Huffpost WorldPost
Bernard-Henri Lévy Headshot

Libya: Monsieur de Norpois Is Back

Posted: Updated:

Ah yes. This war began less than a month ago, and already the Norpois, the leaden-footed proponents of salon diplomacy, well-versed in Munich-speak, have raised their heads again and, once over their initial astonishment, have taken up their favourite refrain: what are we doing, involved in this business?

First of all, war aims. The "true" aims of this war. And what if the allies had a "secret agenda" and, in particular, "oil". The imbeciles! The too-clever-for-their-own-good who, eternally seeking the hidden side of things, ultimately fail to see what is right there under their own eyes! Namely, that, oil for oil, there was one simple means to ensure control over Libyan oil, and that means was to touch nothing, to change nothing, and to go on dealing with Gaddafi, as they have for decades. Sarkozy, Cameron, Obama may be capable, like all politicians, of all the cynicism one likes. But concerning this affair, why not have the elementary honesty to recognize their share of sincerity?

Then, the length of this war. The way it has of "getting stuck" in the sands of the Libyan desert, when we had hoped it would be short and sweet. Once again, grotesque. Unutterable bad faith. For--quite apart from the fact that four weeks is nothing compared to the decade of the Afghan war or the ten weeks of that of Kosovo--there is a reason, only one, that operations are lasting beyond the successful rescue of Benghazi. And this reason is the strategy of a Gaddafi who has hunkered down in the bunkers of his other cities, turning their inhabitants into human shields. At that point, there are two strategies possible. Either blow up the crowd, in which case, yes, things will go swiftly (and it's no surprise to see the butcher of Chechnya, Vladimir Putin, in the front ranks of those who think things are dragging on). Or else look out for the lives of civilians, not losing sight of the fact that the international community has provided a mandate to protect them, the civilians, and that it will take the time it will take. (To deny that, one must be drugged on quick solutions, drunk with the urge for immediacy, or, worse, irresponsible.)

Third, the "amateurism" of the insurgents. Their supposed habit of "skedaddling like rabbits" when they are shelled from a distance of 10 kms and have only RPG7s whose range is limited to 200 metres to oppose the tanks and the canons. We were willing to come to their aid. Correction: to the aid of the victory. But from there to saving them, perhaps arming them, from there to allowing the necessary time for these teachers, engineers, taxi drivers, students, and simple merchants to organize themselves into an army, there's a step our armchair strategists refuse to take. Indigent bastards!, they say. Good for nothings! Short hitters! This is what we are fighting for? For these beggars who, for the moment, have no other arms than their enthusiasm and their courage? We're just short of regretting they lack the professionalism, the skill, the spirit of resistance (and yes, I've heard it said) of Gaddafi's mercenaries.

Fourth objection, the National Council of Transition. After all, what do we know of this Council of "nebulous" outlines? And wasn't France jumping the gun a bit in recognizing it? There again, it takes a lot of nerve to think so. And there's something profoundly perverse in this way of depicting who knows what occult power--an Angkar as in Cambodia, the black box of a Libya not as free as it professes to be--and in this way of spreading doubt and insinuating, in reality, the worst. For the members of the Council are well known. Their biographies are transparent. They are either those who have earned a price on their heads in Tripoli for rallying to the cause, whose respective political itineraries are known to all, or men who are new but who speak to whomever openly. But it's true that, to set this supposed mystery to rest, one must take the trouble to go to Benghazi....

And then, Al-Qaeda. Ah ! Al-Qaeda. On the pretext that, among the foreign jihadis who once left to fight in Iraq were a small majority of Libyans, one concludes that there would be a majority of jihadis at the heart of today's Free Libya. The sophism, in this case, is not only perverse, it is despicable. And it's the same abjectness, by the way, that, fifteen years ago at Sarajevo, inferred the probable birth of a fundamentalist State in the heart of Europe--and therefore the necessity to let Bosnia in its entirety die--from the presence of a handful of Iranians in the 7th corps of the Bosnian army. In this case, the truth is simple. It is possible that a few jihadis have infiltrated Derna or Benghazi. It is probably a rule that such sleeper agents profit from the chaos of war to reinforce their position. But it is a lie, accredited for the time being only by hazy statements backed by a Gaddafism which is in dire straits and fresh out of arguments, that they have a significant role in the ranks of the insurgents.

I would add that the best way of delivering Libya into the hands of chaos would be to abandon in mid-river those we have encouraged to ford it, giving in, at the last minute, to the sirens who would convince us to save what can be saved of the Gaddafi regime. He, really, is not only a butcher of civilians, a patent hater of the West and of democratic values, the declared enemy of the Arab--and, tomorrow, the African--spring, but a world class champion, all categories included, of terrorism. More than ever, this man should beat it.