The Oil Factor

  • Geoff Simons


Libya, a little more than a generation ago, was a poverty-stricken country, a hapless pawn of Great Powers with strategic matters on their mind. In 1955 the author John Gunther, with monumental Western condescension, was able to depict Libya as ‘a child learning to walk’, with a future dependent on ‘how well it is brought up’. Or perhaps Libya was only weak and enfeebled: ‘If it is frail, give it a brace.’1 And of course Libya was not viable, ‘unless it manages to stay united and continues to receive foreign aid’ — Western aid, that was, to avoid ‘surrendering’ the country ‘to Communism’. Gunther and his ilk did not reckon with the seismic change that Muammar al-Gaddafi was to bring to Libyan politics; perhaps more importantly they did not reckon with the oil factor. In the decade after independence Libya was the poorest nation state in the world, its main exports being esparto grass, used in paper making, and the scrap metal salvaged from the detritus of the Second World War.2 All this was to change.


Middle East Suez Canal Royal Dutch Shell Petroleum Export Country OPEC Member 
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Copyright information

© Geoff Simons 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geoff Simons

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