Oil, otherwise known as black gold, is the driving force of the world economy. It is a major commodity of trade that is required by all countries. Western countries rely on the constant supply supply of oil, thus they try to ensure its supply is not interrupted. Given this realization, oil played a major role in influencing the western powers to intervene militarily in Libya, but not in Syria.
Libya accounts for 2.8% of the global oil reserves (Cohen par. 1). It plays a major role in supplying many industrialized countries, especially those in Europe. In 2010, Libya produced over 1,789,000 barrels of oil per day. In comparison, Syria only produced 400,000 barrels of oil per day (Cohen par. 2-3). Therefore, oil is the main reason why military intervention was used in Libya, but not in Syria. As a major oil supplier, it was important to ensure the stability of Libya to avoid affecting the global oil supply.
Reasons for the intervention
Many western countries rely on oil to run their economies. Thus, problems with the supply of oil can have devastating consequences on the economies. The problems in Libya began with an uprising in 2011, which wanted to replace Muammar Gaddafi with a more democratic leader (Roff and Momani par. 6).
Gaddafi was a threat to the western countries. His leadership decisions after the uprising meant that oil exports would be affected adversely. His response incited the people more, especially when the ruling regime was accused of working with the Al Qaeda terrorists. Moreover, Gaddafi ordered his people to capture the protestors. He also threatened to start a door-to-door campaign and ‘cleanse’ those who were against his regime.
Thus, there was a threat of mass genocide in Libya. This led to a global response, with many countries being against the decisions made by Gaddafi. Those who were opposed to Gaddafi included groups like the League of Arab States, the United Nations Security Council, and other western powers (Wood par. 4).
Gaddafi was later killed, but the country is yet to return to normalcy. Western powers were uncertain about the consequences of a rebel government. Thus, they saw it fit to help the opposition in order to gain their support once they took power from Gaddafi.
Currently, the parliament is held by two differing groups, thus it has not reached a state of stability (Daoudy par. 5-6). Despite this, oil production has started to increase to its original output. Therefore, the western powers and their allies were able to gain and retain their oil supply.
The situation was similar in Syria, where the Bashar al-Assad regime reacted harshly to uprisings against the government. Gaddafi’s death influenced the opposition in Syria to think that change could be achieved in the country. However, the opponents of the ruling regime in Syria continue to suffer, with many dying as a result of harsh responses by the security forces.
Many supporters of the opposition are captured, tortured, and the military uses excessive power against them. Moreover, the Assad regime uses propaganda to ensure that people opposing his regime suffer. The opposition began to take up arms as a way of protecting themselves (Taheri 218). This led to a situation where many rebel groups arose in Syria, each trying to gain control over the country.
Currently, a war within a war has emerged in Syria, whereby the rebel groups are fighting each other in trying to support their individual policies. Despite this, the international community has not reacted like it did in the case of Libya. This can be attributed to the immense oil output Libya contributes to the global economy in comparison to Syria’s oil output.
The United States, a major economic power, tries with all its might to defend, guarantee, and protect its interests. A case to consider was the March 2011 UN Security Council vote (Cohen par. 1-2). Many developed countries, including Germany, India, Brazil, China, and Russia, were against military intervention in Libya. Despite this, the UN Security Council resolution allowed military action in Libya.
State sovereignty was a major reason why most countries did not support a military intervention. Specifically, China and Russia tend to advocate for state sovereignty, as they want to create an international agreement that state sovereignty is of utmost importance (Zyberi and Mason 44). Libya was also attacked because it did not have any allies to defend it, as the case was with Syria.
On the contrary, the Assad’s regime enjoys the support of Russia and China, who have veto power in the United Nations Security Council. Many western countries share the belief that the Middle East can greatly affect. Thus, being able to control the flow of oil is important to the western countries.
Moreover, it is no longer important to protect the Arab regimes, but to influence people to rise and address their grievances. This is done in a manner that does not cause instability, but it decreases the hatred towards Americanism. Energy is a major determinant in the decisions made by the western nations.
Even though the US tries to advance for human rights, it gets involved in any situation where its energy supply is at threat, in comparison to situations where human rights are being violated. Thus, the US, with support from its allies, did not take long to support military intervention in Libya and kill Gaddafi, but it has not intervened militarily in Syria yet (Alston and Goodman 83).
Syria and Libya were characterized by many similarities, which formed the background of their impending problems. Both Syria and Libya were characterized by mismanagement. The regimes impacted negatively on the social, political, and economic policies.
The United States and its allies come together to champion for human rights whenever countries are at the brink of social unrest or characterized by poor governance. The citizens in the unstable countries are seen as important, thus the western governments use their diplomatic ties to influence the behavior of the government towards the citizens.
However, the Libya and Syria cases exposed the US and its allies as hypocrites, who use the campaigns against violation of human rights as smokescreens to advance their agendas (de Rugy par. 3-4). In many cases, the choices of the western countries to intervene in any country are based on their interests, especially if these interests are under a threat.
Reasons for not intervening militarily in Syria
The western powers exercised different responses to the problems in Libya and Syria. In Syria, the western powers reacted by sanctioning the regime, while military intervention was the choice in Libya’s case. Many other reasons have been advanced to explain why military action was not preferable in Syria’s case.
For instance, Syria differs greatly with Libya, thus military action could not be applied universally. The terrain and population in Syria proved quite difficult to deal with, in comparison with Libya. Syria has 22.5 million citizens in comparison to Libya’s 6.6 million, which is three times the population of Libya. Therefore, the costs incurred in military intervention would be higher in Syria compared to Libya (Hamid par. 1). Syria is also well equipped and has a larger professional military than Libya.
In Syria, those who support a military intervention are only 40% of the population (Wood par. 6). Thus, military intervention will be seen as an attack against the sovereignty by the rest 60% of the population.. Syria also shares the same geographical characteristics with Afghanistan.
It is a mountainous region, thus a military attack would be unfavorable, risky, and costly. In comparison, Libya is sparsely populated and many people reside in the coastal areas, thus a military attack is easier and cheaper. Moreover, Libya is closer to Europe, thus air strikes can be conducted easily because the distance involved is smaller (Wood par. 8).
Many countries, especially African countries, continue to suffer under dictators and unfavorable regimes, yet the US hardly intervenes because these countries lack energy resources to supply the US economy. In another case, the US was keener to intervene militarily in Iraq when ISIS was a threat to the oil reserves. However, it did not do so when ISIS was gaining traction in Syria (Hamid par. 1-3). Thus, many of the decisions made by the west are not humanitarian in nature, but they are a result of capitalism.
The crisis in Syria is fueled by ethnic differences. For instance, President Assad is able to gain the support of his tribe by threatening the minorities to join him or be killed. Assad belongs to the Shia minority, who are in control of many vital organs of the country, including the police, intelligence agencies, and the army. The civil war has been persistent through sectarian violence.
Many of Assad’s former allies have also stated their distaste about his decisions. This makes it hard to attack the country, as the differing groups are wide and varied. Moreover, if the western countries take part in the conflict, there is a risk of spreading the sectarian violence to other countries like Israel, Iraq, Turkey, and Jordan (Ramos 106).
The military intervention in Libya was seen as a precedent by critics. It meant that the western powers would come to the aid of the Arab countries whenever there was an uprising and people were threatened by their government. However, this was not the case, given that Syria’s opposition supporters have been left to fend for themselves, while they suffer under their government.
Just like Libya, there have been calls for an intervention of the western powers, but the calls have been largely ignored (Zyberi and Mason 46). In conclusion, oil was a major factor in deciding to intervene militarily in Libya, but not in Syria. Many western powers rely on oil.
Thus, an unstable government in Libya would affect the global oil supply and production. Libya also has the biggest oil reserves in Africa. Thus, protecting the country and ensuring its stability was important in guaranteeing that the oil supply would not be interfered with. Even though the country is not supplying its original production of over a million barrels of oil a day, Libya still produces sufficient quantities that are mostly exported to the European countries.
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Daoudy, Marwa. “The Case against Military Intervention in Syria.” Jadaliyya.com, 2012. Web.
de Rugy, Veronique. “How Much Would War In Syria Cost?” Reason 45.7 (2013): 18-20. Print.
Hamid, Shadi. “Why We Have a Responsibility to Protecy Syria.” Brookings Institute, 2012. Web.
Ramos, Jennifer M. Changing Norms through Actions: The Evolution of Sovereignty, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.
Roff, Heather, and Bessma Momani. “The Tactics of Intervention: Why Syria will Never be Libya.” The Globe and Mail, 2011. Web.
Taheri, Amir. “Has the Time Come for Military Intervention in Syria?” American Foreign Policy Interests 35.4 (2013): 217-220. Print.
Wood, Lisa. “To Intervene or Not to Intervene: Why Libya but not Syria?” Viapolitica.eu, 2012. Web.
Zyberi, Gentian, and Kevin T Mason. An Institutional Approach to the Responsibility to Protect, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Print.