14 September 2011 by Pelle Neroth
Although American logistical assistance has been essential, in the form of cruise missiles, killer drones, spy planes and money to bribe Gaddafi officials to defect, Europeans, long sneered at as hopeless Venusian creatures, flew maybe three quarters of the 7,000 plus bombing sorties
It's not only surprising that Europe is taking the lead, but the countries doing it. Denmark, which surrendered to Hitler without a fight in 1940, has turned out to be the most aggressive member of the alliance, flying more bomb sorties than the UK. Norway, home of the Nobel peace prize, topped the per capita list of bomb sorties. Pacificist little Belgium helped the UK, Italy, and especially France bulk out the European contribution under the NATO umbrella.
A lot of the technology used has also been European, from the Eurofighter Typhoons that have been flying their first combat missions for the Italian, British and Spanish air forces, to the trusty Tornadoes, also pan-European, doing the bombing.
In contrast, the ground war was not fought with West European technology. Rebel armed pickup trucks racing up and down the coastal road were the light cavalry of this conflict. Mounted Mad Max-style with Soviet-era helicopter rocket pods, antiquated anti aircraft guns and improvised welded armour, the pickups, or 'technicals" were made in Japan - or, more likely in China. This is important.
Technicals get their name from the civil wars in Somalia in the early 1990s. Banned from bringing in private security, western aid organisations hired local gunmen to protect their personnel, using money defined as "technical assistance grants".
Soon, the name "technical" came to mean any vehicle carrying irregular units of armed men. In those days the pickups were invariably Toyota HiLuxes, whose enormous ruggedness derived from the rigid steel frame construction with a high clearance that neither sand dune nor jungle could stop. Latterly, Toyota upgraded and complicated the HiLux out of rebels' reach, and Chinese manufacturers Greatwall, ZX, and Huanghai have filled the gap, mimicking the sturdy old basic Toyota designs and, cheap at $10,000, are now popular across Africa and Asia's conflict miasmas.
Technicals have not been the only Chinese presence in Libya. In a story that has largely been underreported in the western media, some 35,000 Chinese engineers and technical workers were working on some 180 infrastructure projects worth a huge $10bn, the biggest of China's many African involvements, when the crisis broke out. They were expertly evacuated in February to Beijing via Crete, the Chinese navy on guard. In Crete, they stayed cheaply in five star hotels, emptied by the Greek recession. Local Chinese communities turned up to translate and organise free phone cards.
The Chinese did cause some resentment. Little told has been the story of underemployment and boredom of restless young Libyans, squeezed from below by unskilled labour from Black Africa and from above by Chinese and Western engineers in an economy relatively wealthy and totally dependent on oil and where those locals in work tended to live relatively well in undemanding state non-oil sector jobs.
This could be one factor in the conflict. A report from the UN 's Relief Web in June 2011 found gloomily that "there is potential for young Libyan men to access some of these jobs, but the transition will not be an easy one - as one informant told us, the Libyans are only interested in driving their cars and drinking coffee. Libyans admit that 42 years of government subsidies and government salaries have not encouraged the sturdiest of work habits."
On the surface, it's been a war between Gaddafi and the country's youth, between Gaddafi and renegade ministers, or between Cyrenaica and Tripoli. It's also been part of a geopolitical game of manoeuvre between the greater powers, between China and Europe. The new Libyan government has indicated it may favour European oil companies in the hand out of new concessions, as thanks.
To some extent, the war, billed as a human rights effort, is about Europe placing its chess piece on the Libyan square. And the important prize may not so much be the liberty of young Libyans, as oil.
Pelle Neroth -- EU correspondent
Posted By: Pelle Neroth @ 14 September 2011 07:00 PM Energy
FuseTalk Standard Edition - © 1999-2013 FuseTalk Inc. All rights reserved.
"Is augmented reality the next big thing or a marketing gimmick? Is it fundamental to the future or a fashion faux pas?"
- Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 5th Floor Highly Radioactive Debris [03:09 pm 17/05/13]
- Cluster formation on cooja simulator [01:59 pm 17/05/13]
- DSLAM Power Consumption [01:58 pm 17/05/13]
- English is not my first language. [01:23 am 17/05/13]
- Transport 2020 [09:35 pm 16/05/13]
Tune into our latest podcast