UK and US looking inward, withdrawing from global role

Quick note here

Did you know there was a peace negotiation surrounding Libya this past weekend? I certainly didn’t until I watched the German evening news. This negotiation is getting absolutely zero play in the media in both the UK and the US. That’s largely because the UK and the US aren’t even involved.

From what I could ascertain, it’s mostly a German-led initiative that also involves several European countries like Italy, Russia and Turkey. And it was the leading story in the German evening news broadcast. The Germans seem to be touting it as an example of how they are steeping into a void left by the abandonment of US interest in Libya and other global diplomatic initiatives.

How the US media are treating it

I did a US news search. And the first item I cam across was from the French service AFP via Yahoo News:

A peaceful solution to Libya’s protracted conflict remains uncertain despite an international agreement struck in Germany, analysts say, as a fragile ceasefire between warring factions brought only a temporary truce.

On Sunday in Berlin, world leaders committed to ending all foreign meddling in Libya and to uphold a weapons embargo as part of a broader plan to end the country’s conflict.

But overnight Sunday to Monday heavy bombardment again echoed south of Tripoli — the capital of a country that has been in turmoil since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Since April last year the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli has fought back against an offensive launched by fighters loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar.

GNA leader Fayez al-Sarraj and Haftar attended the Berlin summit but they refused to meet and the conference failed to get the two rivals to commit to a permanent truce.

NBC had a blurb too. Bloomberg played up the oil angle. But if you go to mainstream outlets like The Washington Post, the New York Times, The Guardian or The Times of London, they’re totally inward-looking, talking about impeachment, a gun rally in Richmond, Brexit, and Megxit, the made-up term used to talk about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex standing down from British royal duties.

As far as I could tell, it was basically irrelevant in the US — despite the fact that it was the US that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The British are in a similar state of navel-gazing, totally consumed by exiting the EU and not at all thinking about their traditional leading global diplomatic role.

My view

This is exactly why I watch foreign news – because what they decide to highlight is as important as how they explain the facts. For me, it’s telling that there was a virtual news vacuum in the UK and the US around this Libya peace summit. It tells you that its not newsworthy in either country.

I think it should be newsworthy. And the fact that it isn’t tells you how far advanced the retreat of both the UK and the US is from the global stage.

Now, clearly, someone is going to fill that vacuum. Will it be Russia or Turkey or China? In part, yes.

The EU will also play its role. Later in the same broadcast, the Europeans were talking about developing rivals to the US tech giants to lessen dependence on the US. My immediate thought went to Grexit and the violability of the Euro. There is a need in Europe, now more than ever, for it to act as a counterweight to the US – at least according to European elites. This has always been the feeling. And that’s why we saw the euro and are now seeing an ever closer union that the UK balked at so vociferously it is leaving the EU.

The sense I get though is that the Germans, the Dutch and their allies will do anything to maintain the integrity of the euro and of the EU. Britain is an extreme case I don’t see getting repeated. When Italy runs aground due to its lack of growth and high government debt, the Europeans will do “whatever it takes” to prevent a breakup or an economic disaster like we saw in Greece.

With the UK and the US retreating inward, Europe will move to fill the vacuum internationally. And that, by definition means maintaining as united an outward front as possible. The Libya summit is just the beginning. Expect the Europeans to take the lead on privacy, antitrust, global tax harmonization, green energy and a lot of other thorny global issues the US is now punting on.

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