Rule Britannia in the Age of the G-zero
Watching David Cameron on Libya is like watching a very desperate man. It is no coincidence that in the shadow of the Davos meeting we have Britain chomping at the bit for military intervention in Libya, a meeting where the words of American economists were finally heard by the west. There was no longer a G20 led by the US as global policeman, it was argued, there was a G-zero, where heads of state sat divided in their aspirations, as the oil and food prices fluctuate - a movement that was underscored by the protests over food, unemployment, human rights and democracy in the Arab world. While China stood its ground on not wanting to appreciate the yuan fast enough, the global economic recession had demonstrated the fragility of an economy that has been led by the west in a post-war economic boom. In the face of economists predicting a rise in the Chinese and Indian economies due to the west outsourcing their production, eagle-eyed Cameron saw an opportunity to tussle for the US' role.
The rednecks are getting used to being massaged by Cameron's right hand. This is, after all, a Prime Minister who declared only a week ago that multiculturalism has failed in Britain, and would be replaced by a "more active, muscular liberalism" that only the Iron Man himself could provide. This movement mirrors a rise in racist nationalisms that is occurring across many western and European nations. In the US, we clearly have a rise of racist nationalism occurring. Take Glenn Beck's march on Washington claiming racism against whites for example, the Klu Klux Klan-type rallies that have been lead by Republicans in Orange County calling for the removal of all Muslim/terrorists (as if the two can be conflated) and the Congressional hearings into whether all Muslims have done enough to prevent terrorism. (One might ask the question conversely - have all whites done enough to stop the rise of xenophobic nationalism?.) In Germany we have Chancellor Angela Merkel's claim that multiculturalism is no longer working. Similarly in France, an internet poll this week found Marine Le Pen would lead in an election, the face of the National Front. In this environment, Cameron has clearly identified a loophole for boosting his popularity by acting like a candidate for the BNP.
Such moves spell imminent danger for the people of Libya, as Cameron sees the country as a strategic target in quelling dissent across the region and helping to uphold a skewed oil economy where the only people that benefit are the buyers. It is no coincidence that we are beginning to see the events in Libya increasingly positioned as a civil war. It is clear from journalists' reports that the military hardware between the two groups is unequal, and the protesters are facing immense odds. Such discourses of civil war should be noted with concern: in shifting the focus to the protesters as violent, they effectively pave the way for intervention in a way that does not contribute to the stability or good of Libyans, but the stability of oil trade for the west.
As Seumas Milne highlights, Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa, making it a strategic jewel for securing the flow of the black gold to the west. The list of academics, institutions (including the London School of Economics), companies and politicians that have been sent scrambling over the revelation of their close economic relationships with the narcissistic psychopath Gaddafi over the last couple of weeks should come as no surprise. We should be extremely concerned that in the face of international UN pressure, somehow there are 100 of Gaddafi's secret police being trained in Britain in 'advanced techniques'. Also that they have their SAS being caught out by protesters engaging in what was termed a secret 'diplomatic mission', with the reason for the absence of diplomacy covered with the flimsy excuse of getting their 'communication kit' stolen. While many commentators have positioned Cameron's stance on Libya as so insane that it must be all talk and no substance, it is clear that behind the scenes there are movements we need to be watching. In the post-Egyptian world, Cameron is positioning himself as the new Bush.