It’s been hard to justify the US, British and French invasion of Libya in a way that is consistent with those countries’ foreign policy.
There was and remains a sneaking suspicion that is hard to silence about the fact that it had more to do with the fact that Libya is the world’s 15th largest oil exporter, that it is geographically very well located for the troubled times ahead in the North Africa/Middle East area where the West control of governments is failing, or that it has no friends that will complain .
The offered rationale of the breach of human rights by a despotic government killing civilians is harder to give much credence to given that is currently happening so blatantly in Syria and those same powers have barely batted an eyelid. Or historically Zimbabwe...or oh, so many more.
So oil , strategy and a general loathing for Gaddafi seemed to be major points but there is another possible reason. In an article in the Guardian today Simba Russeau points out the massive water resource that is in Libya. As he says oil exploration in the mid 1950s revealed vast quantities of fresh clean groundwater. Apparently nearly 40,000 years ago when the climate in North Africa was temperate rainwater in Libya seeped underground and formed reservoirs of freshwater.
And Gadaffi, who we only ever hear about in relation to bad deeds and awful things (except of course when the West wants to use him for their own foreign policy ends) initiated a massive water project known as the GMMR ( Great Man-Made River) . Not sure if the Great refers to the man, but I suspect it’s the river given the size of this project. Initially regarded as a flight of fancy it is now hailed as an excellent engineering project that taps into underground aquifers so vast that they could keep the 2007 rate of dispersal going for 1000 years.
And what will be the most serious issues in areas that import so much of their food? Water and the ability to grow food sounds like a good start. This project, which cost around 30 billion dollars was also intended to increase the arable land available for agriculture .
Quoted in the Guardian article Patrick Henningsen, 21st Century Wire editor and founder, told IPS.
"Libya could start an agro-business similar to California's San Joaquin Valley. Like Libya, California is essentially desert but because of irrigation and water works projects that desert valley became the largest producer of food and cotton in the world, making it the ninth largest economy in the world," "At the moment the only agro-markets in the Mediterranean zone competing to supply citrus and various other popular supermarket products to Europe are Israel and Egypt. In 10 or 20 years, Libya could surpass both of those countries because they now have the water to green the desert."
Water is vital to the future of the Middle East and North Africa . Countries which need to import food staples feel the impact of food price inflation more quickly and more harshly than others..
"There are several elements to the Libyan mess. One of them is certainly water.” News Central Asia Editor Tariq Saeedi is quoted as saying.
Russia has emerged from the G8 meeting making similar noises about Libya as the US,France and the UK. And the brave talk of early regime change has dissipated in the face of long stand-offs. People are dead, and many have fled. Gadaffi is still in control in Tripoli. With all that military might, do these powers really know what they are doing? Is there perhaps some lessons from the past here? And is this another long war that goes on to the visa card of the Americans for future generations to pay for - in so many ways?
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