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April 11, 2011

Libya: A New Kosovo???

The intervention in Libya is increasingly complicated and it is also highlighting European divisions, not just on military and foreign policy (nothing new) but also on Schengen. The Schengen Treaty is naked, unable to decide who should host the couple of thousands of boat people and insisting that they should be sent off: a few hundreds have already died, and the Italian government is even threatening to leave the EU - as if Italy had ever done anything for a European policy on refugees, especially when it was Germany, still under Kohl, to propose to 'share the burden' (horrible wording).

But while the issue is very complex, an argument keeps being made that leaves me astonished: a supposed 'succesful precedent' of Kosovo, 1999. Succesful precedent? Kosovo?? Two months of bombing and a huge wave of refugees (after, not before the bombing started), a failed state based on ethnic cleansing, and an enduring military and civil engagement, with no prospect of end in sight. The majority of the UN countries - including, for obvious local reasons, the Spain where I am right now - still does not recognise Kosovo, and the failure of the EU Mission was well described on the Guardian website, a couple of days ago, by a friend who knows the place well.

Describing Kosovo as a success of 'humanitarian intervention is not just setting the benchmark for success extremely low, but it is also dihonest: the intervention is described as a quick, painless solution - shouldn't governments be explicit, then, on the risk of really repeating Kosovo, that is of a military and civilian intervention protracting for another twelve years or more?

Celebrating the bombing of Libya 100 years earlier

Of course the situations are so different that comparing them or talking of precedents is nearly meaningless. On the positive, on Libya there is at least a UN Resolution and a facade of legality. It is an unusual issue displacing traditional war or peace divides: most pacifists are either silent or supportive of the intervention, while to oppose it there are, besides the inconclusive Germans, the racists of the Italian Northern League, who would also like to withdraw Italian troups from Lebanon - the only undisputably positive peace-keeping mission around the world.

Last week I was, as an old Pink Floyd fan, at Roger Waters' The Wall concert in Milan. The concert, by an artist who is an orphan of war, has a very strong antimilitaristic message, which goes down well with the public. The strongest cheers, beside for the initial poignant "Mother loves you baby - dad loves you too" and a strong "No" to "Mother should I trust the government?" were indeed for "BRING THE BOYS BACK HOME" but none, least of all Waters, seemed to mean from the Libyan skies. Even in Italy, which exactly 100 years ago bombed Libya (first ever plane bombing - if of course ineffective...) and, after a year of war, occupied it in a very unpleasant precedent glorified only by protoFascist futurist poets. Let's hope that Libya does not repeat Kosovo - and does not repeat Libya.

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