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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Libya: regime change « Previous | |Next »
April 17, 2011

The liberal internationalist's humanitarian case for intervention in Libya does look like a continuation of America's self-ordained role as global policeman that has seen the US fight several genuine wars (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan etc) and engage in countless military interventions. Libya is about regime change at the point of a gun.

RowsonMLibya.jpg Martin Rowson

America, as Chalmers Johnson pointed out, acquired an empire as it expanded its military bases during the Cold War, and it now appears after the Cold War to be engaged in a war without end to advance global peace and freedom. The "American Century" has been only 70 years (from 1940-2010). The key to this empire is hard power of the hammer:--whatever needs to be done is to be done by the military.

More often than not the tools of American foreign policy are those of force and hard power, especially with respect to the core US response to events in the regional politics of the Islamic world. Congress now plays no role in deciding on wars and military interventions within the the changes sweeping through the Middle East. The President calls the shots. Congress agrees. America is not the beacon of democracy anymore.

This time round in the greater Middle East the US empire intervenes into a civil war in Libya. We hear "humanitarian intervention" and understand that to mean "regime change" and we do it without blinking even though we know that the only way that solves America's fiscal problems is by sensibly cutting both defense spending as well as increasing revenues.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:11 PM | | Comments (9)


Sadly, pride in being righteous and comparatively unselfish, such as the USA could justifiably feel in 1945, can easily turn into the paranoid self-congratulation of contemporary American Exceptionalism. Much US foreign policy seems motivated these days by nothing more than a juvenile obsession with punishing people they don't like and showing the world they are still The Man. That Gaddafi is rude to us and wears a funny hat! Bomb the bastard!!

If being unpleasant and wearing a ridiculous hat WAS a capital offense... Bob Katter would be a goner.

Very true mars ... not to mention our last Liberal PM.

The US is an overextended empire--economically stressed and militarily extended in wars it can’t afford to win or lose.

The dream of establishing a worldwide Pax Americana is just that --a dream. The US is an empire in decline.

The Americans are still in denial that their empire is in decline. Hell, they even deny that their national security state is an empire.

Other countries may have had empires---Rome, Spain, Chinese, Great Britain, Soviets---but not America. They are the exception.

The spectre of another Iraq-like quagmire looms large over the Libyan battlefield if If Gaddafi refuses to step down. Then we have a military stalemate.

There is a sense of déjà vu here.

The war in Libya is in rapid transition: from an intervention advocated initially on humanitarian grounds and supported by a United Nations Security Council resolution, to an attempt to destroy a regime by Nato (essentially an Anglo-French operation). Just like Afghanistan--the prospect of a long war. Libya is currently engaged in a prolonged and messy contest for power.

Gaddafi and his immediate circle are determined to retain power; the hard core of the regime as well as several key tribes have remained loyal; and it is conceivable that he will hang onto his Tripoli power-base.

For the moment Libya is effectively partitioned with the dividing line running along the old frontier between the historic provinces of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania. Gaddafi's troops may not be able to advance in the face of air strikes, but they also have not retreated pell-mell after heavy losses. They have adapted to the air threat by driving around in dirt-covered pick-ups which look exactly the same as those driven by rebels and civilians.

If Gaddafi were to hold on in this way, a likely prospect would be a military and political stalemate in Libya that could last for some considerable time to come. 
The prospect is that the current conflict deteriorates into a bitter and costly civil war, with Nato aiding one side but deeply reluctant to deploy troops on the ground.

That proves a space for Gaddafi to present himself as a Libyan nationalist defending his country against imperial control.

The credit agency Standard & Poor's threatens to downgrade America's AAA credit rating unless more drastic steps are taken to cut the deficit.

That must be a blow to the faith America has in its exceptionalism and supremacy.The reality is one of military over-reach and lack of money--signs of an empire in decline.

It is not just a humanitarian mission.

Nato is also bombing Libya because the US, France and Britain have an eye on Libya being among the 10 top oil producers in the world.

Western power is being used to ensure the fallout is favourable to the West's need for oil. So Nato's goal is regime change. That means mission creep ie., boots on the ground.

Britain is now publicly doing what it expressly said it would not do when the no-fly intervention began: putting boots on the ground in Libya.