Why in Libya, Americans are ‘Bringing Up the French Rear’ (Beijing Youth Daily, China)
After China abstained on U.N. authorization for a no-fly zone over Libya, this article from the state-controlled Beijing Youth Daily examines why, after decades of almost unilateral decision-making, Washington is letting France take the lead in operations against Muammar Qaddafi’s forces. Beijing academic Zhang Guoqing concludes that the unpopular President Sarkozy is hoping to demonstrate strength to ensure reelection, and President Obama wants to shield himself from another Iraq-style embarrassment.
For the Beijing Youth Daily, Zhang Guoqing writes in part:
Geopolitically and historically, Libya has genuine significance to France. Among the large Western countries, France is the closest in proximity to Libya and for many years of the last century until Libya declared its independence in 1951, the French controlled its southern region. Certainly, oil access is also in France’s interests. Today, French oil companies have invested billions in Libya, and if France supports the coming to power of Libya’s anti-government forces, it is likely to receive greater “energy dividends” when the war is over, which will have tremendous significance for both the development of the French energy sector and energy security alike.
Moreover, this will also help ease domestic conflict in France – at least Sarkozy thinks so. This also helps explain why he is so determined, even though U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the French president that the war risks significant bloodshed. He intends to pursue his interests even if that means climbing a mountain of swords.
In contrast, Canada and other countries are much more “neutral.” They’re concern is to burnish an image tied to humanitarian aid, even if ultimately Libyan civilians suffer great losses. The United States is even more selfish. On the one hand, America doesn’t want to fall behind on the “humanitarian” front, but neither does it want to charge in precipitously – which is precisely what France wants to do. On the other hand, Obama insists that the U.S. not dispatch ground troops, concerned as he is about reproducing the embarrassment of the Iraq War. And neither does the U.S. economic situation allow for a deep involvement.
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