­al South, it was not received well in the glob­al North. Even by the ear­ly 1970s, amidst Qadhaffi’s pan-Ara­bism and strong sup­port for the Pales­tin­ian nation­al lib­er­a­tion strug­gle, the C.I.A. not­ed, “His head­strong pur­suit of the Arab cause puts him in direct con­flict with U.S. inter­ests in much of the Mid­dle East.” There was fur­ther­more an effort, in the words of William Col­by, a Deputy Direc­tor at the C.I.A., to pre­vent “Qadhafi’s influ­ence in Black Africa, lim­it the expan­sion of Arab ter­ror­ism and ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions into Black Africa and thwart Arab efforts to embroil Black Africa in the Arab-Israeli con­fronta­tion.” A sum­ma­ry report observed, “African states and regimes friend­ly to the US – or Israel – are prime tar­gets for Libyan inter­ven­tion, main­ly by finan­cial means, but not infre­quent­ly by mil­i­tary sup­port.” By late 1973 the U.S. gov­ern­ment was con­sid­er­ing “Pres­sure Points”; by 1975, the U.S. gov­ern­ment was becom­ing appre­hen­sive about Libya’s align­ment with “the Pales­tin­ian ‘rejec­tion­ist’ groups (PFLP of Habash, PDFLP of Hawat­meh, PFLP/GD of Gib­ril).”6

With mount­ing strength, and by turn­ing a few oth­er fac­tions, Wash­ing­ton wor­ried that such groups would “cap­ture” the Pales­tini­ans. They saw that Pales­tine was a potent force, exert­ing an immense and unique grav­i­ty on the entire region­al polit­i­cal land­scape. A strength­ened pole of oppo­si­tion “would open the way to inten­sive guer­ril­la action against Israel from Lebanon, to an upsurge in inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism [sic], and to stepped-up sub­ver­sive and oth­er action against mod­er­ate Arab regimes and lead­ers.”7

It was not mere­ly on the for­eign front that the actions of the Libyan gov­ern­ment per­turbed the Unit­ed States. In the ear­ly 1970s, the Libyan gov­ern­ment nation­al­ized much of the for­eign oil oper­a­tions on its soil. In the words of petro­le­um econ­o­mist John Blair, “Libya…moved a long way toward achiev­ing Colonel Qadaffi’s objec­tive of gain­ing ‘full con­trol over the sources of oil wealth.”8 This occurred amidst a broad­er rejig­ger­ing of the glob­al oil sys­tem which ben­e­fit­ed both the oil majors and the Libyan gov­ern­ment, such that the pie of glob­al oil rev­enues grew sub­stan­tial­ly, great­ly enhanc­ing U.S. glob­al pow­er and its sym­bi­ot­ic rela­tion­ship with the major oil pro­duc­ers, espe­cial­ly those in the Gulf states. In this respect, the nation­al­iza­tions had a con­tra­dic­to­ry nature. But Libyan domes­tic eco­nom­ic man­age­ment was mov­ing ever more firm­ly in the direc­tion of state con­trol. By the mid-1970s, the gov­ern­ment was mov­ing hard against domes­tic cap­i­tal­ism, restrict­ing real estate spec­u­la­tion. The Unit­ed States respond­ed with trade restric­tions. In turn, as Camp­bell notes, “The ele­men­tary claims at recov­er­ing nation­al wealth were seen as threat­en­ing by the impe­r­i­al forces.”9 It was not mere­ly the recu­per­a­tion of nation­al wealth which was at issue, but more to the point, the polit­i­cal ends to which Libya put its new pow­er. As he con­tin­ued, “in 1977 the U.S. Depart­ment of Defense list­ed Libya as a poten­tial ene­my of the Unit­ed States.”10 The Libyan gov­ern­ment moved fur­ther to elim­i­nate com­mer­cial cir­cuits. In 1979, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli was attacked, and the Libyan gov­ern­ment only slow­ly apol­o­gized. And in 1980, the Unit­ed States removed its embassy. Soon enough, the Unit­ed States sent its own gifts to the Libyan peo­ple – sanc­tions and cruise mis­siles.

In the mid-1990s the Unit­ed States ramped up those sanc­tions. And in the lead-up to the suc­cess­ful 2011 coup d’état, attempts at shat­ter­ing the gov­ern­ment also took oth­er forms, includ­ing a bid at assas­si­nat­ing Qad­haf­fi by the Libyan Islam­ic Fight­ing Group (LIFG) in 1996. As Camp­bell notes, “the evi­dence of the com­plic­i­ty between the Sau­di and West­ern intel­li­gence agen­cies in sup­port­ing the LIFG revealed that the plans for mil­i­tary desta­bi­liza­tion and the removal of Gaddafi were not new” – then as now, such groups worked as prox­ies for U.S.-Saudi impe­ri­al­ism, sow­ing chaos in coun­tries whose gov­ern­ments balked at march­ing in lock­step with the U.S. order.11

Yet appar­ent con­tra­dic­tions cov­ered the sur­face of Unit­ed States pol­i­cy. By 2003–04, the Unit­ed States was lift­ing sanc­tions, an appar­ent step towards remov­ing Libya from the list of ene­mies. Around that time, “a new reform­ing cur­rent head­ed by [Qadhaffi]’s son Saif al-Islam emerged with­in the regime,” focus­ing on fur­ther desta­ti­za­tion of state enter­pris­es and their con­ver­sion into units eas­i­ly acquired by West­ern cap­i­tal.12 Ris­ing neolib­er­al­ism – best thought of as a glob­al counter-rev­o­lu­tion through which the nation­al­ly-embed­ded states which were the great gift of the glob­al revolts which rocked the sys­tem from 1917 to 1970 began a grad­ual process of dis­em­bed­ding – and the removal of sanc­tions hint­ed at a new pol­i­cy. Per­haps the Libyan gov­ern­ment thought that the threat from the Unit­ed States and its ris­ing lieu­tenants in the Gulf like Qatar and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates was reced­ing. Not so, Camp­bell claims: “The neolib­er­al fac­tion of the polit­i­cal lead­er­ship in Libya was too weak to deliv­er the econ­o­my and the Libyan reserves to the West,” while the non-neolib­er­al fac­tion was get­ting increas­ing­ly unco­op­er­a­tive if not alto­geth­er nation­al­ist, becom­ing “too aggres­sive in its finan­cial oper­a­tions,” while at the same time it com­mit­ted to cre­at­ing an African Cen­tral Bank, an African Mon­e­tary Union, and an African invest­ment Bank, while “after Decem­ber 2010, the Cen­tral Bank of Libya took the con­trol­ling posi­tion in the Bahrain-based Arab Bank­ing Cor­po­ra­tion.”13 This last, still, seems to indi­cate Libyan inte­gra­tion into Gulf finan­cial cir­cuits, point­ing to the par­tial nature of any reverse course.

Yet there is a down­side to over­stat­ing the role of exter­nal vio­lence, and under­stat­ing
the struc­tur­al basis for par­tial accom­mo­da­tion with West­ern monop­o­lies. Such is not to divert blame from the Unit­ed States for the demo­li­tion of Libya, but to under­stand how “the con­crete is con­crete because it is the con­cen­tra­tion of many deter­mi­na­tions.”14 But Camp­bell does not neglect the oth­er side of the sto­ry. Although he does not ade­quate­ly link these process­es to the mech­a­nisms inlaid into the Libyan Jamahiriya from the very begin­ning, his nar­ra­tive here is quite use­ful. He explains how amidst the glob­al decline of anti-impe­ri­al­ism and the ide­o­log­i­cal and prac­ti­cal defeat of social­ism as a glob­al­ly uni­fy­ing anti-sys­temic ide­ol­o­gy, the right wing of the Qad­haf­fi gov­ern­ment, includ­ing his own sons, was able and began to scrape the sub­stance out of the state.

By the mid-1980s, oil prices were decreas­ing, and state man­age­ment of dis­tri­b­u­tion net­works was begin­ning to gum them up. Mean­while, infi­tah was in the region­al air, as across North Africa the inter­na­tion­al finan­cial insti­tu­tions start­ed to har­ry the author­i­tar­i­an-clien­telist states into dis­man­tling their sub­sidy pro­grams and decreas­ing state wel­fare spend­ing. This was part of a glob­al process, not mere­ly a local one. Indeed, it is only the most excep­tion­al of the 20th-cen­tu­ry rev­o­lu­tions which have not seen a grad­ual reopen­ing of inter­nal inequal­i­ties which ini­tial redis­tri­b­u­tions have played their part in clos­ing. And Libya was not excep­tion­al. Amidst the Libyan ver­sion of that glob­al unrav­el­ing, which occurred after a U.S. cruise mis­sile attack on Tripoli and Beng­hazi in 1986 severe­ly dam­aged the government’s legit­i­ma­cy, the lead­er­ship began to light­ly lib­er­al­ize the econ­o­my. It removed from state con­trol a hand­ful of the  enter­pris­es which the rev­o­lu­tion had nation­al­ized. But those fac­to­ries often foundered, with inter­na­tion­al sanc­tions pre­vent­ing acqui­si­tion of spare parts or the hard cur­ren­cy need­ed for them. Mean­while, through­out the late 1980s and 1990s, a bureau­crat­ic elite grew fat off graft, while those with tight ties to Qad­haf­fi were able to prof­it from their prox­im­i­ty to pow­er. Else­where, the ambi­tious agri­cul­tur­al and indus­tri­al devel­op­ment pro­grams planned dur­ing the oil boom fell by the way­side as boom turned to bust.

By 2003, the Libyan gov­ern­ment had entered into rela­tions with the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund, pri­va­tiz­ing a num­ber of state-owned enter­pris­es. In 2004, Libya opened up 15 new off­shore and onshore blocs to drilling. Camp­bell also chron­i­cles the bur­row­ing actions of the “West­ern-edu­cat­ed bureau­crats [who] worked to bring Libya into the fold of ‘mar­ket reforms,’ and the deep­en­ing com­mer­cial rela­tions with British cap­i­tal.”15 In 2007, British Petro­le­um inked a deal with the Libyan Invest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion for the explo­ration of 54,000 square kilo­me­ters of the Ghadames and Sirt basins. It also signed train­ing agree­ments for Libyan pro­fes­sion­als, help­ing cre­ate a base for neolib­er­al­ism with­in the gov­ern­ment. By 2011, 2800 Libyan pro­fes­sion­als were study­ing in the Unit­ed King­dom, learn­ing “West­ern val­ues” of desta­ti­za­tion and thus the removal of the pos­si­bil­i­ty for pro­duc­tion and pow­er to be respon­sive to the demands of the peo­ple. And indeed, part of why they were there was because of insuf­fi­cient invest­ment and care for the domes­tic Libyan uni­ver­si­ty sys­tem, then in sham­bles. While basic wel­fare had been a con­stant pri­or­i­ty of the rev­o­lu­tion, the edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem had been less of a focus and had suf­fered the government’s inat­ten­tion.

Still, the right wing of the gov­ern­ment could not wrest con­trol of the heights of the econ­o­my from those sec­tors still some­what com­mit­ted to the nation­al project. As Camp­bell notes, this was nowhere truer than in the oil sec­tor: “From Wik­ileaks we now know that the West­ern com­pa­nies were play­ing a wait­ing game with the Gaddafi regime,” whose “pol­i­cy forced oil and gas cor­po­ra­tions to rene­go­ti­ate their con­tracts, so although there were open­ings, the West­ern com­pa­nies lived with uncer­tain­ties.”16 Camp­bell quotes a 2010 cable stat­ing, “regime rhetoric in ear­ly 2009 involv­ing the pos­si­ble nation­al­iza­tion of the oil sector…has brought the issue back to the fore.”17 Libya under Qad­haf­fi was mer­cu­r­ial, but against the ambi­tions of the plot­ters who would lat­er depose him in a coup d’état, it was not a coun­try sold to West­ern cap­i­tal­ists and their domes­tic helpers, the “reform­ers” who had “inter­nal­ized neolib­er­al eco­nom­ic think­ing and want­ed Libya to become like Kuwait or the Gulf States – basi­cal­ly client states of West­ern cap­i­tal,” as Camp­bell puts it.18

Petro­le­um com­pa­nies and much of the heavy indus­try remained in state hands. Part of the issue, also, was that Libya had such a vast oil sur­plus that it was able to pro­vide for the poor even while accom­mo­dat­ing the country’s swelling rich. What is cru­cial is that the state con­tin­ued to com­mit large chunks of its petrodol­lars to social wel­fare – in sharp dis­tinc­tion to the petrodol­lar recy­cling regime in place between the Unit­ed States and the Arab states of the Gulf. In that inter­lock­ing set of insti­tu­tions and flows, the pro­ceeds from Gulf oil sales, pri­mar­i­ly from the pur­chasers of the con­sum­ing class­es in Europe and Japan, led to the deposit­ing of dol­lar sur­plus­es in U.S. secu­ri­ties and trea­suries as well as the pur­chase of U.S. weapons. U.S. polit­i­cal patron­age has been anoth­er ele­ment of this sys­tem, all tied togeth­er into a glob­al struc­ture of accu­mu­la­tion.  

As he makes clear, the nature of “state cap­i­tal­ism under [Qad­haf­fi] had sti­fled the capa­bil­i­ties and auton­o­my of ‘lib­er­al reform­ers.’”19 And indeed, every­one knew the nature of the block­age. A major gov­ern­ment fig­ure, Ibrahim el-Meyet, told the U.S. embassy that there would be “no real eco­nom­ic or polit­i­cal reform in Libya until [Qad­haf­fi] pass­es from the polit­i­cal scene,” some­thing which would “not occur while [Qad­haf­fi] is alive.”20 Tak­ing that advice to heart, the impe­r­i­al core set in motion its plan to turn the coun­try which he gov­erned into ruin.

Its method was to ride astride real and legit­i­mate griev­ances: peo­ples’ con­cern over an inabil­i­ty to par­tic­i­pate polit­i­cal­ly, the shrink­ing size of the public’s por­tion of the oil purse. Dis­con­tent, always there, took social expres­sion amidst the flight of the Tunisian dic­ta­tor, becom­ing tin­der. There­upon, amidst a lack of ide­o­log­i­cal uni­ty, let alone pro­gram­mat­ic anti-impe­ri­al­ism, the protests were over­whelmed by indige­nous West­ern prox­ies, includ­ing right-wing sec­tar­i­an groups, some trac­ing back to the LIFG, linked to West­ern intel­li­gence. In turn, U.S., E.U., and G.C.C. impe­ri­al­ism of which the LIFG and kin­dred out­fits was an expres­sion com­plet­ed the task of mil­i­ta­riz­ing the revolt, and then used it as a pre­text to immo­late Libya. As Wol­fram Lach­er, a schol­ar who char­ac­ter­izes these events as a “rev­o­lu­tion,” observes, “By and large, the unor­ga­nized unrest of the first two weeks was dri­ven by under­em­ployed young men whose edu­ca­tion lev­el and access to infor­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies were sub­stan­tial­ly below those of their Tunisian and Egypt­ian coun­ter­parts.”21

One should not get lost in idle spec­u­la­tion about whether such protests were “organ­ic” or a plot, dupes or will­ing par­tic­i­pants. Fix­a­tion on the sub­jec­tive men­tal state of the par­tic­i­pants side­steps the land­scape of pow­er with­in which such demon­stra­tions unfold­ed. Few observers noticed how the Gulf rul­ing class­es used Al Jazeera to beam the spec­ta­cle of revolt back at the revolt­ing Libyans them­selves, mean­while ampli­fy­ing the most sec­tar­i­an, racist, and destruc­tive ele­ments with­in the upris­ing. Few­er accept­ed that such plans had been pre­pared well in advance of the 2011 events. One cru­cial excep­tion was Max­i­m­il­ian Forte, whose impor­tant and judi­cious book on NATO’s role in destroy­ing Libya, Slouch­ing Towards Sirte, ought to be read in uni­son with Campbell’s con­tri­bu­tion.22 Indeed, Forte him­self offers one of the strongest accounts of the dom­i­nant racist ele­ments of the Libyan mobi­liza­tion and their treat­ment of Libyan Blacks.

Still more broad­ly, as Camp­bell com­ments, the over­all frame­work of the “con­ser­v­a­tive U.S. polit­i­cal forces [was] to pre­empt oth­er rev­o­lu­tion­ary upris­ings of the type and scale that removed the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.”23 I would take issue with the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the Egypt­ian and Tunisian trans­for­ma­tions as rev­o­lu­tion­ary. Nev­er­the­less, accom­pa­ny­ing and indeed part-and-par­cel of that upris­ing – one which Gulf and U.S. media encour­aged and pushed along – was a mil­i­ta­rized com­po­nent, with objec­tives hav­ing lit­tle to do with free­dom. Sec­tors of the revolt, armed and unarmed, were ori­ent­ing towards West­ern pow­er from the out­set, with the Beng­hazi “com­mit­tee” select­ing a defect­ed fig­ure from the right-wing of the Qad­haf­fi gov­ern­ment to man its helm. Fur­ther­more, as Lach­er con­tin­ues, “With the dis­in­te­gra­tion of state insti­tu­tions and defec­tion of senior offi­cials, an elit­ist polit­i­cal lead­er­ship estab­lished itself at the top of a hith­er­to unco­or­di­nat­ed pop­u­lar move­ment.”24 Indeed,

There were also reformists and tech­nocrats who had only briefly held senior posi­tions under Qad­hafi, such as NTC head, Mustafa Abdel­jelil and the NTC’s “prime min­is­ter,” Mah­moud Jib­ril. On the oth­er hand, many of the inde­pen­dent or oppo­si­tion fig­ures who joined the NTC are scions of the aris­to­crat­ic and bour­geois fam­i­lies who had dom­i­nat­ed Libya dur­ing the monar­chy (1951–69) – some of which were already major play­ers dur­ing Ottoman rule – and were most­ly dis­em­pow­ered, expro­pri­at­ed and exiled under Qad­hafi.25

Such facts make clear that the char­ac­ter of lead­er­ship mat­ters, against inter­pre­ta­tions which see the peo­ple in motion and see noth­ing else: nei­ther which peo­ple are mov­ing, nor what may be mov­ing them, nor cru­cial­ly, what else is mov­ing along­side them. Such a state­ment does not reject Libyan agency. It clar­i­fies what agency means in the first place. As Per­ry Ander­son observes, “If agency is con­strued as con­scious, goal-direct­ed activ­i­ty, every­thing turns on the nature of the ‘goals.’”26 Agency in the con­text of col­lec­tive mobi­liza­tion, he con­tin­ues, refers to “those col­lec­tive projects which have sought to ren­der their ini­tia­tors authors of their col­lec­tive mode of exis­tence as a whole, in a con­scious pro­gramme aimed at cre­at­ing or remod­el­ling whole social struc­tures.”27 In this sense, dif­fer­ent agents may have very dif­fer­ent goals indeed, and the goals of some may sub­sume, envel­op, or instru­men­tal­ize the goals of oth­ers. What some insist on call­ing a rev­o­lu­tion looks far more like a right-wing coup d’état surf­ing a wave of dis­or­ga­nized dis­con­tent, with the bro­ker­ing role, as we shall see, played by impe­r­i­al vio­lence, includ­ing its seem­ing­ly “local” agents.

Beyond ques­tions of agency, some have put for­ward snap­shots of pop­u­lar sen­ti­ment as a post hoc index of the legit­i­ma­cy of the ille­gal aggres­sion against Libya. For exam­ple, there are polls which show that imme­di­ate­ly after Qadhaffi’s ouster, the major­i­ty of the pop­u­la­tion, exclud­ing the sub­stan­tial per­cent­age that sup­port­ed the old gov­ern­ment and had fled the coun­try for fear of reprisals, want­ed him gone. Putting that to the side, one must also note that sources such as Mohamed Eljarh of the Atlantic Coun­cil have observed much more more recent­ly that many Libyans “are ques­tion­ing the log­ic behind the over­throw of the Qaddafi regime – [an over­throw] which, after all, was sup­posed to make life bet­ter.”28  Some Libyans cer­tain­ly did sup­pose this, of course, but this does not make it true. The Unit­ed States is not in the habit of mak­ing things bet­ter when it acts mil­i­tar­i­ly at home or abroad.

It is impor­tant to pay atten­tion to how that hap­pens. And above all – and this ought to be clear even to those who (wrong­ly) reject argu­ments that West­ern pow­er is indeed eager to turn civil­ian protests to its own ends, and who wrong­ly sug­gest that the West does not seek to delib­er­ate­ly mil­i­ta­rize anti-gov­ern­ment protests – when a pri­ma­ry means of influ­enc­ing the course of the revolt is to arm ele­ments most will­ing to be West­ern clients, the more mil­i­ta­rized a head­less revolt, the eas­i­er to dri­ve it to the right. As Camp­bell con­tin­ues, “West­ern inter­ven­tion ha[s] a greater chance of suc­cess once pop­u­lar revolts are mil­i­ta­rized,” the rea­son that even bour­geois efforts at con­flict medi­a­tion deserve pop­u­lar sup­port, giv­en the incred­i­ble reliance of West­ern cap­i­tal­ism on mil­i­tary dom­i­nance to secure dif­fer­en­tial accu­mu­la­tion, a con­tin­u­ous fea­ture of cap­i­tal­ism since its incep­tion.29

To that end, on March 12, 2011, the Gulf Coop­er­a­tion Coun­cil wran­gled a few addi­tion­al votes in push­ing the Arab League to sup­port a no-fly zone. On March 17 the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil fell into line, the pieces lock­ing smooth­ly into place, a U.S. strat­e­gy which the New York­er dubbed “lead­ing from behind”30  Mean­while, amidst the attempt to put a mul­ti­lat­er­al and legal veneer on regime change, some put forth seri­ous attempts at medi­a­tion. For exam­ple, on March 20th the African Union reject­ed for­eign mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion in Libya, and pushed for nego­ti­a­tions, the pro­tec­tion of for­eign nation­als, and dia­logue. Forces on the Latin Amer­i­can left like Hugo Chávez eager­ly embraced that pro­pos­al. Most of the West­ern left, still focused on the pos­i­tive prospects of a “rev­o­lu­tion,” ignored it. And clear­ly, uncrit­i­cal cheer­lead­ing for rev­o­lu­tion in the absence of rev­o­lu­tion­ary forces con­tributed to this out­come. For what is for­got­ten is that poor­er sec­tors in the glob­al South, as in the glob­al North, can end up sup­port­ing reac­tion. An inabil­i­ty to see this fact blink­ers con­tem­po­rary analy­sis of the Arab spring, while such poor analy­sis in turn hob­bles polit­i­cal resis­tance to the so-far suc­cess­ful U.S.-Gulf pro­gram to turn the upris­ings to their total advan­tage.

Mean­while, as plans for peace, robbed of polit­i­cal sup­port, stalled, the war on the ground built apace. Camp­bell draws on sources like Reuters and the New York Times, dis­cussing “British, French and Qatari ‘train­ers’ work­ing ‘secret­ly’ with rebels on the ground,” or how “for­mer sol­diers from an elite British com­man­do unit, the Spe­cial Air Ser­vice, and oth­er pri­vate con­trac­tors from West­ern coun­tries were on the ground in the Libyan city of Mis­ra­ta.”31 Spe­cial forces from the U.A.E. were coor­di­nat­ing flows of materiel, while pro-inter­ven­tion news­pa­pers were car­ry­ing reports of 5,000 Qatari troops on Libyan soil. This med­ley of mer­ce­nar­ies and oth­er fight­ing forces was able to over­whelm the resis­tance on the ground in Libya – not least, Camp­bell notes, because the “Libyan armed forces had been degrad­ed under [Qad­haf­fi] because the regime feared a coup d’état.”32 This was yet anoth­er way in which the dis­em­bed­ding of the state led to it becom­ing so weak as to be unable to pro­tect Libya from the preda­tors who had been lying in wait since 1969, eager to destroy both the social gains of the Rev­o­lu­tion and the exam­ple it held for Africa and the Mid­dle East, rep­re­sent­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of anti-sys­temic move­ments gain­ing state pow­er and start­ing to lev­el out hier­ar­chies in the world sys­tem.

On this ques­tion of the agen­da of impe­ri­al­ism, con­tem­po­rary accounts increas­ing­ly offer no com­pelling expla­na­tion of its mode of oper­a­tions. At one pole of what some­times pass­es for anti-impe­ri­al­ist the­o­ry – real­ism – cap­i­tal­ism is staked on sta­bil­i­ty, and lev­el and reg­u­lat­ed inter-state com­pe­ti­tion. The corol­lary is that impe­ri­al­ism, or as they pre­fer, the pax Amer­i­cana, is con­tent with cap­i­tal­ist insti­tu­tions, peri­od. So, with­in this frame­work, ham­mer­ing Libya is a kind of neo-con induced ide­o­log­i­cal error, akin to the Zion­ist-flecked mil­i­tarism which led to the pum­mel­ing of Iraq.33 A sim­i­lar­ly naive view of U.S. pow­er insists on the inad­ver­tent dis­as­ter the Unit­ed States birthed in Libya, a kind of bum­bling-giant analy­sis of U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy.34 Mean­while, for those who insist that all state-cap­i­talisms are iden­ti­cal, and iden­ti­cal­ly degen­er­ate, there is sim­i­lar ana­lyt­i­cal debil­i­ty. For them, Libya under Qad­haf­fi was with­out ques­tion a cap­i­tal­ist state. Its insti­tu­tions, then, were mere­ly a means to project pow­er and pro­mote an indige­nous African cap­i­tal­ism.35

All three per­spec­tives miss key goals and facets of the for­eign pol­i­cy of U.S. monop­oly cap­i­tal­ism. Cer­tain­ly in the Mid­dle East, the out­come of U.S. pol­i­cy, remark­ably con­sis­tent over the last 30 years at least, has been the desta­bi­liza­tion and dis­man­tling of the Arab republics and sow­ing chaos and dev­as­ta­tion in any major or minor Arab or Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion cen­ter out­side the U.S. secu­ri­ty umbrel­la. The con­sis­tent thread of this pol­i­cy – from Iraq, to Syr­ia, to Libya, with Iran con­sis­tent­ly on the tar­get list, and Pales­tine and espe­cial­ly the Gaza Strip as a sort of dis­til­late of U.S. goals – has been to dis­man­tle any inde­pen­dent project, or even the state insti­tu­tions or social forces which could forge or pro­vide the insti­tu­tion­al scaf­fold­ing for such a project. Inde­pen­dence may be con­sid­ered with respect to both for­eign and domes­tic poli­cies. In terms of for­eign pol­i­cy, the Unit­ed States has tar­get­ed those forces which have to any extent, con­tin­ued to sup­port anti-colo­nial or anti-impe­ri­al­ist mili­tia and resis­tance forces. On the domes­tic front, the Unit­ed States has aimed its fire at coun­tries with states which remain, to some degree, social­ly embed­ded, and thus both poten­tial­ly respon­sive to demands from below, as well as inte­gral to the lives of those depen­dent on state ser­vices. Indeed, that embed­ding – put dif­fer­ent­ly, the cen­tral­i­ty of the state’s role in social repro­duc­tion – is cen­tral to what makes a nation­al project nation­al. It is the traces of such a project that the Unit­ed States and domes­tic accom­plices steer­ing the upris­ing tar­get­ed, and in that they were suc­cess­ful.

The ques­tion of sta­bil­i­ty, chaos, or blow­back is not just a dis­trac­tion, but mis­reads U.S. poli­cies, which have sought to de-devel­op the region and splin­ter into shards any states that have retained the capac­i­ty to car­ry out devel­op­men­tal process­es. Too much con­tem­po­rary analy­sis rests on a car­toon­ish por­trait of post-colo­nial states as pure­ly coer­cive appa­ra­tus­es. But such states are the crys­tal­liza­tions of the anti-colo­nial strug­gles. Their insti­tu­tions, schools, hos­pi­tals, uni­ver­si­ties, and infra­struc­ture are the fruit of what­ev­er process of devel­op­ment post-colo­nial gov­ern­ments have been able to set into motion. From the stand­point of utopia, such achieve­ments were woe­ful­ly insuf­fi­cient. From the stand­point of vic­to­ry, one may diag­nose weak­ness­es in terms of pop­u­lar con­trol of such soci­eties. But from the stand­point of the Unit­ed States, in this belt of states so cen­tral to world pow­er, any order out­side of that ful­ly inte­grat­ed into U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy imper­a­tives and accu­mu­la­tion cir­cuits has been intol­er­a­ble, if his­to­ry is any guide.

Immanuel Waller­stein, describ­ing the his­tor­i­cal process of incor­po­ra­tion into the world-sys­tem, wrote:

Much of the “order” restored by the British after 1750 served as a rem­e­dy for an “anar­chy” in the very cre­ation of which the West­ern intru­sion had played a sig­nif­i­cant role in the pre­vi­ous 100 years. The point is that cap­i­tal­ism needs not “order” but rather what might be called “favor­able order.” The pro­mo­tion of ‘anar­chy’ often serves to bring down “unfa­vor­able order,” that is, order that is capa­ble of resist­ing incor­po­ra­tion.36

Much the same applies to gov­ern­ments cap­tured by anti-sys­temic forces dur­ing the 1917–1973 glob­al revolt, which is pre­cise­ly why West­ern gov­ern­ments are more than hap­py to throw them into chaos. It also applies to many states in the region and else­where such as Yemen, where a U.S. assault, sub­con­tract­ed to Sau­di Ara­bia, has sowed cholera and famine.

Mean­while, chaos is the state of Libya in the after­math of the West­ern blitzkrieg. Camp­bell counts over 1700 mili­tias rov­ing about “lib­er­at­ed” Libya as the state is no longer able to secure even a mod­icum of order – nev­er mind law. He thus illus­trates per­fect­ly the now-pre­ferred method of West­ern inter­ven­tion: one which either inad­ver­tent­ly or like­ly quite con­scious­ly leads to the con­trolled demo­li­tion of the state itself. Loot­ed Libyan weapons have flowed to Egypt, across the Sahara to Mali, lead­ing to the 2013 coup d’etat, and on to a French-led inter­ven­tion there. Such arms also went on to Syr­ia under U.S. super­vi­sion, and many Libyans have been involved in the insur­gency against the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment. More recent­ly, open-air slave mar­kets have emerged in Libya.

All of these are the returns of the Libyan war which Camp­bell so care­ful­ly sur­veys. The book con­cludes with a call for an anti-sys­temic pro­gram premised on uni­ty and nation­al self-deter­mi­na­tion – the road not tak­en. Of course, the road not tak­en is also the one West­ern vio­lence destroyed. Here Camp­bell high­lights the assas­si­na­tion of Patrice Lumum­ba as one of the clear­est exam­ples of the West’s assault on Africa’s future. He does not mean to com­pare him to Qad­haf­fi. Nor would such a com­par­i­son stand. Rather, Lumum­ba here serves a dif­fer­ent pur­pose: his mem­o­ry is a specter of what Africa could have been and was pre­vent­ed from becom­ing in sub­stan­tial part by West­ern-sowed dis­rup­tion and dis­or­der.

Refer­ring to the region, to Africa, is not an acci­dent for Camp­bell. Tak­ing the widest per­spec­tive, he shows that counter-rev­o­lu­tion is a glob­al process, pro­ceed­ing through con­crete mech­a­nisms, revers­ing real social gains. Its mech­a­nisms include not just decap­i­tat­ing anti-sys­temic move­ments, remov­ing from them their very best lead­ers, but also ramp­ing up lev­els of ambi­ent hos­til­i­ty. The dete­ri­o­ra­tion of Qadhaffi’s gov­ern­ment was not the result of that dime-store tau­tol­ogy, “cor­rup­tion,” but because of induce­ments offered to those who might sell out the coun­try, as well as, much more cru­cial­ly, a dim­ming of the glob­al revolt with­in which the colonels’ rev­o­lu­tion rose. For amidst all its indeli­ble blights, it stood as one of the last remain­ing pil­lars of Arab nation­al­ism – an uneven, com­plex, and endur­ing lega­cy, as well as a con­tin­u­ing ban­ner for region­al anti-sys­temic projects.

Nev­er­the­less, Libya’s refusal to sub­mit to West­ern dik­tat marked it out in red as a tar­get for U.S. pow­er, which nev­er for­got the inde­pen­dence of Qadhaffi’s for­eign pol­i­cy, and his moves to set up a poly­cen­tric world. It is worth recall­ing in 1990 that Nel­son Man­dela stat­ed dur­ing a 1990 trip to Libya, “Your readi­ness to pro­vide us with the facil­i­ties of form­ing an army of lib­er­a­tion indi­cat­ed your com­mit­ment to the fight for peace and human rights in the world.”37 Will­ful amne­sia and the era­sure of his­to­ry are a require­ment for U.S. hege­mo­ny. And even amidst decay, from the per­spec­tive of U.S. pow­er Qad­haf­fi rep­re­sent­ed a mem­o­ry and incar­nat­ed a pol­i­tics whose faint trac­ings had to be scrubbed clean­ly out of Libya. The sud­den and sig­nif­i­cant break with the sys­tem which his colonel’s revolt rep­re­sent­ed, and lat­er, espe­cial­ly in the 1990s and 2000s, his moves towards unit­ing Africa against exter­nal inter­fer­ence, with mas­sive mon­e­tary resources to help do so, are an ineluctable part of why Libya had to be destroyed. Camp­bell anat­o­mizes that destruc­tion to dev­as­tat­ing effect, and traces it back to the imper­fect colonel’s revolt itself. The point is clear. Against the rain­bow of sec­tar­i­an inter­pre­ta­tions, the fact is that respon­si­bil­i­ty for the country’s fall must be shared. Camp­bell has pro­vid­ed an impor­tant glimpse into the mas­sive seg­ment of that respon­si­bil­i­ty most rel­e­vant to a U.S. read­er­ship: its own. Indeed, counter-intu­itive­ly, he per­haps under­plays that respon­si­bil­i­ty. For the dete­ri­o­ra­tion of the Qad­haf­fi gov­ern­ment hap­pened not through pure­ly inter­nal decay, but through process­es in which West­ern finan­cial insti­tu­tions, cor­po­rate organs, uni­ver­si­ties, and the insis­tent specter and real­i­ty of U.S. vio­lence played a major part. And what is inescapable is this: their abil­i­ty to do so rests on the inabil­i­ty of West­ern resis­tance forces to destroy such mech­a­nisms.

So, final­ly, if there was a fail­ure of inter­na­tion­al sol­i­dar­i­ty vis-à-vis Libya, it began long ago. It was one which took place in the three decades before the coup d’état, as the world rev­o­lu­tion of 1968 ebbed most quick­ly and with the most harm­ful effects in the cen­ters of impe­r­i­al pow­er, as the counter-rev­o­lu­tion smashed the anti-sys­temic move­ments in the core: the stu­dent move­ment, the anti-war move­ment, the Black Pan­thers. It occurred as inter­na­tion­al­ism became a shad­ow, a wisp, a dep­re­cat­ed mem­o­ry, a process that also occurred through the neg­li­gence of those whose nom­i­nal task was to tend the flame. To stand to the side of that ebb tide and, from North­ern cap­i­tals, to berate glob­al South gov­ern­ments for their sins, is to miss the fun­da­men­tal respon­si­bil­i­ty of West­ern pow­er in cre­at­ing the atmos­phere for the sin. And it is to for­get, too, that sol­i­dar­i­ty is not a sen­ti­ment. Inter­na­tion­al­ism and inter­ven­tion­ism are dia­met­ri­cal oppo­sites. Sol­i­dar­i­ty starts from reck­on­ing with loca­tion. In the words of Sam Moyo and Paris Yeros, this is a pol­i­tics, a “Marx­ism [which] con­sists of a more com­mit­ted inter­na­tion­al­ism, which insists on the sub­stan­tive, not cos­met­ic, dis­so­lu­tion of hier­ar­chies among nations and pro­le­tari­ats in the strug­gle against cap­i­tal.”38

Pro­gram­mat­i­cal­ly, this means first and fore­most con­strain­ing the maneu­vers of the gov­ern­ments of the core. The fail­ure to do so is indeed part of the process of glob­al counter-rev­o­lu­tion which took place from the mid-1970s onwards. For if it was rev­o­lu­tion which paint­ed an indeli­ble tar­get on Qadhaffi’s Libya, it was counter-rev­o­lu­tion which weak­ened it enough to ensure the suc­cess of its 2011 tar­get­ing, an enter­prise of weaponized sec­tar­i­an mili­tia, the Gulf states, the Unit­ed States, and final­ly those too many to list who gave it ide­o­log­i­cal cov­er or demo­bi­lized oppo­si­tion to that bru­tal war. This process, occur­ring on a stage craft­ed by impe­ri­al­ist pow­er, is utter­ly cen­tral – indeed, inescapable – to any under­stand­ing of the tragedy now cas­cad­ing dai­ly across what used to be the state of Libya.


  1. Ruth First, Libya: The Elu­sive Rev­o­lu­tion (Lon­don: Pen­guin, 1974). 

  2. Ray­mond A. Hin­neb­usch, “Charis­ma, rev­o­lu­tion, and state for­ma­tion: Qaddafi and Libya,” Third World Quar­ter­ly 6, no. 1 (Jan­u­ary 1984): 59–73, 62. 

  3. Ronald Bruce St. John, “The Chang­ing Libyan Econ­o­my: Caus­es and Con­se­quences,” Mid­dle East Jour­nal 62, no. 1 (Win­ter 2008): 75–91, 77. 

  4. Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era, “Once Again on So-called ‘Extrac­tivism,’Month­ly Review Online, April 29, 2013. 

  5. Dirk Van­de­walle, “Qadhafi’s ‘Per­e­stroi­ka’: Eco­nom­ic and Polit­i­cal Lib­er­al­iza­tion in Libya,” Mid­dle East Jour­nal 45, no. 2 (Spring 1991): 216–31, 230. 

  6. Mem­o­ran­dum from Robert B. Oak­ley of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil Staff to the President’s Deputy Assis­tant for Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Affairs (Scow­croft), Wash­ing­ton, July 7, 1975, For­eign Rela­tions of the Unit­ed States, 1969–1976, Vol­ume E–9, Part 1, Doc­u­ments on North Africa, 1973–1976. 

  7. Ibid. 

  8. John Blair, The Con­trol of Oil (New York: Vin­tage, 1978), 229. 

  9. Camp­bell, Glob­al NATO, 48. 

  10. Ibid, 48. 

  11. Ibid, 52. 

  12. Ibid, 51. 

  13. Ibid, 113. 

  14. Karl Marx, Grun­drisse, trans. Mar­tin Nico­laus (Lon­don: Pen­guin, 1993), 101. 

  15. Camp­bell, Glob­al NATO, 53. 

  16. Ibid, 61. 

  17. Ibid, 62. 

  18. Ibid, 256. 

  19. Ibid, 256. 

  20. Ibid, 73. 

  21. Wol­fram Lach­er, “Fam­i­lies, Tribes and Cities in the Libyan Rev­o­lu­tion,” Mid­dle East Pol­i­cy Coun­cil 18, no. 4 (Win­ter 2011): 140–54. 

  22. Max­i­m­il­ian Forte, Slouch­ing Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa (Chica­go: Bara­ka Books, 2013). 

  23. Camp­bell, Glob­al NATO, 32. 

  24. Lach­er, “Fam­i­lies.” 

  25. Ibid. 

  26. Per­ry Ander­son, Argu­ments with­in Eng­lish Marx­ism (Lon­don: New Left Books, 1980), 19. 

  27. Ibid, 20. 

  28. Mohamed Eljarh, “Qaddafi Sup­port­ers Reemerge in a Dis­il­lu­sioned Libya,” For­eign Pol­i­cy, August 11 2015. 

  29. Camp­bell, Glob­al NATO, 73. 

  30. Ryan Liz­za, “Lead­ing from Behind,” The New York­er, April 26, 2011. 

  31. Camp­bell, Glob­al NATO, 147. 

  32. Ibid, 164. 

  33. For an exam­ple of this ten­den­cy, see Per­ry Anderson’s “Jot­tings on the Con­junc­ture”: “The Mid­dle East is the one part of the world where the US polit­i­cal sys­tem, as present­ly con­sti­tut­ed, can­not act accord­ing to a ratio­nal cal­cu­lus of nation­al inter­est, because it is inhab­it­ed by anoth­er, super­ven­ing inter­est. For its entire posi­tion in the Arab—and by exten­sion Muslim—world is com­pro­mised by its mas­sive, osten­ta­tious sup­port for Israel.” Per­ry Ander­son, “Jot­tings on the Con­junc­ture,” New Left Review 2, no. 48 (November–December 2007): 5–37, 4. 

  34. For an exam­ple of this, see Vijay Prashad: “Instead, in both cas­es [Libya and Iraq], the West and their allies pros­e­cut­ed a com­plete vic­to­ry - which always ends in com­plete dis­as­ter,”  in “The Detri­tus of Regime Change,” The New Arab, Octo­ber 28, 2015. 

  35. This per­spec­tive appears to be so com­mon that few even take the time to make the argu­ment explic­it­ly. 

  36. Immanuel Waller­stein, “The Great Expan­sion: The Incor­po­ra­tion of Vast New Zones into the Cap­i­tal­ist World Econ­o­my (c. 1750-1850),” Stud­ies in His­to­ry  4, no. 1–2 (Feb­ru­ary 1988): 85–156, 154. 

  37. Man­dela Vis­its Libya, Thanks Kadafi for Help­ing Train ANC,” Unit­ed Press Inter­na­tion­al, May 19, 1990. 

  38. Sam Moyo and Paris Yeros, “The Zim­bab­we Ques­tion and the Two Lefts,” His­tor­i­cal Mate­ri­al­ism 15, no. 3 (2007): 171–204, 173. 

Author of the article

is an editor at Jadaliyya and Viewpoint and a member of the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network.