Muammar al Gaddafi was always a cynical, messianic, opportunistic despot. Despite that, precisely Sarkozy signed in 2007 an accord of cooperation with Gaddafi, and tried, until late 2010, to sell Libya French nuclear and military technology.
Fortunately for everybody, including the French soldiers attacking Libya today, the Tunisian rebellion succeeded rapidly in chasing the kleptocratic dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power, and showed other Arab peoples that they also could get rid of their oppressors.
Otherwise, Sarkozy might have committed the terrible gaffe of actually arming Gaddafi and giving him access to nuclear technology — in the face of the nuclear nightmare of Fukushima in Japan, the fortune of Libya still not having nuclear technology might be incommensurable.
Last January, when the Tunisian people stood up against Ben Ali, Sarkozy’s government didn’t have any other reflex but to offer the dictator police aid to *”pacify the country”*, as the former French foreign minister Michèle Alliot-Marie put it at the time.
Despite such blunder, Alliot-Marie remained in office — until it became clear that her family had close business relations with Ben Ali’s protégés. Only then she resigned — and was succeeded by Alain Juppé.
A tribunal once condemned Juppé to a temporary removal of his civil rights for his involvement in corruption affairs related to the illegal financing of the French conservative party RPR — the predecessor of Sarkozy’s party UMP: So much about values and morality.
When the Arab uprising against the dictators spread to Libya one month ago, the French government was the first to recognize the political advantage of opposing Gaddafi. Almost immediately, Sarkozy received in the Elysée Palace in Paris a delegation of the so-called Libyan National Council, which represents the armed opposition against the Gaddafi regime, very much as he had welcomed there Gaddafi three years ago. Sarkozy also recognized the council as the new legitimate Libyan government — it has remained the only one to do so.
While it may well be that Sarkozy is sincere about his sudden opposition to Gaddafi, it is more likely that his actions are driven by one single petty motive: His popularity at home touched this month an all time low — just at the beginning of a period of elections which will culminate with the presidential scrutiny in April 2012. Opinion polls suggest that Sarkozy has no chance of getting re-elected — worse still, his party could fall behind the neo-Fascist Front National party of Marine Le Pen.
Against this backdrop, it is easy to see that Sarkozy grasped the opportunity to flex the French military muscles against Libya, where his government has nothing to loose — and everything to gain, including easy access to the vast Libyan oil fields. That perspective would explain the enormous effort Sarkozy has put in searching for a French leadership of the international coalition against Gaddafi — the photo opportunities he has staged for himself and his closes aides, the disproportionate amount of military resources he has put in operation against Libya, and so on.
There is no doubt that the international military coalition has already established the no-fly zone the UN resolution 1973 called for one week ago. But the very fact that the strikes by the international military coalition continue, although they have already put the resolution into force, draw attention to the unclear political objectives of the mission.
Does the coalition aim at overthrowing Gaddafi? If so, it would be operating beyond international law, and most likely would lose Arab support it at first considered essential to avoid political setbacks.
But beyond the legality of the French, U.S. and British military intervention in Libya, other, more bothering questions arise about their claims that their actions are driven by the defense of moral values and human rights, when one sees the indifference with which they witness other international crises in Africa.
To stay in the Arab world — what do Paris, Washington and London do in the face of the brutal repression of demonstrations in Bahrain and Yemen? What has the French government done to impose legality in its former colony, the Côte d’Ivoire, where another cynical, ruthless dictator, Laurent Gbagbo, has been fomenting racial hatred and appears ready to sink the country in a civil war, with the only purpose of remaining in power? Nothing. Maybe because the Côte d’Ivoire is rich in cacao, but has no oil whatsoever?
The same can be said of those self-appointed world strategists and pseudo moral politicians, as the former German foreign minister Joseph Fischer, who complained about the alleged lack of values of the governments which refuse to follow the instincts of professional opportunists like himself. Fischer, who supports the international military intervention in Libya, pretends that after the Holocaust one cannot remain neutral in the face of political blood thirstiness, and has instead to crash dictators in the name of human rights.
However, Fischer never raised his voice or called for an international military intervention to defend Grozny or Tibet from ruthlessness and atrocities of Russia and China respectively. In this sense, the indignation of the likes of Nicolas Sarkozy and Joseph Fischer has quite limited geopolitical, and publicity aspirations — they only mess with military gnomes, and only if they are sure to make world headlines with it.
**By Julio Godoy**