Another war for oil? Surely not! But just to be on the safe side, the world’s oil barons are already moving in to seal some sweetheart deals on that sweet, sweet crude with the new, NATO-installed masters of Libya.
And guess what? It turns out that companies from the Western countries that eagerly rained tons of death-metal on the Libyan people are being given the inside track to the post-Gadafy gusher. Meanwhile, countries that had urged caution in humanely intervening with thousands upon thousands of bombs, drones and missiles to, er, protect human life now face relegation to the outer darkness.
As the New York Times reports, Libya’s old colonial masters, Italy, are leading the way in the new scramble, even ere the Green Pimpernel has been found. They, along with other Western oil behemoths, are being welcomed with open arms by the peace-loving democratic rebels, who, er, murdered their own chief military commander just a few weeks ago. But for intervention skeptics like Russia, China and Brazil, there may be “some political issues” in renewing old deals and inking new ones, say the new regime’s oil honchos. NATO si, BRIC no.
But remember. This is not a war for oil. Oil has nothing to do with it. Of course, you can find cranks and crackpots like, say, Patrick Cockburn, who has only been doing frontline reporting in the region for decades, coming out with nonsense like this, in a recent piece about the “murderous rebels in Libya”:
“The enthusiasm in some 30 foreign capitals to recognise the mysterious self-appointed group in Benghazi as the leaders of Libya is at this stage probably motivated primarily by expectations of commercial concessions and a carve-up of oilfields.”
But what does he know? Especially compared to progressive, peace-loving, war-hating supporters of the, er, war like Professor Juan Cole. As the professor himself tells us, he is someone “who has actually heard briefings in Europe from foreign ministries and officers of NATO members.” I’ll bet you haven’t done that! (Although Patrick Cockburn probably has — for decades. But never mind.) Anyway, Cole assures us that the very idea of oil playing any part in this noble endeavor is “daft,” because Libya was “already integrated with the international oil markets.”
Well, loath as one is to quibble with a man who has actually heard briefings from NATO officers and all, even the New York Times notes that:
Colonel Qaddafi proved to be a problematic partner for international oil companies, frequently raising fees and taxes and making other demands. A new government with close ties to NATO may be an easier partner for Western nations to deal with. Some experts say that given a free hand, oil companies could find considerably more oil in Libya than they were able to locate under the restrictions placed by the Qaddafi government.
Less regulation, fewer restrictions, sweeter deals, more oil, higher profits — no, there’s nothing there to interest the oil companies. Or the governments they “influence” so persuasively — and pervasively. So it must be true, as Cole asserts, that this noble endeavor was no more and no less than a humanitarian intervention designed to safeguard human lives (with those thousands of bombs and missiles), protect the right of free assembly (or at least the right to mill around in one of those wired, barricaded, kettled, corralled “free speech zones” now so prevalent in the freedom-loving, liberating lands of the West), and uphold “a lawful world order.”
Cole now looks forward to seeing Gadafy and sons in the dock for war crimes, for, as he rightly notes: “deploying the military against non-combatants was a war crime, and doing so in a widespread and systematic way was a crime against humanity.” Unless, of course, you quote “just war” theologians as you, say, conduct a widespread and systematic terror bombing campaign of defenseless villages in an allied nation with drone missiles, as Barack Obama has been doing in Pakistan from the moment he took office. But Cole “agree[s] with President Obama and his citation of Reinhold Niebuhr. You can’t protect all victims of mass murder everywhere all the time. But where you can do some good, you should do it.”
If only Gadafy had thought to quote a man whose “influence has been acknowledged by such recent leaders of American foreign policy as Jimmy Carter, Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, [and] John McCain”! Perhaps that would have absolved him from the other crimes Cole lays at his door: “bankrolling brutal dictators and helping foment ruinous wars.” Certainly none of our Niebuhr-quoting leaders have ever done anything like that!
In any case, the deed is done and now, as the Times headline says, “The Scramble for Access to Libya’s Oil Wealth Begins.” But the latter is just incidental, of course — a spandrel, a happy accident, an unintentional by-product of a noble deed done by noble men for noble purposes. Oily business aside, the deed itself is something that should be celebrated by everyone — including anti-war dissidents like Cole, or even rock-ribbed “anarchists” like Crispin Sartwell (whose call for “exhilaration” at Libya’s NATO-bomb liberation receives an answer here from Arthur Silber). Only the dead — the uncounted, forgotten dead, mangled and buried under tons of liberating metal — might demur.