Wednesday, March 30, 2011

winning is fast, humanitarianism is slow

Garance Franke-Ruta relays the most conventional of conventional wisdom:
In the end, though, the only thing that is going to matter to the American people is if Qaddafi goes, or is rendered forgettable. The polls show people want regime change. If the rebels regroup, and are strengthened, as seems to be happening, that will help shift perceptions of the intervention. But even as the U.S. backs off, and what remains of the operation proceeds under NATO leadership, intellectually and emotionally, America has taken a side in the conflict. And Americans like to win.

This is one of those speeches that was more for the experts than the American people. An address to the nation that will not resolve anything for them. The only thing that will make this intervention seem wise is if Qaddaffi goes, or rendered so isolated and powerless that he can be forgotten. (Should he go soon, that would make Obama seem very wise, indeed.)
"Seems," here, is everything.

That Franke-Ruta is right about the political fallout, I can't deny. This is the consensus, at least, that we can all agree on: if this situation is resolved in a way that seems like a win-- if we end up with a conclusion that can be spun as victory-- it will be good for Barack Obama, the Democrats, modern day Kiplings like Samantha Powers, and the continuing prosecution of the Forever War. But I beg you to consider the distance between our rhetoric of humanitarianism and what Franke-Ruta, and just everybody else, are saying for Obama to call this a victory.

First, please do consider Matt Yglesias and his pointing out that good consequences can emerge from bad policy and create bad precedents. (Yglesias has been consistently great on this topic.) Now think about why we are saying we are going to war: for the humanitarian reasons of protecting the Libyan rebels from slaughter at Benghazi, and as is now inarguable, of removing the dictator Qaddafi from power. Does it not strike anybody else that the political goal of claiming a "win" can be achieved without anything like long-term humanitarian gains for Libyans?

Everyone should read this history of humanitarian intervention from Adam Curtis at the BBC. The thing about humanitarian gains is that they are always conditional and temporal. What looks like victory in the short term sometimes looks like defeat in the long term. This is true simply on the level of achieving better conditions for the people you're trying to help, but it is especially true given the sad nature of human conflict. Consider this excerpt:
But Kouchner quickly discovered that victims could be very bad. There was an extraordinary range of ethnic groups in Kosovo.
There were:
Muslim Albanians
Orthodox Serbs
Roman Catholic Serbs
Serbian-speaking Muslim Egyptians
Albanian-speaking Muslim Gypsies - Ashkalis
Albanian-speaking Christian Gypsies - Goranis
And even - Pro-Serbian Turkish-speaking Turks
They all had vendettas with each other - which meant that they were both victims and horrible victimizers at the same time. It began to be obvious that getting rid of evil didn't always lead to the simple triumph of goodness.
Which became horribly clear in Iraq in 2003.
I am on the side of the Libyan rebels in comparison to Qaddafi. (Taking sides with them does not mean willing to support aerial bombing campaigns ostensibly in their favor, and the fact that this isn't plain as day only serves to underscore the sickness of our discourse on foreign policy.) But that does not mean that the Libyan rebels are "good" and that the outcome of their possible victory will be desirable. What terrifies me, and what should scare you, too, is the fact that the political fallout for the Obama administration and all of the hawks in the media will have nothing to do with the long term humanitarian picture for Libya.

Like Gore Vidal said, we live in the United States of Amnesia. Our news cycle moves fast, our attention span is short, and nobody cares about yesterday's news. I think anyone can imagine a situation where the rebels defeat Qaddafi and a new government is put into place, and the western world congratulates itself on a job well done, as Obama's approval ratings soar. Liberal hawks and neocons get even more entrenched in their views and self-satisfied. Meanwhile, Libyans will continue to wrestle with the consequences for decades to come. And the results could be all kinds of bloody and terrible-- perhaps we might even call it humanitarian disaster. With Iraq, we were temporarily forced to deal with the long-term consequences because we were occupying the country. Now, even though we still have 50,000 troops there, our attention has gone elsewhere-- while the constant violence and near total political breakdown continues.

This is a very frightening turn for democracy, when long-term human consequences of our actions are so divided from long-term political consequences. Whether you are happy, unhappy, or indifferent to our recent health care reform, we can be sure that Americans will observe the consequences of that change and their attitudes will have political weight. No such certainty exists regarding Libya and its outcomes. What will be remembered is the shallow, short-term rhetoric of victory, not the mature, unflinching and long-term understanding that genuine humanitarianism requires. Our regard for humanitarianism has passion but no depth.

Will the architects of this war still be talking about it in a year or three or five? I doubt it. And so political reality becomes further and further divided from humanitarian reality, in a conflict waged on purely humanitarian grounds. The only word for this is folly.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

"...that genuine humanitarianism requires. Our regard for humanitarianism has passion but no depth."

This is not intended to be snarky: in your opinion, what does a genuine humanitarianism look like with respect to these conflicts in general, or Libya in particular?

Freddie said...

Very complicated question. Humanitarianism of the kind I favor that goes beyond foreign aid and charitable giving requires some fundamental changes. I'll try and write something up about it in the near future.

eliaisquire.com said...

Please do, Freddie.

Another thing--I agree with you like, honestly, 90% or more.

But when you call Samantha Power the modern day Kipling, it makes me uncomfortable. Maybe I haven't heard your position articulated elsewhere but from my background, people using that kind of rhetoric often tend to be the very same who insist forced marriage, FGM, etc. are untouchable cultural touchstones and that to argue otherwise is cultural imperialism.

Hope you're not making that kind of argument, but even if you are, I'd appreciate you refining/elaborating, if you would.

Freddie said...

OK, this is really important, and I don't want to pick on you. Please consider: you are associating having an ethical or moral conviction directly with killing people in order to enforce that conviction. Right? I have a moral position on forced marriage, just like I have a moral position on, say, female genital mutilation. I am perfectly happy to judge them. What I am not willing to do is to advocate killing people to get what I want on those issues.

It's the same with Libya. I have an opinion on Libya, the rebels, Qaddafi.... What is crazy to me is the idea that there isn't any space between my taking a moral stand and my advocating enforcing those with military hardware and killing people.

Like I said, I'm not picking on you-- indeed, this elision from moral decisions to power to projection is totally common. While I'm usually happy to be in the clear minority, in this instance, I insist on pointing out the radicalism of every body else.

Elias William said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eliaisquire.com said...

Oh, no worries. I literally didn't know whether you were arguing she's Kipling because she encourages force or because she encourages engagement (without force).

I don't even disagree with you. It's always seemed somewhat bizarre to me for someone to think that you can make the world a more peaceful, humanitarian place...by bombing people.

I can't think of a good metaphor right now because I am not John Galt, but war is the fuel that sustains all illiberalism and all anti-humanist thought/action, so the A1 goal of a humanitarian should always be to end war.

I'm not a pacifist, but I'd never cite my human rights education or leanings as justification for war, if I were to advocate it.

Ben There said...

“Meanwhile, Libyans will continue to wrestle with the consequences for decades to come.”

True, but don’t we also have to acknowledge the miserable ordeal Libyans were already wrestling with for decades under the rule of Qaddafi’s iron fist? And more importantly, shouldn’t we consider the consequences faced by the Libyan people in the absence of intervention?

I lack your certitude that staying out of it would have been the more humanitarian choice.

Popular struggles for democracy often have frightening consequences (especially for the side lacking a full military arsenal!). In this case one of those consequences was the specter of large, relatively defenseless, and populous civilian areas being attacked by fighter jets and tanks. With that in mind I’m inclined to accept the claim that the Libyan people wanted the no-fly zone, as opposed to writing it off as spin from chicken hawks, warmongers, or PR firms.

There are significant indications that as soon as the rebellion was put down any Libyan remotely involved in the anti-Qaddafi movement, as well as their family, friends, and pets, would be facing torture and/or execution and that Libyan society would become even more brutal and oppressive than before. (One of the things informing my opinion is the assumption that the rebels are representing the will of the vast majority of the population. If anyone has compelling evidence to the contrary, please share.)

I’m not disagreeing with your theme of “winning is fast, humanitariasm is slow”, just pointing out that doing nothing would also have had humanitarian consequences, and they would certainly have been bloody and horrible.

Michael said...

"While I'm usually happy to be in the clear minority, in this instance, I insist on pointing out the radicalism of every body else."

This is the answer to the question I asked you in the other thread: whom do you have what beef with? Because it's not like people are coming after you just for "not advocating" for the thing they support. You're going after them. Let's be clear about that. It's not about what you are refusing to do, unless "not resisting by means of name calling and otherwise denouncing people's moral judgment" is what you are refusing.

Freddie said...

And just like the other thread, your question is bizarre. Who do I have a beef with? Uh, I think I'm making that explicit. Every post. You're developing this weird concept of agency in political debate that I've never seen before, in large part because it's daft. I am no more or less going after people than the myriad people supporting this war are.

Michael said...

It's not daft to try to understand exactly whom you're criticizing for what, especially when you yourself claim to be getting criticized merely for refusing to advocate killing (which you could do by writing nothing). You choose to write; moreover you write in withering terms about poorly defined categories of people (i.e. those who say X about you not advocating ...etc. etc). You're making nothing explicit about where your aim is IMO. It is entirely nebulous.

Anonymous said...

He has a "beef" with those who have taken his country to war. What's so hard to understand about that? He also has a beef with those who say, "if you don't support the war, then, ipso fact, you love Kaddafi and don't care about the harm he has done/might do in the future." Again, not so hard to understand.

"True, but don’t we also have to acknowledge the miserable ordeal Libyans were already wrestling with for decades under the rule of Qaddafi’s iron fist?"

Like having one of the highest standards of living in Africa? Like having an array of social services provided at no cost? Like actual sharing the oil wealth with the population, unlike many of our wonderful "allies?" Most countries are ruled by "an iron fist." Pretty much all non democratic ones are. What makes Kaddafi so especially terrible in this regard? In any event, what makes you think that whoever replaces Kaddafi won't rule with an iron fist? What reason do you have to believe that these rebels are anything more than that--rebels. A rebel is not necessarily, or even more often than not, a "freedom fighter." There are such things as coups you know, as well as revolutions.

"In this case one of those consequences was the specter of large, relatively defenseless, and populous civilian areas being attacked by fighter jets and tanks. With that in mind I’m inclined to accept the claim that the Libyan people wanted the no-fly zone, as opposed to writing it off as spin from chicken hawks, warmongers, or PR firms."

That "specter" is entirely overblown. There is no evidence whatsoever that Kaddafi intended to use tanks and jets to destroy Benghazi. What he said was quite the opposite, that he and his forces would go "house to house, and alley to alley" and search out the rebels and their supporters for reprisals. Pretty much what is always done to failed rebels, no? Moreover, if humanitarianism is your concern, wouldn't it have been better for the war to be over sooner, rather than later? Kaddafi appeared to be a few days away from total victory. Once achieved, yes, of course there would have been terrible reprisals. But that would have been the end of it. Now, Libyans face the "specter" of ongoing civil war. And with the West involved, that also means embargoes and sanctions and no fly zones. Aren't more people, including more civilians, likely to die and suffer because of that? Also, I love how so called "humanitarians" shed endless crocodile tears for the "civilians" (many of whom were no such thing, as they were armed rebels, but leave that aside) who MIGHT have been killed by Kaddafi, but are indifferent, to the extent they are not squeeling in glee, like junior high school cheerleaders, over the deaths of the poor, SOB conscripts in the Libyan army. Teenage boys and young men are forced to join the army, as they are in many, if not most, countries. They are not "bad guys" or "butchers" or "mad dogs." Yet their deaths at the hands of the rebels or by US Tomahawk missiles is of no concern whatever, or, worse yet, is greeted with delight. Some humanitarianism.

Anonymous said...

As for what the Libyans wanted, in terms of no fly zones, how can you possibly judge that? Because some self appointed spokesman for some self appointed group in one part of a large country said so?

You say this:

"One of the things informing my opinion is the assumption that the rebels are representing the will of the vast majority of the population. If anyone has compelling evidence to the contrary, please share."

Why should I need to produce "compelling evidence" to refute what you admit is a mere "assumption" on your part? But, anyway, it seems to me that based on events in western and southern Libya we are seeing that Kaddafi does have the support of at least some segments of society. Moreover, the rebels appear to be based almost exclusively in one province, one that has long had sectional grievances. I see no evidence whatsoever to support your view that the rebels have the overwhelming, or even majority, support, of the people. Other than the flat assertion of that by themselves as reported, and endorsed, in the West, and then "assumed" by you.

And that leads to the larger issue. You are basing your views entirely on how the issue was presented by the Western media. This shows the very point that our author makes over and over. This is not our fight. It's not our country. We are not the repisitory of all wisdom and morality. We act like, somehow, we are "above it all," able to wisely choose sides and dispense justice from on high, like a deus ex machina. We play God, and, in doing so, deny dignity, agency, autonomy, and full humanity to our alleged beneficiaries. We don't seem to be able to get over our colonialist and imperlialist behaviors. We, somehow, even though we are from an alien culture, don't speak the language, don't practice the religion, and don't really know anything about the country, are the ones who should decide its destiny. Why? So, Libya is badly ruled, you claim. Well, at least its ruled by Libyans. What makes you think the West could rule it any better? And, even if it could, what makes you think that would acceptable to the proud, dignified human beings who live there?

By overthrowing a tyrant by themselves, or mostly by themselves, if they can do it, the rebels would gain legitimacy. Liberating one's own country is a heady, empowering thing. Their right to rule Libya would have a strong basis. But how much legitimacy does any rebel, or group of rebels, have when they are put on the throne almost entirley by the enomously overpowering firepower of some outside force? Not much. Then you have a Challabi, or a Karzai, etc. Not a Havel or a Washington. As it appears, the rebels can't even hold their own ground, much less depose Kaddafi, unless the US and its allies pound the ground in front of them from the air relentlessly. Even that may not be enough. Already, there is talk of arming them, "training and advising" them, and even introducing ground troops. And that's what these things always lead to...in the Balkans, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, etc. We go in, ostensibly for "humanitarian" reasons, but quickly then insist on regime change. When we can't get it, we start in with the no fly zones. When that doesn't work, we bring on the bombs and missiles and start arming rebels (regardless of who they are, what they want, whether they really represent values that we want to endorse, etc.), and then, when that doesn't work either, we send in ground troops. The "bad guy" is toppled, and there we are, with thousands of troops occupying a foreign country with an alien culture, trying to maintain "stability" while a constitution and state to our liking is forced down their throats and the sniping and IEDs begin....

Freddie said...

Again, that is patently bizarre to me. I have stated what I want again and again: I want the United States not to intervene militarily in Libya. What could possibly be hard to understand about that position, after I have written thousands of words detailing why? Who am I arguing with? The people who are advocating military intervention in Libya. Who could have read my output for the last week and not understand that? There is nothing nebulous whatsoever about saying "get out of this conflict."

If you disagree, just disagree.

Michael said...

Here is one answer (not Freddie's):

"He has a "beef" with those who have taken his country to war. What's so hard to understand about that? He also has a beef with those who say, "if you don't support the war, then, ipso fact, you love Kaddafi and don't care about the harm he has done/might do in the future.""

Here is another (Freddie's):

"Who am I arguing with? The people who are advocating military intervention in Libya."

I actually think the former is closer to what I've seen here. I don;t think all the arguments you've made apply to just anyone advocating war; it seems to me that some of your invective is out of place for private persons simply giving their position (i.e. you've made claims about people specifically saying that there are certain consequences of you not advocating like them, and you'e rejected those). I don;t think you've merely been arguing against this decision; many others have done that and have avoided drawing in the decisionmakers personally and making harsh judgments about their moral character, etc. Their blogs/publications are far more staid and boring than yours.

You have made many varied arguments about various questions *and people* related to this subject here all right next to each other (not contradictory arguments, just if they were made explicit and listed, the list would be long and impressively varied), and for me it gets hard to keep track, that is all.

I'm just asking you to boil it all down to the bare claims, while retaining the specificity of what you have argued and maintain (not that you have to do that). In the comment just above I think you have boiled it down to where you are not faithfully representing what you have actually argued. But you see all the variety as of a piece with the simple position you say you hold, and I can accept that. I think we're just kind of talking past each other here.

Freddie said...

No, actually; I'm talking plainly about what I think. You are being obtuse and engaging in sophistry. I criticize argument that I think is wrong. I lay out, very clearly, why I think those arguments are wrong. That you are taking this for somehow different from what most people do is, frankly, bogus. I am merely honest, whereas most bloggers are more interested in preserving personal relationships and cronyism than speaking plainly.

But you know all that.

Now, please-- I have answered your questions several times, despite the fact that you are asking them not out of legitimate misunderstanding but because you are trying to undermine my position through deflection. The issue is the issue of Libya. I've made my stance plain. I've also disputed arguments I find fallacious and wrongheaded. This is known in certain technical circles as "argument."

If you are so desperate to win something, please-- take it somewhere else. Despite your conviction in your own cuteness, I've seen this game played before, and it wasn't entertaining the first time.

Michael said...

"I can accept that"; "I think we're just talking past each other."

"You are being abtuse obtuse"; "You are engaging in sophistry" "cuteness"

Which of these are the words of someone desperately wanting to win (or not lose)? Maybe none.

I have not said your arguments on Libya itself are unclear; they are very fine and clear asa bell. I just think that the specific targets of some of the extraneous invective you throw at the people making arguments you oppose are not always clear. I'm not even sure you are aware how much more than simple argument over policy you engage in by way of arguing policy; this last response makes that pretty clear to me. That leads me to think I shouldn't be all that concerned with it. If you engaged in that more consciously, I would be more persistent in seeking to know whom exactly you seek to shame as you do. But it is just involuntary for you: you experience what you are doing as merely arguing policy. So that is that. You apparently don't mean to engage personally the way you do, and don't have specific targets in mind when you talk about people's defects as you do, it's just empty bluster. I'll happily leave you to that.

Please don't take this as a dismissal of your arguments, by the way; your actual policy arguments are very solid and I admire how you present them. I've merely been trying to gain greater clarity on exactly what criticisms you have for exactly whom, since you do go far beyond saying that this policy s wrong, to what that means for the moral standing of both its "architects," and its "advocates." It's unfortunate that you read that as saying i don;t think you argue with clarity on the merits; you do. And you are mistaken to think that I am trying to undermine your position; I don't even oppose it.

Anonymous said...

After almost a dozen posts on the same theme, I'm still not sure what the hell Michael is whingeing about, but I'll give it a shot. Michael complains that Freddie's arguments for his position contain a lot of "invective out of place for private persons simply giving their position," and bemoans that he has drawn in "the decisionmakers personally and making harsh judgments about their moral character, etc." It seems to me that what Michael believes is that Freddie's status as a private-person nobody doesn't entitle him to hold the decision-makers responsible for the moral consequences of their acts (death) and to say that what they've done should affect how we view our leaders as moral persons.

I think Freddie disagrees with that, and one of his major points of disagreement with Beltway Liberal Bloggers is their dry, desiccated, abstract, and morals-free approach to public policy discussion. It appears to me that he thinks these things matter, sometimes in a life-and-death way, and the leaders who make wrong decisions for bad reasons deserve to be called out either for their analytical coherence, bad faith, or morally blindered view of how their decisions affect actual people. So if he thinks Obama, Clinton, Samantha Power, and their supporters are making bad decisions that don't reflect well on them analytically or morally, he says so. I'm not sure how this is somehow damaging or how more cringing deference by "private persons" to "decion makers" to them would be helpful, especially in a supposedly functioning republic.

Anonymous said...

Analytical incoherence, sorry. My bad.

Michael said...

You read opposition where I make it clear I just want to know what the charges/criticism is of whom specifically. Freddie says he is really saying that the policy is bad policy and that's all, but that's not all he's done. I just want an accounting, is all. But really, I'm very ready to drop it. If Freddie really has no idea what I am concerned, then clearly he doesn't actually have the personal condemnatory intent for people even other than government officials that in my view are clearly implied by his words. I accept that fully; the matter is entirely settled for me. It's bad policy, end of story.

Michael said...

I see a bit of your confusion now. I'm not saying Freddie is out of place; I am saying that some of his invective may be out of place in the sense of being out of proportion to the deeds of the target if the target is just a private person making arguments he sees as "advocating killing" or the like. But it all depends on exactly what he is saying about about whom, which is why I have been asking that question over and over again. But no more.

Anonymous said...

If someone whether a government official or a private person makes loose arguments justifying killing without a proper moral basis, then he or she fully deserves "invective" (a scare word meaning criticism) for that moral lapse.

Anonymous said...

hai Freddie.
You have a basic misunderstanding of the game here.
Iraq and A-stan are both results of the Bush Doctrine and its bastard stepchild COIN. The problem in Iraq and A-stan is that when muslims are democratically empowered to vote, they vote for more islam, not less, and never for judeochristian democracy with freedom and freedom of religion. Shariah law forbids proselytization and freedom of speech legalizes proselytization.
The BD and COIN represent what we call in mathematics "an impossible problem".
Now Libya is the first application of the Obama Doctrine. Which essentially says we will intervene for humanitarian reasons IFF we think we can win.
In Libya, we are on the side of the insurgents, instead of trying to wipe them out.
It will be over in two weeks tops.
Qaddafi is going to kite.
The NTC will be just fine, just like Egypt where 77.2 of egyptians just voted for shariah law.
Democracy in action.
Art 2 of the Egyptian constitution.
Art.2*: Islam is the Religion of the State. Arabic is its official language, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).
As long as America is not trying to install/implant/standup/impose judeochristian democracy we won't have the horrorshows of Iraq and A-stan.

Anonymous said...

And Libya was humanitarian. Qaddafi's only chance was to crush Benghazi and kill as much of the rebel leadership as he could the first night.
The French brought the rain in the nick of time.
Now Qaddafi has no friends, and the Muslim Brotherhood are right across the border and they have a 30 year stockpile of sweet american weaponry we gave Mubarak. Qaradawi put out a fatwah on him. The rebels already hold 80% of the oil, and he can't resupply his armor and ordnance. He is a goner.
This the Obama Doctrine. Humanitarian interventionism where we are pretty sure we can win.
Beats the hell out of the uberstupid Bush doctrine.
/shrug

Ben There said...

Anonymous -

Recent events in the middle east lead me to believe that what is occuring in Libya is a legitimate movement towards democracy, and is reflective of the popular will in Libya. In my judgement, which is admittedly imperfect, it is a peoples movement and not the equivalent of one band of thugs against another.

As I stated on another post on this same blog, my personal judgement is not the deciding factor (thankfully). The decision originated with the UN security council, which exists for the purpose of addressing these very issues (ie: when to use military force), and was approved by the Arab League and others in the international community. From my perspective that lends legitimacy, if not necessity, to the intervention and is the single most determining factor my personal support of it. If this appeared to be another unilateral/phony coalition/US led action, my position would be one of passionate opposition.

Anonymous said...

winning is fast, humanitarianism is slow, and the Bush Doctrine/COIN is incredibly stupid.
Libya will have an islamic democracy, just like Egypt.

Art.2: Islam is the Religion of the State. Arabic is its official language, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).

Anonymous said...

Freddie....what happened to your sass?
You are just a big fat concern troll now.
I hardly recognize you.

Freddie said...

Huh? I'm opposed to Libya, full stop. How is that concern trolling?

A said...

So is the rooftop campus sex link supposed to be for irony? Just wondering.

Freddie said...

Oh, jesus. What did I do....

Anonymous said...

"Recent events in the middle east lead me to believe that what is occuring in Libya is a legitimate movement towards democracy, and is reflective of the popular will in Libya. In my judgement, which is admittedly imperfect, it is a peoples movement and not the equivalent of one band of thugs against another."

Because what happens in one, or more countries, in the Middle East, automatically means that the same thing is happening in another? Couldn't it also be too that, yes, the revolution in Benghazi was started by some of the same elements that started those in Tunisia and Egypt, ie the twittering, facebooking liberal, partially westernized intellligentsia and middle class, who desire democracy, but that it has been hijacked by other elements? Some sources suggest that this exactly what has happened, that former regime elements (some of whom are the very "spokesmen" calling for western military intervention) have effectively taken over the revolt. Others that radical Islamists have done so. Reports out of Benghazi suggest that no one is in charge. Also, unlike in Tunisia and Egypt, the rebels in Banghazi have chosen to meet force with force. Not that this is wrong, but it does change the nature of the rebellion. Once arms are taken up, strongmen, military men, former "justice" or "security" officials, etc, "thugs," as you say, are in a much stronger position than they would be if the "people's movement" had remained non violent. In addition, even if it is a "people's movement," that doesn't mean it necessarily represents the will of the Libyan people as a whole. Again, there are regional, sectional and tribal divisions at play here. You admit your "judgement" is "imperfect," you admit that you are simply taking what you think you know about events in other countries and transferring it, willy nilly, to Libya, yet you would put the burden on those who advocate non interference to produce "compelling evidence" that you are wrong. To me, that is burden shifting. I think the "compelling" case should be made by the interventionists, not those who advise respect for the sovereignty and autonomy of others.

Anonymous said...

"The decision originated with the UN security council, which exists for the purpose of addressing these very issues (ie: when to use military force), and was approved by the Arab League and others in the international community. From my perspective that lends legitimacy, if not necessity, to the intervention and is the single most determining factor my personal support of it. If this appeared to be another unilateral/phony coalition/US led action, my position would be one of passionate opposition."

Please. The UN acted at the insistence of the classic, Western imperialist powers: the UK, France and the US. The Arab League is run by autocrats almost identical to those whom the "people's movements" in Tunisia and Egypt rose up against, and many of them are busy repressing movements as seemingly similar to those as is Libya's at this very moment. The "coaltion" involved here is, in fact, shallower and comprises fewer countries than any of those assembled in the Balkans, in either Iraq adventure or in Afghansitan. And not only did Russia, China and India not endorse this decision, but neither did Germany, Italy or many other NATO countries. Not to mention the AU. This as "phony" and as "unilateral" an intervention as any of the above, if not more so.

Moreover, even if the UNSC acted from the purest of motives, it would still be incumbent on the US to exercize its own independent moral judgement , and to follow its own legal procedures, before going to war. Basically, Obama outsourced the consent for this war, from Congress (as the Constitution requres) to the UNSC.

And, of course, none of what you say here provides any evidence to back up your "assumption" that the rebels, much less the subset of them who call for western military intervention, represent the will of the Libyan people as a whole. No, that, as I said, is based almost entirely on the "spin" put on the issue by the Western media, which prefers a simplistic, romantic, "good guy"/"bad guy," one size fits all, tale to tell its listeners, viewers and readers to anything more nuanced.