Imposing Order through Violence

The Case of Libya

In Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution Francis A. Boyle tells the story of what happened, why it happened, and what went wrong between the United States and Libya from a perspective of a professor of international law. Among the U.S. Empire’s serving international law professors, Francis A. Boyle is an exception among American international law professors, because he offers his legal advice for government of states that are the victims of Western aggression. He has been opposing unlawful policies of states with his only available “weapon”: international law. He could be described as a defender of the downtrodden of the current international system such as the Palestinian people, Libya under Muammar al Gaddafi, and others. Beyond that, he has contributed a great deal to the advancement of international law by, inter alia, drafting the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989.

Since the early 1980s, Boyle visited Libya numerous times and advised the government on international legal cases. He convinced Gaddafi to sue the United States and the United Kingdom at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the Lockerbie bombing allegations. Before this lawsuit was filed, U.S. President Bush Sr. ordered the Sixth Fleet off the coast of Libya to carry out hostile maneuvers in preparation for another illegal attack as was done by his predecessor, Ronald Reagan. After Boyle filed these two lawsuits at the ICJ, Bush ordered U.S. warships to stand down. Boyle also tried to support Gaddafi during the U.S./NATO war of 2011 but to no avail. Gaddafi fought and died for Libya, defending his country against the West like his hero Omar Mukthar had done against the Italian colonizers.

Francis A. Boyle is a leading American expert in international law which he teaches at the University of Illinois, Campaign. He is also the author of numerous books on American foreign policy, international law and the foundations of the world order. He served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International and as an adviser to the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East peace negotiations from 1991 to 1993. This delegation was headed by the highly respected Dr. Haidar Abdel-Shafi.  Boyle was not responsible, however, for Yasser Arafat’s decision to secretly negotiate with Israel in Oslo behind the back of the Palestinian delegation. He bears thus no responsibility for the resulting “Declaration of Principles”, for which the Palestinian people have been paying since then a terrible price.

9780985335373In his book, Francis A. Boyle relates the history of U.S. foreign policy towards Libya, starting with the Reagan administration in 1981 till the U.S./NATO war that led to the overthrow of Col. Gaddafi. Before going into nuts and bolts, Boyle criticizes the American political establishment and explains why U.S. domestic and international policies are in a malaise. The reason, as stated by him, lies in the mindset of the American political and intellectual establishment which he believes is strongly influenced by Thomas Hobbes. Although he admits to differences between the views of American lawyers and those of political scientists, the author submits “that both groups essentially endorse [a] Hobbist perspective on the world of international relations and domestic affairs”. This commonly shared Hobbism “has become responsible for many of the major crimes, blunders, and tragedies of contemporary American foreign policy decision-making”. (p.19)

According to Boyle, Hobbesian power politics contradicts several of the most fundamental principles upon which the United States is apparently founded: the inalienable rights of the individual, peoples’ self-determination, the sovereign equality and independence of states, non-interventionism, respect of international law and organizations, and the peaceful settlement of international disputes. Although various U.S. administrations “tried to live up to these principles” the net result has been a “counterproductive creation of a series of unmitigated disasters” (p. 30) for the U.S. One of the greatest mistakes has been the subversion of the entire post-World War II international and legal order that the United States helped to construct in 1945. I think that the Bush warriors and the U.S. power elite do not believe that their policy was a disaster.

The author accuses in particular the Reagan and the Bush junior administrations’ policy of double standards. They often “resort to legalistic subterfuges by pleading principles of international law in order to disguise their realpolitik foreign policy decisions”. (p. 31) Although the rules of international law are not a blueprint for reaching all policy objectives, they can still serve as a guideline for decision-makers as to what they should do to avoid running into troubles, writes Boyle.

Boyle’s criticism of the American foreign policy towards Libya is based on his functionalist, Fullerian, and an anti-Hobbesian framework of analysis for international law and organizations. In two chapters, the author describes the series of conflicts between the U.S. and the Libyan leader over the Gulf of Sidra and the allegations of international terrorism made by the U.S. against Libya during the Reagan presidency. Chapter four contains a description of the Lockerbie bombing allegations and the legal dispute by the U.S. and the United Kingdom against Libya as a result. The policies of the subsequent U.S. administrations, beginning with Bush senior, Clinton to Bush junior, which aimed at the control of the Libyan oil fields, writes Boyle.

In 2011, according to Boyle, the neoliberal Obama administration took over Libya’s oil fields under the pretext of the so-called Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, illustrating its fraudulent manipulation of international humanitarian law. He debunks not only R2P but also its predecessor “humanitarian intervention” (Serbia) with the standard criteria of international law as an excuse to overthrow unpopular governments in order to replace them with imported U.S. puppets like in Afghanistan or in Kosovo. He argues that all the wars started under a humanitarian pretext resulted in humanitarian catastrophes.

The author doubts whether the U.S. and NATO will be able to establish a puppet regime in Libya because of “significant residual support for Gaddafi and his Green Revolution” and of the highly volatile political and military situation throughout the country as the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi has shown. “All the U.S./NATO really care about in Libya is its continued free flow of oil from Eastern Libya organized around Benghazi.” (p.155) The rest of the country can disintegrate into the Sahara as far as the U.S./NATO is concerned. According to Boyle, Obama uses the R2P doctrine in order to destabilize Syria and overthrow the Assad Family regime.

Boyle even goes so far as claiming that R2P has been used by powerful Western countries to justify wanton military aggression and military occupation of weak countries in the South. This schema is based on racism because the aggression was carried out by “white” people from the North against “colored” people from the South. History teaches us indeed that great powers do not use military force for humanitarian reasons. The U.S. and its major allies have been behind most of the humanitarian atrocities in the modern world. (p. 156) Humanitarian interventionism is only used in a mere “propagandistic sense”. (p. 159)

The World Court has already rejected R2P/Humanitarian Intervention twice and so did the UN General assembly. Western powers claimed “that there existed supposed principles of customary international law that permitted them to engage in the unilateral threat and use of military force against other states, peoples, and regions of the world. In particular, these alleged ‘principles’ included the so-called doctrines of intervention, protection, and self-help.” (p. 161) These supposed doctrines (R2P/Humanitarian Intervention) were unanimously rejected by the International Court of Justice. The author counters R2P with the rule of law. This doctrine is for him nothing more than “imperialist propaganda for wars of aggression in the name of human rights”. (p. 166) For Boyle, the U.S. and NATO form “the Axis of Genocide”. In this chapter, Boyle gave a damning indictment of the R2P doctrine. Some human rights organizations around the world should rethink their policy of being cheerleaders of a doctrine that serves not the people but only Western neo-imperialism.

A detailed analysis on the 2011 U.S./NATO war on Libya is given in chapter six. Since 9/11 the U.S. and its allies in Europe and the Middle East have engaged in “unlimited imperialism” and a “global warfare” against Arab, Muslim and African states in order to steal their hydrocarbon resources. (p. 176) “Libya 2011 was a Nuremberg crime against peace perpetrated by the United States, France and Britain that was aided and abetted and facilitated by the NATO Alliance and its other member states.” (p. 185) Accomplice in this international crime was the Arab League.

The book is a scathing critic of modern Western imperialist policy, especially in its Islamophobic and racist version against the Muslim world that might constitute the only force that has the potential to defeat Western unlimited imperialism.

Dr. Ludwig Watzal works as a journalist and editor in Bonn, Germany. He runs the bilingual blog Between the lines. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Ludwig.