April 13, 2017
News has it that White House foreign policy aides are toying with the idea of partitioning Libya in three, roughly copying the Ottoman Empire’s former administrative entities in the region. As the “America First” political philosophy seems to have lost its appeal for the Trump team’s policymakers, there is now a flurry of initiatives on the foreign policy front. Needless to say, most such initiatives are misguided and, according to French and American experts, the grand strategy is not even decided upon in Washington, but in Israel.
The idea of partitioning Libya is yet another example of an amateurish approach to international relations which does not bode well, either for Libya or for its neighbour across the Mediterranean, the EU.
It would be useful at this point to remind readers that for at least 50 years before the September 11 attack, North Africa’s Maghreb had been the special responsibility of European powers, especially France, whereas the problems of the Middle East had for obvious reasons, for better or for worse, been handled by the United States. Since the start of GW. Bush’s “war on terror” however, the Americans have decided to enlarge their footprint in the Arab world. Consequently, a new strategic region was created to that end, commonly known as MENA (Middle East + North Africa). The Pentagon’s Africa command started to interfere in the way Maghreb countries were being run, the plan to partition Libya being only the culmination of such meddling.
European foreign policy experts and political representatives should, however, insist on adopting statecraft solutions for Tunisia, Libya and Algeria that are consistent with the region’s past and options for the future without any interference from America’s foreign policy operatives or from the Pentagon. Failing that, this region of the Arab world which has been reasonably peaceful until recently risks being engulfed in the same intractable conflicts that have characterised American leadership in the Middle East.Florian Pantazi