By now I’m sure you’ve all heard of the events that transpired last week in Libya and throughout the Muslim world. The mainstream media (MSM) would have you believe that it’s all a result of a stupid and thoughtless movie, created by some hack California producer.
We’re not that dumb, and neither are our readers.
We tapped our man on the ground, Kevin Virgil, who’s in Tripoli as I write this to find out what is really going on, and to give us his insights and observations so that we can assess the REAL risks.
As you may remember, Kevin is investing in the reconstruction of Libya, and we are looking at a couple of opportunities he has identified. We interviewed him previously in our post Libya – Land of Opportunity.
Kevin is sharp, and he doesn’t take needless or uncalculated risks; that’s important to note. Speculation in Frontier Markets is not widows and orphans stuff, to be sure. However, it’s also not reckless gambling.
Let’s hear what he has to say, shall we…
Mark: Kevin, your taking a bit of a risk it seems, travelling to Libya now, so soon after a major international incident. What’s your rationale, and are you at all concerned for your safety?
Kevin: Mark, for the past year I have made regular trips to Libya, averaging once every four to six weeks. As you know, I have built a very good network of friends and contacts along the way, who keep me informed on current trends and events throughout the country.
I would favorably compare my access and insight to anything that the major media outlets and the US Government have in place (This statement is not bravado; I am able to travel freely throughout the country when I am there, while most government employees are ordered to remain behind their compound walls).
My assessment, after long conversations with my contacts, is as follows:
The attack on the US Consulate was a pre-planned and coordinated raid, executed by a highly trained element of fighters. Opinions are divided on whether they were Libyan, or a mix of foreign fighters; it is likely that this element had planned an attack on the Consulate for some time and saw a golden opportunity in the “spontaneous” protests that gave them cover in which to mobilize.
The most likely explanation is that the attackers were the same Salafist hardliners who have been sowing conflict in Libya for the past few months. This group is aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, who were soundly beaten by secular politicians in the recent Libyan elections.
I have heard speculation that the attackers could also be Qaddafi loyalists, or even aligned with Al Qaeda. Their alignments are not as important as their motives, which are to destabilize the political change that is now sweeping Libya and the broader Maghreb region.
Mark: Well that’s just a wee bit different than the MSM would have us believe at this point! According to them it’s all about a “film” that negatively depicts the prophet Mohammed.
Kevin: Gotta love that mainstream media propoganda machine huh? It has become blatantly obvious that these protests have absolutely nothing to do with the controversial “film” (more of a home movie) that an Egyptian-American white-collar criminal produced in California. The past few days of protest have been fueled by false outrage, exploited by manipulative imams and religious leaders who fear the growing trend toward secular government in the Arab world.
Mark: That sounds a lot more sensible than the drivel we’re hearing from the talking heads.
Kevin: Here is a great example: this article notes how a Sudanese imam called on his followers to target the German embassy in Khartoum last week, because “anti-Muslim” graffiti had allegedly been painted onto mosques in Berlin. Think about that for a second. If you accept this imam’s logic, then you believe that it is rational to target a country’s embassy, or its sovereign territory for attack because of one person’s alleged offense!
So, by taking this to its logical conclusion, if I suddenly decide that I hate one particular country and wish to cause it harm, I could simply travel to that country and deface a mosque in the dark of night. The ensuing damage that irate protestors will inflict on that country’s embassy will result in significant financial damage, and possibly loss of life!
It sounds ridiculous – and it surely is – but this is the extent to which some Islamic hardliners will go in their attempts to retain influence and authority.
Mark: Chris and I often speak to one another on the subject of religion. Our views are not necessary to discuss herein, but suffice it to say that religion has caused more death and hardship than any other human-conceived institution, including governments. That fact cannot be argued or dismissed.
So, how is this going to play out in Libya Kevin, in your opinion?
Kevin: Libya’s new government now faces a difficult task ahead, as it must punish those responsible. However its influence over Benghazi – a city where many would prefer to secede and form their own republic – is limited. The government must succeed, and I believe that they will because they have the support of the Libyan people. The vast majority of Libyans are pro-Western, and remain grateful for the assistance that the American-led coalition provided in last year’s revolution.
In my opinion (if anyone cares to ask), the root cause of this collective anger is the overall sense of powerlessness that your man on the Arab street feels. Many of these protesters live in abject poverty and have only known life underneath an oppressive dictatorship. These conditions make it all too simple for their spiritual leaders – such as the Sudanese imam mentioned above – to manipulate those feelings in order to bolster their own influence and power.
Mark: I think it’s important to note that the sense of powerlessness that you refer to is also being felt elsewhere. Throughout North America and Europe people are realizing that they are being held hostage by a group of gangster politicians and bankers, in cahoots with big business, all acting to forward their own corrupt agendas irrespective of public opinion.
But that’s a subject for another post. For our purposes here today, what do you see as the likely next steps for Libya and how do they move forward?
Kevin: So as you just asked, the obvious question now is, what is the way out of this mess? How can we change perceptions so that we are not faced with violent outbreaks every time a fool with Wi-Fi and a camera decides to express his opinion?
I believe that the answer ties very nicely into a common theme that is often mentioned on this site, which is capitalism – the use of market forces to improve everyone’s lives.
There are many goods and services that people can introduce into markets like Benghazi or Khartoum which will result in a better quality of life for everyone.
If we are able to build a small factory in Benghazi, and we can pay our employees a better wage than they are now receiving, then their lives and that of their families will improve. Other entrepreneurs will hopefully follow our lead, etc…until the general economic condition improves and people are too busy to throw rocks every time a radical picks up a microphone.
I have invested time and money (and assumed no small amount of risk) because I believe that Libya and its people will soon enter a phase of enormous wealth generation. Last week’s terrible events have not created any doubt.
On the contrary, the reactions and determination of my Libyan contacts have reinforced my belief that this country is on the right track and will prevail. As I have said before, growth in this country may not always be linear or easily achieved, but I am confident that the trend will continue to move to the upper right on the chart.
Mark: Thanks Kevin! We support your thesis and we believe in what you’re doing, which is why we’ve stayed in such close contact and are considering investing alongside you in some of these ventures.
Kevin: I appreciate the support Mark. If any of your readers have questions or concerns be feel to pass them along to me, or maybe they can comment herein.
As you can see, Kevin understands a lot more than most. He’s invested a lot of time and money creating a solid network in Libya and throughout the region.
Chris and I met with Kevin recently in Mongolia at our Meet Up, and the other attendees got to pick his brain a bit on what he’s up to.
These are the kinds of people you’ll meet and the type of intelligence you’ll get by being a part of our network and attending our Meet Ups.
More from Kevin next week…
“All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.” – Marshall McLuhan