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German Imperialism to emerge the victor in Libya war

The serious tensions developing among the countries attacking Libya are enhancing Germany's future chances of influence on this North African country. Following rather frankly expressed annoyance on the part of Italy, France is also dropping out of war alliance and is surging ahead with negotiations with the Gadhafi clan. The fact that Paris is no longer insisting on Moammar al Gadhafi's total withdrawal, has provoked heavy protests not only in London but also in Washington. The British press sees a looming split in NATO on the question of Libya. These cracks in the war alliance are to Berlin's advantage. In the case of the rebels not being able to make a clean sweep in the near future, Berlin can hope to become, in the intermediate and long term, a lucrative mediator between Tripoli and Benghazi. Collateral benefits are also beckoning in Africa. Whereas the African Union is calling for a negotiated solution in Libya, Berlin is recommending itself as a power independent of the USA and a possible partner, even in conflict situations. It is wrong to believe “that we could never have our own opinion (…) [other] than the Americans,” explained Berlin's Africa Commissioner, immediately before the Chancellor set out on her trip to Africa, in the hopes of enhancing Germany's position on the African continent.

Cracks in the War Alliance

Recently tensions have been developing among the western states waging war on Libya. Norway announced back in June that it would end its participation in this war by August 1. Italy has also expressed its dissatisfaction. The Lega North, an Italian government coalition partner, had declared its opposition to the operation from the very beginning. Last week, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi complained, “I was, and am, against this intervention, which no one knows how it will end."[1] Now even France is breaking ranks with the war alliance, it had called into existence last March. Already last week, it was said that Paris has promised concessions to Moammar al Gadhafi, if he withdraws from power. It was said that a portion of the frozen bank accounts could be released. Gadhafi's son, Saif al Islam reports that Tripoli is now engaged in negotiations with Paris. The French government merely denies having direct contacts, but not that negotiations have taken place. As the French Defense Minister declared, the Sarkozy government no longer insists that Gadhafi leave the country. If he remains, then he will "simply be in another room of his palace and have another title,” explained Gérard Longuet.[2] This has provoked angry reactions in Washington and London. The British press carried the headlines warning, if France is no longer insisting on Gadhafi's complete withdrawal, "it is risking a split in NATO."[3]

The Utility of War Abstinence

The cracks in the anti-Libyan war alliance are of direct benefit to Germany. Germany had to repeatedly defend its controversial decision not to take part in combat operations. On various occasions, circles in Germany with close ties to the USA and supported by diverse media outlets were seeking to have the engagement of a German-EU battle group in the attack or at least to have supplies of German weapons and ammunition sent to the attacking NATO partners – without success. As in the war on Iraq, Berlin avoids a complete break with the western military alliance, maintains the presence of German officers in the military staff involved in waging the war, and pays its share of the costs of NATO's mission, recently paying approx. 3.7 million Euros.[4] And yet, in the future, Berlin can cash in on its war abstinence, if the mission fails to bomb the East Libyan rebels directly into the seat of power. According to war reports, this eventuality appears unlikely.[5]

The Profitable Moderator Role

Berlin can hope for benefits from Libya itself. As the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) analyzed, even in the case of Gadhafi's giving up power in Tripoli, the rebels' political representatives – the so-called Transitional National Council (TNC) – will not be able to take power directly. “Representatives of the northeast” are clearly “over-represented” in the “Transitional Council.” Therefore its “composition has to be radically changed.” This allows circles in Tripoli to regain influence, which would be inimical toward the French, British and US-led war front – offering an opportunity to Berlin. The SWP also writes that the, surely to be expected, power struggles will require “external mediation."[6] This should also provide Berlin an opportunity – as non-belligerent – to become a mediator. The chancellor has already concretely declared that Germany could participate, in the future, in the "establishment of institutions” and in police training.[7] Contracts are also being discussed for German companies to rebuild the Libyan electrical grid. In the competition for these contracts, it could prove extremely beneficial not to have completely broken with any of the civil war parties.

A Mature Nation

German war abstinence could provide additional advantages in the rest of Africa. The attack on Libya is very controversial on the continent. Whereas at least some heads of state would have preferred an intervention of the African Union, others strongly oppose any form of military intervention.[8] Just last week the German Chancellor received in Berlin the Chairman of the Commission of the African Union, Jean Ping. Libya was also discussed. The African Union, as a whole, has always called for “a political solution” to the conflict, explained Ping concerning the AU's position. Their position is that the political transition in Libya must be based “on a consensus."[9] Chancellor Angela Merkel pointed to the “common grounds” between the AU and Germany in pleading for a “political solution” to the conflict. Last week, the Chancellor's Africa Commissioner, Guenter Nooke (CDU), demonstrated how these "common grounds” could be converted into diplomatic benefits. In reference to Germany's abstention during the UN Security Council vote on Libya, he said that the abstention had "also been a sign of political maturity, to take for granted that we could never have our own opinion and a divergent approach than the Americans, would not actually correspond to a mature nation."[10] Nooke's statement was obviously aimed at enhancing Germany's image, as an African ally, just before the German Chancellor began her visit to three African countries yesterday.


Of course, the PR-effect of this type of dissociation from the USA has its limits. African nations are strongly criticizing the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, which Germany helped found and form. Already years ago, critics were warning that the ICC would serve as “an important judicial weapon” for the powerful states "when they decide to attack a weaker nation in the name of human rights."[11] After the recent experience, numerous African political personalities agree with this assessment. At the beginning of the month, AU Commission Chairman, Jean Ping, called on all AU member nations to disregard the ICC enacted arrest warrant issued against Moammar al Gadhafi. That court is only prosecuting crimes committed in Africa, Ping explained in light of the measures taken against the Sudanese president, several Kenyan politicians and now also Gadhafi, while all crimes committed by western states in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq are completely without consequences. Therefore, the effect of the ICC is not in the interests of justice but is "discriminatory."[12] With this statement, Ping and the African Union have placed themselves in open confrontation particularly with Berlin.

Please read also First Time going it Alone.

[1] “War und bin gegen Nato-Angriffe in Libyen”; 07.07.2011 [2] Gaddafi-Sohn spricht von Verhandlungen mit Paris; 11.07.2011 [3] Libya: France risks Nato split over call for Gaddafi talks; 11.07.2011 [4] Berlin zahlt 3,7 Millionen für Libyen-Einsatz; 03.07.2011 [5] Essen, schießen, warten; 10.07.2011 [6] Libyen nach Qaddafi: Wenig Einfluss für Externe; 29.06.2011 [7] Regierung prüft Beteiligung am Wiederaufbau; 08.06.2011 [8] Faut-il condamner Jean Ping? Jeune Afrique 2633, 26.06.2011 [9] Pressestatements von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel und dem Kommissionspräsidenten der Afrikanischen Union, Jean Ping, am 5. Juli 2011 in Berlin [10] Afrikabeauftragter: Deutsche Enthaltung zu Libyen war “auch Signal politischer Reife”; 10.07.2011 [11] see also “Auf brutale Weise die Herrschaft des Rechtes aus der Weltpolitik entfernen” [12] Afrikanische Union ignoriert Haftbefehl gegen Ghadhafi; 03.07.2011

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This document was last modified by Mick Carty on 2011-07-19 18:13:26.
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