This one comes straight out of the Someone Left the Irony On Department. The US State Department scolded Egypt and the UAE for their “outside interference” in Libya after the two countries apparently partnered on air strikes against radical Islamist militias that are taking control of Tripoli. The air strikes surprised observers, but certainly not because of a lack of precedent:
The United States warned against “outside interference” in Libya on Monday amid reports that airstrikes against armed Islamists allegedly carried out by Egypt with help from the United Arab Emirates caught Washington by “surprise.” Unidentified fighter jets attacked targets in Libya over the weekend and on Aug. 18, residents and witnesses said, as the country was torn apart by the worst fighting since the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Reuters and The New York Times reported that U.S. officials believe the airstrikes were carried out from Egyptian bases using UAE warplanes. NBC News could not independently verify the reports.
When asked about the New York Times report, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “I’d certainly refer you to the governments of Libya, Egypt, and the UAE.” She added: “We believe outside interference in Libya exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya’s democratic transition.”
We’ll get to the irony in a moment, for those just tuning into the disaster of Western policy in Libya. The Washington Post notes that the US worries that Libya will become a battleground for a proxy war between Qatar and other Sunni Arab nations for control over the failed state:
U.S. officials have long been worried about a proxy war in Libya, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE backing more secular militias against Islamist forces supported by Qatar. The United States says Qatar is arming and funding Islamists in Libya.
During the weekend, Islamist militias blamed the airstrikes on Egypt and the UAE. That prompted a denial by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi. Egypt did not conduct strikes or other military operations in Libya, the state news agency MENA quoted Sissi as saying. The UAE government declined to comment.
After the first of the two air attacks in Libya, U.S. intelligence believed the claims of responsibility made by retired Libyan Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who is combating militia fighters. It was only after a second round of attacks, during the weekend, that intelligence officials began to focus on other actors.
The New York Times first reported on the strikes, which it said were carried out by Emirati planes from Egyptian air bases.
How did this possibility of a proxy war arise in the first place? The Obama administration led a NATO effort to decapitate the Moammar Qaddafi regime without putting any boots on the ground to shape the outcome and prevent the inevitable power vacuum from the collapse. That’s what makes American whining about “outside interference” so hypocritical, and the claim that Libya is undergoing a “democratic transition” utterly risible. Tripoli isn’t being liberated by democrats, but captured by radical Islamists who will impose another dictatorship on the ancient city.
That’s the outcome that Egypt and the UAE want to prevent, and that’s especially important to Egypt. Sisi’s military government has outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization of these radical terrorist networks, after Mohamed Morsi tried to impose a shari’a state on Egypt after an election. They want the secular militias to emerge as the controlling clique instead. That may not sound palatable to the Obama administration — but that’s precisely the outcome that the administration favored in Syria, and the strategy which it’s attempting to follow there now after the rise of ISIS.
To call this finger-wagging incoherent is an exercise in understatement. It’s difficult to know what “democratic transition” this administration believes is in process in Libya, because it exists only in their fantasy world where their foreign policy has enjoyed the entirety of its success.
My colleague at The Week, Michael Brandon Dougherty, blasts the R2P For We But Not For Thee mentality of the current White House, and possibly the next:
Nearly three years ago, then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waved a peace sign to cameras in Tripoli as she celebrated the U.S.-aided overthrow of the kleptocratic government of Moammar Gadhafi. Clinton claimed victory for her philosophy of “smart power,” the self-regarding name for bombing people on behalf of rebel groups in a war that would be cheap and easily forgotten.
That wasn’t long ago.
Today, Libya has two nominal governments that pretend to preside over an anarchic, stateless region that is being pillaged and harassed by terror gangs. One parliament, dominated by non-Islamists, meets in Tobruk, an eastern city 1,000 miles away from Tripoli. An Islamist-dominated parliament, previously elected, does meet in Tripoli, but is hardly in control there; Operation Dawn, an Islamist rebel group, seized control of Tripoli’s airport this week, setting the place ablaze. And Operation Dawn isn’t even the biggest “winner” on the ground; that honor would probably go to Ansar al-Shariah, another Islamic extremist group. Meanwhile, the country is also reportedly being bombarded by Egyptian and Emirati airstrikes, according to The New York Times, as the conflict goes regional. …
“Smart power” never existed. The phrase was nothing more than a two-news-cycles slogan of self-flattery for sophomoric Washingtonians trying to explain how much more human-rights-protecting and rational their bombs were than George W. Bush’s. A decent society would send these Responsibility to Protect advocates to march the streets of Tripoli with “smart power” written on their backs like a “Kick me” sign.
But Americans don’t care about how many gas fires we set so long as other people are inhaling the fumes. They will likely elect Madam Smart Power our next president. Every tin-pot nation that exists on the edge between order and chaos should live in fear of the legates she sends waving peace signs at cameras.
After the smart power, R2P interference of the US turned out so disastrously, the State Department shouldn’t be wagging their finger at anyone else, especially when they’re mirroring the policy we’re pursuing in Syria.