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intervening in Libya for what reason? « Previous | |Next »
March 29, 2011

The UN intervention into Libya has has moved beyond a purely humanitarian mission under the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine as the intervening forces are more-or-less openly seeking to topple Qaddafi's regime.

Libyacivil war.jpg

The threat of some sort of massacre in Benghazi by Qaddafi's military has now been removed. Mission creep has emerged as NATO air strikes against Qaddafi's forces are making it possible for the rebels to advance east towards Sirt, the town of Muammar Qaddafi’s birth. Germany, which broke with its European allies and voted to abstain from resolution 1973, has argued that mission creep could force the coalition to get involved in a drawn-out war.

Whilst the emboldened neocons are now talking about Syria, the Arab support for an intervention against Qaddafi to protect the Libyan people is beginning to fray as the action increasingly includes Western bombing of an Arab country.

I support the UN's liberal interventionist military intervention into Libya because of the events in Bosnia and Rwanda. At the moment, I don't see it as legitimating American dominance in the region, which is the rationale of the neocons. My main reservation about the UN's military intervention is that it may degenerate into an extended civil war which that l require troops on the ground regardless of promises being made today.

Stephen M. Walt argues differently. He says:

The only important intellectual difference between neoconservatives and liberal interventionists is that the former have disdain for international institutions (which they see as constraints on U.S. power), and the latter see them as a useful way to legitimate American dominance. Both groups extol the virtues of democracy, both groups believe that U.S. power -- and especially its military power -- can be a highly effective tool of statecraft. Both groups are deeply alarmed at the prospect that WMD might be in the hands of anybody but the United States and its closest allies, and both groups think it is America's right and responsibility to fix lots of problems all over the world. Both groups consistently over-estimate how easy it will be to do this, however, which is why each has a propensity to get us involved in conflicts where our vital interests are not engaged and that end up costing a lot more than they initially expect.

It is true that most of the U.S. foreign policy establishment has become addicted to empire and it doesn't really matter which party happens to be occupying Pennsylvania Avenue.

However, the key question is what if Qaddafi hangs tough, and moves forces back into the cities he controls, blends them in with the local population, and the rebels cannot dislodge him? Libya could become a "giant Somalia". What then of the limited, principled nature of the humanitarian mission?

Libya's opposition is a poorly defined group of mutually hostile factions that have not formed a meaningful military force thus far, and are even less likely to form a functioning government.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:18 PM | | Comments (9)


Barack Obama gave a good speech in his address to the nation

Gaddafi's rule has been deemed "wholly illegitimate" by western leaders. He's a hated dictator. UN resolution 1973 provides no basis to insist Gaddafi stand down and the western leaders of the US, Britain and France have no direct means to compel him.

They are hoping that Gaddafi is toppled by his own people.

The Turkish Prime minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested that what started out as a wholly humanitarian effort is deteriorating into a "second Iraq" or "another Afghanistan". Is this correct?

It is unclear how Gadhafi would be dislodged from power from 15,000 feet in the sky.

GST: "It is unclear how Gadhafi would be dislodged from power from 15000 feet in the sky".
A bunker buster droned in, provided they could figure out where he hangs out?
Besides Gadhafi has his supporters also.
The news tonight focussed on the split between the Euros (Germany, Turkey, et al) and the gunghoers, like Paul Wolfowitz. Libya is just too close to Europe for some there not to be suspicious of how far the US can go.

Yes, George, it's correct. The only issue is for how long people in Libya will continue to die in a foreign-sponsored civil war.

From a recent ABC report: "Some estimates say up to 20,000 civilians and rebel fighters may have been killed and it seems increasingly likely the conflict will get bogged down on a line that effectively divides this country down the middle".

Nobody really knows about casualties, of course, these are only estimates. But I have looked at some video and read some of the reportage, and I have no problem believing that a lot of Libyans are dying. The ostensible purpose of the intervention was, of course, to prevent massacres, ie. to reduce deaths. I see no evidence of that. You can't reduce casualties with bombs.

I think it's particularly entertaining to note that the "contact group" to be set up by the participants in the London conference on Libya will meet in Doha, Qatar.

Qatar is another undemocratic Gulf dictatorship, which some will remember as the refuge of the WTO after the disastrous meeting in Seattle in 1999.

I have no idea what the Libyan intervention is supposed to achieve and nobody else seems to either. Iraq proved that the consequences of removing a dictator can make life even worse for the people of a country than it was before. The NATO intervention is allowing Libya to descend into chaos, with no effective government and no means of restoring order. All to topple a ruler who was being lauded until recently by people like John McCain and George Bush as a reformed character who had turned his back on jihad.

Thinking on it, it is difficult to not see the Americans themselves as subject to events unfolding as anyone else. What they are is what we are- materially prosperous and the consequences for others often seem to avoid us.We know others are copping bullets for us and we recognise that this is wrong, or seems to be. We "sympathise".
But the "others " are the ones going down, the consequences might be soul destroying for us, as onlookers to so many slo-mo train wrecks. With us it's the urge to help, against self preservation, a clash of cultural conditioning, rationality or at least its most apparent manifestations, instincts and emotions. There is absurdity and conscience and a whole panopoly of stuff at play.
I think Stephen Walt sees things from the inside and we see them from the outside: we can see how Americans see themselves and how they over or underestimate their place in the scheme of things. But they know the same of us whoever we are. The world is a force exerting on America and vice versa. We arouse their anxieties and they ours. For Australians, its additional to the reality that we are much more closely interconnected with America, as to be of the charmed circle as well as subjects, yet once again, rather than as hapless outsiders, epitomised by the nineteen year old kid who hung himself in Kafkaesque fashion a couple of days ago at Curtin, and we miss as much as the Americans or those they exclude, the "others"as to experience.
Whether there is any further purpose to it we can only speculate.
I was taken by a line from Walt the Gary included, where Walt talks of both neo cons and libs as being fearful of WMD's falling into the hands of bad guys and had to laugh in considering the way they've encouraged India and Pakistan, unstable enemies. aqnd keep their dominance through technology and war. Yet they happily dismembered Iraq at fantastic cost at the alleged thought that these might have the same sort of weapons. But I suppose an underlying need for war is what drives the engine and most of us are just passengers.
So it gets back to Gary's point as to whether international intervention can be feasible in lightof the horrors of Srebrenica and Ruanda or whether opportunists will just employ shopfronts in pursuit of their goals, I'll bet the Cheneyian impulse to exploit is there competing with an urge to "do right" and we await a historical verdict on what the order of priorities will be. Beleive it or not I'd feel more comfortable with Obama now than if the US neo cons had been in the White House. The forces of the right can't be eliminated because they go so far into the very fabric of reality, but they can be identified. Can people like Obama, or us, exert or influence change from this vantage point and do we want to?