Tuesday, May 24, 2011

military intervention continues to be a crisis of democratic governance

Via Yglesias, things look grim in Libya.
With Libya essentially divided in half by conflict, the U.S.- and NATO-backed rebels who control much of the east are carrying out what many view as a campaign of retaliation against those once aligned with Gaddafi, according to relatives and rebel commanders and officials. Such targeting raises questions about the character of the government taking shape in eastern Libya and whether it will follow basic principles of democracy and human rights. Moreover, such acts could further deepen divisions in Libya’s tribal society and diminish the sort of reconciliation vital for stability in a post-Gaddafi era.
I know I keep making this argument, and I know that it isn't exactly burning up the Internet, but I continue to think that military intervention, outside of the specific and limited cases of self defense of ourselves or our allies, is antithetical to the principles of an informed polity directing a democratic nation. I actually think that those who are pointing out that we didn't have sufficient information to intervene in Libya aren't giving us enough credit. It's not that we didn't have sufficient information about Libya, but that it's impossible for foreign powers, isolated by distance, language, and culture, to have enough understanding to intervene in a way consistent with pragmatic purpose and support for humanitarianism.

There are many issues that force free peoples to decide issues with imperfect knowledge. But we attend to them because we are in fact forced to address them. We most certainly were not forced into action in Libya. Some people hate the term "wars of choice," but I find it an elegant and sensible metric. Now that we have chosen to intervene in this immensely complicated conflict, and it is Libyans, not Americans, who will live with the consequences of our ignorance. You don't have to be a crazy lefty and believe in the ideas of self-determination and national sovereignty (as long as we have the state) to oppose the endless projection of American military power. You only need to believe in our limits-- financial, informational, moral.

I think about Samantha Power when I read about this retaliation. Does she recognize that she has blood on her hands? Would that kind of recognition puncture her resolve? I am reminded of the danger of Americans doing good, and I think about what a perfectly quiet American she is.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

But, increasingly, to believe in our limits is to be a crazy lefty.

Perhaps not to be able to believe in our limits is one of our limits.

jcapan said...

"Such targeting raises questions about the character of the government taking shape in eastern Libya and whether it will follow basic principles of democracy and human rights. Moreover, such acts could further deepen divisions in Libya’s tribal society and diminish the sort of reconciliation vital for stability in a post-Gaddafi era."

Belly laughs all arond. The "basic principles of democracy and human rights"!? Does America live according to these vacuities, let alone imposing them elsewhere. They're Foggy Bottom or Pentagon euphemisms for a far more sinister and timeless agenda. The only word from Yglesias that isn't crippled by Newspeak is "stability," the defining term for all our foreign policy goals. Stable markets, stable societies whereby resources can be extracted with outrageous profits for elites there and here. The Shah's regime was stable. Pinochet provided great stability. The notion that what we're seeking in Libya or in a post-Mubarak Egypt bears a different connotation is patently absurd.

There may be people who care deeply about Libyans' human rights and the future course of their society but they sure as fuckety fuck don't front our craven, bloodthirsty gov't.

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