Let’s start this post on the “international effort” to disarm Libya’s militias with the last sentence of the columbiatribune.com article. “The problem is, young Libyans in militias have no incentive to hand over their weapons, which are their only source of security.” So what’s the problem? If the guns are a source of security what’s wrong with having guns? For the [supposed] answer to that question, we return the article’s beginning . . .
Libya, where hundreds of militias hold sway and the central government is virtually powerless, is awash in millions of weapons with no control over their trafficking. The arms free-for-all fuels not only Libya’s instability but also stokes conflicts around the region as guns are smuggled through the country’s wide-open borders to militants fighting in insurgencies and wars stretching from Syria to West Africa.
Ah yes. Whatever happened to the good old days, when Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi ruled the African nation with an iron fist, making sure his government and its allies were armed to the teeth and the populace was not? When the Mukhabarat el-Jamahiriya (secret police) murdered dissidents and other enemies of the regime both inside country and out (e.g. Pan Am Flight 103 and UTA Flight 772).
It seems the international community can’t have its Arab Spring and eat it too. Western nations are upset that Libya has “descended” into a farrago of factions, each with their own armed militia. Russia? Maybe not so much . . .
The lack of control is at times stunning. Last month, militia fighters stole a planeload of weapons sent by Russia for Libya’s military when it stopped to refuel at Tripoli International Airport on route to a base in the south. The fighters surrounded the plane on the tarmac and looted the shipment of automatic weapons and ammunition, Hashim Bishr, an official with a Tripoli security body under the Interior Ministry, told The Associated Press.
In a further indignity, the fighters belonged to a militia officially assigned by the government to protect the airport, since regular forces are too weak to do it.
I wonder if the militia that stole the planeload of Russian weapons is U.S. backed? (Heads-up: Cold War 2.0 is breaking out all over.) In any case, I suspect that all this agonizing over the “flood” of weapons into Libya is political posturing. The market’s worth billions and that much-feared “instability” hasn’t made headlines since Obamas’ Boyz watched terrorists murder Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three fellow Americans. Then again . . .
The weapons chaos has alarmed Europe — just a short distance across the Mediterranean — and the United States. At a conference in Rome this month, Western and Arab diplomats, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, pressed Libyan officials to reach some political consensus so the international community can help the government collect weapons and rebuild the military and police.
The problem is that Europe and the United States simply don’t know who to talk to in Libya, a Western diplomat in Tripoli told the AP. “It’s about whether they are capable of receiving the help,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity to talk about the discussions at the conference. He pointed to an international effort to build storage houses in which to collect weapons in the western Libyan town of Gharyan. That project has stumbled, he said, because of the problem of determining “who is in charge and whom we work with.”
Not to mention the obvious fact that no one wants to turn in their weapons.
Several officials told the AP that the government does not know how many weapons there are in Libya, a country of 6 million people. Saleh Jaweida, a lawmaker on parliament’s National Security Committee, said that all figures are speculation but that a plausible estimate is between 10 million to 15 million light weapons — up to an assault rifle — and not counting heavier caliber weapons or armor.
Many of the arms came from the arsenals of the Gadhafi-era military and police, which were looted during the civil war and after the collapse of his rule. Another source is the large amount of weapons shipped to the rebels during the eight-month uprising, largely from Gulf Arab nations.
The hundreds of militias around the country absorb as many weapons as they can because no group knows how well armed rival groups are, creating a climate of “mutual fear,” Bishr said. There is also a strong domestic market for weapons among the public for personal protection. Nearly every household is believed to have at least one gun, but usually it’s several.
Sounds to me like “the Arab spring” in Libya’s proceeding well enough. Well, except for . . .
A 97-page report released in March by United Nations Panel of Experts said weapons that originated in Libya were found in 14 countries, often reaching militant groups. The report said smuggling is mainly from Libyan militias’ arsenals. Sophisticated man-portable, ground-to-air missile systems, known as MANPADS, have reached four conflict zones, including Chad and Mali. “Fears that terrorist groups would acquire these weapons have materialized,” the report said . . .
Zuhair al-Ugli, the head of communications for the Warrior Affairs Agency, said there is no mechanism for dealing with the tide of guns.
“The state is paralyzed in collecting the weapons,” he said.
The state is paralyzed! Around these parts we call it gridlock and say Washington’s broken. (I don’t but statists do.) I bet those who remember the state of the state under Gaddafi might think that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. So . . . now what? Now we find allies to fight the bad guys, even if they’re bad guys too, and who knows because you can’t tell the players without a scorecard and there are no scorecards in the that part of the world – only scores to settle and money to be made.
And thank God for that last part. As always the universal desire to make money – and our country’s expertise in that regard – is America’s best hope for influence in that part of the world. Support your friendly neighborhood arms dealer, I say. What say you?