Soon after the pronouncements of the Arab Spring a strange flower began to spring out of the cold, hard soil of Western media:
Opinion pieces and analysis highlighted the weaknesses and strengths of the Arab Revolution, suggesting that a main factor in whether or not the revolutionaries were succesful was the willingness of the authorities to clamp down hard on opposition.
The timing was not too conspicuous, and for Western media such a fairly laid back Machiavellian structural analysis is not unusual. In many cases pundits and strategic analysist enchanted by their own powers of perception probably merely acted instinctively, intuitively, to what in the language of commerce is known as demand.
In the sphere of globalized politics such analysis is, however, automatic transference of intelligence - knowledge about the basic principles of governance, and the breaking point of autocracy which can be calculated from them.
Theoretical knowledge of politicial science would be a part of the intellectual skill set of most administrations, you might argue. Well, the number of articles spinning this angle in Europe and America were significant, and the strangely detached manner in which the virtues and effects of the Arab Revolution was assessed also gave the impression of bemused Western spectators offering tips to dictators.
Another piece of intelligence conveyed through such communications, planned or random, is about the emotional climate of the culture in which they are published. It is common knowledge in diplomatic circles that virtually all embassies have staff following and clipping news material containing mentions of the country they represent.
If you communicate in the mass media on subjects relating to a foreign nation, you are effectively conducting diplomacy.1) The signal from the West has been one of enthusiasm and hope mixed with scepticism or down right disappointment in the accomplishments of the protesters.
1) That is an essential part of the geopolitical dynamic in the globalized information society, as I described it in Cultural Codependency as a Grand Narrative.
Why Libya Became Expedient
Noam Chomsky has recently accused Western powers of being willing to do everything in their power to prevent democracy in the Arab world.
The reasons are obvious to most: Good relations with dictatorial powers secure access to the oil that fuels the Western apparatus. Israel, the closest US ally in the region, will be put under increased pressure by a foreseeable anti-Zionist representation in legal democratic governments surrounding her.
The way it is carried out is subtle, but not so subtle it cannot be detected. Take the special nature of the UN mandate to engage in Libya. It was forced through with considerable speed - the fastest consensus for a humanitarian intervention in the history of intervention.
The "downside" was that it didn't give the US and NATO forces free hands to put soldiers on the ground, which are essential to the succesful end of the campaign.
Instead of pursuing regime change NATO changed strategy and began repeated bombardments of the Libyan headquarter, denying it was an attempt to assassinate Qadaffi, but killing Qadaffi's son and three grandchildren.
You may wonder why Qadaffi is so important in this game. Why is Libya singled out? Why do US forces train and reinforce the Yemeni clamp-down on protesters, which is also supported from Saudi Arabia. Why does the West merely protest the Syrian clamp-down in spite of a death toll nearing 600?
Well, the death toll in Libya was ten times as much, around 6000, when UN gave permission to Western powers to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya.
Another vital reason for the Libyan intervention, one often cited in European debates, was the proximity of Libya to Europe and the risk of swarms of refugees - a problem Europe is notoriously allergic to.
But there is a third reason hiding in plain sight: Libya was what is, in military doctrine, called an unexpected opportunity.
Assassination As Legitimate Measure
Most of the arguments, even the sinister ones based on realpolitik, seem like fairly valid, fairly realistic reasoning, until you begin pondering why NATO is trying to take out Qadaffi.
The answer to many would be: That would end the dictatorship and represent a formal victory for the rebel forces, and a technical success for USA and NATO.
If that is the case, and it doesn't mean something entirely different and more sinister - something that may not strike you, before you factor in US imperialist interest, but once you do, gives you a grander and also more accurate perspective. It gives you back missing pieces to the plot.
The assassination attempts on Qadaffi coincide with the release of the news that Osama bin Laden has been killed by US Forces, an act which has been widely cheered and widely condemned as an extrajudicial execution setting a dangerous precedent.
The risk is not just corruption of US foreing politics but also that of copycats, whether they be Israel or, for that matter, other regimes in the Middle East and beyond. Now you can just send your special forces out and kill whoever you find problematic.
It's with 90 percent certainty what NATO is attempting in Libya with US backing. It is with 90 percent certainty one of the options that were presented in the situation room prior to engagement.
It doesn't make sense to think it was not brought up and thoroughly discussed, like in any other military operation or, for that matter, company venture. It's just one of those things you can do, but you can't do it within the UN Mandate, and you can't do it without raising suspicion.
There's a risk to it. Still, it has been deemed necessary for a variety of reasons, most obviously the need for US-NATO to chalk up a win, and less obviously because it effectively freezes the Arab Spring.
When Conspiracy Outweighs Incompetence Theory
Again, some would say that it is counter-intuitive: Wouldn't dictators be shivering in their shoes, hearing about how near NATO got to blowing Qadaffi to pieces?
One of the things such an assasination does is to send the signal to those who are not free to openly assassinate enemies or invade countries to harvest ressources - anyone outside the axis represented by USA, EU and Israel. It sends the message that their heads rest uneasily on their shoulders.
Psychologically, if not in reality, it removes the option to negotiate with protesters, which is actually the most viable form of action and the course of the Arab Revolution until Libya exploded into civil war. That wasn't the doing of the Western powers, but what happens from then takes us right back into the nation building mode of USA under two consecutive Bush administrations.
It makes the Arab Revolution, to some extent, and most importantly in the mind of the rulers of the Arab nations, a Western project, hostile to the local interests.
And locally, wherever US economic and strategic interests in dictatorship outweighs the publicity gains from supporting a democratic movement, US waves the carrot as highly as they do the stick elsewhere: They'll send you funds, and they'll send you military backup, if you do their bidding.
That's not conspiracy, that's stated policy. So, you got USA working the usual "divide and conquer" angle.
Some people say that when you are faced with a choice between incompetence and conspiracy, generally go with incompetence. It would actually be soothing to assume USA and NATO aren't aware of the scope when adopting the Arab Revolution as a neo-conservative or, rather, neo-liberal project.
It would be a safer world, if that was the case. It's just not realistic, and that's when conspiracy begins to outweigh incompetence theory.
The Interests at Stake: Israel and Oil
Some level of ignorance is likely at play, but let's not underestimate the swarm intelligence of Western powers. They act out of instinct, to some degree, but they are also fully aware of what is at stake and the deal or ordeal they may face at the end of it all, when Arab Spring turns into Summer as it must:
Not only may it become more difficult to regulate oil production, availability and price, but in a "best case scenario" for the Arab revolutionaries, OPEC would effectively control the oil weapon, which hasn't been applied since the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
Not only would Israel face massive anti-Zionism from new democratically elected governments, but the carefully laid out consensus about Israel's general right to exist as it prevailed in the Middle East prior to the Arab Revolution - with the exception of Iran and Syria - would be shattered.
That's decades of building up Washington consensus, huge investments in diplomacy as well as in armament of the dictatorships in question, lost in an instance.
It reveals an imperial structure based on dictatorial vassal states, one that the Western politicians quite remarkably have been swift to acknowledge publicly - something unthinkable just a couple of years ago.
They have taken responsibility for "their dictators". Now the challenge is to justify the oppression of an entire region, 20 or more countries, not as a matter of profit but for the sake of stability, invoking Hobbes' famous thesis that anarchy is worse than dictatorship, because it entails civil war.
Israel's interests is a little help, even if you can't reasonably argue in favor of the oppression of over 1 billion people just to protect what is effectively a European colonialist project.
The West Posing as Liberator
What's happening here, by any definition, is a Western attempt to regain initiative and take control of the Arab Revolution. Legitimate or not, possible or not, that's what is happening.
What takes place by extention is that the West begins to dictate the terms of democracy, whether or not the revolution qualifies, and whether or not the democracies are sustainable, and so on and so forth. The Western political leaders don't have to incite that - the media and the populations, accustomed to imperial speculations, will take care of it.
The interests of Westerners in oppressed regions is, by definition, imperialist. The perspective is always that things can be accomplished using legislative weapons, economic weapons or military instruments. It is always technical, detached and first and foremost beholden to the upholding of specific Western interests.
There may be outliers, but the honest observers are outliers, simply because politics is interest-driven, and to be honest you have to not be.
So, it is not a mystery or a conspiracy as such that lies behind the multi-tiered strategy to derail the Arab Revolution. It isn't even a formulated or acknowledged plan to derail it. Policies are all adopted under the guise of wanting to protect it, guide it, assist it.
The West is obligated to support these calls for democracy, since making democracy in the world has become the last justification for the Western hegemony. The West would like nothing more than to be able to pose as a liberator in a quick win after the stressful and costly and ineffective attempts at nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Libya is About Projecting Strength
In the corners Westerners are whispering about a new Pan-Arabic identity, perhaps a future superstate, about anti-Semitism, and about loss of control of the oil. They are talking about Islamism, infiltration by Al Qaeda and even historical Islamic imperialism.
The Western involvement in the Arab Revolution is an effective hi-jacking of an agenda, and the motive and the only conceivable outcome no matter what ideological background you view it from, is that USA and NATO acquire justification to point a very big gun at any leader in the world.
They can set him up and make him fall, framing him for whatever they like in the press, then using the public acceptance as a carte blanche for sanctions, bombing, assassination and invasion, whatever serves the purpose best at any given point in time, and for as much as it is politically possible.
That is what USA and NATO are communicating through their actions in Libya. It is, to some extent, a way of testing the ground when comes to a new approach to Western imperialism in the age of communication: What can be done? How far can we go? How far will people play along? What is the status of our power?
We've already seen that play out with Pakistan in the wake of the Abbottobad operation.
The death of Osama bin Laden was about projecting strength at a critical juncture. Washington and Pentagon mulled it over for months, years, before the action, and for a week after the hit, to evaluate how to approach it and what effects to expect.
The president stepped forth and spoke live to his nation, and to viewers all over the world. It was spectacle, drama, grand Roman theatre in an era short of bread.
Libya too is about projecting strength, establishing relevance and capacity to continue a variety of crazy, self-serving and short-term policies. It isn't irrational in itself, and you can't detect the causality yet, but once you take these calculations into the picture, you will begin to see that the Arab Revolutions from this point unravel or succeed at exactly the pace that fits the West.
That is the case in every other place than Egypt and Tunisia, where the Arab thirst for freedom has made a noticeable impact. USA is there, and she is not saying: We support the protesters. It is time to set the people free. Why, then, is she saying it in Libya?
That's what people should be wondering.
The Greater Stand-off
What comes next, after people have accepted Western intervention, is that they will be facing Western imperialism, unbridled and making very few rhetorical excuses.
All the issues are out in the open now, not least because of the Internet, because of WikiLeaks and because of how Facebook and Twitter have become instrumental to freedom movements.
Next it will be: Yes, it is about oil, and our economic interests, and it is about Israel. It is about "us" and "them". It is about accepting Western style democracy or no democracy at all, and Western style means subservient to Western interests.
Democracy? Freedom? Human rights? Those are far down on the list, when it comes to the Western agenda for the Arab and Persian freedom movements.