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A Case for the ‘Responsibility to Rebuild’ (R2R)

I’ve written a paper for the Boston University International Law Journal, entitled: “NATO’s Libya Intervention and the Continued Case for a ‘Responsibility to Rebuild'” (Summer 2013, Vol 31, No. 2, p 365-386)

The abstract is here:

This article evaluates the success of the 2011 NATO campaign in Libya relative to the emergent and fragile doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (“R2P”).  The paper argues that, while the Libya intervention may have met  formal R2P consensus criteria, the overall success of the operation has been undermined by the failure of the international community to complement international military action with robust assistance in critical areas, including disarmament, national reconciliation and employment generation.  Collectively, these constitute a Responsibility to Rebuild (“R2R”).  This article cites developments in Libya and Syria to suggest that, despite the attendant complexities, some version of R2R is essential to continued relevance of R2P. 


Tripoli Witness

Rana Jawad’s Tripoli Witness (Gilgamesh, 2011) is a fast and unconventionally assembled, but very interesting read, which contains some valuable insights into Gaddafi’s feints at reform, and the origins of the revolution itself.  More skillfully than most, Jawad drives home the long-term damage done to Libyan people by Gaddafi’s rule, the national apathy that Gaddafi’s repression generated, and the contradictory Libyan revolutionary calculus, i.e., despite what pain might be forthcoming– and was forthcoming– and the real possibility that the revolution might fail in several of its key goals, practically anything was be better than living the stunted, subsistence existence Gaddafi afforded them.

What is striking about Jawad’s own story, which overshadows much of the rest of the material,  is her patience and courage,  as evidenced most clearly by her willingness to risk her life to blog bits of what was happening within Libya in 2011 to the outside world.  Almost as impressive is how she wound up in Libya in the first place– a novice 22-year old reporter convinces the BBC to make her its Libya correspondent, and evolves into a seasoned war reporter.  Jawad describes the “reform years” (2004-2010) and the ruses that both Gaddafi and his sons engaged in, to, as she puts it, beat external human rights auditors to the punch. She suggests Gaddafi and his sons likely had a good idea  before his brutal murder, that he (Gaddafi) had played his cards horribly wrong.

I would have liked to read more about what drew Jawad to Libya in the first place, how she felt about the changes underway from 2004-2010, (and to what degree she saw the revolution coming). Ms. Jawad has more material and insight to draw upon than any other journalist who has covered Libya, and Tripoli Witness offers only a taste of this. The book provides a series of primers on various aspects of Gaddafi’s screwed up universe, from the security services and lijan atthowriyya (Revolutionary Committees), to monumental projects such as the Great Man Made River — which was actually something of a white elephant, an a health hazard at that — and biographical sketches of the Gaddafi progeny.  She states Saif had his hands deeply in the mid-Feburary crackdown, but doesn’t provide much additional information on what might be true, and what was rumor.

Ms. Jawad devotes a very entertaining chapter to the Leader’s speech ritual, which Gaddafi forced diplomats and journalists alike to endure on a regular basis.  I recall vividly watching with admiration from the rafters, as she castigated one of Gaddafi’s security personnel in the middle of one of his interminable speeches, for confiscating her camera. The blogs themselves are very interesting, but seem a bit of an afterthought to the main part of the book, even though her experiences writing them are supposedly the focus of the book.

The book is available in print in the UK, and in e-book form via Amazon.



Benghazi Report

The results of an independent inquiry into the U.S. response to the Benghazi outpost attack were released yesterday.

A NYT article can be found HERE

…and a U.S State Department report can be downloaded HERE. [PDF]

“Al Hayat” Posits Tacit Government Support for Assassinations

An article published in the Pan Arab “Al Hayat” Nov. 24 describes a view current in Libya that the months-long series of murders of senior security officials, most of which remain unsolved, is a part of a ‘planned’ conspiracy by elements within the Libyan transitional administration to eliminate potential rivals– individuals in senior security-related roles, who also had some influence in the previous regime.

The killing by three unknown gunman on Nov 20th of Faraj Ad-darsi, director of security for Benghazi region, was estimated to be the 20th such assassination since the killing of former Rebel commander Abdel Fattah Younes, in Benghazi, in late July, 2011. At the same time, the article supposes that there are still many elements within the East with strong sympathies to the previous regime, who are themselves working to undermine stability. Just as there are militias, secular and Islamic, who perceive their interests best served by staving off centralized control and extension of the influence of the Libyan police and army.

Nov. 10 News Roundup

Five nominees to Libyan PM Ali Zidan’s cabinet requested to withdraw their nominations, pending an expected decision on their cases by an Integrity Committee regarding possible corruption or human rights abuses committed during the Gaddafi years. The existence and ‘non-transparency’ of this unelected commission has been the subject of strong internal debate.

The new government has proposed a series of laws circumscribing the conditions under which popular protests may be held — which is understandably causing strong concern re: the limits to free speech in the New Libya (after a period in which, others counter, there has been a bit ‘too much’ free speech).

61 Libyan Parliamentarians have put forth a formal request for the GNC HQ to be transferred to Al Beida in the East, formally for ‘security’ reasons, after several militia attacks on the GNC compound, and in the midst of a week that saw the worst militia fighting in Tripoli in many months.

Abdallah Senusssi (former Libyan head of intelligence, extradited back to Libya by the Mauritanian government), recently provided Libyan authorities the location of a villa containing the remains of two individuals, including Mansour Al Kikhia, one of the most prominent anti-Gaddafi dissidents, kidnapped in 1993 in Cairo. Another high-profile ‘missing’ case is that of Lebanese Shiite Imam Musa Al Sadr, who disappeared during a visit to Tripoli in 1978. Senussi denies involvement in the deaths of either individual (Asharq Al Awsat). The NTC handed over a body to Lebanese authorities in early Summer, 2012, asserting it was that of al Sadr. Lebanese authorities say DNA tests proved otherwise (al Arabiya).

The formal inquest into the death of former Rebel Commander Abdelfattah Younes has been postponed until February, in part due to questions as to whether or not Mustafa Abdeljalil, former NTC head, would appear in person to testify.

Libyan President Mohammed Al Megaryaf, claimed in a late August interview on the Al Jazeera program ‘bi la hudud’ (without borders) that it was a Gaddafi policy to infect political prisoners with HIV, and that Gaddafi was responsible for a drastic rise in the number of HIV cases since the late 90s.

More on “Blowback”

One of the main arguments I make in my recent book, Exit the Colonel, is that US-Libya negotiations in the early 2000s led, both indirectly and directly, to the consummation of a series of significant arms deals, mostly between Libya and the EU, which strengthened Gaddafi’s counter-insurgency/revolutionary capabilities, and likely increased both the duration and bloodiness of the resulting conflict. The US-Libya ‘deal’ on WMD occurred in 2003, the same year the UN lifted its arms embargo on Libya. In 2004, the EU lifted its arms embargo on Libya.

Andrew Feinstein, in The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, reports that between 2005 and 2009, EU countries exported “just over 835 m Euro (well over 1 billion USD)” in arms to Libya, with Italy accounting for 276 m Euro between 2006 and 2009, including helicopters allegedly used to attack rebels. According to this survey, France exported 210m Euro in arms, and the UK 119.35 m Euro. Between 2005 and 2009, Libya imported at least 100 m Euro in small guns, 85 m Euro in electronic equipment from the EU. Just before the Libyan revolution, the US was poised to join in, notably, with the sale of 50 armored personnel carriers to Libya. Other deals were allegedly in the works. Feinstein and Tanguy both provide extensive lists of post-2004 weapons sales by EU countries to Libya. South Africa, Belarus, Croatia, the Ukraine, and other states contributed significantly to Libya’s munitions and technology arsenal, and resulting “blowback”. Another detail-rich source is Harmattan: Récits et révélations, by French military correspondent Jean-Marc Tanguy (Nimrod, 2012), in which Tanguy documents sales of weapons, jamming systems and surveillance technology to Libya during the rapprochement period by European companies such as Thales, Amesys. “France contributed to the restocking of Libya, once the new respectability of the colonel was assured.”

The French magazine Diplomatie (No. 58, September-October, 2012) contains several interesting, related articles, one of which repeats Human Rights Watch/ US Department of State and UN Security Council estimates that Gaddafi had some 5,000-10,000 Soviet and Bulgarian made SAM 7 ground-to-air missiles just prior to the revolution (I have read estimates of up to 20,000 surface-t0-air missiles, some of Belgian manufacture– but with a significant fraction either inoperable or missing critical parts); 80,000 AK 47 automatic weapons (in the Sahel generally); 700-800 Milan anti-tank missiles (in Libya, pre Revolution). Libyan munitions have been documented to have moved South/West into Sudan, Niger, Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, Senegal, and East into Egypt and Syria– which appears to be the focus of increasing interest, to the extent the West may have been trying to get weapons out of the hands of Libyan rebels and into those of elements of the Syrian opposition.

Conspiracy, Inc.

Anti-adminstration pot-stirrers, continue to insinuate a White House coverup of an Al Qaeda-backed terror attack in Benghazi, for the purpose of deflecting public attention from its failure to beat back Islamist terror despite the killing of Osama Bin Laden (the Hoover Institute and FOX News have been outdoing themselves on this count). This is a highly disingenuous tack. If the Administration knew that the attack was not precipitated by a spontaneous mob linked to a video denigrating the Prophet — almost a full month before the election– what purpose would be served by perpetuating this story, given the fact that the truth could be expected to come out sooner, than later – as it has?

A far more likely explanation is that of bureaucratic confusion and mis-communication, against the backdrop of a highly chaotic situation. The briefing notes given UN Ambassador Susan Rice have now long been attributed to the CIA, the strength of whose presence in Benghazi at the compound and annex surprised many, including the Libyan transitional government (as reported by the New York Times the week of the 21st of September). One might also assume that given the very nature of the situation and the timing of the attack, the administration felt tremendous pressure to say ‘something’, and thus acted on what it believed was the best information available.

Information from the Arabic press (see post on Asharq Al Awsat Oct. 7 piece), and soon-to-be-published interviews with Libyans on the scene strongly suggest that the number of armed attackers is far fewer than previously reported (8-20 vs. ‘hundreds’), that these individuals were not extremely well informed of their targets/ the layout of the complex, and that the Ambassador and compounds’ security was quickly overwhelmed. Given the nature of communications between the various militias, and reports of ‘scaled down’ local protection in advance of the attack, American concerns regarding surveillance of the compound earlier in the day, etc., there would appear to be a strong possibility that Stevens walked into an ambush, and/or that Libyan security had been infiltrated.

The amalgamation of eyewitness reports suggests that the attack could have been foiled with a stronger defense posture [As I have argued elsewhere, the issue of security in ‘transitional’ diplomatic settings is one that has been present for many years, certainly long before Obama’s election, and for which there are responsible parties on both sides of the aisle]. All of this needs to be brought to light via formal investigations and inquiries, not haphazard and horribly irresponsible mud-slinging and second-guessing in the nth hour before a Presidential election.

It may (and will probably) take months if not longer to determine who exactly was behind the September 11 attack in Benghazi– bear in mind that the killers of former Rebel Commander Abdel Fattah Younes in late July, 2011 (also suspected of having “Islamist” links) have still not been identified, much less brought to justice.

One also cannot rule out the possibility that there may have been things going on in Benghazi which, for reasons of national security or other potentially legitimate reason, the administration is not ready to talk about – hence the paucity of information regarding what Ambassador Stevens was actually doing in Benghazi on September 11?

Not An Obama-Romney Issue

The October 10 Congressional hearings on the “Security Failings in Benghazi”, as haphazard and politicized as they they were, added further texture to the relative weight of different parties’ contributions to the success (or lack of failure) of the September 11 Benghazi attacks. Of course, full responsibility rests with the criminals who committed these acts. At the same time, as is clear, US government agencies have a separate responsibility to make sure that attacks, should they happen, do not succeed. The Libyans themselves bear responsibility for what happens to foreigners within their country.

The September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks and the subsequent recriminations about security resonate with me personally, not only for my physical proximity to them on that day, but because they reminded me of concerns for the safety of the Tripoli-based US diplomatic contingent back in 2004-2006. For close to two years, the mission was not ‘officially’ an embassy, but a Liaison Office, and was equipped commensurately. The acting assumption seemed to be– not wholly without logic– that the Gaddafi security apparatus was so pervasive as to make sure nothing happened to US diplomats. Yet there were many groups acting in Libya who would have been very happy to see the US-Libya rapprochement scuttled, at its most fragile points– foremost among them, the ‘Islamists’ Gaddafi referred to as “dogs and vermin”, as these were the enemies he could not kill, and who came very close to killing him. The risks to US personnel waxed and waned with the fortunes of the evolving US-Libya relationship, as Gaddafi may or may not have had a strong interest in making sure that foreign personnel were safe (or as safe as they could be)– just as the tactical calculations of those who most wished to see Gaddafi gone presumably also changed.

The US outpost in Benghazi, which the media has referred to as a ‘consulate’, but was not, seemed to suffer the same classification problem as did the liaison office. As has been pointed out by many a retired Ambassador, bureaucracies tend to be reactive, not proactive: it often takes an incident to engender a response – which may then be ‘overkill’: After an attack, whether failed or successful, as the history of American posts in Saudi Arabia and Yemen demonstrate, embassies go under lockdown; essential personnel are drawn down, and the remaining officers may spend years behind walls, unable to interact with the local population, before a countervailing assessment allows for a standing down. This, too, is an ineffective response. If Embassy personnel cannot go out and interact with the local community, they might as well be back in Washington reading the papers.

I raise the issue of security in Tripoli c. early 2000s, to suggest that, at least as far as Libya is concerned, security is not strictly a function of what party is in the White House, or how many dollars DOD has at its disposal. One of the reasons Libya never received much attention –in recent memory– is that there were always more pressing, more expensive, more dangerous places. When Libya finally became ‘important’, the security mentality seemed to be stuck back in a different age.