Fellow Claremont Colleges student and Claremont Conservative blogger Charles Johnson has authored a piece over at Big Peace, claiming that America is fighting a war for Europe yet again. First Yugoslavia, now Libya. I’m not sure if two events in thirteen years qualifies as a pattern, but he does identify one of the troubling questions of the current war being waged in Libya: why are we doing it?
It’s all good and well to stand up for human rights and promote democracy abroad, but last time the United States tried to do that many Europeans accused the Bush administration of invading to secure Iraqi oil fields. Well, now Johnson is claiming the same of the Europeans, who have been quite adamant in stopping Gaddafi, while the United States has publicly downplayed their involvement, despite the overwhelming majority of the no-fly zone’s responsibilities being shouldered by the US.
Johnson points to IEA figures which show the large quantities of oil imported from Libya by the same European states which were such vocal proponents of intervention. Ergo, Europe just wants to oust Gaddafi to get at all the oil. I’m not quite convinced though. European states have obviously enjoyed a fairly stable relationship with north African dictators (to much controversy in France) and there doesn’t seem to be much reason why they would want to upset the arrangement they already had importing Libyan oil. There’s no guarantee that a new regime would provide a more favorable oil contract, and for that matter, no guarantee that Gaddafi will even be removed from power. After all, the Obama administration has yet to commit to a longterm goal for Libya.
Secondly, the obvious implication of the article is that Europe did not want to go along with the Iraq War, but now they expect us to lead them into Libya. For one thing, Johnson seems to be muddling the distinction between the UK and Europe, which is significant. The UK, of course, was a valuable ally in the invasion of Iraq. Further, one shouldn’t underestimate Nicolas Sarkozy’s own ambition. L’hyper-président has always tried to be at the forefront of the world’s most cataclysmic events, most notably the ceasefire negotiation between Russian and Georgia in 2008. The more cynical view, of course, is that France had far too much to lose in Iraq, considering the considerable amount of money they made off of weapons sales and other questionable business activities in Iraq. Libya doesn’t present quite as many concerns.
The issue that Johnson does touch on, that I find quite convincing, is immigration. Europe has been struggling with immigration from the South for decades and is surely weary of a prolonged civil war in North Africa, which would open the floodgates to even more immigrants.
Just as I grow tired of hearing people claim the US invaded Iraq purely for oil interests, it will surely grow just as old if people are going to bandy this same claim around about Europe and Libya.