Malpractice in the Mediterranean

 

I would assume one of the first things they teach in medical school is the ability to identify specific symptoms in patients that indicate the existence of an underlying health problem or illness. A fever, for instance, signals an infection; shooting pains up your left arm may suggest you’re having a heart attack. Granted, I am not a medical doctor. In fact, I am not a doctor of any kind. But if I ever entered my physician’s office with either of these symptoms and she merely prescribed a pain reliever, I would turn and run the other direction. Hopefully toward someone who knew the basics of medicine and the human body.

Libya is sick. And on 23 April, the European Council effectively wrote a prescription for ibuprofen. The absolute horror currently taking place in the Mediterranean- human beings packed onto a rickety boats like sardines in a can, trapped behind locked doors, drowning slowly as their last hope for a future escapes along with the last bit of air in their lungs- is symptomatic of the utter hell plaguing the failed state. A hell, bear in mind, that the West had a heavy hand in creating after the UNSC invoked the Responsibility to Protect, paving the way for military intervention and the subsequent ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.

The absolute horror currently taking place in the Mediterranean is symptomatic of the utter hell plaguing the failed state. A hell, bear in mind, that the West had a heavy hand in creating.

General Gaddafi, like so many throughout history, was a brutal dictator. Countless Libyans were killed, tortured, and raped throughout his 40-year reign. Human Rights Watch reported 233 people killed in the seven days prior to the commencement of NATO airstrikes. Those sorts of numbers, claimed the international community, could not, and would not, be tolerated. So we acknowledged the awesome responsibility to protect those being persecuted by their own government, and thank whatever-god-you-praise that we did! How could we have lived with ourselves knowing that so many Libyans were dying en masse?

Oh. Wait…

The UN, and especially the permanent members of the Security Council, invoked the Responsibility to Protect that we so self-righteously bestowed upon ourselves while seeming to forget that responsibility doesn’t end once the bad guy goes away. This doctrine would be more aptly called the Responsibility to Protect, Contribute an Unthinkable Amount of Money, and Stay However Long It Takes to Build a Functioning, Stable State doctrine, but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Because if all of those things don’t happen, utter chaos and agony ensue. And now we see that same violence spilling across borders and spreading throughout the Middle East/North African region like a cancer. ISIL has seized the opportunity to take hold in Libya where lawlessness is the status quo and every street corner looks like a set from a post-apocalyptic Hollywood blockbuster. It was déjà vu all over again, doomed to repeat the failures in Libya that we made in Iraq when foreign intervention, a government overthrow, and an appalling lack of post-conflict reconstruction propelled the country into a downward spiral. Thus is our legacy of foreign intervention in the region.

We were doomed to repeat the failures in Libya that we made in Iraq when foreign intervention, a government overthrow, and an appalling lack of post-conflict reconstruction propelled the country into a downward spiral. Thus is our legacy of foreign intervention in the region.

Yet Europeans, (Americans as well if geography weren’t an issue) claim that they are the ones in crisis. At an emergency summit, the European Council (the heads of state and government of the European Union) released a plan to stand united in solidarity and fight illegal immigration which built upon a previous ten point plan by the Joint Foreign and Home Affairs Council (comprised of ministers) to deal with this “immigration debacle” head on. Among the points are: bolstering the Triton and Poseidon programs, targeting and destroying smugglers’ boats, “engaging” with Libya and its neighbors, deploying Immigration Liaison Officers (ILO) to third party countries for “intelligence gathering,” and implementing a rapid return of “irregular” migrants. French President François Hollande has vowed to pursue a UN resolution granting the EU authority to destroy traffickers’ vessels; in other words, our idea is to blow up old fishing boats so that dying Africans can’t step onboard and onto European shores. Does that sound like an effective policy worthy of the greatest peace project the world has ever known? In reality, it sounds more like a never-ending, twisted game of Whack-A-Mole.

The European Union has given a hawkish answer to a humanitarian question. NATO and the UN fell embarrassingly short of their responsibilities after the intervention in Libya (just as the US did in Iraq) and now it appears to be confusing who the real aggressor is. By tackling this issue through defending its borders, the European Union is treating the symptoms and ignoring the highly contagious disease that threatens the entire region. With this type of diagnosis, I think Libya and its neighbors need a a new doctor.

 

 

Meghan O'Farrell


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