When the R2P is about saving white male egos

Imagine a candidate for a presidential election in a Western, industrialized democracy who is in constant quarrel with his own political camp. In fact, the candidate had to found his own splinter party after he voted against the former party head while being his minister…Imagine this candidate being on search for campaign money. Now, imagine an authoritarian leader of another country. A leader who had been in power for almost three decades. A leader of a country under international sanctions. Imagine the two strike a deal, with help of some dodgy businessmen dealing in arms: ‘I give you some 50 Million campaign money, you lift the sanctions’. The candidate becomes president. But instead of keeping to his part of the deal he has an even better idea: he convinces his allies to engage in a military strike against his sponsor – all under the mantel of the United Nations’ ‘Responsibility to Protect’ regime and with applause from the ‘humanitarian hawks’ in his own (one of them actually being his Minister of foreign affairs) and foreign countries. The noble R2P abused for a petty campaign financing affair? Pure imagination?

As it happened, one of those dodgy arms dealers was seized and interrogated in London early in January 2018 and then set free on a bail of £1 Million. His name is Alexandre Djouhri and he was sought after with an international mandate by the French financial authorities. The presidential candidate and president-elect in question was Nicolas Sarkozy whose 2007 campaign was apparently financed by Muammar Gaddafi. The investigations into his campaign finances are ongoing. They are complicated by the fact that French air forces and their NATO friends have bombed Libyan ministerial buildings and destroyed their archives. Although the investigations are ongoing and have not led to substantial indictments yet, there is sufficient circumstancial evidence that the newspapers Mediapart and Le Monde have pieced together to conclude that Gaddafi’s middlemen handed over a considerable sum of the money in cash to Sarkozy’s aids in 2007, and that the 2011 intervention was first of all a mission to destroy this evidence and kill Gaddafi.

Indeed, the uprisings in Libya and the R2P came in handy in 2011 to eliminate Gaddafi under the mantel of humanitarian motives, and, by the way to destroy as much evidence as possible of these unsavoury relations. At the time, there were a number of speculations about economic or financial motives behind the intervention. Rumours were floated that Gaddafi had been planning to create an African currency union and, of course, access to cheap oil was suspected to be a prime motive for France to take the lead. Yet, it might well be that the motivation of the campaign was all more personal and petty, and the worst nightmare for R2P advocates – with Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan the world had got used to seeing humanitarianism abused for geostrategic or national economic interests, yet with Libya Sarkozy managed to set in motion the whole machinery of liberal humanitarianism and UN ‘peace’ missions to save his own, little a**.

Yesterday Emmanuel Macron apologized in Tunis for the intervention in Libya. Although well timed in his own foreign policy terms which seek to fashion France as the great integrator in a world falling apart under the ineptitude of the Trump administration, the apology was little more than lukewarm. The mistake France made when intervening in Libya was the lack of an ‘after-plan’, he said, while the actual mistake clearly was (and is) that the current UN interventionism allows any powerful state to export its own dysfunctions and to create misery and bloodshed for the posturing of male egos in Western democracies.