10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2012
The book begins with Prashad discussing the evolution of politics in Egypt. After 1970 Gamal Abdel Nasser's successor Anwar Sadat began the implementation of neoliberal economics in Egypt. The US propped up Sadat's successor Hosni Mubarak with hundreds of billions of dollars in annual aid to Egypt's military and police state. US food aid undermined Egypt's peasant class; by 2010 Egypt was the world's leading wheat importer. Under Mubarak, ordinary Egyptians gained little from the country's wealth. Egypt's indigenous bourgeoisie and elements of its military grew increasingly discontented that a small group around Mubarak's son Gamal dominated the nation's economy. In the years prior to 2011, there was growing unrest among ordinary Egyptians. As Egypt's government appeared on the verge of collapse, Obama maneuvered to ensure that as much of Mubarak's regime remained in place as possible even if Mubarak himself had to be removed. Prashad discusses Obama's envoy to Mubarak (the Mubarak apologist Frank Wisner Jr)and quotes US diplomatic cables from several years ago released by Wikileaks about Omar Suleiman and General Tantawi.
Prashad also discusses the Arab Spring in Yemen and Bahrain (and a little about Tunisia). In Bahrain, the Obama administration quietly endorsed the Saudi led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) invasion of the country to crush its pro-democracy movement. Prashad explains the US position regarding the question of democracy in Bahrain. Bahrain houses the US fifth fleet and any democratic government responsive to popular will might kick the fleet out. Prashad quotes two Wikileaks cables from 2008 where US diplomats report that the Al Wefaq party is very popular among Bahrain's oppressed Shiite majority and that the party is a non-sectarian and non-fundamentalist. But the US does not want an independent Bahrain--nor does Saudi Arabia, which continually worries about unrest amongst the Shiites in its eastern provinces. Meanwhile in Yemen, Obama quietly accepted the stepping down of a US ally, dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, in favor of Saleh's vice-president. With no protest from Obama or other moralists in his administration, Saleh was granted immunity from prosecution for his crimes by Yemen's parliament.
The second part of the book is devoted to Libya. Prashad describes the evolution of the Qaddafi regime from its Arab nationalist origins to its embrace of neoliberalism and the US War on Terror in its last years. Increasingly Qaddafi invited men with close links to the international business world into his government. Prashad quotes one of the diplomatic cables released by wikileaks which describes a conversation that the US charge d'affaires in Libya had in 2008 with a friend of Shukri Ghanem, who later defected to the anti-Qaddafi rebels and was Qaddafi's Prime Minister between 2003 and 2006.This friend declared that Qaddafi was dragging his feet on economic reform, frustrating the ambitions of the technocrats around Qaddafi's son Saif al Islam to unleash "shock therapy" privatization on Libya. The friend doubted that neoliberalism would ever make the advances its Libyan adherents wanted unless Qaddafi was removed. The neoliberals were thus very supportive of the February 17th rebellion and quickly hijacked it.
Prashad notes that after February 17, Libyan opposition figures immediately began to spread unverified stories of genocidal violence and the western media reported such stories as confirmed fact. Within a week of February 17, reports claimed that Qaddafi had already massacred 10,000 people. However, Prashad notes that a UN investigation headed by Cherif Bassiouni estimated in mid-June, four months after the rebellion started, that 10,000 people had been killed. Prashad does not say whether the investigation included soldier deaths in the 10,000 figure. The investigation found that Qaddafi's forces committed war crimes but that the rebels did also. Western media, Libyan rebels, western governments and even a leftist like Gilbert Achcar warned hysterically that Qaddafi would enact genocidal reprisals in order to retake rebel held cities like Bengazhi Prashad notes that there is no evidence that Qaddafi's forces conducted genocidal reprisals before NATO's bombing. Prashad writes that in the city of Az Zawiya reports suggest that as few as 8 people were killed after Qaddafi's goons retook the town. He cites a Human Rights Watch report of April 10th that in Misrata--heavily fought over by Qaddafi and the rebels--the highest casualty estimates were 949 wounded and 257 killed. Only three percent of the killed were women. Misrata and Az Zawiya suggest very bad things but not genocidal violence. Similarly Prashad notes that Amnesty International's Donatella Rovera concluded that there was no evidence to support the heavily circulated stories about mass rapes by Qaddafi's troops
Prashad gives some attention to the atrocities of the NATO rebels and the civilian casualties from the NATO bombing. He cites a Wall Street Journal report about the town of Tawergha where the Misrata rebels ethnically cleansed the town--which once had 30,000 people-of its dark skinned inhabitants. Tawergha became literally a ghost town. Tawergha was an example of the human rights violations meted out by the rebels to Africans and other dark skinned Libyans. As for civilian casualties from NATO bombs, Prashad cites a December 2011 New York Times investigation.
Prashad does not buy the bunkum that NATO bombed Libya for moral motives but that it wanted to take control of the Arab Spring dynamic that was threatening to unravel western hegemony in the region. He argues that NATO's institution of the "No-Fly Zone" and support for Qaddafi's indictment before the International Criminal Court eviscerated the chances for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
Prashad hopes that the Arab Spring will deepen democracy in Arab countries. He writes that Islamic parties might be the winners of this democratic opening in the short term--however these parties embrace the neoliberal economics so loathed by the masses; thus their political successes might be short-lived. He notes that prospects for genuine democracy in Libya look dim at the moment.
I know space is finite but perhaps Prashad might have included a lot more discussion about Egyptian post-Mubarak politics.
This book contains no footnotes or endnotes.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2012
by Susan Webb, People's World
U.S. and European military leaders will meet in Chicago May 20-21 for their NATO summit. A Counter-Summit for Peace and Economic Justice will convene May 18-19. A timely new book, "Arab Spring, Libyan WInter," provides a short, information-rich guide to what the NATO controversy is all about. Its focus is the upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa over the past year, but the insights are relevant far beyond.
Author Vijay Prashad, professor and director of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., will be a speaker at the Counter-Summit.
In "Arab Spring, Libyan Winter," Prashad draws on his extensive contacts in the region and the diplomatic community, as well as sources such as the Wikileaks State Department cables, to provide unique information about how the "Arab Spring" emerged in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya, who and what has driven it, and the damaging role of the U.S., other Western powers, and Saudi Arabia. In all these cases Prashad gives a balanced overview of the history of imperialism and of national liberation efforts and missteps.
Prashad closes his book with a story. In the 1970s Chinese Prime Minister Zhou en-Lai was reportedly asked his assessment of the French Revolution of 1789. Zhou's reply: "It's too soon to tell." Prashad's point: It's too soon to tell what the impact of these Middle East/North Africa revolutions will be, but some things are sure:
* The time of the "neoliberal security state," exemplified by Mubarak's repressive U.S.-propped regime (and Qaddafi's in its later incarnation), is over.
* A key failure of the "national liberation" states that emerged in the 1950s-1970s, such as Nasser's Egypt (and Qaddafi's regime in its earlier years, and Syria's Assad regime), was their dismissal of popular democratic aspirations, their anti-communism, and their reliance on military and police repression. The time of such states, too, is over.
The heart of the book is the overthrow of Libya's Qaddafi regime. It's a cautionary tale, he says, for other potential U.S.-NATO "humanitarian interventions," such as in Syria.
"By early March , the Libyan rebellion began to be hijacked by forces close to the Atlantic powers, whose interest in Libya is governed by oil and by power," Prashad writes.
"[T]he Libyan rebellion gave the Atlantic powers and Saudi Arabia an opportunity to attempt to seize control over an escalating dynamic that had spread across the Middle East and North Africa." Why? Because the democratic and economic and social justice uprisings "threatened the U.S. pillars of stability and the foundation of Saudi rule."
The United Nations resolution backing intervention in Libya was based on the UN's earlier statement of a "collective international responsibility to protect" civilians "in the event of genocide and other large-scale killing ... or serious violations of international humanitarian law."
But even countries who voted for that resolution, or abstained, became outraged that the military intervention far exceeded the "responsibility to protect" mandate. Prashad emphasizes that while the Qaddafi regime committed serious crimes against its people in violation of international law, their extent was exaggerated by foreign intervention advocates. Moreover, NATO's actions also included such violations but it is strenuously fighting efforts to investigate this.
In a recent article, Prashad writes that NATO "operates as a rogue military entity" outside the bounds of democratic control. "It is precisely because NATO refuses an evaluation that the UN Security Council will not allow another NATO-like military intervention," he says. "Libya is the shadow that hangs over Syria."
After reading this thought-provoking book, we are left with the question of how to view the Obama administration's foreign policy, particularly in this election year.
What we are seeing now within this administration, it seems, is liberal defenders of capitalism seeking how to project and protect what they call "U.S. interests" globally in the post-Iraq era.
Clearly some within the administration define U.S. interests as the interests of U.S. transnational capital, and others may think in terms of economic or social justice as being in the U.S. interest.
Obama has so far resisted the far-right push for military attacks on Iran, and has continued to press for global nuclear disarmament, including signing the NEW START treaty with Russia.
However it seems that his administration is opting for projecting U.S. military power in key areas but through means that do not involve "boots on the ground" but rather what Prashad calls "boots in the air" - drones, air strikes and the like. The "humanitarian intervention" appeal, as in Libya, easily morphs into political-military projects that are destructive of the interests of the people of the country in question as well as our own. To steer clear of the discredited Bush unilateralism, NATO is being used as a cover.
On domestic issues, this administration is one of the most progressive since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But on foreign affairs, which way will Obama go in a second term? The American peace movement is not yet big and broad enough to compel a turn away from dangerous military policies that drain our tax dollars. But the potential is there. "Arab Spring, Libyan Winter" is a thoughtful, informative contribution to this project.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2013
This book came out very shortly after NATO assaulted Libya, and it filled an enormous void on the subject. I don't particularly like Vijay Prashad's writing style, and I agree with other reviewers that "Arab Spring, Libyan Winter" is at times very difficult to read. That said, there is a lot of fine research and analysis here. I would like to have seen footnotes included, but the book does have an index. A good portion of the book examines the Arab Spring phenomenon more than Libya, but as far as I'm concerned this is one of the book's strengths. If you would like to learn more about the Libya intervention, this is certainly a worthwhile read. If you could choose only one book on the subject, I would recommend Maximilian Forte's "Slouching Towards Sirte."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2012
This book doesn't answer every question you might have but it does offer an objective and pertinent review of the contemporary political history of Libya. And after reading it I asked some Libyan businessmen I know (unfortunately I don't know any Libyan scholars), and what they told me about the Gaddafi government, about the war and its aftermath, are pretty much in accordance with the author's point of view.
on August 20, 2015
This is one of several books about our war on Libya, which marks that as one of the blackest moments in our history, in a league with the Mexican-American War/. For those with any doubts about that, reading at least one of these several books is essential. A good one other than this is "Slouching Towads Sirte."
One outrage which captures the depravity of our involvement was the giddy attitude of Hillary Clinton when she learned that Khaddafi had been murdered by revolutionaries who captured him after his car had been destroyed by NATO bombers.: Her laughing remark was "We came, we saw, he died." He did die. He was murdered, with NATO as an abettor. Being led from behind by the U.S.
That the rationalizations and excuses for our going to this war are groundless seems pretty well acknowledged, but Prashad goes through enough of the history to make that clear for those not already well aware of it. .The short of it appears to be that Khaddafi made a mistake no other despot is likely to emulate--he sought to curry our favor by giving up his nuclear ambitions and WMD's. Now we wonder why Assad keeps his, Kim continues development of his nukes, and the Ayatollah has no interest in playing nice.. And we fooled the Russians and Chinese into not vetoing a UN resolution about protecting civilians, which became the cover for out extensive bombings of any area not under control; of the revolutionaries. Today the Syrians are paying the price for our having "fooled Russia and China once" They don't believe us any more.
There are perhaps three negative elements in this book. First, it is certainly not well written, which may be unavoidable when trying to convey to American readers a story about the strange goings-on in a strange country. Part of that is the perhaps unavoidable difficulty of dealing with Arab names. It's much like struggling through a Russian novel. I finally concluded that it just wasn't worth the effort to keep track of all the people and organizations--it was enough to recognize that there were a lot of them, and accept on faith that Pradesh had the story straight.
Which gets top what may be a negative, although it didn't seem as such while I was reading the book. Pradash is, at least according to Wikipedia, an avowed Communist--a persuasion which, in retrospect, may have colored some of his descriptions of events. As I read, though, I was certainly not conscious of any such bias; nor, as I reflected on it, could I see how that might alter the facts of our conduct which so distress me.
It is indeed disheartening to read of this, but essential. Our conduct today is little different from that which led to the Mexican-American War. One would have hoped we might have progressed beyond that point.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2012
The major weakness of this book may be perceived by some to be its strength. The weakness of the book is that it has no central level of analysis (i.e. - the Nation of Libya? The Arab Spring? NATO and its allies?) - it wanders in its analysis from Libya to Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia. The writing centers on the author's diatribe against the NATO led assault on Libya as a program essentially interested in regime change, and protecting oil reserves. If that is your primary take and interest, you may consider this a good book. But if you are primarily interested in the internal conditions of Libya and the Arab world, quite a bit of this context is missing. There is enough in here to make some interesting contributions and insight, but it is marred by (not infrequent) cynical remarks by the author that do not seem entirely warranted. This was not a bad book, per se, but I cannot give it a whole-hearted endorsement. My kindle edition had no footnotes to document the author's contentions, and his work suffers because of this. Two and a half to three stars at best.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2013
I purchased this book for my wife. She said that she enjoyed it. It was a great addition to her personal library.
1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2012
The book has some good facts, but it is not organized properly and is hard to read for a layman. I gave up after reading about 50 pages.
6 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2012
I stopped reading this book after encountering so many half-truths and just plain instances of ignorance that it became obvious that this so called professor, Vijay Prashad, doesn't know what he's talking about. Example: Marie Antoinette said "Let them eat cake". That is a popular and quite inaccurate revision of history. If one knows anything about French history, the assertion that she said this is false. Moreover, his ramblings about "la guerre de la farine" are not only wrong but completely misdated. Secondly, the author's concept of NATO is so totally flawed it's as if he sat in a (ivory?) tower reading about NATO without ever being involved with it. To be blunt, most serious authors actually visit NATO bases and talk to Generals/Admirals/politicians about what is transpiring and at least try to understand the reality of military decisions and their ramifications. I could continue my rantings but it became abundantly obvious that Vijay Prashad is spouting this drivel for some sort of agenda or he is a complete fraud. In short, this book should be avoided.