Cole to Left: "Learn to walk & chew gum at the same time."
March 27, 2011 8:01 PM   Subscribe

"The United Nations-authorized intervention in Libya has pitched ethical issues of the highest importance, and has split progressives in unfortunate ways. I hope we can have a calm and civilized discussion of the rights and wrongs here." Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan writes An Open Letter to the Left on Libya.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty (253 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Libya 2011 is not like Iraq 2003 in any way.

Really? None?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:06 PM on March 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


The typesetting on his site is a bit odd. I actually overlooked the bit where that text links to a previous blog post: Top Ten Ways that Libya 2011 is not Iraq 2003.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 8:11 PM on March 27, 2011


If we just don’t care if the people of Benghazi are subjected to murder and repression on a vast scale, we aren’t people of the Left. We should avoid making ‘foreign intervention’ an absolute taboo the way the Right makes abortion an absolute taboo

This is low quality rhetoric.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:11 PM on March 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


i dunno, a similar Hitchens argument convinced me of the rightness of the Iraq war.

i turned out to be wrong, but ignoring repression because opposing it might have bad consequences doesn't seem optimal.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:13 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Absolutely. And ignoring the bad consequences because repression is happening is likewise not optimal.
posted by Justinian at 8:15 PM on March 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Really? None?

What significant ways do you think they're the same, such that we should reason from Iraq when dealing with the Libyan crisis?
posted by fatbird at 8:15 PM on March 27, 2011


When self-styled lefties / progressives start inveighing against Juan fucking Cole, I cannot but help commencing rehearsals of my (mandatory) Loyalty Oath to President Bachmann.

To whit:

Libya 2011 is not like Iraq 2003 in any way.

Really? None?


Well if you disagree, feel free to read the rest of his post and respond, instead of throwing this Jackson Pollock shit at the wall and hoping something sticks. And I love ya, bro.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:16 PM on March 27, 2011 [22 favorites]


But if a precedent is indeed being set that if you rule a country and send tank brigades to murder large numbers of civilian dissidents, you will see your armor bombed to smithereens, I can’t see what is wrong with that.

Given the events in Bahrain, I suspect that the precedent will be more like "if you want to kill your own people, better make sure the US has a juicier target nearby to throw under the bus."
posted by nasreddin at 8:17 PM on March 27, 2011 [12 favorites]


No mention of Cote d'Ivoire, hmmm
posted by arveale at 8:18 PM on March 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


If we cannot help everyone everywhere, we should never help anyone anywhere.

Thanks, nasredding and arveale. Well put.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:19 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


... and I am out. Gotta hit the doctor in the morning for a bum leg (true!) and my insurance (such as it is) does not cover axe-grinding injuries. Have fun.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:20 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


joe, I'm with you, I should have elaborated: Prof. Cole was describing Libya as unique, but Cote d'Ivoire seems quite similar.
posted by arveale at 8:21 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely. Losing Our Way, Bob Herbert's last Op-Ed for the NYT, 3-25-11

Fwiw, I don't think the Libyan campaign is the issue in America so much as the priorities: we need to end the war on the middle class before we launch another one in the mideast; I'm for invading Wisconsin and overthrowing Colonel Walker. ; )
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 8:26 PM on March 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


He still doesn't explain who our friends are here. The median Libyan civilian is just as likely to be a potential jihadist as a potential democratic reformer. And the new government may well be a new dictator in the Hosni Mubarak mode, who we were fine with allowing to oppress his own people for 35 years, right up until it became a problem. What are the goals, is there really a plan for post-Ghadaffi? Or much of a plan at all other than "shoot some people we think are pro-Ghadaffi"? If there is, it hasn't been explained, or even demonstrated to be constitutional.

(use of the word "we" implies the US, as the whole NATO led coalition thing is a pretty naked euphemism attempting to mask the US's central role. If in 4 months France is flying 80% of the missions and staging their own ground commando attacks or whatever, then and only then would I be convinced that this is something other than a third front in the US war on the middle east.)
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:26 PM on March 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Top Ten Ways Libya 2011 IS like Iraq 2003:

1. Significant oil reserves.
2. Long vilified bad guy with formerly polite relationships with the US.
3. Vast military superiority on one side of the conflict.
4. Broad centrist political support for the military action.
5. Small international coalition.
6. Lack of coherent mission. (Protect civilians? No regime change. Wait, regime change! No.)
7. Confused understanding of internal conflicts.
8. Neo-con approval.
9. A rush to war without taking significant time to consider the situation.
10. Liberals cheerfully joining in on bashing people who oppose the war, decrying their lack of concern for the humanitarian justifications for dropping bombs on people.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:26 PM on March 27, 2011 [45 favorites]


There still are no trained troops to speak of on the rebel side

Really? I thought there were reports of G/Qa(h)d(d)af(f)(h)i/y military types defecting to the rebels. And they'd count as trained troops, though possibly not very well trained ones.
posted by BungaDunga at 8:26 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Among reasons given by critics for rejecting the intervention are:

1. Absolute pacifism (the use of force is always wrong)

2. Absolute anti-imperialism (all interventions in world affairs by outsiders are wrong).

3. Anti-military pragmatism: a belief that no social problems can ever usefully be resolved by use of military force.


Strawmen.

Assuming that NATO’s UN-authorized mission in Libya really is limited ( it is hoping for 90 days)

"Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that," [Rumsfeld] said.

I would like to urge the Left to learn to chew gum and walk at the same time.

Fuck you.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:29 PM on March 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


If we cannot help everyone everywhere, we should never help anyone anywhere.

Ignoring Bahrain was literally the price of whatever lukewarm Arab League support the invasion got, and everybody in the Middle East knows it. The most likely conclusion that will be drawn from these events by the people they're supposed to be influencing is that they are yet another cynical manifestation of selective and hypocritical Western policies. This isn't an abstract philosophical problem like "If we cannot help everyone everywhere, we should never help anyone anywhere." If it was a question of rolling a d10 to intervene in an arbitrary political crisis somewhere in the world, then maybe that sort of objection could have value. The point is that these interventions are not random, and the pattern they follow is predictable: make yourself a useful strategic asset and you'll be able to get away with murder; don't, and we may just invade if we feel like it.
posted by nasreddin at 8:30 PM on March 27, 2011 [24 favorites]


Whatever, the people of Bahrain won't mind that we sold them out at all, it's pragmatic political reality guys, get real.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:33 PM on March 27, 2011


It's interesting that Cole says Iraq 2003 and not Iraq 1991 when there was a serious uprising and the US stood by.

You could even go further and ponder what Americans of 1990 would have thought had they been informed that the Gulf War would lead to long US war and US troops in Iraq 20 years later.

You could also make the point that it's like Kosovo.

Of all the wars that the US has been in over the last 20 years how would people rank this one in terms of wisdom?

Also, hasn't the debate about Libya been far bettre than those around the Iraq and Afghan wars, certainly the first of which had pretty strong debate and anger around.
posted by sien at 8:34 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am not at all convinced that involving the US (and or NATO forces) in yet another war is a smart idea, but I do know that Dennis Kucinich is a goddamned fool if he thinks FOX News is a good place to oppose such.

"Hey, Rocky, watch me pull this rabbit out of hat." "Again? But that trick never works!"
posted by octobersurprise at 8:34 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the beginning, I've thought that the similarities to the Spanish Civil War were more pertinent than comparisons to Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq. Ya know, the Left was divided over Spain as well.

The left is always divided and the right always attacks. If the American left was capable of chewing gum and walking simultaneously, there wouldn't be all this agonizing about the Tea Party and their corporate masters.
posted by warbaby at 8:35 PM on March 27, 2011 [15 favorites]


In case I was not civil enough: good night, you all. While I am somewhat relieved you do not have your finger on the button, as it were, I am going to chalk up our differences to good-natured disagreement despite mutual consensus on first principles.

I still believe there are several proto-liberal narratives working at cross-purposes here (hah) but I do not doubt for a second that you guys want what is best for all involved. Good night.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:36 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


mutual consensus = redundant, much?
posted by joe lisboa at 8:37 PM on March 27, 2011


It's better than a divided consensus...
posted by warbaby at 8:39 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whatever, the people of Bahrain won't mind that we sold them out at all, it's pragmatic political reality guys, get real.

If you're going to call Cole out on "low quality rhetoric", you're going to have to do better than that. This is the exact attitude that Joe L. was referring to in this comment.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 8:40 PM on March 27, 2011


As long as we only pay attention to countries with valuable resources and ignore Rwanda, the DRC, and continue to pay to oppress populations across Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, we should probably stay out of nation building everywhere.
It was urged by a United Nations Security Council resolution, the gold standard for military intervention. (Contrary to what some alleged, the abstentions of Russia and China do not deprive the resolution of legitimacy or the force of law; only a veto could have done that. You can be arrested today on a law passed in the US Congress on which some members abstained from voting.)
Oh, the lapdog of American military prowess passed it with barely half the members voting. The three members being the US, UK, and France, all of whom have vast oil interests in that country. Yeah, that sounds solid to me, and nothing at all like the other colonial property we invaded in 2003.

Here's what I'll never understand: if the USG wanted to save innocent lives, there are thousands of kids dying every day of preventable disease in the same neighborhood. Perhaps we could spend a few billion doing something good and earn some trust in the region? I guess we'll have to wait until someone figures out how to monetize starvation before that become an interest.

At any rate, if the US wants to get behind the UN, I'm glad to hear it. Let's get every member country to vote, forget the UNSC, and put our soldiers in UN uniforms under UN command if it passes. Establish a border to end the hostilities, and begin peace negotiations, ending in two states if necessary. Sending in Western troops to yet another unstable, oil rich nation is probably going to cost more lives in the long run.

And if I hear another Bush Administration hack calling for Qaddafi's head after they forgave him for decades of torture and war crimes because he opened up his oil fields to western nations again, I'm going to have a fit.
posted by notion at 8:45 PM on March 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


If we cannot help everyone everywhere, we should never help anyone anywhere.

Nope. I get it, humanitarian missions aren't worth the cost to valuable American lives it would take to save the people of Bahrain. All I'm doing is warning you that they might take the snub personally.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:45 PM on March 27, 2011


I am astounded by the complexity of the situation in Africa right now. I don't have confidence that anyone has a grasp on the connections between each uprising, the makeup of the actors in each conflict, the historical precedents, legal justifications...I could go on and on. It is an amazing and frightening time for Africa and the world.
posted by arveale at 8:46 PM on March 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Contrary to what some alleged, the abstentions of Russia and China

and Brazil, and India, and Germany. It's interesting that Cole doesn't mention those countries.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:51 PM on March 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's interesting that Cole doesn't mention those countries.

I think Cole's point there was that the abstentions of the permanent members of the Security Council took their vetos off the table.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 8:54 PM on March 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


It also took their yes votes off the table.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:57 PM on March 27, 2011


I still have misgivings, but Juan Cole's argument carries weight. The US and NATO cannot enforce their will everywhere. Cole's argument is that in Qaddafi's regime is particularly dependent on the use of aircraft and tanks. These are easy targets for NATO. According to Cole, if Qaddafi's heavy machinery is neutralized, the rebels stand a good chance of overthrowing him.

So I have concerns over two possiblities. One is that Qaddaffi's tanks and airplanes are destroyed, but he manages to recapture Benghazi and rebel cities anyway. He would certainly resume slaughtering anyone who might have taken up arms against him, along with their families and friends and so on. It would be an embarrassing setback for NATO to win the air campaign for naught.

The other possibility of course is that the rebels succeed in overthrowing Qaddaffi, and the new government is just as autocratic and corrupt as the one it replaced. Or they're religious fundamentalists. Honestly, this second possibility doesn't worry me as much as the first. I don't expect the Libyan rebels to embrace anything close to modern leftist social values, but they only need to be not as bad as Qaddaffi for their government to be an improvement. So the bar is set pretty low.
posted by Loudmax at 8:57 PM on March 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


This is silly, The American Left as Epitimised by MeFi Commentators doesn't want to mess arouynd "considering" things or weighing stuff up, or any of the messy stuff that happens when you're in contact with areal geopolitical situation,. It certainly doesn't want to think about the possibility that there might be any kind of upside to not letting a bunch od people get murdered, or that conversely allowing those murders might have a very real cost - it wants maximum GRAR right now and a Palin presidency as soon as possible.
posted by Artw at 8:58 PM on March 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


10. Liberals cheerfully joining in on bashing people who oppose the war, decrying their lack of concern for the humanitarian justifications for dropping bombs on people.

I agree with almost everything on that list (still not sure on the facile "oil" thing), but this the big one. We're dropping bombs from planes. Bombs don't "protect." Bombs kill people indiscriminately. Just like they do when our drones drop them on Pakistan (500 civilians to get one "Al Qaeda leader," anyone?)

If we really cared to do something, we'd need to put troops on the ground. Except we don't have any left. We'd have to have a draft. If you're ready to draft 18 year old American kids to "protect Libya" because you think it's that important, fine, be in favor of this. But don't hallucinate that chucking a few bombs and missiles in from afar is somehow going to solve a huge political and humanitarian problem. Come on.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:01 PM on March 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


it wants maximum GRAR right now and a Palin presidency as soon as possible.

So pro-anything-Obama-does is more important than pro-peace? Wow, is all I can say.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:02 PM on March 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Artw: please identify what you consider to be the most recent successful interventions in "real" geopolitical situations.
posted by notion at 9:02 PM on March 27, 2011


It certainly doesn't want to think about the possibility that there might be any kind of upside to not letting a bunch od people get murdered, or that conversely allowing those murders might have a very real cost - it wants maximum GRAR right now and a Palin presidency as soon as possible.

Nope, nothing like Iraq, 2003.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:02 PM on March 27, 2011


Sorry Artw, I'm angried up, dropping out of thread.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:03 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


A Response to Juan Cole From the Left.
Overwhelmingly, Left-wing statements ( see the ISO or my own SP-USA as good examples) support the popular revolt in Libya, and support aid to the rebel forces. They have no illusions that Gadaffi is anything but a blood-soaked fascist. And left groups want sanction against his supporters and real grassroots aid for the popular revolution. We just know, as past history going back to the 1880s shows, that inviting the global imperial power to save them will enslave the Libyan people to a more subtle yoke in the coming years. This may be better than Gadaffi’s death squads, but that accepts the fallacy which goes completely unnoticed by Professor Cole that there are not simply two choices: domestic tyrant or Pax Imperia.
posted by kipmanley at 9:03 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


my view is that it's happening right next door to europe and it's the europeans who need to bear the cost of trying to control the situation - i'm not sure whether something has to be done - but i do know that it doesn't have to be done by US
posted by pyramid termite at 9:05 PM on March 27, 2011


[comment removed - Artw, your options at this point are email and MetaTalk, thanks]
posted by jessamyn at 9:07 PM on March 27, 2011


this won't end...period
posted by telstar at 9:10 PM on March 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


please identify what you consider to be the most recent successful interventions in "real" geopolitical situations.

Gotta go all the way back to '99 in my opinion: the Kosovo War.

Yes, these kind of things often go awry. However, it doesn't mean we should never intervene, and it's obvious that we can't intervene everywhere. So far, our approach to Libya lines up with what I think we have to do. In other words, gain approval from a messy, highly political, veto-happy international organization, and then begin with a limited commitment before starting off with boots on the ground.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 9:11 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Phrased that badly. I should have said "rather than boots on the ground."
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 9:14 PM on March 27, 2011


The fact that our ugly realpolitik has aligned with our oil interests and actual humanitarian need is kind of nice. Every person who might think that bombing a country to stop a war could ever be a good idea is now in favor of this Libya thing (see Kosovo for the last successful version of this). Including the freaking Arab League.

We can't get this kind of consensus for action in any other foreign policy context, but if we have it here, and it is doing more good then harm, then hooray! The cost of not acting was Qadaffi massacring thousands of civilians - it's not clear this has saved or will save them them, but it at least gave them a (literal) fighting chance.

Sidenote: You know the Marines are just chomping at the bit to go invade Libya.
From the halls of Montezuma
to the shores of Tripoli
...
posted by pmb at 9:15 PM on March 27, 2011


The cost of not acting was Qadaffi massacring thousands of civilians - it's not clear this has saved or will save them them, but it at least gave them a (literal) fighting chance.

one thing that concerns me is that giving them a fighting chance may result in a prolonged and ugly civil war that may kill many more people than qadaffi's proposed massacres - if the rebels were to win quickly, fine

but if they don't, then what?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:19 PM on March 27, 2011


Gotta go all the way back to '99 in my opinion: the Kosovo War.

Milošević surrendered. We're about to find out what happens when the leader doesn't.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:22 PM on March 27, 2011


The real question we should be asking is this: if the United States entered into a Civil War, would we want China to invade for one side or the other?
posted by notion at 9:29 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Off-topic, but I just got back from a conference for my Model United Nations high school club. It was great this year, I got a resolution passed that would encourage the world community to recognize the sovereignty of Palestine. My partners in drafting this resolution were Peru and Egypt, both excellent delegates. USA was a backstabbing jerk.
posted by Taft at 9:39 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The real question we should be asking is this: if the United States entered into a Civil War, would we want China to invade for one side or the other?

I might, depending on how my side was doing. I think it would be a bad move for them though.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:49 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


We just know, as past history going back to the 1880s shows, that inviting the global imperial power to save them will enslave the Libyan people to a more subtle yoke in the coming years.

"You're worried about loosing your beard, when you're about to loose your head!"

-The Seven Samurai

That entire response is premised on the idea that the rebels could have fought off Khaddafi's forces by other means, when Khaddafi had just recaptured most of the cities he'd lost to the rebellion. Khaddafi's tanks were, quite literally, at the gates of Bengazi when the intervention began. Tell me how you stop his armor from dispersing the rebels so the security services could defeat them in detail without military intervention and I'll accept this argument. Doesn't have to be a detailed plan, just a general, hand-wavy notion will do.
posted by Grimgrin at 9:50 PM on March 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


General hand-waving, ibid:
Cole’s argument also accepts at face value the breathless reporting of Gadaffi’s superior military rolling over Benghazi’s defenses. In fact, those forces still loyal to Gadaffi appeared at the beginning of U.S. involvement to number less that 10,000, and despite recent offenses to be both stretched beyond their means and operating in a society that will turn on them the moment they leave town.

In fact, Gadaffi’s regime has since the 1980s starved his military of training, provided heavy weapons mostly for propaganda value and self-aggrandizing gifting to foreign partners, and set all units in competition with one another. There is no unified command, even in the six “regime support” elite units, and no units are allowed training in combined operations, for fear it may be turned against the government. Apart from entirely untrained thugs of the Revolutionary Committees militias, there are only six operating Brigade strength units fighting for Gadaffi. These internal security units are understrength, under trained, and still dispersed across the country for fear of new risings. Like the popular forces earlier failed advance westward on Syrte, the one and one half Brigades of paramilitary units advancing toward the east were unsupplied and overstretched. Even these elite units witnessed two company level defections (one armor company included) in the days prior to the US air-strikes. These are the causal relationships at play, not US bombing of Tripoli or antiaircraft emplacements. But Cole ignores all this.
posted by kipmanley at 9:56 PM on March 27, 2011


Cole is arguing in favor of the realities of coalition politics. Much of the argument against intervention is (in his terms) absolutist. It's blocking a consensus when there isn't a majority opposed.

The American left is not good at either coalitions or consensus. Most of the leftist meetings I've been at which relied on consensus ended up being dominated by the stupidest and stubbornest people in the room.

The abstentions on the Security Council were neither yes nor no votes. They were a decision not to block. In the case of Russia and China, the decision not to veto was also a decision not to have to wear the onus of permitting a massacre.

Very likely the trajectory of this war will be similar to Iraq. When Qaddafi’s clearly losing because of the destruction of his organized forces, he very likely will make good on his promise to arm irregulars. Once things devolve to that level, the possibility of peacekeepers succeeding has a glimmer of a chance.
posted by warbaby at 9:57 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been watching MeFi's subset of American liberals discuss Libya here.

What I've learned is American liberals oppose intervention because they're liberals and liberals oppose militarism. There is no need to try to understand anything about what's going on in Libya, North Africa or the Middle East. Once the US is involved, it's an American political issue; no issues outside of American politics are relevant. All you need to know are the following truisms (and maybe a few more):

It's all about oil because it's always all about oil.

This an invasion of the Middle East because that's what the military does, they invade things.

Ground troops will go in because ground troops always go in. And how do you do an invasion without ground troops?

This is an excuse to increase military spending and take money out of other programs. Since when did anything happening in a foreign country have anything to do with anything?

Who are these people anyway? They're a bunch of Arabs, right?


Cole lists a couple of reasons for liberal opposition to the invention: pacifism, anti-imperialism and anti-military pragmatism. As far as I can tell from reading here, only the conflict over budget priorities really matters, hardly anything else is relevant.
posted by nangar at 10:13 PM on March 27, 2011 [11 favorites]


kipmanley : The inherent weakness of his forces explains why Ghaddafi wasn't able to recapture any major rebel held cities before the intervention.
posted by Grimgrin at 10:14 PM on March 27, 2011


"Nations whose nationalism is destroyed are subject to ruin."
Muammar al-Gaddafi
posted by clavdivs at 10:32 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who are these people anyway? They're a bunch of Arabs, right?

"Libya has had to put up with too much from the Arabs for whom it has poured forth both blood and money."

-Muammar al-Gaddafi
posted by clavdivs at 10:33 PM on March 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Who are these people anyway? They're a bunch of Arabs, right?

Nothing like Iraq, 2003.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:34 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


nanger: for all the outrage, even after that poor woman burst in to tell the media about being raped by Qaddafi's men, I find it very difficult to jump on the bandwagon of dropping more bombs and hoping that it changes things. The fact is, there are tens of thousands of people in prison right now in Iraq, many of whom who have been raped and tortured, and you don't hear a peep about it unless you go searching. There are US armed military squads crushing opposition movements in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, but for some reason we aren't so keen to send in the Tomahawk missiles in those areas.

So, whenever the American media suddenly gives a shit about Arabs, I say they can go fuck themselves, and so can the Pentagon and the State Department. We've presided over far worse atrocities and armed worse men than Qaddafi, so excuse the hell out of me if I'm not buying the manufactured moral indignation for the hundredth time in two decades. Especially when we had no problems with his secret prisons less than three years ago, when the oil was flowing.

It's all about oil because it's always all about oil.

Sad but true. If this was the DRC, we'd have no problem in letting millions of people die in unimaginable conditions. When there isn't oil or some other benefit, we don't give a shit. Let the UN take care of it while we bitch about their ineffectiveness, despite giving less to the UN every year than we spend in 24 hours in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's the American way.
posted by notion at 10:40 PM on March 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


> Bombs don't "protect." Bombs kill people indiscriminately. Just like they do when our drones drop them on Pakistan (500 civilians to get one "Al Qaeda leader," anyone?)

It kind of depends on what targets you're dropping them on. But, you know, who cares about stupid details and stuff? It's just a distraction, right?

> If we really cared to do something, we'd need to put troops on the ground.

Why? The rebels that we're supposedly supporting with the no-fly zone are adamantly opposed it. There would be a massive public backlash in the US. It would involve an indefinite long term commitment a la Iraq and cost far more than anything we're doing now.

I'm not a huge Obama supporter, but I'm willing to entertain the idea that he's not insane or stupid.
posted by nangar at 10:44 PM on March 27, 2011 [8 favorites]



Why? The rebels that we're supposedly supporting with the no-fly zone are adamantly opposed it. There would be a massive public backlash in the US.


Oh, well in that case we should let the Libyan people be murdered. I mean if the politics were good we should go for it and brag about our humanitarianism but if not...whatever.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:48 PM on March 27, 2011


> I'm not sure I understand your response. At minimum at this point, the rebels will retain control of Cyrenaica. If look at this from a humanitarian standpoint, less dead non-Qaddafi supporters than their otherwise would have been. If you look at from a geopolitical standpoint, the countries involved in the no-fly zone get an ally were they didn't have one before.
posted by nangar at 11:16 PM on March 27, 2011


Directed more towards the sentiment of, "There would be a massive public backlash in the US."

How bad would this have to hurt Obama's election chances before the genocide isn't worth stopping?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:31 PM on March 27, 2011


notion : Intervention in the DRC would be horrific, it's 3 times the size of Afghanistan, has twice the population and is largely forested. It would require a massive foreign occupation to even begin to stop violence against civilians there. The argument is insane "The fact that you won't commit to a massive open ended occupation in Africa proves that using air power to destroy Quaddafi's armor and artillery must be part of some sinister plot.".

The difference between a hypothetical intervention in Africa (just about any of them you care to name) and the one in Libya, has nothing to do with oil or natural resources which African nations are often quite rich in. It's that the one in Libya might actually work.
posted by Grimgrin at 11:49 PM on March 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Pretty sure they always think it will work.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:55 PM on March 27, 2011




(Bush appointee) Gates and (voted for Iraq War) Clinton Unite to Defend Libya Intervention, and Say It May Last Awhile.

Meanwhile, in the fantasy land where people care about spending: Obama also includes cuts to heating assistance for low-income families and cuts to block grants for community development and aid for students.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:07 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Exactly. I'm tired of the "don't you care about murdered Libyans?" shtick. Of course we care. But every cruise missile fired is thousands of poor people right here in the United States who will have to go cold or hungry in the winter. Some of those will die. Why shouldn't I, when talking about what the American government should do, prioritize keeping Americans alive in America over killing (some) Libyans in Libya?
posted by Justinian at 12:29 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because it sounds a lot like you're weighting discomforts as more important than fatalities if the former happens in the US. It sucks to be cold. It sucks to be hungry. It's worse to get shot, and the fatality rates are much, much higher.

I'm pretty far out on the bleeding-heart liberal end of economic issues, but I don't seriously entertain the idea that the problems we have in this country are caused by a lack of resources. Unchecked avarice among the top 1% of wage earners, generalized mismanagement, knee-jerk hatred of government, and simple stupidity are bigger factors by (in my hand-waving opinion) an order of magnitude.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 12:42 AM on March 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


notion, I'm cynical about the motivations of the US and other governments involved in the no-fly zone. I think they see a geopolitical opportunity here. I don't think their motives are genuinely humanitarian. And I don't think they care much whether a new government in Libya is democratic or not, as long as it's an ally and seen as legitimate.

However, I think this is a rare case where the US and European powers' geopolitical interests aligned in a way that their intervention will accomplish positive. So in this case, I'm glad it's happened. (That's not usually the case.)

I generally agree with your cynicism about the US government's motivations, the costs of US foreign interventions and the damage they've caused, and the costs of maintaining a massive offensive military capacity. However, I think this one could end up doing some good, even if mostly accidentally.
posted by nangar at 12:54 AM on March 28, 2011


Yes, because the lack of heating oil for poor people in the united states is simply handwaved away as "discomfort". Leaving aside the fact that was just one example which I mentioned because of furiousxgeorge's link. We could also use that money for, I dunno, education. Health care. Cancer research.

Is the fact that 40 million Americans are uninsured also simply a matter of discomfort, or is it acceptable to prioritize that?
posted by Justinian at 12:55 AM on March 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, well in that case we should let the Libyan people be murdered. I mean if the politics were good we should go for it and brag about our humanitarianism but if not...whatever.

This is just disingenuous. You're only responding to half of his objection, completely ignoring the "the rebels do not want our troops there" point. Unless you've reversed yourself on Iraq, I suppose, and believe we should go in regardless of what the locals think?

As best as I can tell, your argument appears to be "We're too poor to fire missiles at Libya, but we're also hypocrites. If we sincerely cared, we would instead engage in a global military campaign to end all suffering everywhere. Regardless of the odds of success or whether the folks that lived there wanted us to or not. Also, Iraq was bad and anyone connected with it can not be trusted from that point on to ever be correct."
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 12:57 AM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Y'all can find my argument in previous Libya threads. I care about raw numbers of fatalities, yes. It turns out the best way to prevent them is with food, medicine, and mosquito nets. Not bombs.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:59 AM on March 28, 2011


Justinian, we should absolutely prioritize domestic concerns, but you're implying tit-for-tat tradeoffs that simply do not exist. We can't take the cruise missiles back to the cruise missile store for a gift card to use on health care.

Do we need to cut military spending? Absolutely. But it's irrelevant to this discussion.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 1:01 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, Iraq was bad and anyone connected with it can not be trusted from that point on to ever be correct.

Why is this not a legitimate point?
posted by dirigibleman at 1:03 AM on March 28, 2011


Why is this not a legitimate point?

Best 2 out of 3 justified wars?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:08 AM on March 28, 2011


Why is this not a legitimate point?

Because it there are huge realms of difference between the involvement of someone like Rumsfeld and someone like Powell in the Iraq situation. And still more realms between Powell and the congresspeople that voted for it. Because politics without unintended consequences only occur in fiction. Because it nullifies the human ability to learn from mistakes and modify subsequent behaviors.

If for no other reason, because it simply wouldn't work to have a one-mistake-and-you're-done system.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 1:13 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It turns out the best way to prevent them is with food, medicine, and mosquito nets.

I actually agree with this; we don't do enough. But keep in mind that if the folks running the country use famine and disease to control their populace, all the aid we send will rot on the docks. They will actively prevent it from reaching their people.
posted by dvorak_beats_qwerty at 1:21 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


If for no other reason, because it simply wouldn't work to have a one-mistake-and-you're-done system.

Yeah, doesn't work at all. Give em some more shots at it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:27 AM on March 28, 2011


furiousxgeorge, I get your general position, but you're not making a lot of sense here. You're objecting to the no-fly zone because it's a military action, and because it's not a full-scale invasion?

Did you reply to my comment the way you did because you assume I'm pro-war and just like the idea of killing people, and would thus see a no-fly zone as a half measure?

I would actually be pretty angry if a ground intervention happened, and I hope it doesn't. The reasons are it would kill a lot of Libyans, US soldiers and soldiers of any other countries that sent in troops, and would probably end up with foreign powers engineering a government in Libya. All of these would be very bad things.

I favor the current action to the extent I think it could, on the whole, do some good. I don't like the idea the idea of the intervention taking a form that I think would make things worse.
posted by nangar at 1:44 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Exactly. I'm tired of the "don't you care about murdered Libyans?" shtick. Of course we care. But every cruise missile fired is thousands of poor people right here in the United States who will have to go cold or hungry in the winter. Some of those will die. Why shouldn't I, when talking about what the American government should do, prioritize keeping Americans alive in America over killing (some) Libyans in Libya?
The problem with that argument is that the government is perfectly capable of paying for both, or neither. Those missiles would have been purchased regardless of their use and eventually they would have had to be disposed of somehow. What's actually happening is that services for the poor are being cut in order to cut taxes on the rich.

Also, most people in Libya are Berbers, not Arabs. (Wikipedia says 'Arabized Berbers'). It also has a tiny population, (six million, vs 20 in Iraq) and a really small army)
posted by delmoi at 1:57 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


furiousxgeorge, I get your general position, but you're not making a lot of sense here. You're objecting to the no-fly zone because it's a military action, and because it's not a full-scale invasion?

You brought up American public opinion as an aspect of the decision making process, I'm trying to figure out at which poll numbers we bomb, invade, declare total war, nuke, etc.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:03 AM on March 28, 2011


I'm uncomfortable with the invasion, not only because of my general aversion to the use of military force and the opportunity costs both domestic and international, but also because of the message our actions send to the rest of the world. From Steve Clemons:
At the same time, the former US official attending these talks told me that North Korea is watching the Western intervention in Libya and seeing the lesson that forfeiting nuclear weapons was a mistake made by Moammer Gaddafi. North Korea and many other nations are seeing that if one acquires nukes, keep them. They are the only ultimate security these regimes can count on in collisions with the West.

This official said that we are likely to see more unpredictable behavior and saber-rattling from North Korea as it reminds of its hard edge and it manipulates the fears of its neighbors by rationally deploying what appears to outsiders an erratic irrationality.
So on top of all the problems that others in this thread have already mentioned, this intervention could destabilize our relationship with an erratic nuclear power, and at least discourage future nuclear disarmament, if not encourage countries that feel they could be at risk to start actively developing nuclear programs of their own.

There are enough good reasons for reluctance to support this soft war that Cole's simplistic strawmen and the "hurf durf okay welcome President Palin" or "you guys stop talking about other things we could be doing instead, do you want Libyans to DIE" lines of argument are borderline obnoxious
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 2:41 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


This book (from 2002), if you can get a hold of it, is a must-read for anybody interested in the history of humanitarian intervention, and especially anybody who thinks that the Kosovo intervention was a "good war".
posted by moorooka at 3:06 AM on March 28, 2011


I think that unleashing the military on civilians is unacceptable. I wish that all the members of the UN security council felt the same way. I also wish more people would when given weapons turn them on the person who gave them to them. Because hand-wavy* percent of the time the person who is arming you is the last person you should take orders from.

*A number that approaches 100.
posted by Peztopiary at 3:14 AM on March 28, 2011


We can't take the cruise missiles back to the cruise missile store for a gift card to use on health care.

But we must remember, every cruise missile lobbed is a cruise missile that must be replaced. FWIW I marginally support the enforcement of the no-fly zone. People are right though, there is a lot of heinous shit going on worldwide that we cannot be bothered about. But if this helps save some lives, then it is good, even if the motivations for it are suspect. I am under no delusions that the U.S. and it's allies will always, or ever, operate for only altruistic reasons, it truly would be delusional to believe that any nation operates on the global stage for those reasons alone.

I do find some of the arguments here from the left truly astounding, many are loaded with healthy doses of naïveté. The real world doesn't let nations stand on principle alone. Kind of like the real world doesn't let individuals stand on principle alone. Everyone has to eat.
posted by IvoShandor at 4:29 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wank 'ole
posted by kcds at 4:48 AM on March 28, 2011


We walked by an anti-war protest over the weekend and normally I'm all for the protesters, but one guy was holding up a sign there that read this:

LONG LIVE the
SOCIALIST PEOPLE'S
LIBYAN ARAB
JAMAHIRIYA
and BROTHER
MUHAMMAR GADAFFI

Can anyone explain this? I thought it was pretty well known that Gadaffi was a Bad Guy Dictator - in what alternate universe did he become a great Socialist leader?
posted by backseatpilot at 5:17 AM on March 28, 2011


in what alternate universe did he become a great Socialist leader?

In the alternate universe of Libyan propaganda I assume. It's all in the Green Book.
posted by ob at 5:26 AM on March 28, 2011


I am marginally hopeful at this point that we might have gotten lucky here. We'll see what happens if the rebels bog down.
posted by empath at 5:52 AM on March 28, 2011


In the same universe the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) is a democratic republic.

The NAZI party and the USSR both put Socialist in their names, despite being something very, very different. Actual Socialism generally gets things done for people and industry in the interest of a just and prosperous society, without the need to mass-murder or torture anyone, so it has name recognition.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:11 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


No mention of Cote d'Ivoire, hmmm

France Seeks UN Resolution to End Ivory Coast Conflict
France has called for a Security Council meeting tomorrow on the conflict and is circulating a draft resolution that would tell UN peacekeepers to use “all necessary measures, including by seizing heavy weapons,” to protect civilians, according to diplomats who spoke on condition of not being identified because the text hasn’t been made public.


posted by electroboy at 6:20 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think that the place Cole started from is a frustration with the American left's inability to accept coalition politics and policies with least bad alternatives.

If the purpose of argumentation is to persuade - and perhaps build a new and different majority - the left is doing it wrong. Many of the non-intervention arguments play like they begin with an absolute rejection of intervention and then construct reasons why it shouldn't happen in this specific case.

The Ivory Coast argument is a good example of this: it appears superficially to accept intervention in principle (by claiming it's needed, while ignoring that the UN is intervening unsuccessfully there) and then rejecting intervention in Libya because it's not happening in both places at once.

(on preview, electroboy points out Ivory Coast is not a dead letter in the UN.)

For Ivory Coast, substitute all of the other "hey, look at this other place where things are gone to hell" arguments. It's unpersuasive because it is trying to have things several ways at once. If this was a consistent position, one would expect support for intervention in Libya while pressing for action in Ivory Coast and Bahrain. To oppose it in Libya while suggesting it's needed elsewhere just doesn't work.

The responsibility to protect is a new principle in international diplomacy. It's not international law, but there are investigations into Libyan crimes against humanity. The international community is not very good or practiced at this. If, however, someone is going to argue that intervention is never justified and should never happen, they will have to acknowledge this would reduce international response to deploring and protesting.

Historically, this has meant acceptance of regional wars that escalate into wide conflicts as total war. The UN is a reaction to WWII. It has produced an evolution in international politics so that now issues like human rights are at least considered at the same level as national sovereignty.

It's been said there is no good war and no bad peace. Like most platitudes, it's generally right and occasionally horribly wrong. The vanguardist tendency to try to seize moral high ground by absolutist arguments is a bug not a feature of the American left. There are times when half a loaf is better.
posted by warbaby at 6:40 AM on March 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


I would like to urge the Left to learn to chew gum and walk at the same time.

How about having a Left 1st? Because there is a right and a really right and no left.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:48 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


A more nuanced view of Gadaffi
posted by destro at 6:54 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


there is a lot of heinous shit going on worldwide that we cannot be bothered about. But if this helps save some lives, then it is good,

Save some lives is a rather poor metric when the American diet is filled with cheap carbs.

Its also the metric that brings AT&T to the 'here are call records without a warrant' Or ....
well, you get the idea.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:55 AM on March 28, 2011


My motivation for opposing US (not necessarily UN) intervention in Libya is because US foreign policy is largely dictated by a desire to secure (continued access) to oil reserves.

An accidental win does not obtain when cynical self-interest combines with humanitarian concern. The result of these two mutually exclusives modes of thought is politically incoherent military action that will have to rationalized at every step of the way.

Many people have died and will continue to die in Libya as a result of the actions of its government and, now, the actions of self-interested third parties who hide their real motives with the promise of deliverance. I would just as soon not throw my stupid liberal weight behind the Western leaders who disguise the (we all know) real motivation for Western military intervention in Libya, especially if those leaders include the President of the United States.

As a committed liberal, I resist moving in the direction that manipulates humanitarian concern to gain support for human atrocity not because I am an absolute pacifist, but because I know such seductions are lies.
posted by mistersquid at 6:58 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Save some lives is a rather poor metric when the American diet is filled with cheap carbs.

Its also the metric that brings AT&T to the 'here are call records without a warrant' Or ....
well, you get the idea.


No, ashlar, I don't.
posted by nangar at 6:58 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I believe I will sit this one out.
posted by Postroad at 6:59 AM on March 28, 2011


The important thing about Kosovo is not whether it was a successful intervention or not--it's that it, along with non-intervention in Rwanda and a number of other events during the Clinton years, legitimized the ideological climate of rah-rah post-Cold War liberal interventionism. This then helped make the case for the war in Iraq. (Let's not kid ourselves: the Bush administration deliberately appealed both to right-wing fear of terrorism and center-left interventionism to legitimize itself, which is why support for the war was initially so broad.) Actions have long-term consequences, and interventionist war, especially when it's successful, leads to more wars.
posted by nasreddin at 7:00 AM on March 28, 2011


From the other thread: Mulligan's dad got out
posted by warbaby at 7:00 AM on March 28, 2011


Is there ever going to be a tipping point where we stop trying to use violence to stop violent people from violently opposing violence?

I do find some of the arguments here from the left truly astounding, many are loaded with healthy doses of naïveté. The real world doesn't let nations stand on principle alone. Kind of like the real world doesn't let individuals stand on principle alone. Everyone has to eat.


You are so right about this, with an exception or two. Perhaps the world is so far in the crapper because no one stands on principle alone. If the militant powers in charge keep on keepin on, we may have neither food nor principals. All I can do is continue to vote my conscience, because voting for the lessor of the evils is no change I can see. Naivete sucks and reality sucks, but my private world of principle isn't as ugly and I intend to pass it down to my kids as best I can. That may be the best chance we have. The change against this entrenched evil may take generations. Music, art, metafilter, twitter all seem insignifigant. But we aren't going to bomb our way to a better planet or a better people. We are seeing the results of the example we (usa) set on the international scene. I'm sick to death of Team America, World Police. I want Team America, Taking Care of Business At Home. Setting the example of: when you clean up your own act, maybe you can have some moral authority to tell other countries what to do. We are as polarised here as any of the counties we are trying to "help", so WTF? So far we aren't shooting each other in the streets, so maybe that's something, but is that high moral standings or great programing on the telly? The hottest new game for whatever console? Principles do not equal naivete, and making deals with devils rarely works out well. My only glimmer of hope is the first half of the last century was all about the rise of military/industry. In the second half, a faint objection began. Help that objection grow with everything you can, especially in influencing the generations to follow. If you don't have kids of your own (can't blame you there!) be that weird uncle or aunt, or even neighbor. Just don't give up and water those principles now and then. Bring them out into the light and maybe they'll grow and others may see the beauty in them
posted by Redhush at 7:06 AM on March 28, 2011


So far we aren't shooting each other in the streets,

I believe Americans are shot on the streets every day.

The shootings aren't typically tied to politics - when they are they are fodder on The Blue.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:13 AM on March 28, 2011


A problem at home that needs fixing. Shooting cruise missles all over the middle east isn't likely to help
posted by Redhush at 7:27 AM on March 28, 2011


The shootings aren't typically tied to politics

But a fair amount of general violence is (Amato, John and Neiwert, David. Over the Cliff, 2010). And while it's not a lot in the pantheon of American violence, it's a bit disturbing. Redhush makes some really good points, though I didn't mean to imply that principles = naïveté. Just that relying on principle alone either makes one very hungry or very credulous or maybe just very alone. It really isn't going to go far. Change is always slow in America, anyway. I'm still not voting for Ralph Nader though.
posted by IvoShandor at 8:18 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]




Gah! As a socialist, an American, and a person blessed with the miracle of sight, I oppose the Socialist Party USA's website, STRONGLY.
posted by willie11 at 9:00 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


If Libya is not a good case for intervention, then nowhere is.
posted by Jehan at 9:15 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Oh, the lapdog of American military prowess passed it with barely half the members voting. The three members being the US, UK, and France, all of whom have vast oil interests in that country. Yeah, that sounds solid to me, and nothing at all like the other colonial property we invaded in 2003."

Oh, God, you're fucking priceless.

The UN Security Council is the lapdog of American military prowess? The security council voted against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Half the members voting? Actually, ten of the fifteen members supported it, none opposed it, and five abstained. But why let facts limp an outrage boner?

"My motivation for opposing US (not necessarily UN) intervention in Libya is because US foreign policy is largely dictated by a desire to secure (continued access) to oil reserves."

Well congratulations, since you RTFA, you no longer oppose the intervention, since it's destabilizing those oil contracts.
posted by klangklangston at 9:17 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


notion : Intervention in the DRC would be horrific, it's 3 times the size of Afghanistan, has twice the population and is largely forested. It would require a massive foreign occupation to even begin to stop violence against civilians there. The argument is insane "The fact that you won't commit to a massive open ended occupation in Africa proves that using air power to destroy Quaddafi's armor and artillery must be part of some sinister plot."

No, the fact that no one gives a damn about Africans/Arabs in general unless they sit on top of oil or near the Suez Canal is not some sinister plot. It's reality. We could have easily intervened in Rwanda or the DRC before those situations spiraled out of control, but their lives simply didn't matter.

Combining the death toll of those two conflicts, you arrive at numbers that reach nearly six million, which I think would give pause if they were a different color, or at least geopolitically relevant. And to claim that fighting Rwandans with machetes, or poorly trained impressed soldiers in the Congo without any sort of air support whatsoever, would be impossible for the US military seems to be a strange bit of modesty in the middle of waging two nation-building wars.

The difference between a hypothetical intervention in Africa (just about any of them you care to name) and the one in Libya, has nothing to do with oil or natural resources which African nations are often quite rich in. It's that the one in Libya might actually work.

In the last three decades, I'd wager about 90% of our troop deployments have been to oil rich nations. Libya has the largest proven oil reserves in all of Africa. If you think this a coincidence, well, what can I say.

I don't discount the validity of the argument that Libyan rebels deserve our help. But all of the people who suddenly care about freedom in Libya are absolute hypocrites at best. Let's not pretend otherwise to make ourselves feel better, and avoid laying the groundwork for more interventionist disasters as long as we're indifferently watching the death toll mount throughout the rest of Africa.

Give the UN real power through real democratic votes, and I'm on board. But for the major players in this conflict -- the US, the UK, France, and Italy -- they would lose too much political power, so it's not an option. We will risk everything, even the legitimacy of a new Libyan government, just to keep hold of the reins a little bit longer.
posted by notion at 9:19 AM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


American liberals oppose intervention because they're liberals and liberals oppose militarism.

FWIW, my own opposition to intervention was founded less on an opposition to militarism or humanitarian intervention, as such, and more on the belief that it's imprudent to open another front when you're fighting a two-front (or three, really, since the Korean front might go *bang* any day now) war already. Now that it's on, though, I'd rather see Gaddafi gone and wish the rebels the best, than ally myself with the people on the right who seem to have suddenly "got religion" about Congressional war-making powers and the horrors of foreign interventions.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:19 AM on March 28, 2011


I dunno. I've been hoping to see Lybia's people rise up against Qadaffi, and/or Western military intervention, since I was in the 6th grade. I didn't care about the oil then, and believe it or not, I still don't really care.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:22 AM on March 28, 2011


Gah! As a socialist, an American, and a person blessed with the miracle of sight, I oppose the Socialist Party USA's website, STRONGLY

Join us ... join us.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:25 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


notion: Why are you so sure that military intervention would have quickly resolved the situations in Africa? Would it have diffused the tribal fault lines and land crunch in Rwanda? Would it have been possible to quickly build a stable multi-ethnic government in the Congo?

And to claim that fighting Rwandans with machetes, or poorly trained impressed soldiers in the Congo without any sort of air support whatsoever, would be impossible for the US military seems to be a strange bit of modesty in the middle of waging two nation-building wars.

The two nation building wars have been best described as 'catastrafucks'. If everything went peachy in both, you'd have a much stronger argument that non-intervention in Africa represents callous indifference, and not a simple awareness of the risks (that Bush completely, callously and stupidly ignored).

And it would be impossible. Not militarily, militarily it'd be trivial. What would be impossible is justifying why troops from the US and UK are gunning down what would inevitably be described as African children and civilians.
posted by Grimgrin at 10:05 AM on March 28, 2011


In the last three decades, I'd wager about 90% of our troop deployments have been to oil rich nations.

I'll take that bet.
posted by electroboy at 10:12 AM on March 28, 2011


> There are enough good reasons for reluctance to support this soft war that Cole's simplistic strawmen
> and the "hurf durf okay welcome President Palin" or "you guys stop talking about other things we could
> be doing instead, do you want Libyans to DIE" lines of argument are borderline obnoxious
> posted by cobra_high_tigers at 5:41 AM on March 28 [1 favorite +] [!]

Nevertheless it's pleasant to see (some portions of) what passes for the Left in the US suddenly sensitive to Cole's habitual obnoxious rhetoric; and equally good to see Cole himself waking up and smelling the كوفية‎.
posted by jfuller at 10:22 AM on March 28, 2011


We could have easily intervened in Rwanda or the DRC before those situations spiraled out of control, but their lives simply didn't matter.

just how many days do you think it would have taken for the u s to get a significant military force to rwanda, when the genocide started? - and remember that one would also have to establish and keep a supply line to support those troops

on sept 19, 2001 combat operations were set in motion against afghanistan - on oct 7, the air campaign started - on nov 14, kabul was taken over by our northern alliance supporters

even now, nearly 10 years later, we don't have control of the whole country

the rwandan genocide took 100 days

conclusion - if we had intervened there, most of the killing would have still taken place

you act as though having the world's biggest military is some kind of magic wand that one can just wave and have things go the way you want them to, right away - but armies don't just fight the enemy - they fight geography and logistics, too
posted by pyramid termite at 10:29 AM on March 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


"... good to see Cole himself waking up and smelling the كوفية‎."

Google translates this for me as "waking up and smelling the muffler" -- which is as reasonable as anything else I've seen in the discussion of Libya.
posted by fredludd at 10:40 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Exactly. I'm tired of the "don't you care about murdered Libyans?" shtick. Of course we care. But every cruise missile fired is thousands of poor people right here in the United States who will have to go cold or hungry in the winter. Some of those will die. Why shouldn't I, when talking about what the American government should do, prioritize keeping Americans alive in America over killing (some) Libyans in Libya?

This isn't true. The US budget and appropriations process doesn't work like this. Your argument doesn't line up with reality.
posted by humanfont at 10:58 AM on March 28, 2011


Google translates this for me as "waking up and smelling the muffler"

Kufiya (keffiyeh). Arabic Wikipedia with pictures.

Coffee is قهوة. but the pun wouldn't have worked as well.

(Google translate's not always so great with Arabic.)
posted by nangar at 11:05 AM on March 28, 2011


If Libya is not a good case for intervention, then nowhere is.

In theory there is supposed to be some interchange between the Executive and other branches.

If the case is good enough for Armed Conflict the founding legal documents have a way for that case to be formalized as an expression of the will of the governed.

If one is under the rule of law, should not the law be followed?

(If the military was firing on, say, college students, would you support the armed intervention of major military powers? Before you answer - think Kent State and THEN answer.)
posted by rough ashlar at 11:27 AM on March 28, 2011


notion: Why are you so sure that military intervention would have quickly resolved the situations in Africa?
...Eventually, after the UN Mandate of the French mission was at an end, millions of Hutu refugees left Rwanda, mainly headed to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). The presence of Hutu refugees (see Great Lakes refugee crisis) on the border with Rwanda, added to internal instability, contributed to the First and Second Congo Wars, with clashes between these groups and the Rwandan government continuing.
...

The UN and its member states did not respond to the realities on the ground. In the midst of the escalating crisis for Tutsis, they directed Lt. General Roméo Dallaire to focus UNAMIR on evacuating foreign nationals from Rwanda. Due to the change in orders, Belgian UN peacekeepers abandoned the Don Bosco Technical School, filled with 2,000 refugees. Hutu militants waited outside, drinking beer and chanting "Hutu Power." After the Belgians left, the militants entered and massacred everyone inside, including hundreds of children.

Four days later the Security Council voted to reduce UNAMIR to 270 men, by Resolution 912. Following the withdrawal of the Belgian forces, Dallaire consolidated his contingent of Canadian, Ghanaian, and Dutch soldiers in urban areas and tried to provide areas of "safe control". His actions saved the lives of 20,000 Tutsi. The administrative head of UNAMIR, former Cameroonian foreign minister Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh, has been criticized for downplaying the significance of Dallaire's reports and for holding close ties to the Hutu militant elite.

The US was reluctant to get involved in the "local conflict" in Rwanda and refused to label the killings as "genocide". Then-president Bill Clinton later publicly regretted that decision in a Frontline television interview. Five years later, Clinton stated that he believed that if he had sent 5,000 U.S. peacekeepers, more than 500,000 lives could have been saved. ( source )


Because I read.

And it would be impossible. Not militarily, militarily it'd be trivial. What would be impossible is justifying why troops from the US and UK are gunning down what would inevitably be described as African children and civilians.

Here's the thing: we don't have to drop bombs and tomahawk missiles and hope they hit the right people. We could raise a volunteer force under the control of the UN and actually support that organization instead of abusing it for our own cynical purposes. If we really care about the international community intervening in genocides, let's finally get on board and observe our treaties and responsibilities in the UN charter. Let's not attach conditions and threaten the UN with destruction if they don't obey our every whim and desire. Let's not compromise the integrity of the vote with back room deals and political maneuvering. Most of all, let's be real about why we give a shit about Libya. We want our fucking money.

When the USG is proposing to sign people up out of the reserves to go in and save lives under the control of UN, and members of Congress are signing up their own children like in WWII, I'll be able to take them seriously in their desires to do good. Otherwise, I'm under no misapprehensions about their motivations. Follow the money, follow the money, follow the money.
posted by notion at 12:09 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


In theory there is supposed to be some interchange between the Executive and other branches.

If the case is good enough for Armed Conflict the founding legal documents have a way for that case to be formalized as an expression of the will of the governed.

If one is under the rule of law, should not the law be followed?

(If the military was firing on, say, college students, would you support the armed intervention of major military powers? Before you answer - think Kent State and THEN answer.)
posted by rough ashlar at 11:27 AM on March 28 [+] [!]


If your concern is about your country's constitution then that's an argument you might need to have within your own society - I understand that people from the US may be anxious about how and why military action is authorized given its history. My concern is that if we accept the general idea of intervention as an action a state or states can undertake with moral and legal certainty (however authorized) what are the criteria that make Libya a bad choice? Compared to the other places mentioned in this thread - Bahrain, DRC, Ivory Coast - Libya is near perfect.
posted by Jehan at 12:34 PM on March 28, 2011


I understand that people from the US may be anxious about how and why military action is authorized given its history. My concern is that if we accept the general idea of intervention as an action a state or states can undertake with moral and legal certainty (however authorized) what are the criteria that make Libya a bad choice? Compared to the other places mentioned in this thread - Bahrain, DRC, Ivory Coast - Libya is near perfect.

This clinical separation between the historical reality of American interventionism on the hand, and the sanitized laboratory of "intervention" as a theoretical ideal in political science seems especially suspect and forced to me. The context here is everything, and perhaps if America were not a) under such economic strain at home, b) already fighting two unnecessary wars, and c) a example of a state that has become so militaristic it no longer recognizes how reflexive its militarism has become, then the "perfection" of Libya as a Poli-Sci test-case might make more sense. As it is, it reads to me like Rationalizing Imperial Power 101.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 12:46 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Most of all, let's be real about why we give a shit about Libya. We want our fucking money."

Except that, as Cole pointed out and you ignore, the US didn't take Libyan oil for most of two decades, and supporting the rebels actually makes it less likely that we'd have access to the oil, especially at the previously-agreed rates.

Further, this is fundamentally an ad hominem fallacy — that because the US has a motivation (putatively, oil, but as I've pointed out, that's nonsense), therefore everything is tainted by that motivation.

You start with the assumption that the US is evil and you work to find justifications for that belief. Ideologue bullshit isn't something that only the Tea Party engages in.
posted by klangklangston at 12:47 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


start with the assumption that the US is evil

I can't speak for others here, but fwiw I don't start with that assumption--I am however struck by the historical record regarding the reflexively militaristic nature of American power: as a country the US literally cannot conduct itself without a war (against communism, terrorism, despotism, etc) to justify its existence. So even if we agree on Libya (either for or against intervention there), the real test becomes when exactly our strategy of military intervention comes to its historic closure. Are we committed to this strategy forever, and do we have the resources to accomplish it?
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 12:53 PM on March 28, 2011


Further, this is fundamentally an ad hominem fallacy — that because the US has a motivation (putatively, oil, but as I've pointed out, that's nonsense), therefore everything is tainted by that motivation.

I couldn't agree more. Let's say that we're (and by we I mean the US and western Europe) doing this for the "wrong reasons". Let's say that furthermore, our attitudes are inconsistent. We intervene in one country but we leave another alone. Let's say that we overuse our military time and time again in order to justify its existence and to make huge amounts of money for ourselves. Let's say that many of the players here have, to be euphemistic in the extreme, tainted pasts. Pasts replete with colonialism that was rife with doing the very thing that we now decry in Libya. In short, let's say that we're inconsistent bellicose hypocrites with, at best, murky motivations. None of that means what we're doing in Libya is wrong.
posted by ob at 2:17 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Walking and chewing gum is actually a good metaphor for getting your intelligence right before starting a $3T war while arrogantly ignoring millions of voices worldwide.

Ann Arbor, hey Cole? Kind of cold and isolated isn't it?
posted by Twang at 2:37 PM on March 28, 2011


the human ability to learn from mistakes...

Oh, see, I knew someone would drag religion into it.
posted by Twang at 2:48 PM on March 28, 2011






Of all the wars that the US has been in over the last 20 years..


WTF is wrong with us? I really really wish we had a draft/conscription armed force.
posted by notreally at 3:16 PM on March 28, 2011


notion: Yes. They could have pre-empted the immediate threat of genocide. That's not what I said though.

Could they have fixed the land pressures and ethnic divisions that set the stage for the Rwandan genocide with 5000 troops? How long would those troops have had to be there to make sure the danger didn't recur? And again, what happens if those 5000 troops suddenly get into a shooting war with 8 million Rwandan Hutus? How many of Rwandans would the US have been able to justify shooting on a humanitarian mission? How about the Congo? How many troops do you think it would take to stabilize a heavily forested country 7 times the size of Vietnam?

Also, why is Clinton's estimate on how few troops it would have taken to prevent the genocide in Rwanda with absolutely no negative consequences any more credible than any of the low ball estimates of time and effort at the beginning of any operation that involves actually invading a country?

I'm not saying we have pure motives, I'm saying that the fact that we don't intervene in Africa as a general rule isn't a sign of some nefarious intent. It's a sign that Africa is huge, has a fraught history with the west, and problems that do not lend themselves to easy solutions by military intervention. In Libya the problem was basically that government tanks were killing civilians and tanks in open country are a problem that it's very easy for fighter jets to solve.
posted by Grimgrin at 3:30 PM on March 28, 2011


Depends on your view of morality ob, because intentions can matter, and in a universe where actions produce uncertain results, arguments are made that intentions are more important than results.

I am cynical about America's commitment to Libya, and I am cynical about the supposed time-frame. when the President goes from saying "days, not weeks" to Gates and Clinton saying "operation could drag on for months or even into next year" I become increasingly apprehensive that we are seeing a slow roll into a new war.

And yeah it bothers me that the administration may very well be hiding behind arguments of humanitarian necessity in a way that is duplicitous and callous. It cheapens, trivializes, even taints those who honestly believe in military intervention to stop atrocities when others use the same arguments to accomplish goals that aren't particularly concerned with humanitarian aid.

And I am surprised some are arguing that they know the USA may not be in this fight for the official reasons listed on the transcript but those goals our representatives pay lip service to-- it's getting accomplished anyway so we have a net good coming out of this no-fly zone. Do these commentators think the USA is getting "tricked" into being an agent for good, that the USA is going to just forget about the reasons they actually are getting involved, that the USA is just going to walk away from Libya after the rebels liberate the country? I honestly do not understand how people argue in good faith that our bombing Libya will result in a net good especially when the same people concede our true intentions for bombing isn't humanitarian.

And when people argue that Libya is somehow "perfect" or ripe for intervention -- I feel like I am listening to someone tell me the sky is bright green. I certainly heard similar arguments for Iraq, that with Iraq's large, secular population, relative affluence, fairly large middle class, if not a thriving commercial/business class then at least one that isn't dead, and as country with some infrastructure Iraq was "perfect" or at least the best chance for the Middle East to have Democracy. Perhaps someone can better explain why Libya is such a perfect opportunity for intervention? It is a huge country -- larger than Iran, about 3 times the size of Iraq, that doesn't seem to make it perfect for engagement. It is unclear who will rule the country after Qaddafi and it is especially unclear if we can influence the aftermath without having boots on the ground in Libya, this doesn't seem to make it perfect for invention. Since Qaddafi has been a violent, ruthless dictator who regularly murdered political dissidents I feel comfortable in predicting that there are many unanswered blood feuds amongst individuals, families, tribes, which will be acted upon once Qaddafi's central authority is removed -- sectarian violence doesn't make a country "perfect" for bombing unless the endgame is having a "peace-keeping" force on the ground to help keep the violence to a minimum. And for what it's worth, I consider Bahrain a better opportunity for intervention than Libya.

And beginning military operations in a third country in the Middle East when the United States of America is itself struggling seems foolish at best, and fatal at worst. Is it too cynical and pessimistic to think of the fall of Athens after the Sicilian expedition? Or think of the fall of the Roman empire? 1 in 100 Americans are in Jail. Unemployment hovers around 9% (I won't get into how massaged that number is). For every job opening there are 5 applicants. We're cutting benefits which help the poorest while cutting taxes which help the richest. Few Americans disagree the country faces tremendous domestic challenges, many acknowledge there is a class war being waged by the ultra-rich against everyone else, and "The 2009 U.S. military budget accounts for approximately 40% of global arms spending".

I know I can walk and chew gum at the same time -- I've done it before, but as a country I am not sure I can be engaged in two nation building exercises, be bombing a third, spending 20% of our budget on "defense", cutting taxes for the wealthiest, cutting benefits for the poorest, incarcerating 1% of the population, having an employment rate of 9%, all the while a soft civil war of the rich against poor occurs internally -- It is a little different from chewing gum and walking at the same time. Good luck America.
posted by Shit Parade at 3:34 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can we just decide on how the hell we're going to spell the ruler of Libya's name?

Gadhafi, Ghaddaffi, Qataffi, Khadhaffi, Qadhafi, Kadhafi, Gaddafi, Qaddafi, Kadaffi, Gadhafi, Qadhafi, Kaddafi, Gadhaffi, Qadhaffi, Khadhafi, I don't care, just make up your minds.
posted by floam at 3:35 PM on March 28, 2011


I read this thread with increasing perplexity at the arguments against the Libyan intervention. I quite honestly don't understand where people are coming from. And I say that as someone who opposed the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan at the time.

For me, the context matters. We went to Afghanistan for revenge. We went to Iraq...for no good goddamn reason I've ever heard. We are using missiles in Libya because there is a massacre under way. Those are pretty different contexts.

I see a lot of people arguing based on what they fear people's secret motivations are or actions they fear people may take in the future. I think history will prove that human beings are generally really bad at predicting the future. So perhaps our discussion could be based on what is actually happening.
posted by threeturtles at 3:43 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


We went to Iraq...for no good goddamn reason I've ever heard.

To overthrow a crazy dictator who killed his own people.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:45 PM on March 28, 2011


To overthrow a crazy dictator who killed his own people.

Is this supposed to be some kind of gotcha? Because we're going to Libya to overthrow a crazy dictator who is killing his people? That's poor rhetoric, and it's also not the reason we went to Iraq. I'm not sure if you were around at the time, but the reason presented was presented as keeping the rest of the world safe, because of harbors full of terrorists or WMDs or something like that. And there wasn't really any active massacring going on, nor was that implied if I recall.
posted by floam at 3:57 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Re: Gaddafi's name. The problem is that there are 28 glyphs in Arabic and 26 in English. The 'Kof' glyph is usually aligned with a Q (closest alphabetical alignment), a K phonetically aligned to the eastern parts of the Arab speaking world or G (ga) as it is usually pronounced in north Africa. And that's just the first letter. Gadhafi is probably phoeneticaly the best transliteration IIRC. Though it has been years and my Arabic is very rusty.
posted by humanfont at 3:57 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


To overthrow a crazy dictator who killed his own people.

There is a significant qualitative difference between Saddam Hussein having carried out massacres and waged war in the past, and Moammar Gaddafi actually attempting to carry one out right now (as seemed to be the case 10 days ago when intervention began). With the Iraq invasion, the US and UK spent months publishing satellite photos and talking of WMD risks and demanding inspections of facilities as if they were stuffed full of military hardware.

By contrast, the US had pretty much stayed on the sidelines during the recent popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. It seems only a few weeks ago that people were questioning why the US was effectively backing the status quo in Egypt by verbally criticizing but not interfering with Mubarak's attempts to quash protests there. When protests in Libya erupted into fighting we just watched it on the news for a few weeks without the US even taking a strong position.

It's quite a bit different from the Iraq war in 2003, or even the Gulf war in 1992, though more similar to the latter.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:01 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I completely understand it's ambiguous and there's a billion ways you can spell it. It might make sense that there's confusion as to the correct way to spell some random guy on the street who says his name to you — but this is sort of an important figure and you would think we'd come to some sort of consensus on what the convention is by now. It's a real person's name, certainly there's something on his passport or he'd have decided how he'd spell it in English by now. I think people are being cute.

I also don't like it when people in "Hawaiʻi" name their children things like "Cyndi". And I don't care that these are apples and oranges and that Hawai'i is totally more correct!!!.
posted by floam at 4:06 PM on March 28, 2011


As someone who went to Iraq for Bush's grand humanitarian fantasy, and as a member of Left, I say Juan Cole can go fuck himself. (Unless he's ready to enlist. No? Right.) Here are my reasons:

-The laughably naive notion that this is going to be done in 90 days and there will be democracy and jellybeans for all good Libyans... well, I just don't know where to begin. As in Iraq and Vietnam, this is being done without an official declaration of war by the Congress. As in Vietnam, it's being done by a Democratic president -- i.e., a guy who's afraid to back down or look weak or "cut and run," because that will mean he'll be painted as the Pussy President in the next election. As in both cases, no one has said what winning looks like. All of these elements put together mean that we will have a very hard time saying "Okay, our part is done, and our war objectives are achieved. "

-The idea that you can fight a war from the air, with high-tech doodads, is exactly how we got fucked in Iraq. Gen. Shinseki told the administration that they would need hundreds of thousands of soldiers on the ground to secure Iraq after an invasion, and essentially got fired for it, because Rumsfeld was convinced that a high-tech force with superior air power was all that was needed.

-There is no way to enforce a no-fly zone without engaging anti-air defenses on the ground. So we are already engaging Qaddafi's ground forces. And that fight is naturally going to move closer to them. Already we are extending this thing to involve, not ground troops yet, but helicopters and drones:

"Pentagon officials are looking at plans to expand the firepower and airborne surveillance systems in the military campaign, including using the Air Force's AC-130 gunship armed with cannons that shoot from the side doors, as well as helicopters and drones."

-Given all that, I think we're going to have a very hard time keeping our hands clean and not either deploying ground troops or sending in Raymond Davis, who, let's be honest, probably needs the distraction.

-Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the U.S. really will draw down. Maybe Qaddafi will think better of it all and quietly retire. Maybe "former regime elements," as we used to call them in Iraq, won't be a problem if he falls. Maybe the new government will be democratic and just and fair in every way. But you know what? Even if all that happens, it will still have been wrong for us to get involved in the affairs of another country when our own national interests weren't at stake. (And they weren't, according to no less than Secretary Gates.) Because every time we do this -- every time we let the President unilaterally declare war for some reason other than actual national defense -- we make it make it that much easier for the next guy. We make it seem natural -- even inevitable -- that when a president has a whim to go expeditioneering, the rest of the country can't really do anything about it. And while today's whim may find resonance with the Left -- oh, goodie, we can save some nice underdog rebels! -- I guarantee you that tomorrow's will not. "I also don’t understand the worry about the setting of precedents," says Cole blithely, because it's not him who has to go and fight in one of these boondoggles once the precedent of an absurdly low bar to entry into war has been set.

Anyway... apologies for the length and for any lapses in coherence. But I find liberal chickenhawks in love with righteous war every bit as infuriating as the neocon ones.
posted by thehandsomecamel at 4:14 PM on March 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


There were multiple reasons given for Iraq, I can certainly dig up articles framing the invasion as humanitarian if you like, but we all know they were there so I don't see the point.

If you think stopping crazy dictators who kill there people is a good reason, you can't say you never heard one good reason.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:15 PM on March 28, 2011


^To overthrow a crazy dictator who killed his own people.


Actually there were two reasons formally given for the invasion of Iraq. One was self defense. The other was to enforce UN resolutions.
posted by phoque at 4:15 PM on March 28, 2011


SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.

(a) AUTHORIZATION- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to--

(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and

(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.
posted by phoque at 4:16 PM on March 28, 2011


The AP style guide weighs in on the name name spelling issue. So everyone please standardize on "Gadhafi". Also note it is now officially email and not e-mail and Quran not Koran.
posted by humanfont at 4:19 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


On September 12, 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush addressed the General Assembly and outlined a catalogue of complaints against the Iraqi government.[1] These included...

/snip

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2001 found "extremely grave" human rights violations

Iraq used proceeds from the "oil for food" U.N. program to purchase weapons rather than food for its people.


posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:22 PM on March 28, 2011


Fifty percent of Americans don't see a clear goal for our Libya attacks. Also, 60% don't buy Obama's timescale of "days not weeks" (not surprising, since it's already been more than a week).
posted by dirigibleman at 4:24 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Apparently there are up to 112 legitimate spellings of the Gaddafi's name, depending on how you render arabic symbols in English

furiousxgeorge : If the west waited until months or years after the crackdown was over then attacked unilaterally as in Iraq then I'd totally agree with this line of argument. Unfortunately your characterization is simply wrong, The UN authorized action in Libya to prevent a crazy dictator from carrying out a massacre of his own people. That's an important difference to me.
posted by Grimgrin at 4:27 PM on March 28, 2011


If you think stopping crazy dictators who kill there people is a good reason, you can't say you never heard one good reason.

What? Why?

Someone can say that they think it's good to stop dictators who are killing their people right this minute from doing it. You argue, that because of this, they can't say they never heard a good reason to go to Iraq?

For starters, you don't know what they heard about Iraq. But the more important part here is that Saddam wasn't in the process of killing non-violent protestors, and it wasn't marketed as a reason to go to war IIRC. Can you address why it is that you see want to seem to refuse to acknowledge any difference between "having killed their own people" and "is actively killing innocent people"? Nobody is saying Saddam wasn't an own-people-killer. You seem to think that matters.
posted by floam at 4:31 PM on March 28, 2011


In 2002, a resolution sponsored by the European Union was adopted by the Commission for Human Rights, which stated that there had been no improvement in the human rights crisis in Iraq. The statement condemned President Saddam Hussein's government for its "systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law". The resolution demanded that Iraq immediately put an end to its "summary and arbitrary executions... the use of rape as a political tool and all enforced and involuntary disappearances".
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:32 PM on March 28, 2011


The United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2001 found "extremely grave" human rights violations

That already happened. You seem to be willfully dense here. We didn't go to war in 2001 to prevent that from happening. Unless you can bring people back from the dead by getting revenge, this isn't the same thing.
posted by floam at 4:33 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think this point has gone as far as it can go. I have established that it is on the record that there was humanitarian justification offered for the Iraq invasion based on the evil dictator thing, just like for Libya. On the record that Saddam was still violating human rights at the time of the invasion.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:39 PM on March 28, 2011


OK, but nobody disputed that human rights were being violated in Iraq. All you're doing is proving your strawman. I don't get why such a strict Iraq analogy narrative is so important to you in arguing that this is a bad idea. It can be a bad idea on its own merits, you know?
posted by floam at 4:43 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I see the following facts as relevant here:
-The US was uniquely equipped to obliterate Libyan air force, airdefenses and destroy the armor, APCs, artillery, and other vehicles.
-The targeted equipment was being used by Libya to inflict mass casualties on the civilian population.
-Destruction of this equipment has eliminated the danger of this immediate crisis.
-After this initial objective is attained, other measures may be necessary, but US military involvement can be minimized

Some questions for the group of supporters and opponents of this action:
-Do you believe in the so called "duty to protect"?
-Is the US a beneficiary of the international system? If so what are our obligations to this system and does this action extend/affirm or disrupt this system?
-What precident is set by this action if any?
-What is the impact of this action on other revolutions in the Middle East specifically Tunisia and Egypt as ongoing areas in transition and areas such as Syria, Bahrain and Yemen where revolutions are in more nascent phases?
posted by humanfont at 4:45 PM on March 28, 2011



OK, but nobody disputed that human rights were being violated in Iraq. All you're doing is proving your strawman. I don't get why such a strict Iraq analogy narrative is so important to you in arguing that this is a bad idea. It can be a bad idea on its own merits, you know?

I care not for the strictness. There are a wide variety of similarities and differences. I take issue with the idea Cole suggested and is suggested by denying the "get rid of evil dictator killing his own people" justification present in both wars that "Libya 2011 is not like Iraq 2003 in any way."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:50 PM on March 28, 2011


Gadhafi

I propose that we use the one truly spelling only. Everyone favorite this so you can copy and paste as needed.

القذافي
posted by empath at 4:53 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow. I lived through the GWB regime feeling real disgust about America's foreign policy (especially around the time that the Geneva Convention was discarded), and now that there is finally an American Military Intervention which I feel has the potential for some constructive use, I am hearing an odd kind of doveyness which I haven't heard lately.

But all of the people who suddenly care about freedom in Libya are absolute hypocrites at best.

Well, I care. North Africa is going through a social revolution. A young educated demographic is dedicated to ending decades-long stagnant dictatorships. It almost seems like the beginning of post-post-colonialism. Idealists want a new kind of society, with the democratic freedoms we take for granted, and No, they don't want Iranian-style theocracy. This process is confusing, violent and inevitable. The West is now challenged to allow a new style of nation-building to emerge, and this is a difficult problem to work on, with tears and heartbreak, but with the potential for something better to evolve.
posted by ovvl at 4:55 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can I just point out that there is a difference between violating human rights via "Secret police, torture, murders, deportations, forced disappearances, assassinations, chemical weapons, and the destruction of wetlands" (just quoting wikipedia), and violating human rights via tanks and aircraft. We can actually bomb tanks from the air, and shoot down jets. We can't bomb secret police and torture. I know a lot of people want to decide if an intervention is warranted based on some principle from on-high, but the whole point that Juan Cole is making is that this is a political conflict, and decisions about intervention are necessarily very pragmatic. In this case we can reduce the number of civilian casualties by destroying Libya's tanks, aircraft, and airfields. Full stop. Any other sort of arguments that might be made about ground invasion, supporting rebels vs Gadhafi, "oil", comparisons to Iraq, etc, neither argue for nor against the idea that destroying Gadhafi's weapons is probably a good thing.
posted by kiltedtaco at 4:58 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can I just point out that there is a difference between violating human rights via "Secret police, torture, murders, deportations, forced disappearances, assassinations, chemical weapons, and the destruction of wetlands" (just quoting wikipedia), and violating human rights via tanks and aircraft. We can actually bomb tanks from the air, and shoot down jets. We can't bomb secret police and torture

We sure as fuck can, and we did.
posted by empath at 5:00 PM on March 28, 2011


I am curious, how much do we know about the demographic makeup of the rebels? I read often that these are poor, oppressed people. But othertimes I read that these are educated, democracy-loving, forward-thinking people of tomorrow. Is it both?

What side are the educated, relatively wealthy people with homes and shiny stuff on?
posted by floam at 5:06 PM on March 28, 2011


(Sorry if the dichotomy wasn't clear: In most places, poor people, oppressed people usually aren't the ones that get to go to universities.)
posted by floam at 5:08 PM on March 28, 2011


Wiki: Primary education is both free and compulsory in Libya. Children between the ages of 6 and 15 attend primary school and then attend secondary school for three additional years (15- to 18-year-olds). According to figures reported for the year 2000, approximately 766,807 students attended primary school and had 97,334 teachers; approximately 717,000 students were enrolled in secondary, technical, and vocational schools; and about 287,172 students were enrolled in Libya’s universities.[1]
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:12 PM on March 28, 2011


In this case we can reduce the number of civilian casualties by destroying Libya's tanks, aircraft, and airfields. Full stop. Any other sort of arguments that might be made about ground invasion, supporting rebels vs Gadhafi, "oil", comparisons to Iraq, etc, neither argue for nor against the idea that destroying Gadhafi's weapons is probably a good thing.

Maybe, but why should that one good consequence be the determining factor? The other issues don't go away just because they are somewhat independent of whether we would like to see Qaddafi's forces disarmed. (And I think the ground invasion and taking sides questions are actually completely relevant, since in the long run more Libyans might be killed if we end up sending Marines into Tripoli. Not saying that's going to happen for sure, but if we aren't at least willing to entertain that possibility, we're not really doing a fair calculation of "the number of civilian casualties.")
posted by thehandsomecamel at 5:13 PM on March 28, 2011


I am curious, how much do we know about the demographic makeup of the rebels? I read often that these are poor, oppressed people. But othertimes I read that these are educated, democracy-loving, forward-thinking people of tomorrow. Is it both?

It is a coalition of the following elements:
-Ethnic Berbers who have been oppressed by the government
-Young people with limited economic prospects, some of whom are very well educated other whom were less so. This group is connected via SMS/Facebook and is frustrated by the ruling power structure which has failed to proves them evenhanded rule, economic opportunity and respect.-
-Political outsiders including liberal reformers, leftists, rightists and islamists.
-Opportunistic power brokers such as the former interior minister who are either cynically working for their survival or were political castigated previously and are out for revenge.
-various tribal leaders Looking to reassert their historical role in Libya.

Now that the major oil ports are in rebel hands I dont see Gadhafi lasting that much longer.
posted by humanfont at 5:33 PM on March 28, 2011


Furiousxgeorge, that reads as if your disagreement with Cole is one of semantics rather than substance. Somehow I doubt that your goal was to draw attention to his lack of rhetorical precision.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:38 PM on March 28, 2011




My point was that he exaggerated the lack of difference, yes. I see some significant points of similarity to the degree where saying there are none displays an extremely imprecise use of rhetoric, not just a problem of semantics.

There are a wide variety of significant differences as well, but I feel like he overstated it to make a point that there should not be real concern for the possibility of an Iraq like destabilization after the fall of Gaddafi. I don't see it as that likely either, but it's irresponsible to ignore it for the sake of making the case.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:47 PM on March 28, 2011


furiousxgeorge; the UN resolutions are a moot point as no individual nation or coalition is authorized to act (militarily especially) on resolutions without UN authorization. The US did not receive this authorization for Iraq.

Therefore the only reason remaining (that was formally deposited (for the US invasion of Iraq (and voted on))) was self defense. It was clearly spelled out by Congress. And I posted the exact wording for you to parse.

I understand full well the multitude of shit that was thrown at the public as justification, and for fomenting fear and anger, but where the rubber met the road, the agreed upon singular reason for war is a documented, verifiable fact.

You contend, we went to Iraq;

To overthrow a crazy dictator who killed his own people.

This is simply not what Congress said. There could have been a better case made based on human rights than the threat to national sovereignty. But it was not done.

What's worse is, just think back to the idea that Uzbekistan, for instance (a regime where the leader boiled his political opponents to death) became a staunch and praised ally. It might even indicate that human rights had small bearing in the Iraq escapade.

Dictators for democracy, yeehaw!

Anyway, support what you see as right and fair, no problem, but try to get basic facts straight.
posted by phoque at 5:47 PM on March 28, 2011


Phoque, you cited congress citing the UN as justification. It doesn't matter if the UN doesn't agree with it, it was still the justification used. Ultimately, the man who made the decision was Bush, who only had authorization for his actions not a declaration of war. You know damn well Bush and his administration cited humanitarian concerns along with the rest.

I am much more concerned with the public messaging, since "I've never heard a good reason." was the point I was responding to. The legalistic stuff is irrelevant to that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:59 PM on March 28, 2011


It is a coalition of the following elements:

Thanks humanfont, that little rundown was helpful. I really do wish I could look at stuff in this region with more context in mind. As it is, I don't really know what the contemporary differences between Berbers and Arabs even tend to be. I probably need to read a few books. I regret that in school we learned about the Native Americans and the Oregon Trail and Thanksgiving every year for 12 years straight but so little about the world.
posted by floam at 5:59 PM on March 28, 2011


Not to continue harping on this furiousxgeorge, but can't you at least agree that the humanitarian concerns, while perhaps "cited" in the footnotes, certainly could be judged as not as acutely pressing as the ones prompting this action? I just don't think it's fair for you to rigorously assert that he couldn't have found that justification "good" enough while also thinking it can be OK to blow up tanks to protect civilians.

Self-defence was a justification given for the war in Iraq. I assume you probably think self-defence can be an acceptable reason to go to war. That doesn't mean you must have thought it was a "good goddamn reason" to go to war with Iraq.
posted by floam at 6:22 PM on March 28, 2011


It doesn't matter if the UN doesn't agree with it, it was still the justification used.

Actually it would matter, except nobody will likely be prosecuted for conducting an illegal war.

You know damn well Bush and his administration cited humanitarian concerns along with the rest.

You are 100% correct. I would submit however that this was never lauded as the principal motivating factor. It was more decorating the monster, given as aside to the principal concern ... Americans being killed en masse.

I am much more concerned with the public messaging

That's cool.
posted by phoque at 6:26 PM on March 28, 2011


Libya a Primer -- NPR talks with Dirk Vendewalle of Darmouth author of A History of Modern Libya and a number of other books

Also for a decent book length summary of Libyan history try: A Country Study: Libya US Library of Congress
posted by humanfont at 7:00 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]




Except that, as Cole pointed out and you ignore, the US didn't take Libyan oil for most of two decades, and supporting the rebels actually makes it less likely that we'd have access to the oil, especially at the previously-agreed rates.

"[Our] oil contracts are going to Russian, Chinese and Indian firms, the West is to be forgotten." -Gadhafi on 3/17/2011. The US started dropping bombs and missiles on 3/19/2011.

The Bush Administration handed out the same bullshit about Iraq. And then when US and British firms got the lion's share of no-bid contracts on the world's largest untapped superfields, at higher rates than is common because of "security concerns," and I'm supposed to continue to believe that it's a coincidence?

Further, this is fundamentally an ad hominem fallacy — that because the US has a motivation (putatively, oil, but as I've pointed out, that's nonsense), therefore everything is tainted by that motivation.

There has to be some reason why the US doesn't give a shit about Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Rwanda, the DRC, and every other spot in the world were innocent people are being slaughtered, and sees some glimmer of hope in Libya. Please, paint me the long history of honest American Wars. Ad hominem is valid when you're discussing the likelihood of a murderer murdering again. I'm basing my reality on the decades long history of an institution. Why flail about with rhetorical red herrings when we have the facts?

If you really don't accept this argument, then you shouldn't be judging Ghadafi so harshly as to want this war. He may have been torturing his citizens for five decades, with and without western support, but maybe tomorrow he'll start handing out flowers instead.

You start with the assumption that the US is evil and you work to find justifications for that belief. Ideologue bullshit isn't something that only the Tea Party engages in.

The Tea Party is based on fear and ignorance. Your argument is based on credulity and ignorance, because you haven't presented any supporting evidence to counter the long, sordid history of American oil wars. I don't think you have anything but the sweet, innocent desire to believe your country is a great country which couldn't possibly be motivated by controlling vast oil wealth. That sounds a hell of a lot like a Tea Partier to me.
posted by notion at 7:46 AM on March 29, 2011


"[Our] oil contracts are going to Russian, Chinese and Indian firms, the West is to be forgotten." -Gadhafi on 3/17/2011. The US started dropping bombs and missiles on 3/19/2011.

Right, and prior to that the US/UN hadn't even considered intervening militarily. We were just sitting back watching things unfold until Gadhafi said something about oil, then we sprang into action. Oh wait
March 12 - The Arab League calls for a U.N. no-fly zone over Libya. A meeting in Cairo decides that "serious crimes and great violations" committed by the Gaddafi government against his people have stripped it of legitimacy.

March 16 - Forces loyal to Gaddafi are near rebel-held Benghazi and "everything will be over in 48 hours," Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam tells France-based TV channel Euronews.

March 17 - The U.N. Security Council votes to authorize a no-fly zone over Libya and "all necessary measures" -- code for military action -- to protect civilians against Gaddafi's army.
posted by electroboy at 8:05 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


There has to be some reason why the US doesn't give a shit about Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Rwanda, the DRC, and every other spot in the world were innocent people are being slaughtered, and sees some glimmer of hope in Libya.

It's pretty easy:

1. The cost to intevene is low, as in, ground troops don't have to be committed to stop the slaughter of the rebels.

2. Gaddafi is extremely unpopular, both in the West for his sponsorship of terrorism, and in North and Central Africa because of his aggression, tendency to make war on his neighbors and general meddling in their affairs (see Libyan-Chadian War, Libyan Egyptian War, sponsorship of Arab militias in Sudan, Tanzania-Uganda War, support of Charles Taylor, Ethopian genocide, etc etc)

3. Failure of the Libyan revolution endangers Tunisia and Egypt, , i.e. Gaddafi can exploit their temporary instability to insert himself into their affairs either militarily or politically. It endangers other Middle Eastern revolutions by showing that crushing dissent won't necessarily be opposed by the West or the UN.

4. The intervention is backed by the Arab League. Intervening improves relations with the League and adds legitimacy to the operation and can blunt accusations about Western imperialism/colonialism.
posted by electroboy at 8:28 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]








Tariq Ali: Libya is another case of selective vigilantism by the west.
Bombing Tripoli while shoring up other despots in the Arab world shows the UN-backed strikes to oust Gaddafi are purely cynical.
posted by adamvasco at 12:21 PM on March 29, 2011


The Transitional National Council in Libya has published a document called the "A vision of democratic Libya" (from AlJazeeera).

The Guardian has been pretty cynical about it.
posted by nangar at 2:16 PM on March 29, 2011




For the record, I'm female (since someone upthread referred to me as "he", which confused me for a minute.) I said that "We went to Iraq...for no good goddamn reason I've ever heard."

What I meant was that although I heard President Bush (and others in the administration) say we went because Iraq had WMDs that were a direct threat to the US, that was proven to be incorrect and most likely a complete lie. The way I remember it, I only heard about all the humanitarian reasons for going after we failed to find any WMDs. No, therefore, in my opinion, no good goddamn reason.

But beyond that, if you put that together with the rest of my comment, I made clear that my opinion on Libya would change if we put troops on the ground, so no, I don't buy that humanitarian reasons are enough to justify an all-out ground war like Iraq. However, I do think we have some decent reasons to drop some bombs on military sites in a limited way.
posted by threeturtles at 3:17 PM on March 29, 2011


Obama Libya Vs Bush Iraq
posted by dirigibleman at 7:58 PM on March 29, 2011


Right, and prior to that the US/UN hadn't even considered intervening militarily. We were just sitting back watching things unfold until Gadhafi said something about oil, then we sprang into action.

March 12...


Ghadafi has been threatening to cut off the west since the beginning.
Leader Muammar Gaddafi on Wednesday threatened that Libya will replace western banks, oil firms and companies by others from China, India, Russia and Brazil. Speaking on Wednesday on state television, Gaddafi claimed that Libya's oil fields and ports are "safe" and "under control." -March 2nd, 2011
( source )
Curiously, this was not reported in Western media, as far as I can tell.

Claims that supporting the rebels risk our access to Libya's oil are total fucking nonsense; the rebels are now the only faction which would sell us oil. Those claims are just more gleefully repeated propaganda. More delusions from the deluded.
posted by notion at 7:53 AM on March 30, 2011


Ghadafi has been threatening to cut off the west since the beginning.

I thought that we started bombing two days after he said he'd cut off the West.
posted by electroboy at 8:24 AM on March 30, 2011






Reuters: "Libyan foreign minister quits government, arrives in Britain seeking refuge: source"
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:55 PM on March 30, 2011


The way I remember it, I only heard about all the humanitarian reasons for going after we failed to find any WMDs.

Bush speaking to the UN, pre war:

In 1991, Security Council Resolution 688 demanded that the Iraqi regime cease at once the repression of its own people, including the systematic repression of minorities — which, the Council said, "threaten(ed) international peace and security in the region."

This demand goes ignored. Last year, the U.N. Commission on Human rights found that Iraq continues to commit "extremely grave violations" of human rights and that the regime's repression is "all pervasive." Tens of thousands of political opponents and ordinary citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, summary execution, and torture by beating, burning, electric shock, starvation, mutilation, and rape. Wives are tortured in front of their husbands; children in the presence of their parents — all of these horrors concealed from the world by the apparatus of a totalitarian state.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:57 PM on March 30, 2011


I thought that we started bombing two days after he said he'd cut off the West.

Indeed, both timelines are true. Ghadafi joins a long list of brutal dictators, including Saddam Hussein, Suharto, Mubarak, and pretty much all the dictators of Latin and South America over the past fifty years who have lost their golden ticket to torture after years of support from the West. Ghadafi only differs in that he came around recently.

And, in typical fashion, allegations of torture and rape are suddenly news to Western outlets, who will run huge headlines about the depravity of the Libyan justice system miraculously absent in 2008, while similar tragedies play out right now across Iraq, ISAF occupied Afghanistan, Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and even in our own justice system, where rapes occur every single hour.

But, when the largest oil fields in Africa are ripe for the picking, you can always count on Washington to do the right thing. Unless that means we don't get access to the oil, in which case we will again do the wrong thing. For humanitarian reasons, of course.

The best thing Ghadafi could do for himself is switch his tune and give the oil only to Western companies. Then we can hear Clinton say, "Our assessment is that the Egyptian Libyan Government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian American people." But don't fret. You and everyone else has forgotten about it already, and we'll look back with reverence at America's support of Democracy in the Middle East during the Obama Administration.
posted by notion at 4:26 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


notion, please explain to me why I'm wrong for having any sympathy at all for Libyans who revolted against their government.
posted by nangar at 6:06 PM on March 30, 2011




notion, please explain to me why I'm wrong for having any sympathy at all for Libyans who revolted against their government.

You're not wrong for that. You're wrong for believing the USG feels the same way.

I'm all for liberating Libya, as long as it's within the letter and spirit of international law. Unfortunately, the USG only feels the same way when there's some valuable prize to be won. If you want to do something worthwhile, petition your government to stop selling weapons to dictators across the earth, to withdraw from Iraq, Afghanistan, and to do their best to begin drawing down their nuclear arsenal in order to save the planet. We can start protecting the values of other civilizations when we start having values of our own.
posted by notion at 8:49 PM on March 30, 2011


What was the valuable prize in Kosovo or Somalia? What benefit have we gained from our exploits in Iraq and Afghanistan?
posted by electroboy at 6:24 AM on March 31, 2011


"The Central Intelligence Agency has inserted clandestine operatives into Libya to gather intelligence for military airstrikes and to contact and vet the beleaguered rebels battling Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces, according to American officials."

Oh, what the fuck, Obama. What the fuck.
posted by EarBucket at 9:07 AM on March 31, 2011




What was the valuable prize in Kosovo or Somalia? What benefit have we gained from our exploits in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The cost of the Kosovo War was less than 3 billion dollars for the United States, and Somalia was in the same neighborhood as far as I can tell. I just wanted to illustrate the size of the importance of these states. Nevertheless, in Kosovo:
The intolerable conditions the region finds itself in today are the result of a decadelong campaign by Slobodan Milosevic to build a greater Serbia by singling out whole peoples for destruction because of their ethnicity and faith. The brutal methods are familiar now. Spreading hate in the media. Killing moderate leaders. Arming paramilitaries and ordering soldiers to conduct planned campaigns of murder and expulsion. Eradicating the culture, the heritage, the very record of the presence of his victims. Refugees are not a byproduct of the fighting he has initiated; the fighting is designed to create refugees. We are haunted by the images of people driven from their homes, pushing the elderly in wheelbarrows, telling stories of relatives murdered.

President Clinton, 1999
As pointed out by Srdja Trifkovic:
Since 24 March 1999 [Westphalian style sovereignty] is being replaced by the emerging Clinton Doctrine, a carbon copy of the Brezhnev doctrine of limited sovereignty that supposedly justified the Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Like his Soviet predecessor, Mr. Clinton used an abstract and ideologically loaded notion – that of universal "human rights" – as the pretext to violate the law and tradition.

The Clinton Doctrine is rooted in the bipartisan hubris of Washington’s foreign policy "elite," tipsy on its own heady brew of the "world’s last and only superpower." Legal formalities are passé, and moral imperatives – never sacrosanct in international affairs – are replaced by a cynical exercise in situational morality, dependent on an actor’s position within the superpower ’s value system. And so imperial high-mindedness is back, but in a new form. Old religion, national flags and nationalist rivalry play no part.

But the yearning for excitement and importance, that took the British to Peking, Kabul and Khartoum, the French to Fashoda and Saigon, and the Americans to Manila, has now re-emerged. As a result a war was waged on an independent nation because it refused foreign troops on its soil. All other justifications are post facto rationalizations. The powers that waged that war have aided and abetted secession by an ethnic minority, secession that – once formally effected – will render many European borders tentative. In the context of any other European nation the story would sound surreal.
...
There was no "genocide," of course. Compared to the killing fields of the Third World, Kosovo was an unremarkable, low-intensity conflict, uglier perhaps than Northern Ireland a decade ago, but much less so than Kurdistan. A total of 2,108 fatalities on all sides in Kosovo until June 1999, in a province of over two million, favorably compares to the annual homicide tally of 450 in Washington D.C. (population 600,000). Counting corpses is poor form, but bearing in mind the brutalities and "ethnic cleansings" ignored by NATO – or even condoned, notably in Croatia in 1995, or in eastern Turkey – it is clear that "Kosovo" is not about universal principles.
Somalia, like Afghanistan, has been a chess piece of international power politics for a long time. And it's continuing to destroy the country, as illuminated by this article written by Alex de Waal.
The 1992–93 international intervention in Somalia revived the dream of a centralized state that would be a major recipient of foreign assistance. Accustomed to interpreting international interest in their country on the basis of its geopolitical standing and to conspiratorial realpolitik in the conduct of foreign relations, Somalis were reluctant to believe the humanitarian rationale for President Bush’s intervention. Most supposed that America had rediscovered a strategic interest in Somalia’s position at the tip of the Horn of Africa, or that vast reserves of oil had been identified beneath its sands. More immediately, Somalis assumed that international engagement in their country would revert to form, namely the generous sponsorship of a strong centralized ruler.

The intervention therefore sharpened factional conflict by increasing the rewards anticipated from controlling the state. This conflict initially took a political rather than military form, as none of the factions dared challenge American military power. But when forces under General Muhammad Sa’id Hirsi Morgan of SPM captured Kismayo from Aidid’s USC and its allies in February 1993, with American and Belgian troops standing idly by, the factional leaders learned that the international forces were not ready to risk casualties. The war was therefore reignited, and in due course U.S. and UN forces themselves became party to it.
Afghanistan shouldn't require an explanation, should it?

And if I have to tell you why we are in Iraq... well, this article is from 2002. This is the biggest non-secret in modern politics.
...The total value of Saddam's foreign contract awards could reach $1.1 trillion, according to the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook 2001.

The Russian official said his government believed the US had brokered a deal with the coalition of Iraqi opposition forces it backs whereby support against Saddam is conditional on their declaring - on taking power - all oil contracts conceded under his rule to be null and void.

'The concern of my government,' said the official, 'is that the concessions agreed between Baghdad and numerous enterprises will be reneged upon, and that US companies will enter to take the greatest share of those existing contracts... Yes, if you could say it that way - an oil grab by Washington'.

A government insider in Paris told The Observer that France also feared suffering economically from US oil ambitions at the end of a war. But the dilemma for Paris is more complex. Despite President Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany agreeing last week to oppose changing the rules governing weapons inspectors, France may back military action.

Government sources say they fear - existing concessions aside - France could be cut out of the spoils if it did not support the war and show a significant military presence. If it comes to war, France is determined to be allotted a more prestigious role in the fighting than in the 1991 Gulf war, when its main role was to occupy lightly defended ground. Negotiations have been going on between the state-owned TotalFinaElf company and the US about redistribution of oil regions between the world's major companies.

Washington's predatory interest in Iraqi oil is clear, whatever its political protestations about its motives for war. The US National Energy Policy Report of 2001 - known as the 'Cheney Report' after its author Vice President Dick Cheney, formerly one of America's richest and most powerful oil industry magnates - demanded a priority on easing US access to Persian Gulf supplies. ( source )
And here's an article from 2008:
At a time of spiraling oil prices, the no-bid contracts, in a country with some of the world’s largest untapped fields and potential for vast profits, are a rare prize to the industry. The contracts are expected to be awarded Monday to Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Total and Chevron, as well as to several smaller oil companies.

The deals have been criticized by opponents of the Iraq war, who accuse the Bush administration of working behind the scenes to ensure Western access to Iraqi oil fields even as most other oil-exporting countries have been sharply limiting the roles of international oil companies in development.

For its part, the administration has repeatedly denied steering the Iraqis toward decisions. “Iraq is a sovereign country, and it can make decisions based on how it feels that it wants to move forward in its development of its oil resources,” said Dana Perino, the White House spokeswoman.
...
The advisers say they were not involved in advancing the oil companies’ interests, but rather treated the Oil Ministry as a client, the State Department official said. “I do not see this as a conflict of interest,” he said. A potential area of criticism, however, is that only Western companies got the bigger oil contracts. In particular, Russian companies that have experience in Iraq and had sought development contracts are still waiting. ( source )
Now, if by "we" you mean the American people, no, we didn't get shit out of the deal. We lost 3 trillion dollars, thousands of soldiers, the last little shreds of our international credibility, and we didn't drop the price of gas. We just killed a bunch of people and further destabilized the middle east by pouring troops and ammunition into it.

Bush, Cheney, and Barack Obama do not give a fuck about you or me. They care about getting elected, so they care about what the corporations want them to care about. And since there is no Fourth Estate, they're allowed to sell these wars over and over and over on the same bullshit lines, while people continue to delude themselves into believing that we can create stability by killing thousands of people.

I guarantee you that some politician will lament the interference of Al Qaeda or Hezbollah in Libya if they haven't done it already. The ignorance and hypocrisy of our country is just fucking amazing in it's depth and unintentional irony.
posted by notion at 11:54 AM on March 31, 2011


So no valuable prizes for western intervention in Kosovo, Somalia or Afgahnistan, while Iraq awarded major oil contracts to coalition nations instead of Russia, which had backed Saddam Hussein until the end. This hardly supports your claim.

Do you really believe in your heart of hearts that Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice pushed Obama into the Libya intervention because they want U.S. companies to win oil contracts there? Because that is just fucking nuts.
posted by metaplectic at 12:25 PM on March 31, 2011


From what I can tell, you're making an argument by innuendo. If we've intervened in a region without natural resources, it doesn't count because it's cheap and didn't save enough lives. If we intervened in an area with natural resources, that's clearly the reason we're there, even if no tangible benefits have been realized from intervention.

And here's an article from 2008:

Here's an article from a few months later about the cancellation of those contracts. And here's an article from 2009, showing a much larger contract awarded to a BP-Chinese consortium. Another from 2009:
The contracts on the first of Iraq’s two-day bidding round went to European and Asian oil companies eager to get back into the market and unafraid of assuming the risk of investing in Iraq. The traditionally less aggressive US oil majors were present but did not submit bids for the five fields on offer.
Afghanistan shouldn't require an explanation, should it?

Presumably it'll be something about either the proposed oil or gas pipelines through Afghanistan. Given that they've been in the works for 20 years or so and they've yet to break ground, I can't say that's a particularly compelling argument.
posted by electroboy at 12:41 PM on March 31, 2011


So no valuable prizes for western intervention in Kosovo, Somalia or Afgahnistan, while Iraq awarded major oil contracts to coalition nations instead of Russia, which had backed Saddam Hussein until the end. This hardly supports your claim.

The rewards were political in Afghanistan. We wanted to kill people to avenge 9/11. It was vigilante justice, and Afghan civilians have paid dearly for it. I don't doubt it won Bush the election in 2004. And yeah, when you're talking about tens of billions versus trillions, I'm not really going to pay attention to the billions when it comes to assigning values. Again, the principle is to follow the money.

Do you really believe in your heart of hearts that Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice pushed Obama into the Libya intervention because they want U.S. companies to win oil contracts there? Because that is just fucking nuts.

No, this isn't conspiratorial. It's institutional. Clinton and Rice know that Libya is important, because Libya has oil, therefore, Libyans can be important. They can matter because they are near resources that we need to run our civilization. Now, if you're a child soldier missing a limb and your whole family has been raped and killed, well, sucks to be you.

Another oil shock would further damage the US economy, which is unusually dependent. We consume 25% of the earth's oil. On average, a European consumes something like 1/8th of the average American. $200 barrel oil, through instability, or some OPEC embargo, could throw us into another downward spiral. That's why we sell Saudi Arabia billions of dollars in weapons while they continue to fund Al Qaeda. They are the only producer with enough excess capacity to keep the market from going crazy.

Let me amend my earlier statement, which is misleading: We don't want our fucking money. We need our fucking oil. So, when Africa's largest oil fields look like they might be changing hands, we intervene to "protect American interests" because it doesn't hurt to have another friendly government sitting on top of billions of barrels of oil. Once we know who's in charge, we will start paying them with weapons and training, until they inevitably abuse their power, declare a state of emergency... rinse, wash, repeat. The alternative -- a sovereign democracy that could possibly deny us what we want -- is undesireable. That's why Ghadafi was just fine until the PR became a problem.

Now, in the case of Iraq, it was absolutely a conspiracy. We'll find out the details in twenty years.
posted by notion at 3:17 PM on March 31, 2011


From what I can tell, you're making an argument by innuendo. If we've intervened in a region without natural resources, it doesn't count because it's cheap and didn't save enough lives. If we intervened in an area with natural resources, that's clearly the reason we're there, even if no tangible benefits have been realized from intervention.

No, it doesn't count because it doesn't represent a values system. If dictatorship is wrong, why are we supporting Saudi Arabia? Because they sell us oil.

Here's an article from a few months later about the cancellation of those contracts. And here's an article from 2009, showing a much larger contract awarded to a BP-Chinese consortium. Another from 2009:

Yeah. They got caught, and it the PR became a problem. That doesn't change the intent of the Bush Administration fabricating evidence to invade Iraq, and the goal of "improving access" to Persian Gulf oil was realized.
posted by notion at 3:23 PM on March 31, 2011


War Funding
posted by adamvasco at 1:00 AM on April 1, 2011


Every time I read the news it appears the situation in Libya has gone to shit in a whole new way. I'm becoming increasingly depressed that so many people, including intelligent and thoughtful people on Metafilter, didn't see how likely that was.
posted by Justinian at 6:35 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


How would things have been better if the UN hadn't intervened?
posted by electroboy at 11:23 PM on April 1, 2011


Better for whom?
posted by Justinian at 1:50 AM on April 2, 2011


Okay, perhaps that was a little opaque. So I'll list at least one way it would be better. We would not be currently enmeshed in yet another expensive fudging shitpile of incompetence, waste, fraud, death, and destruction which will cost a billion dollars if it costs a penny and which is looking increasingly unlikely to produce anything tangible except a third pile of foreign corpses filled with American lead and steel in under a decade.

So that's one way.
posted by Justinian at 2:18 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why wouldn't the alternative of not acting now prevent that outcome? Ignoring the Balkens for most of the 90s didn't stop us from ultimately having to do what we should have done in the beginning.
posted by humanfont at 10:41 AM on April 2, 2011


I guess if we hadn't intervened, everyone in Benghazi would be dead and the revolution would be over and we wouldn't have to worry about how much it would cost. I suppose that might be better, depending on who you are.
posted by electroboy at 11:34 AM on April 2, 2011


Everyone? Not a chance. Whether more people would be dead or fewer is currently an open question. But in any case that wouldn't be our moral responsibility. The people we're killing are our moral responsibility.
posted by Justinian at 12:05 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


In recent years America has proven again and again that the lives of Arabs and Muslims are worth a pittance in comparison to American lives. If we were strictly interested in a humanitarian mission we would pay for it with blood. Obama is lying about our intentions for Libya.

A NATO airstrike killed 13 rebel fighters in the battle outside the pivotal oil port of Brega, the rebels said Saturday.
posted by Shit Parade at 2:37 PM on April 2, 2011


But in any case that wouldn't be our moral responsibility. The people we're killing are our moral responsibility.

What is the moral problem dropping bombs on people slaughtering civilians from their tank?
posted by humanfont at 6:32 PM on April 2, 2011


Also rebel leaders have asked the NATO bombing campaign continue inspite of the accident.
posted by humanfont at 6:43 PM on April 2, 2011


What is the moral problem dropping bombs on people slaughtering civilians from their tank?

Because it doesn't resolve the underlying problem -- it's still a civil war, and people are still dying and will continue to die.
posted by empath at 6:58 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


At this point we're just refereeing a civil war, which is a bullshit position to be in. If we wanted Ghadaffi out, we should have invaded. If we don't want to invade, we should have let the situation resolve itself. The rebels would have surrendered in a matter of weeks, probably. I doubt that Gadaffi would have burned the city to the ground with everyone in it, but I suppose you never know.

Right now, we're just fighting a half-assed war in support of people we still don't know anything about, with no end in sight, while our allies are busily slaughtering civilians in Yemen and Bahrain with a wink and a nod from us.
posted by empath at 7:03 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


In one instance the tanks were literally blasting away at an occupied apartment building when we killed the guys in the tanks with some well placed bombs that managed to avoid significant damage to anything and avoided killing anyone else. In that case I think we did the right thing.
posted by humanfont at 7:27 PM on April 2, 2011


You can't take one thing in isolation. You have to judge the intervention as a whole.
posted by empath at 7:32 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the whole this intervention has been limited in scope and focused on bombing the government forces when they are directly attacking civilians. Meanwhile in Yemen things are not rising to this level of violence and the generals appear to be cautioned. Bahrain is ugly, but Ivory Coast seems to he goin ok for the rebels there. Egypt is still uncertain and in transition. Elections are still going ahead and looking to be open.
posted by humanfont at 7:54 PM on April 2, 2011


At one point does someone cease to be a civilian and instead becomes an armed rebel trying to overthrow the government? Because there sure seem to be a lot of the latter in Libya right now. "Directly attacking civilians" is a little disingenuous when those civilians are shooting at you.
posted by Justinian at 10:06 PM on April 2, 2011


Nicholas Kristof: Is It Better to Save No One?
Critics from left and right are jumping all over President Obama for his Libyan intervention, arguing that we don’t have an exit plan, that he hasn’t articulated a grand strategy, that our objectives are fuzzy, that Islamists could gain strength. And those critics are all right.

But let’s back up a moment and recognize a larger point: Mr. Obama and other world leaders did something truly extraordinary, wonderful and rare: they ordered a humanitarian intervention that saved thousands of lives and that even Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s closest aides seem to think will lead to his ouster.
...
It has been exceptionally rare for major powers to intervene militarily for predominantly humanitarian reasons. One rare example was the United States-led Kosovo campaign in 1999, and another was Britain’s dispatch of troops to Sierra Leone in 2000 to end the brutal civil war there. Both were successes, but came only after years of killings that gradually built up the political will to do something.

Critics argue that we are inconsistent, even hypocritical, in our military interventions. After all, we intervened promptly this time in a country with oil, while we have largely ignored Ivory Coast and Darfur — not to mention Yemen, Syria and Bahrain.

We may as well plead guilty. We are inconsistent. There’s no doubt that we cherry-pick our humanitarian interventions.

But just because we allowed Rwandans or Darfuris to be massacred, does it really follow that to be consistent we should allow Libyans to be massacred as well? Isn’t it better to inconsistently save some lives than to consistently save none?

If the Libya operation is successful, moreover, it may help put teeth into the emerging doctrine of the “responsibility to protect” — a landmark notion in international law that countries must intervene to prevent mass atrocities. And that might help avert the next Rwanda or the next Darfur.
posted by metaplectic at 1:31 AM on April 3, 2011


Aljazeera: Libyan rebels killed in NATO air strike
Mustafa Gheriani, a Transitional National Council spokesman, told Al Jazeera's Lee that the loss of lives is very much regretted.

"However we understand that collateral damage may also take place and we do accept it, because we look at the big picture which saving more lives.

"So a few people being victims of circumstances or of being at the wrong time or the wrong place it is more or less very bad luck."
posted by metaplectic at 1:40 AM on April 3, 2011


NYT: On Libya’s Revolutionary Road
On Feb. 17, the scheduled “Day of Rage,” soldiers and the police opened fire with machine guns on unarmed crowds. Soon, photographs circulated of bodies torn in half by high-caliber weapons. Unarmed young men climbed into bulldozers and drove them in suicidal attempts to breach the high green-and-white walls of the Katiba, the last stronghold of Qaddafi’s authority left in the city, a vast compound that dominates Benghazi’s downtown like a medieval fort. The death toll shot up, and the initial core of politically active protesters like Saih and his fellow lawyers soon grew to encompass a broad swath of Benghazi’s roughly 800,000 people.

One of them was Mahdi Ziu. His home was about 200 yards from the Katiba, and he saw a young man shot to death right outside his front door. Ziu was anything but an agitator: he worked as a middle manager at the Arabian Gulf Oil Company. He was a paunchy man, sedentary and diabetic, with thinning hair and glasses and a resigned expression. He liked to read and surf the Internet, his daughter and brother told me. He had a soft heart and often cried when watching television dramas with his wife and daughter on the living-room couch. He disliked politics and tended toward moderation in all things: he would walk away when he heard religious extremists fulminating about right and wrong at the local mosque. But after three days of brutal killing in his hometown, something snapped. “He kept saying, ‘Jihad, jihad, this is the time for us all to go out and fight,’ ” his 21-year-old daughter, Zuhour, told me. Zuhour seemed to alternate between awe and horror as she quietly narrated her father’s death (his wife was sequestered, in accordance with Muslim mourning custom). She sat on a couch in the living room, a slim, pretty girl in a head scarf with her hands folded uneasily in front of her. The neighbor’s baby whined in the next room, and a photograph of her father’s face sat on the table nearby. “If you heard this man,” Zuhour continued, “you would know he was ready for something.” No one else in the family had taken part in the protests; Mahdi’s brother told me, a little regretfully, that he had been too frightened.

By Sunday, Feb. 20, protesters in Benghazi had armed themselves and were focusing all their efforts on storming the Katiba. Every day, soldiers inside the barracks were firing down on the funeral processions that used the long boulevard from the courthouse to the city’s main cemetery, killing more people and generating more funerals, more anger.

On Sunday morning, with the sound of gunfire in the background, Ziu slipped a last will and testament under the door of a friend. He then returned to his apartment and asked the neighbors to help him load a number of full gas canisters into his black Kia sedan, parked just outside the house. They asked why, and he told them the canisters were leaking; he needed to get them fixed. His brother, Salem Ziu, told me that he thinks Mahdi used a small patch of TNT, the kind Libyans use to kill fish, as a detonator. No one really knows.

What is certain is that about 1:30 p.m., Ziu drove his car until it was facing the Katiba’s main gate, near the police station where the first protests began five days earlier. The area in front of him was clear, a killing zone abandoned by all but the most reckless. Rebels fired from the shelter of rooftops and doorways, and snipers at the Katiba fired occasional shots down on the figures darting in the streets. Ziu put his foot down on the accelerator. The guards opened fire, but too late. The speeding car struck the gate and exploded, sending up a fireball that was captured on a cellphone video by a protester a few hundred yards away. The blast blew a hole in the wall, killing a number of guards and sending the rest retreating into the Katiba. Within hours, it would fall to the protesters.

The remains of Ziu’s charred and crumpled car now lie by the open gate of the Katiba. Above and around it are tributes to him in looping spray-painted letters: “Mahdi the Hero.” “Mahdi, who liberated the Katiba.”
posted by metaplectic at 1:47 AM on April 3, 2011


.
posted by metaplectic at 1:47 AM on April 3, 2011


Earlier that same day, Emad al-Imam was walking in a funeral procession in downtown Benghazi. He, too, was unused to protests. A 42-year-old father of two who worked as an administrator at an agricultural company, he joined the procession only out of sympathy. As he passed near the Katiba, machine-gun fire raked the mourners. Imam dropped to the ground. His head was protected by a concrete block on the pavement; he could feel the bullets whining past his upturned ear. He lay there — it felt like 10 hours, he told me, but it was probably only 10 minutes — until the shooting stopped. He opened his eyes and saw four soldiers pointing AK-47s at his head.

“They made me get up and searched me,” he told me. “One of them hit me on the head with his gun stock, and I fell on my face. He put his foot on my neck. They were arguing about whether to kill me now or bring me inside first.”

The men took him by the arms and dragged him into the Katiba, through a gate not far from where Mahdi Ziu would soon launch his kamikaze drive. He did not resist. Inside, they blindfolded him and threw him onto the floor. After a few minutes, he worked the blindfold off far enough to see that he was in a room with 60 or 70 prisoners. A soldier walked up and beat him savagely, he said. Someone fired a gun next to his head. He turned and watched the soldier fire two more bullets into the body of the man sitting next to him. Then they dragged Imam into another room, where they used electric wires to burn his legs. By this time, he could hear fierce exchanges of gunfire outside the Katiba walls. The protesters had now acquired heavier weapons from looted military barracks in Bayda and other eastern towns, and some of Qaddafi’s soldiers had defected to join them. The siege of the Katiba was in its last hour.

“Both sides were firing so hard that paint flakes were falling from the ceiling,” Imam told me. “One of the soldiers with me said, ‘Before we die, you will.’ ”

Another soldier asked, “Who here comes from Bayda?” One protester said he was from there, and the soldier told a comrade, “Give me that bayonet.” He took it and began slashing the prisoner brutally. Imam was born in Bayda, and it is written on his national ID card. He lay there, waiting for them to find the card and kill him too. But the sound of gunfire got closer and closer, and before long the soldiers ran out of the room, leaving the prisoners alone. Some time later, a group of armed protesters ran in. “Who are you?” one of them shouted. One captive cried out, “Don’t hurt us, we are with you.” The protesters untied them. But Imam and his comrades were too frightened to leave. He listened to the gunfire, tried unsuccessfully to get up and then passed out.

He woke up in a hospital. He had burns and bruises all over his body. The doctors told him to rest, but he wanted to find his parents, to let them know he was alive. He staggered off the bed. The doctors had given him Valium. He fell down twice, and then, emerging into the darkened street, began limping home.

Emad’s father, a tall, stoic-looking man of 65 named Miftah al-Imam, told me he started to worry after his son was missing for several hours. He called Emad’s cellphone, and an unfamiliar voice answered. “May I speak to the owner of this phone?” Miftah said. The voice said, “The owner of this phone is being burned,” laughed and hung up. The words sounded so strange to Miftah that he thought his son’s phone had been taken by a child or practical joker. He called several family friends, and then, reluctantly, he went to a nearby hospital.

He found a terrifying scene, Miftah told me. The hospital was full of the wounded, people shouting, blood on the floors, pandemonium. He found a doctor who showed him a list: his son’s name was not on it. He walked to another hospital. This one was overwhelmed, too. No one recognized Emad’s name. Miftah pleaded for help finding his son, and a kindly nurse told him there was one unidentified body. She led him into a makeshift morgue where a covered corpse lay on a gurney and pulled back the cloth from a young man’s face. Miftah approached. There was a bullet hole in the side of the head. Miftah looked, and felt his stomach wrench. The face was a little fuller than Emad’s, but that could be from torture. He was certain this was his son.

“I kissed his forehead,” Miftah told me when we met in Benghazi, a week later. “ ‘May God have mercy on you,’ ” I said. “ ‘May God take revenge on injustice.’ ” He gave his name to the hospital staff and told them the body was his son. One doctor, seeing that Miftah looked pale and unsteady on his feet, drove him home. Back at the house, Miftah gave the news to his wife and to Emad’s wife and two children, who live on a different floor. The sound of shrieking and sobbing filled the house. The neighbors heard and came to pay their condolences. For two hours, more friends and relatives arrived to comfort the bereaved family.

It was then that Emad staggered through the front door, into his own funeral.
posted by metaplectic at 1:48 AM on April 3, 2011


God, what utter bullshit Kristof is spouting.

"Critics argue that we are inconsistent, even hypocritical, in our military interventions. After all, we intervened promptly this time in a country with oil, while we have largely ignored Ivory Coast and Darfur — not to mention Yemen, Syria and Bahrain.

We may as well plead guilty. We are inconsistent. There’s no doubt that we cherry-pick our humanitarian interventions."


Is even listening to himself? Sure we can call it a "humanitarian intervention" but that isn't our intent and it certainly won't be the final result. I give up on people -- Americans, by and large, are so damn stupid that they will accept the meaning of words and sentences no matter how god damn contrary they actually are in practice. It like watching a man brutally whip his father while cries out he saving him.
posted by Shit Parade at 1:50 AM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey Metaplectic are you done getting off on your war porn? Or you do you need to rub off a few more before bedtime?

Here or how about: Halima Bashir is a survivor. She was tortured and gang- raped for days as a punishment for speaking out about an attack on primary school children in Darfur. Oh wait, fuck sorry man, we actually didn't do anything for Halima, cause you know, we like to cherry pick our "humanitarian interventions" based on how much OIL a country has.

/facepalm

Americans are pigs and deserved to be spitted -- at least that's how I'd view us I lived in the Middle East.
posted by Shit Parade at 1:57 AM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Oh wait, fuck sorry man, we actually didn't do anything for Halima, cause you know, we like to cherry pick our "humanitarian interventions" based on how much OIL a country has.

Shit Parade, are you implying you would have supported foreign intervention in Darfur? In Rwanda? In Bosnia?

Would you in theory support the idea UN interventions for humanitarian reasons, if they were organized very differently and the motives of the parties involved were less suspect, as notion argued here?
posted by nangar at 3:44 AM on April 3, 2011




Yeah in theory I would support humanitarian intervention in a number of places around the world. Ideally it would be a UN sanctioned, international peace-keeping force backed by a well organized basket of development agencies willing to make a long term commitment to each region -- the sort of commitment where force is perhaps the first and worst tool in helping those under duress. I am not a war analyst but I suspect effective peace keepers would play a role that is a closer analogue to police officers than it is soldiers.

And since I'm dreaming, I'll go ahead and throw in that all these peace keepers come from Democratic nations with mandatory armed service.
posted by Shit Parade at 12:38 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shit Parade (eponysterical, BTW), I absolutely would have preferred some kind of intervention in Darfur, as I argued here. A much more convincing reason than oil (which Sudan has plenty of) for why we stood by watching the atrocities/genocide unfold in Darfur is that Americans don't give a shit about black Africans, by and large. Also, Kosovo or Afghanistan put the lie to your spittle-flecked ranting about oil. Clearly Iraq was an unmitigated disaster, entered into for no better reason than Dubya trying to one-up Poppy. (Maybe Cheney was scheming about oil -- I don't know, but it hasn't produced any benefit for the US in that regard.)

The real significance of oil in Libya, Iraq, and even Bahrain (via Saudi Arabia) is that it grants enormous raw power to dictators. The west certainly does not gain from the intervention, as oil prices have spiked due to the continuing instability. (Ironically, Russia has benefited a lot as a major producer.) Furthermore, oil is fungible in the global market, and Ghaddafi can hardly keep the west from buying it at the same price as China or anyone else, except as a giveaway which profits him nothing.
posted by metaplectic at 1:05 PM on April 3, 2011


I am not a war analyst but I suspect effective peace keepers would play a role that is a closer analogue to police officers than it is soldiers.

I'm not a war analyst either, but I suspect Ghaddafi would grind UN peace keepers up into hamburger.
posted by metaplectic at 1:09 PM on April 3, 2011


NATO has admitted their complete ineptitude and asked the USA to keep blowing shit up. Why is the USA the only country which can effectively blow shit up?
posted by Justinian at 6:29 PM on April 3, 2011


We have lots of practice.
posted by desjardins at 11:56 AM on April 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Reports are now that the rebels are in a "panicked retreat". I guess the confident predictions of a short, victorious war have been shown to be about as accurate as most predictions of short, victorious wars. Please, god, learn this time! Learn!
posted by Justinian at 3:12 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Justinian your information seems contrary to mine. I have hear that rebels took Brega today and have begun selling and shipping oil from their eastern controlled ports. There was some fighting in Tripoli today. US and French diplomats are in Bengazi working on the details of diplomatic recognition of a transitional authority. There are also reports of a number of Ghaddifi's close advisors are waiting at the airport trying to book flights out of Tunisia. Ghaddafi's Oil Minister said that change at the top was inevitable. This seems like pretty steady progress as the rebels gain strength.
posted by humanfont at 4:11 PM on April 5, 2011


AFAIK the rebels briefly retook Brega... note "retook" since they lost Brega, and Ras Lanuf, and Bin Jawwad over the last week. But the government forces counterattacked and many of the rebels were routed nearly back to Ajdabiya. If that's steady progress it's steady progress eastward.
posted by Justinian at 4:47 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


That said, don't get me wrong; it's quite possible that if the USA runs the air campaign... which we were assured would not be the case but that statement seems no longer operative... the rebels will turn it around again. But there's nothing clean, quick, or humanitarian about what is happening.
posted by Justinian at 4:49 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Libyan waiting game favors Gaddafi The standoff on the ground is quickly turning into a stalemate and a game of waiting for whose camp will fall apart first.
There's no business like war business also known as How Libya is a showcase in the new arms race.
posted by adamvasco at 4:21 AM on April 6, 2011




Gen. Carter Ham said in his Congressional testimony that the US would consider sending ground troops to support the Libyan rebels. But surely I'm imagining that since so many people assured us this would not happen.
posted by Justinian at 5:49 PM on April 7, 2011


Meanwhile, in Iraq: Al-Sadr Threatens Mahdi Army Revival if US Troops Stay
posted by homunculus at 5:05 PM on April 10, 2011




Libyan rebels behead Gaddafi soldier.

Likely he deserved it... And in other news,

NYT: Qaddafi Forces Fire Cluster Bombs Into Civilian Areas
MISURATA, Libya — Military forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, who have surrounded this city and vowed to crush its anti-Qaddafi rebellion, have been firing into residential neighborhoods with heavy weapons, including cluster bombs that have been banned by much of the world and ground-to-ground rockets, according to the accounts of witnesses and survivors and physical evidence on the ground.

Such “indiscriminate” weapons, which strike large areas with a dense succession of high-explosive munitions, by their nature cannot be fired precisely, and when fired into populated areas place civilians at grave risk.

...

The cluster munitions were visible in use late Thursday night, in the form of what appeared to be 120-millimeter mortar rounds that burst in the air over the city, scattering high-explosive bomblets below.

Remnants of expended shells, examined and photographed by The New York Times, show the rounds to be MAT-120 cargo mortar projectiles, each of which carries and distributes 21 smaller submunitions designed both to kill people and penetrate light armor.

...

The cluster munitions are not the only indiscriminate heavy weapon system to imperil the city’s neighborhoods. An examination of the area of an intensive rocket barrage on Thursday near the city’s port showed that the Qasr Ahmed residential district was struck by multiple rockets, known as GRADs, which landed in a dense pattern on houses and streets. One rocket shattered the wall beside a mosque.

The GRAD rockets, an area weapons system designed in the Soviet Union to blanket a battlefield with multiple explosions, were readily indentified by their twisted fragments and remains, some of which bore markings indicating they had been manufactured during the cold war. They are fired from truck-mounted launchers that hold 40 rocket tubes, so that each truck is, essentially, a mobile system that can launch its own barrage 12 miles or more.

One of the GRAD rockets alone killed eight civilians, according to survivors and witnesses, who then showed two journalists eight hastily dug graves in a public park nearby, where relatives prayed over the dead. The bodies had been interred beside two children’s swing sets. Each grave was dated: April 14, 2011.

Taken together, the attacks of Thursday and the evidence they left behind, point to a campaign by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces against Misurata that relies in part on weapons designed to endanger the lives of the civilians trapped within. They also support the rebels’ frequent contentions that in the lopsided fight for Libya, Colonel Qaddafi’s forces have targeted civilians or at a minimum, taken few measures to avoid endangering them.

...

The toll of the GRAD rocket strikes also framed the ways in which civilians in this war are forced into vulnerability. Misurata has few open markets, almost no electricity and limited supplies of food. To eat, many residents must stand in bread lines.

One of the rockets that landed in Qasr Ahmed exploded beside one of those lines, killing several people waiting for food. “I jumped onto the ground when the explosions started,” said Ali Hmouda, 36, an employee of the port. “My friend did not. His head came off.”
posted by metaplectic at 10:30 AM on April 15, 2011


BBC via LibyaFeb17: Misrata hospital to 'treat patients on floor' as beds full
The BBC’s Orla Guerin reports from inside a Misrata hospitals. Doctors say 80% of the victims are civilians, many of them hit by shrapnel. Some of the patients were hit while waiting in a bread queue. That attack alone killed 23 people.
It is no exaggeration to say everyone in Misrata would be dead were it not for the intervention. Of course we need to do more, most importantly arming and training the rebels with small arms and anti-tank weapons. It looks like Qatar may be leading in this area.
posted by metaplectic at 10:44 AM on April 15, 2011


It is no exaggeration to say everyone in Misrata would be dead were it not for the intervention.

It is an exaggeration, and you know it. It's absurd.
posted by empath at 11:12 AM on April 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Clearly only half of them would be dead.
posted by electroboy at 11:39 AM on April 15, 2011




Here's a report from Aljazeera which gives more info on the beheading linked above:

Calls for justice in Benghazi

It took place at the courthouse in Benghazi, three days into the uprising. The soldier, supposedly a Ghanaian mercenary, had already been stabbed to death when he was hung by his feet and beheaded.
posted by metaplectic at 12:35 PM on April 21, 2011




Hasta la vista, Ghaddafi.
posted by metaplectic at 2:05 PM on April 23, 2011




« Older Fuck This, I'm Selling The Annandale   |   Burgers. Juicy, Juicy Burgers. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments