Civil War Breaking Out in Libya

I had planned on an update on the tensions in Ukraine, dwelling on introducing an important player there named Rinat Akmetov, the country’s richest man with sufficient holdings and manpower in eastern Ukraine to settle down that region.  However, you know what they say about the best laid plans.   Ukraine seems to be calming down some, with some noteworthy aid ftom Akmetov, while Libya has become the new hot spot and, though its international ramifications are not on the scale of Ukraine, it’s political ramifications here might prove significant. 

Benghazi has been just an endless series of investigations by Republicans in hopes of besmirching the present Obama administration and blocking a future Hillary Clinton one by proving some sort of cover up,.  Now it is the scene of an attack Friday by forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar (spelled Hifter in some other articles), a former general, on Islamist militias in that western city.   Then yesterday other militias tied to him took over the parliament building in Tripoli, blaming that parliament for backing pro-Islamist forces in the country at odds with more so-called “liberal” elements.

This is far too complex and “iffy” for me to summarize the situation other than to say that since the overthrow of Khadaffi, Libya has largely depended on various militias,  antagonistic or at least competing with each other, for the little stability that exists in the country.  The Washington Post offers much more detail in this article.

What I will be interested to see is how the Republicans play these recent events.   No doubt blaming the ineptitude of the Obama administration for starters, likely adding yet at least one more investigation to their agenda.   But  where has their interest been when it comes to stabilizing Libya?   They can’t get past the Benghazi murders.

Certainly Libya has been a mess since the end of Ghadifi, or Quadiffi, or Khadiffi (just a few of the various spellings).    As one commentator put it, what happened in parliament yesterday cannot be called a military coup, as Libya doesn’t really have a military.   Supporting Libya has seemed of no interest to Republicans.  Only finding blame within in the Obama administration for not doing enough to protect Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other three Americans killed or for covering up the real Al Queda sources of the attack,. 

At the time Chris Steven’s father said it would be “abhorrent ” to play politics with his son’s death.   Since then Republicans in Congress have specialized in abhorrent behavior.  The phoniness of their  concern for what happened at Benghazi will now likely be  coupled with a new phony concern for what should have been done in the interim to stabilize Libya.  

I truly wonder how this strategy works with those who are not already predisposed to hate  Obama and stop Hillary Clinton.   Republicans will decry Obama’s policy in Libya as it does with everywhere else in the world.   I admit there is much to criticize, but the Republican stance has nothing to do with policy.  Only politics.

 

 

 

 

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Ukraine: Lost in the Globalized Shuffle?

I have read quite a bit about the Ukraine situation over the past week and find it difficult to sort out.   It is not quite an international crisis (that word overused to the point of a yawn), but it has great potential to become one.   Of course, so does Syria, which remains a “problem from hell,” but Syria does not pit the U. S. vs. Russian interests as directly.

Yes they are on opposite sides of the Syrian struggle, but as reported in the Los Angeles Times yesterday, they have worked together to remove an estimated 90% of the worst chemical weapons in Syria, a fairly amazing achievement in the midst of a civil war.

Lesser Coat of Arms of Ukraine

Lesser Coat of Arms of Ukraine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is the kind of news that doesn’t get much coverage.   As you know, the news most covered is almost always bad.  The good news has to be very good to draw the spotlight (*1).   Also, there is another aspect to this good news that undercuts its goodness.  In making this deal with Putin and Assad, Obama was acceding to Assad remaining in power for months to accomplish the task, deflating those rebels (some of the many) we have supported somewhat.

That is the ugly underside of “realpolitik” boys and girls.

Leaving news coverage aside, the simple lesson to be learned from the removal of Syrian chemical weapons is this:   Russia and the United States can work together, even now, when our governments see a mutual interest.   What gives Ukraine such potential for a crisis is that Washington and Moscow have not established  a clear path that will satisfy their mutual interests.

We and our allies would like to see a stable Ukraine developed (which would likely favor the West), while an unstable Ukraine afraid to get too close to the West works in favor of Putin’s Russia.  If he can not have Ukraine as an ally, the weaker it is the better he likes it.

Not to mention that the present day focus on eastern Ukraine has made the Russian gobble up of Crimea yesterday’s news (*2).   It is a fait accompli and we have all moved on to other issues.

I mention “Putin’s Russia,” while generalizing who is in charge of “our Western” efforts, because in Russia so much of the power seems centralized in that one man, with his revival of nationalist pride backed by an often reported 80% in public opinion polls.   Power in the West is much more decentralized, at least when it comes to economic power and in a globalized world, that power is more effective than arms in the long run.    “We”, meaning  the U. S. and the European Union could cripple the Russian economy, but at a cost to ourselves, with Europe bearing much more of that cost.   America can only lead as far as the Europeans are willing to follow.

I am of the opinion that despite his 40,000 troops on the Ukraine border, Putin does not want to invade eastern Ukraine because if he does who knows what the unintended consequences might be?   As is, ingesting a poor Crimean economy into Russia is predicted to be very expensive in itself, and the eastern Ukraine’s economic struggles would figure to be another burden.

But Putin acts like he doesn’t care, so Western analysts can only guesstimate just how much of a gambler Putin is and how he defines winning.   And what with violent clashes popping up here and there who knows what events on the ground might prompt?

In any event, finding an equilibrium between Russia and the West in Ukraine appears to be quite a balancing act and the government in Kiev is walking a shaky line with globalized interests swirling about it.

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(*1)   Receiving more attention are recent reports of the likely use of chlorine gas by the Assad forces, but that is not as deadly nor mentioned in the U. N. chemical disarmament agreement.   One more wrinkle in a complex calculation that you can read more about here.

(*2)  Having said that, I Googled “Russia and Crimea” and found a couple of interesting, though  disparate articles.  One describes the present chaos in Crimea and the other Putin’s plans to build Crimea’s economy, including a boom in casinos.

 

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