The real lesson of Libya
Posted by aogSaturday, 28 April 2007 at 19:29 TrackBack Ping URL

Via Brothers Judd is this tidbit

On or around May 1, President Chavez is expected to expropriate American and European oil ventures in Venezuela.

It will be a sad day for the Venezuelan economy. The same thing happened to Libya in the 1970s, when Muammar Gadhafi nationalized the oil industry, and Libya and the other OPEC member states that later undertook such an experiment have yet to recover.


That is the lesson Mr. Chavez is about to learn.

The habit of presuming not only rationality on the part of people like Chavez but good governance goals astounds me every time I see it. Why the author of this piece presumes that that Chavez will learn anything escapes me. What Chavez has already learned is that it’s easy to spend oil money to stay in power and if you do it long enough, you get to stay in power regardless of the collapse of the oil industry (isn’t that the real lesson of Libya?). Sure, the populace takes it in the shorts, but the author never explains (or even seems to grasp it as a question) why Chavez would care about that.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Ali Choudhury Sunday, 29 April 2007 at 05:23

I think the author’s point was that kicking out the foreign oil majors has led to consistently bad outcomes and if Chavez wanted to stay in power indefinitely, a healthy oil industry would give him a much more secure position. Gadhafi probably wouldn’t be kissing up to the US now if Libya’s oil industry was in as good shape as Norway’s.

Annoying Old Guy Sunday, 29 April 2007 at 06:50

But Gadhafi’s still in power, isn’t he? With no serious threats of getting booted? And in the meantime he was able to live large and be a world player. There are certainly far worse fates that could befall Chavez than that.

I see the author’s point, but my counter-point is that by “bad outcome” he means “bad for the populace”, which is very different from “bad for El Caudillo”. One can look at Iran as well for another counter-example. Are there any examples of the author’s point, where neglect of the oil infrastructure was lead to a bad outcome for the ruler?

Peter Burnet Sunday, 29 April 2007 at 07:45

and if Chavez wanted to stay in power indefinitely…

Nice modern, rational myth, Ali. Which leader can you think of that has been in power longer than any other? Think. Here are some hints: Sugar; 1950’s Chevrolets; Guantanamera….

Rational or not, Lord spare us leaders who are trying to figure out how to stay in power indefinitely.

Michael Herdegen Monday, 30 April 2007 at 21:11

But Castro’s a special case because the late, unlamented USSR subsidized Cuba for decades before cutting them off in the early 90s. So until fairly recently, Cubans lived decently well by global standards.

My prediction is that Chavez won’t last another decade. South America, in the end, isn’t as hopeless as is the Middle East.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 30 April 2007 at 21:29

Ah, but I think that the oil money Chavez is using now is effectively the same as the Soviet subsidies to Cuba. It allows the state to be propped up despite its devastating economic policies long enough to cement its control of the populace, after which standard repression keeps the regime in power. For how long that can go on, just look at say Mugabe or Castro since the fall of the USSR.

cjm Wednesday, 02 May 2007 at 23:28

we should have a policy of destroying appropriated resources. leave the natives a smoldering lump of steel to pray to.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 03 May 2007 at 09:12

No, I think that’s exactly wrong. It would be great short term, but ultimately this kind of delusional view is sustained by being able to blame it on someone else — Jews, Yankees, Western Imperialism, etc. Taking out the infrastructure would strengthen that meme. Allowing the Venezuelans to destroy it themselves weakens the meme. Long term, we (and not just them) are better off the weaker the meme is.

cjm Thursday, 03 May 2007 at 22:31

elsewhere you correctly comment on how the mal always frames the narrative, so there is no point in subtle, drawn out lessons. burn it all down, salt the earth, and place heads on spikes. repeat as many times as is necessary. we want the natives to know ahead of time, the consequences of their naughtiness. when was the last time anyone tried to appropriate a russian facility ?

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