Libya conference: Implications for Third World nations

Updated: 2011-09-07 11:54

By Han Dongping (

  Comments() Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

David Cameron, the prime minister of Great Britain, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, the leaders of the two greatest former colonial empires, hosted a high-level summit in Paris in an effort to welcome Libyan rebels into the diplomatic fold, which they hope would put the last nail in the fate of Muammar Gadhafi's Libya.

The conference was held on a date when Muammar Gadhafi would have celebrated his 40th anniversary in power. In a way, the former colonial masters finally got back with one of their opponents who fought very hard to dismantle the colonial empires the Western colonial powers imposed on Third World nations.

What a big irony of history! Forty-two years ago, Muammar Gadhafi must have been considered a national hero by his people when he led the coup that terminated colonial control in Libya. And one of the first things Gadhafi did once in power was to close the American military base in Libya. Today, Gadhafi, the former fighter against Western colonialism and for Libyan independence, was overthrown by his own people with the military support of former colonial powers. History seems to have gone full circle.

A recent New York Time article argued that Mr Obama may have discovered his new doctrine in his dealing with Libya. Mr Obama found an armed rebel group, which created a legitimate pretext for the United States and NATO to get involved. The US did not go it alone this time, like in Iraq, but went instead with a group of allies. They also got a limited UN license to start with. With their military might, they were able to have their way in regime change while on the surface it appeared that it was the Libyan people, the rebels, who had overthrown Gadhafi's government in Libya.

The Western nations are fighting in Libya because they are losing Africa to China. Gadhafi's Libya provided the best target for them to fight to get back its former dominance in Africa.

First, Libya is oil-rich, and the potential return from a military adventure there will be huge. Second, Gadhafi was vulnerable because he made quite a few enemies among his Arabic neighbors, and he did not have a big power supporter in the United Nations. More important, China has some huge investments and many construction projects going on in Libya. NATO's military operation in Libya has interrupted China's economic activities in Libya and other areas in Africa.

As I mentioned in my other articles here, Western nations cannot win in the marketplace anymore. Now their states come to aid their companies. With their military presence in Libya, French, British and American companies are expected to get lucrative contracts in Libya's oil industry and reconstruction. What a wonderful business practice! The NATO airplanes did a good job destroying the infrastructure, and companies from NATO nations will come in to rebuild them, all for the right price.

If the Western nations had their way in Libya, they stand to gain in a big way. The rebels, who had zero chance of success without the US and NATO's military support from air and ground, owed their victory to the US and NATO's military might. They will have to reward their benefactors in a big way.

The British prime minister and NATO officials have already indicated that their military operation will continue in order to protect civilians. They came in with their airplanes and missiles to protect the civilians, and they will use the same excuse to stay in Libya until their demands are met. I always wonder how one can bomb cities to protect the civilians. I guess one has to kill only those one wants to kill, in order to protect the ones one wants to protect. Is that not true with any war affairs?

With NATO's military presence in Libya, Libya will not be its own master anymore. Libya's trouble is not over. In fact it may have just started. China has an old saying, qinggui rongyi songgui nan. (it is easy to invite the devil into your house, but it will be hard to get rid of the devil). Now Libya has NATO on its soil, and I am sure it will not be easy to get them out.

The Third World countries have to watch very closely what is happening to Libya. Your domestic disputes could be taken advantages of by outside forces, and you could become pawns for other peoples' interests. In the meantime, your people have to shed blood simply because somebody else wants what you have. Is that not how colonialism started in the first place?

As I said before. the age of colonialism is over. Any attempts to turn back the clock will be futile in the end. Some Libyan people may have become tired of Gadhafi's extended tenure in power. But I am sure they will not be happy with any foreign overlords to dictate their destiny again. Foreign military presence in Libya will give Gadhafi's forces more legitimate reasons to fight. Again, they do not need to win. They just need to continue to wear them down to give up in the end. Even if Gadhafi can be discounted, more Gadhafis are bound to reemerge in the fight for Libya's independence in the world.

Han Dongping is Professor of History and Political Science at Warren Wilson College, NC. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the China Daily website.