Libya, A Failed State In Its Own Right
Western nations, supported by the UN, are keen to restore a kind of statehood in Libya, which disintegrated after the killing of the dictator, Col. Muammar Gaddafi who died from bullet wounds in 2011. So far, attempts to bring back law, order and some form of stable governance are basically unsuccessful.
Instead of 2 rival Governments, one in Tripoli (West), one in Tobruk (East), and a multitude of local chiefs and their militias, now there are 3 Governments. The Number Three is an UN sponsored body, put together for the purpose of uniting the country. But it still stuck in Tunisia while efforts to bring it to the capital city, Tripoli, have failed. This body has neither the supports of the two rival Parliaments, nor any significant military power to impose itself by force. Contrary to its task of stabilizing and clarifying the internal political situation, the new executive body has only contributed to more confusion.
Political attempts to mend the Libyan mess so far turned out to be sterile. Simultaneously, discussions about a possible Western military intervention in Libya, welcomed by the new, third in a row, government, are also fading into silence.
At a certain point, there were plans of a massive intervention to be led by Italy, with the participation of France and the UK, and with some kind of US support. Italy was supposed to send up to 5,000 of its military personnel to the North African country. Rome was not keen to be put in the frontline of an enforcement action designated to repair mistakes made in Libya by other major Western countries. The Italian government seems to be quite happy that the project is being delayed, if it is still possible to implement.
Should this intervention with Italy in the frontline take place, after all, it would be a new setback for the Western powers in the MENA region. The key drawback of such an operation is its limitations, its focus the military instruments to deal with a complicated problem. Even the military aspect has not been well considered: there are no local pro-West allies on the ground, and many Libyan militias are ready to fight foreigners, wherever they come from.
Resolving the Libyan quagmire, at the present stage, cannot be limited to a military operation. The number one problem is political, or institutional. Institutions are an absolute necessity in order to control the territory and manage the everyday of the citizens, not to forget the need to combat terrorist groups and jihadists who are flocking to his country after a succession of defeats suffered in Iraq and Syria. The lessons of the recent conflicts in Iraq, Yemen and Syria are explicit: when you have government and public institutions as such, you have the leverages to do something. If not, all efforts would be in vane. Any Western military success in Libya would demand reviving institutions to preserve the gains on the battlefield, since the only alternative would be rigid occupation by foreign troops, and this is no guarantee of stability and even tranquility, as the Iraq case proves it. Right now, Libya doesn’t have any influential government institutions and none are in the making.
The number two problem is social and economic. Under Muammar Gaddafi, Libya was a dictatorship and Libyans were politically oppressed, but the social and economic welfare of the nation was evident. Now, the social and economic fabrics and operational networks are ruined, including the hydrocarbon industry, which used to be the basis of the former relative prosperity.
Here is an excerpt from the German weekly, Der Spiegel, quoting an unnamed top executive in the national oil industry describing the present state of the hydrocarbon industry in Libya: "Several of the major pipelines, oilfields and loading terminals have been destroyed. Others have been occupied by clans and sometimes we don't even know why. Do they want money? Jobs? We never learn why and they aren't even interested in negotiating.
Daily oil output has plunged from 1.7 million barrels to just 350,000 and is still falling. But pumping costs are climbing at the same time because thousands of new people are being hired to keep residents near the facilities quiet. That means that the less we produce, the more expensive each barrel becomes. Already, our costs are over $20 per barrel. With the oil price barely above $30 per barrel, there isn't much left over."
According to the oil industry official, the state will earn some $4 billion in 2016, compared to around $7 billion in 2015. But spending and expenditures will be at least four times as high. Libya is using up its last hard currency reserves: "We still have between $60 and $70 billion. But if the situation doesn't change, we'll be in the shit in late 2017."
The President of Egypt, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, has spelled out key issues related to the future of Libya and touching upon a possible Western military operation there.
“We have to put 5 questions, he told to the La Repubblica (Italy) daily. One. How do we go into Libya, and how do we go out? Two. Who is responsible for restoring armed and security forces there? Three. How do we manage to secure and to protect the population during the operation? Four. Could this operation match the needs of all the Libyan population and communities? Five. Who will reconstruct the country, in the physical sense?”
So far, there are no answers to those questions. Libya remains a failed state. And keeps failing even more day after day.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of ESCP Europe Business School.
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