Muammar al-Qadhafi is most diplomatically called problematic. In his grand exposition of his foreign policy, the Stream of Consciousness Policy, he succeeded, as his diplomatic corps and conduct has before, the Brother Leader ably turned the world away from pressing issues facing the developing world. Rambling on about a host of issues, some more relevant in 1969 others more relevant today, he offered the world community perhaps the greatest fit of foolishness yet seen on the world stage. And he, together with the Western and African leaders who coddle him, has done more damage to the cause of the disenfranchised than any other man this year. It makes one consider that it may be true that “to do and suffer evil is the universal human condition.”
Western conversation focuses, predictably and disingenuously, on his swine flu theory and his lecturing on European crimes against Africans in the colonial period (as it was disingenuous during the Durban II fiasco). His thunder against the Security Council — and that he proposed it be called the “Terror Council” ought not to be emphasized — was more representative of world opinion (beyond Western Europe and the United States) than even Sarkozy’s dark suggestion that Africa ought to have a seat there (clearly meant to suggest that a Francophone state, likely close to France, have a seat, giving France two voices) and was not beyond any pale of reasonableness. As Gideon Rachman notes: Qadhafi, however surprising it maybe, offered a quite useful and quite innovative solution to the structural problems posed by the UNSC’s present composition. Yet Westerners, ever bedeviled by his bizarre garb and rampant non sequiturs will not listen to those bits: and perhaps this is Qadhafi’s intention, to simply disrupt, befuddle and ruin whatever he can. This the Colonel will call “influence”.
Libya is full of oil and gas and so Western states are willing to abandon most of their principles to get it, he is quite capable of saying and doing most of what he pleases rhetorically, without any real threat of consequence. Qadhafi, who purports to speak for a thing called “Africa,” which used to mean something to big dreamers, was perhaps most successful in drawing world attention away from that continent and offered the African Union’s leaders only a reason to look to their nearest fellow African heads of state and call each other “dunces” for allowing a man who wears outfits in imitation of Michael Jackson videos on state videos visits, who speaks of “traditional kingdoms” on a continent where such kingdoms barely survive and who uses his country’s wealth to outfit his sons like perfume ads while funding upheaval in all the areas he possibly can. And Americans and Europeans speak with indignation that Qadhafi has been allowed to vomit forty-years worth of rhetoric (for this was his first address to the UN) and to offer a “hero’s welcome” to Meghrahi: this is the result of Western policy. It can be attributed nowhere else but to the greed of the most powerful Western states who have sought to reintegrate him into the world system, in exchange for gas and his abandonment of his nuclear program. To paraphrase a saying of another North African leader, who spoke of reordering the world system and pan-Africanism, but who lacked the vanity and flamboyance of Qadhafi, the West has sought Libyan oil and cooperation at any cost. And it must be said, though, that Libya is, to the West, not much of a threat, given its complete military incompetence (in its war with Chad, more than twenty colonels were captured by Chad; Colonel is the highest rank in the Libyan armed services) and its enduring marginality in the world beyond Africa, where it would easily be displaced by any reasonably powerful outside power.
No one in the French, Italian or British Foreign Ministries should be surprised with what they’ve got from the Brother Leader. No American leader should be confused. This is Qadhafi and it is what one gets when he deals with Libya. Western gaming on Libyan oil and cooperation has done untold damage to the credibility of the African Union, for it made his leadership acceptable in the eyes of the outside and on the continent; it has deeply dented the moral standing of multiple Western countries, the United States, Italy, France, Britain and others, though it would be curious to find that the leaders of those countries actually cared on either count. The process of “normalizing” Libya, a place that cannot be called “normal” regardless of how much oil or gas it exports, to whom those exports go or however quietly Western leaders make their deals with Qadhafi, has been one that has been beneficial to no person in need: not to the Lockerbie victims, not to the hungry peoples of Africa, not to the Palestinians, not to the Philippine Muslims and not to the Libyan people. It has benefited Qadhafi, his delinquent sons, Western money grubbers and those who commit terrible crimes while the Colonel blusters, Westerners react and Libya sends them money with which to sow mischief. As a wise man once put it: everyone “involved in it should be ashamed.” Congratulations to Mr. Qadhafi for getting himself out of the dog house without consequence. Three cheers for impunity!
The spectacle of 24 September is that a world of misery will go without any meaningful attention from Western presses, leaders or diplomats and it will have been the fault of everyone involved that serious issues were ignored in favor of continual stupidity and bluster. While the rich may laugh, in rewording Qadhafi for his despotism, murder and gas, Western states have ensured that many peoples’ plight will go without advocacy. Dominated by Libya, Africans will not be heard. As miserable as many African leaders may be, few in the biggest and most important states come as close to Mr. Qadhafi in their vulgarity and destructiveness. By letting Qadhafi out of his cage, the wealthiest nations have taken from the peoples of the South any opportunity for a credible and serious admonition of the North and those who continually make times rough for common people. African leaders, too, should be ashamed, but Qadhafi’s horror show could not have happened on their initiative alone. And no African state would be capable of the kind of empowerment that British and American firms have offered the Colonel by their lobbying and fetish with Libyan hydrocarbons. In the West, some commentators will snigger in warm homes and secure societies. But there is nothing to laugh at in any of today’s goings on, lest one finds humor in human suffering and inequality, and the predatory depravity that characterizes the way powerful men in Europe, America and Africa have hidden their greed and lust behind Qadhafi’s mischief. But this, after all, is politics.