Didn’t you notice the palpable difference between what is happening in Libya and what is happening elsewhere?
April 6, 2011 8:21 PM   Subscribe

"[T]he real target of Western bombers and soldiers is in no way the wretched Gaddafi...For the target of the bombers is definitely the popular uprising in Egypt and the revolution in Tunisia, it is their unexpected and intolerable character, their political autonomy, in a word: their independence." Philosopher Alain Badiou attacks the left's support for the NATO intervention in Libya. Background: Europe's economic entanglements with Gaddafi's Libya in the Irish Left Review.
posted by Pastabagel (44 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Quite by accident today I came across a poem by Dennis Schmitz (from his book "Eden") entitled "U.S. Considers War With Libya." It was written in 1988.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 8:28 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I imagine you could find stuff about decades-old plans for US war with basically every country in North Africa and the Middle East if you look hard enough.
posted by floam at 8:33 PM on April 6, 2011


So, presumably, we are using those war plans currently? nice.
posted by kuatto at 8:34 PM on April 6, 2011


Not to derail this further, but Schmitz's poem was likely in response to the Lockerbie bombing (December 1988).

Now, to the meat of the quote in the FPP: on the face of it, Badiou's assertion that the target of the bombers is definitely the popular uprising in Egypt and the revolution in Tunisia seems, even if one is against the incursion in Libya, pretty absurd.

Does he mention the oil factor?
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 8:42 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gaddafi is certainly a thug -- but it's hard to see how he's significantly worse than Mubarak. He's crazier, sure; but no more brutally attached to power. So why now, after all the waffling over Egypt and Tunisia and Yemen? The best interpretation I can put on it is that Libya is a convenient place for the US to flex its muscles and claim a spot on the board, without actually disrupting business. The worst interpretation makes me want to puke.
posted by steambadger at 8:43 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


So imperialistic of the West to interfere with Qaddafi's slaughter of the rebels (nature taking its course)

(By the way, if is the case that we're actually singling out Qaddafi because, among other things, he once had an airliner blown up, I wouldn't have a problem with that.)
posted by knoyers at 8:51 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's crazier, sure; but no more brutally attached to power. So why now, after all the waffling over Egypt and Tunisia and Yemen? The best interpretation I can put on it is that Libya is a convenient place for the US to flex its muscles and claim a spot on the board, without actually disrupting business.

You mean apart from the fact that Mubarak was a staunch ally of the West? And apart from the fact that the Arab League are more than happy to see Gaddafi go down? And apart from the fact that the Libyan army started to split all by itself before a single Western raid was launched?

Apart from those things, yeah it's just the same.
posted by pompomtom at 8:58 PM on April 6, 2011 [15 favorites]


If the intent of bombing pro-Qaddafi's forces is to somehow intimidate the anti-Mubarak/anti-Ali forces, then.... I just don't see how that's supposed to work.

One can make a lot of arguments about how the intervention in Libya is self-serving and ultimately imperialistic--I don't agree, but it's not an insensible position to take. But that letter is just a conspiracy theory. Some observations of particular details, further observations on the convenience of certain bits... and then a batshit reversal where up is down. Total logicfail.
posted by fatbird at 8:59 PM on April 6, 2011


These links are thin on info and thick on leading questions. The only bit of new info seems to be the French Secret Service leak suggesting that they laid the groundwork for the revolution—info that came from a right-wing Italian newspaper.

Needs more sources, I guess I'm saying.
posted by wemayfreeze at 9:02 PM on April 6, 2011


If the intent of bombing pro-Qaddafi's forces is to somehow intimidate the anti-Mubarak/anti-Ali forces

I don't think Badiou means it that literally. I think he means that the West is protecting its vested resources interests in that region, and those interests, based upon decades-old deals with solitary tyrants that screwed the local population, are threatened by revolutions elsewhere that hope to establish more democratic and representative governments that in turn would presumably like to renegotiate with the West a much fairer deal for the exploitation of their natural resources.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:16 PM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


>>> How in both Tunisia and Egypt we really did see massive popular gatherings, whereas in Libya there is nothing of the kind? An Arabist friend of mind has concentrated in the last few weeks on translating the placards, banners, posters and flags that were such a feature of the Tunisian and Egyptian demonstrations: he couldn't find a single example of these in Libya, not even in Benghazi. One very striking fact about the Libyan ‘rebels', which I'm surprised you didn't note, is that you don't see a single woman, whereas in Tunisia and Egypt women are very visible.



I got this far. And I stopped. AN OUTRIGHT LIE.

Libyans rose up in Benghazi, Tripoli, Misratah, Zawiyah, Bayda, Tubrok, etc.
According to the Internation Criminal Court, Libya preplanned to kill civilians who demonstrated: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12983054


Women were very much part of the initial protests, up until Gaddafi's men started the killing.
Once cities freed themselves, we saw women return the to protests.
Put that through your head, Libyans had to fight just to protest.
Here is a CNN reporter showing a demonstation in Benghazi, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qyb1uXUbJWY



This level of outright lying is very insulting. Denying the desire for freedom that my family and friends have fought for in Libya.
As if Libyans don't want freedom, democracy or human dignity.

I couldn't bear to read the rest. That first paragraph was enough.
posted by mulligan at 9:33 PM on April 6, 2011 [28 favorites]


The demonstration in Benghazi I linked clearly has women protestors (just segregated)

There are so many news articles and videos disproving the first paragraph of this article, Making it so incredibly wrong and misinformed, I am surprised this isn't something written by a Libyan State TV reporter.
posted by mulligan at 9:38 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Aren't you amazed that, in contrast to all the other Arab uprisings, weapons of unknown origin emerged in Libya?

Libyan civilians are not allowed to own weapons. All those weapons you see, they fought and died for. The youth of Benghazi, in response to being fired at by snipers and later anti-aircraft guns (you don't want to see the videos of those killed by such high caliber ammo), picked up pipes and bats.

They fought armed gunmen for their guns. The response was tanks and aircraft from Gaddafi. They raided the weapons stores in the east, to get at the guns that the author of this piece are of "unknown origin"
posted by mulligan at 9:41 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think he means that the West is protecting its vested resources interests in that region,

Okay.

and those interests, based upon decades-old deals with solitary tyrants that screwed the local population, are threatened by revolutions elsewhere that hope to establish more democratic and representative governments

Bombing Qaddaffi in apparent support of yet another revolution would not seem to suggest anything but support for democratic revolutions in general. One could dismiss the apparent gesture cynically, and with much historical justification. But Badiou isn't offering cynicism, he's declaring that the proper audience is the revolutions, and not in a beneficial way.
posted by fatbird at 9:42 PM on April 6, 2011


> Weren't you struck by the emergence of a supposed ‘revolutionary council' led by a former accomplice of Gaddafi, whereas nowhere else was there any question of the masses who had risen up appointing some people as a replacement government?

My word. I remember following every bit of news that was coming out of Libya. The TNC wasn't around for a long time. When Gaddafi's army upped the killing ante, firing rockets at cities and attacking civilians with tanks, I was sitting in a cafe with a bunch of other Libyan families in the Bay Area. After a Libyan commentator made the case for it, most Libyans had agreed that there was a really big need for a official point of contact that represented the free Libyans.

We recognized we needed this if we were going to ask for assistance from other nations. The TNC was formed in response to this. It didn't just spring up spontaneously
posted by mulligan at 9:45 PM on April 6, 2011


Libyan civilians are not allowed to own weapons. All those weapons you see, they fought and died for.

Generally I don't disagree with what you've said, but this is a bit of an exaggeration. The Egyptian military have been shipping weapons over the border for a couple of weeks.
posted by pompomtom at 9:46 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think mulligan has said about all that needs to be said here. Awesome takedown.
posted by JHarris at 9:47 PM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


pompomtom: yeah, i read that article from last month. Egyptians and the TNC denied the claim. I'm willing to concede that they may just be denying the claim for political reasons, but keep in mind, that article is from mid march, a full month after the revolution. The
posted by mulligan at 9:50 PM on April 6, 2011


I second JHarris - Mulligan has said it all. Can we close this thread now?
posted by twsf at 9:50 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm delighted that the NATO allies are (belatedly) supporting the Libyan people's fight to free themselves from 40 years of brutal dictatorship instead of standing by and letting them be slaughtered as this chap would obviously prefer. The eagerness of certain left wing intellectuals to denigrate anything the west does, no matter how good or well intentioned, is surpassed only by their eagerness to jump into bed with any murdering thug who hates the west almost as much as they do.
posted by joannemullen at 10:54 PM on April 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


We recognized we needed this if we were going to ask for assistance from other nations. The TNC was formed in response to this. It didn't just spring up spontaneously

I don't understand this. You deny that Western nations helped to arm the protestors, but then say you needed to ask them for assistance. If you needed assistance after, it doesn't seem outrageous to say there may have been assistance before.
posted by AlsoMike at 10:59 PM on April 6, 2011


The assistance needed and requested was for a NFZ.
posted by mulligan at 11:07 PM on April 6, 2011


Juan Cole's Open Letter to the Left on Libya
posted by Bwithh at 11:26 PM on April 6, 2011


The author is clearly a jackass attempting to be anti-imperialist clairevoyant, and failing miserably.

However, I do get the feeling that in Libya there had been (perhaps for a long time) an organized anti-Qaddafi group, with foreign ties, and access to weapons and military training (or at least was preparing itself to organize an army). I get the impression, from what I have seen, that these guys are the driving force behind the protests. Because, yeah, it did seem strange to me that immediately, there was this armed group with an official council communicating with the outside world.

I am not trying to imply anything devious... just pointing out that what is happening in Libya appears to be entirely different from what happened in Tunisia and Egypt.
posted by molecicco at 12:09 AM on April 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bombing Qaddaffi in apparent support of yet another revolution would not seem to suggest anything but support for democratic revolutions in general.

I disagree. The uprising in Libya may have been sparked by the revolutions elsewhere in the Arab world, but it became a civil war, which isn't what happened in Egypt or Tunisia. That's why NATO (with UN approval) is staging a military intervention -- not out of "support for democratic revolutions in general," but in order to contain and influence a civil war that has erupted on Western Europe's doorstep. It has the additional upside of giving them an opportunity to help depose Gaddafi, who has been (justifiably) hated and mistrusted by Western states for decades. There is a very large degree of self-interest in NATO involvement in Libya; it is not by any means a purely humanitarian or pro-democracy intervention (although I believe humanitarian and democratic considerations played a part in the decision to get involved). Seems to me that Badiou has a point when he says the intervention is an expression of "the Western consensus that says: 'we absolutely have to remain in charge of everything happening'."

That's not to say I agree with Badiou overall. Just because the intervention is self-interested doesn't necessarily mean it's worse than doing nothing. And honestly, I find his letter kind of odious, because I feel like it's more about him striking a pose than anything else; he's made a career out of being a big-name European public intellectual, and the role he's chosen in that particular game calls for this sort of statement. Still, there's more truth to what he's saying than people here are giving him credit for.
posted by twirlip at 12:50 AM on April 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wish Badiou would shut up because he's making the anti-yet-another-foreign-adventure side looks stupid. Thanks, Badiou, but I got this. Maybe go enjoy a nice espresso and watch some footie.
posted by Justinian at 12:53 AM on April 7, 2011


Former CIA Analyst Tells Truth About Libya Intervention On CNN, Hilarity Ensues
posted by telstar at 1:17 AM on April 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Molecicco: Yeah Libya is different because the Egyptian Army didn't make a policy out of machine gunning crowds of unarmed protesters.
posted by wuwei at 1:17 AM on April 7, 2011


that too!
posted by molecicco at 1:41 AM on April 7, 2011


The same former CIA Analyst Michael Scheuer's analysis:
-obama is a racist
-Americas only hope is if Bin Laden nukes US

The depressing thing is this nutjob was running our find Bin Laden team at CIA for the last 4 years of the Clinton admin and the 3 years after 9-11. He blames everyone else for his failure to get the job done (Clinton, Bush, Richard Clarke, etc).
posted by humanfont at 2:18 AM on April 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Just puked in my mouth a little.

He sounds like an old prof I had in University, whose 40 years of pot smoking had replaced his critical faculties with a little dogma and a lot of slogans. Impressive fancy-talk-skills though.
posted by tempythethird at 3:43 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The same former CIA Analyst Michael Scheuer's analysis:

I knew I recognized that guy!
posted by Amanojaku at 8:57 AM on April 7, 2011


> Didn’t you notice the palpable difference between what is happening in Libya and what is happening elsewhere?

My theory includes the point that the people who are able to put an outside intervention in place were completely blindsided by Egypt and had no idea how to react until that opportunity passed them by. But they started dithering then about what they ought to have done and lo, after a certain amount of quality dithering time was behind them, hey, Libya.
posted by jfuller at 11:20 AM on April 7, 2011


You mean apart from the fact that Mubarak was a staunch ally of the West?

I don't think that redounds to the credit of the West. And remember that the West was happy to pretend that Gaddafi was a staunch ally, when he came out against al Qaeda.

Apart from those things, yeah it's just the same.

My post last night was perhaps overwrought; but nowhere did I imply that it was "just the same". I'll be glad to see Gaddafi go. I think some kind of intervention was justified. Given the last ten years, though (or the last sixty, if you want to get contextual) I don't trust the motivations of my government -- and so I'm not sure the long-term consequences are going to be all fluffy bunny.
posted by steambadger at 6:20 PM on April 7, 2011


I don't think that redounds to the credit of the West.

I'm not trying to give credit to the West (I'm one of the knee-jerk anti-Americans to whom TFA's author is giving a bad name). I'm sure that the US State Department, for example, are gutted that they no longer have Mubarak in power - even though they can't say that too loudly. The point is that intervention in Libya is astonishingly cheap and easy compared to any of the other Middle Eastern states experiencing domestic turmoil. Even if Western interests decided that it was time for a change of government in, say, Yemen or Bahrain, they can't afford that sort of thing just now (not to mention the vast difference in diplomatic situations (ie: how much it would annoy the Saudis)). In Libya, half the job was done, the country was split in half before the West really noticed, and gathering support for "let's stop this guy, who no-one likes anyway, strafing protesters" is politically, a piece of piss.

My post last night was perhaps overwrought...

...and mine was quite flippant in tone, for which I apologise

posted by pompomtom at 7:05 PM on April 7, 2011


...con'td:

I don't trust the motivations of my government -- and so I'm not sure the long-term consequences are going to be all fluffy bunny.

I concur on both points, but at least with regard to fluffiness, finding an alternative to standing by while Gaddafi slaughters protesters, and then continuing to deal with Gaddafi for a couple of decades to come is a pretty bloody low bar. In terms of opportunity cost it looks like the devil we don't know may be a good deal.
posted by pompomtom at 7:11 PM on April 7, 2011


For the target of the bombers is definitely the popular uprising in Egypt and the revolution in Tunisia, it is their unexpected and intolerable character, their political autonomy, in a word: their independence.

Dumbest thing I've read all year. Apparently having trouble with the fact that the US didn't intervene on behalf of Mubarak, so had to invent some twisted version of the truth where Qadaffi is the good guy. I've opposed this intervention, but this guy is an idiot.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:37 PM on April 7, 2011


I'm sure that the US State Department, for example, are gutted that they no longer have Mubarak in power

No, you're not "sure" of that.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:49 PM on April 7, 2011


Umm, yes I am.

Infinity plus one.
posted by pompomtom at 10:13 PM on April 7, 2011


Umm, yes I am.

Infinity plus one.


Upon what verifiable facts is your opinion based?

Second, you are anthropromorphizing a government department and then giving it "thoughts." Meaning that the statement obscures more than it reveals. To whom in the State Department are you referring?
posted by Ironmouth at 5:57 AM on April 8, 2011


Nor does the government have "motives."

I'm not being pedantic here. Shorthand like this is usually handwaiving away a huge set of facts or unstated conclusions.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:00 AM on April 8, 2011


There are a whole lot of people in this thread who are simply and demonstrably in error. I was going to systematically point out the obvious ones, but I noticed Mulligan's earlier comment, and, well... can't top that.

It's important to realize that this intervention happened in a context of women and children jumping to their deaths to escape an even more brutal crackdown, of homes raided and entire families murdered, and of women being brutally gangraped and silenced, just because their papers said they were from Tobruk instead of Tripoli.

The fact of the matter is that Ghadafi wasn't a client, as much as a Devil's bargain... and, by far, his largest customer base were the nations of Europe. They thought, perhaps, that it was alright for them to send them their money, as Ghadafi had changed his stripes after supporting terrorists, attacking his neighbors, and helping destabilize regions like Darfur. He was merely repressing his people, as all the other Arab nations did.

But really, this situation is different, both in terms of his history, of Libya's proximity to NATO, and especially, in terms of the brutality and scale of Khadafi's reaction.

The fact is, this isn't a US invasion, or even a war. The US are basically letting NATO run things.

The other day, NATO flew about 150 sorties... but only 14 of those resulted in any ordinance being used. Why so few strikes? Well, in part, it's caution on the part of NATO. But the larger story is that Khadafi has been forced to hide his heavy weapons and ground its air force, rather than using it against its people.

Is this conflict opportunistic? Sure. But not in the economic way. None of the European powers are making $$ off of it, or negotiating better deals. The fact is, there's no dictator out there that close to NATO, who's killing his own people to quite the degree that Khadafi is doing.

This conflict is an opportunity to not only protect civilians, but also to kick Khadafi when he's down. And frankly, he deserves it.
posted by markkraft at 6:57 AM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those so damned worried about the eeevils of involvement in Libya, I offer this:

It's a safer bet, right now, that that the battlefield stalemate produces some form of truce . . . Both sides, in fact have set out their opening bids on cease-fire terms . . . Gaddafi insists on maintaining himself or his sons in charge over any political transition; the rebels insist there will be no peace as long at they remain in Tripoli -- and the Western powers will not accept Gaddafi setting the terms . . . the military contest for each side right now presupposes an eventual truce, and is aimed at shaping its terms.

Really, if this leads to elections, well... that's huge for the people of Libya.
posted by markkraft at 7:55 AM on April 8, 2011


Shorthand like this is usually handwaiving away a huge set of facts or unstated conclusions.

So we can have a thread about nations and popular movements, but once the US's State Department is mentioned it's snowflakes all over? To avoid the devastating deployment of scare quotes and a semi-literate dismissal, I suppose it's time to rephrase.

I expect that, notwithstanding the hand-wringing of some historically ineffectual apparatchiks, the generalised consensus of decision-makers directing the policy US State Department is that it is upsetting that Egypt has become harder for them to control.
posted by pompomtom at 2:42 PM on April 8, 2011


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