Libya: a liberal war, or just a commercial one?

Tim Stanley, writing today in the Telegraph, claims that American intervention in Libya constitutes a liberal war, essentially on the basis that it’s apparently motivated by a desire to free the populace rather than a desire to enslave them. Well, OK, ‘free’ them to pursue the tenets of Western liberal democracy. Nonetheless, he draws a distinction between the neoconservative agenda that took the US into Iraq and Afghanistan, and the motivation behind the country’s presence in Libya. While there’s probably some truth in this, it seems to us that he neglects the commercial aspect of war, which could be said to unite all three conflicts.

Naomi Klein, in her brilliant and excoriating The Shock Doctrine, details the extent to which vast corporations such as Blackwater and Halliburton have profited from the military presence in Iraq, in particular. Forget the moral justifications for war, it’s a great way of opening up new markets.

The question is, will the conflict in Libya, and the subsequent process of establishing a new government that now looks likely to ensue, prove in the end to be borne of ideology, or simply commercial interest? Neoconservatism or liberalism, will either of them prove to be stronger than the naked forces of financial interest?

It’s too early to tell yet. Obama, along with David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, is very much presenting the perspective that the removal of Gaddafi is for the good of all. And, of course, it could be. Once he’s thoroughly out of the way, though, we’ll soon have an opportunity to determine whether that’s true. We hope so. But remember, war’s too big to fail.

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