Now, if Zack is merely sore because I was being a bit of a jerk, okay. I apologize for being a bit of a jerk. I didn't, actually, mean to suggest that he is actually related to Tina Brown. (In certain technical circles, that is referred to as a "joke.") But if that was a bit too mean, fair enough. And, you know, the True Blood thing was just because he's got kind of a Cajun thing going there. I didn't even really mean it as an insult, and I do think this is more worthwhile an endeavor if you can have a little fun doing it. But names are touchy, I get that.
I have to defend myself: beyond those two things, I don't think I was engaging in name calling. I think I was forcefully replying to someone who was, to my mind, articulating bad arguments and doing so in a way that was dismissive of two bloggers who have invested considerable thought into articulating complex analyses of the Libyan situation.
Now it should be clear from that excerpt that Matt's endorsing the Guardian article's argument that "bombing alone" will not end the Libya conflict as evidence for one of his own claim about air power. And the Guardian authors don't mean by that "bombing won't be able to produce a just post-war order" - they mean NATO will not be able to produce a military solution.But this is precisely the point. What does "providing a military solution" even mean? Surely the military goals of ousting Qaddafi and taking Tripoli are important. But, first-- it is not clear that this has been accomplished. Does Beauchamp not think that this is a time for modesty in our descriptions of what is happening? Does he see no need for prudence in assessing a shifting and incredibly complex military situation? Events on the ground are still unfolding. What virtue is there in declaring a "win" now? I understand that politics are made of childish stuff, but there is no need for us to pretend as if the short term political consequences for Barack Obama are the most important thing, or even an important thing. And surely the kind of blogocentric axe grinding he is participating in is ultimately of little importance. If he were to stop feeling aggrieved for a moment and actually think it over he'd likely see that.
Second: what does Beauchamp think the purpose of the Libyan intervention has been? Is it merely to remove Qaddafi? Of course not. If your goal is to help Barack Obama's electoral chances, then sure, recent events in Libya are looking great. But that's not why we intervened, and it's not the reason people gave, when reading opponents of intervention like me the riot act. The reason was for the good of the Libyan people, for their safety and their freedom. So I ask Mr. Beauchamp: have the safety and freedom of the Libyan people been secured? If they haven't, then what profit is there in responding with such glee towards a temporary and conditional military victory? Beauchamp accused me of merely calling names when I said that he was unconcerned with the plight of the Libyans. But he is proving that point again today; he cares entirely about whether he can use Libya as a cudgel against people he disagrees with and seemingly not at all about whether this will result in a Libya that is safer and freer for most Libyan people. My point is simply that a true concern for Libya just has to compel someone to refrain from declaring victory, as recent history has shown time and again that short term military success and long term humanitarian success are very different things.
Today he's unleashed a rather more disappointing argument. See:
Will everyone who said that liberal interventionists "lost all credibility" after the Iraq War, and hence should never be listened to again, renounce their own credibility after predicting Qaddafi would fall? I'm not holding my breath, but I really hope pundits will think twice about essentially calling for other writers to be shunned by all right-thinking people based on one data point. Let's judge ideas on their merit, not the identity of the person propounding them.I hope Zack is aware that all the terrible shit went down in Iraq after Bagdhad fell. I mean goodness gracious. This thoroughly misses the point. The large majority of critics of intervention weren't criticizing out of a conviction that the rebels had no chance to win. (I'd appreciate links if he thinks they were!) Rather, they were pointing out that military superiority can lead to lots of destruction but is often entirely incapable of reaching satisfying conclusions for peace and democracy. You can check my own record if you want: the concern has always been equally about what happens after the fall of Qaddafi. Beauchamp seems supremely confident that he has identified the good guys and the bad guys in the Libyan. But actual human life does not operate that way. Witness Kosovo:
But Kouchner quickly discovered that victims could be very bad. There was an extraordinary range of ethnic groups in Kosovo.I have a distinct lack of regard for Muamar Qaddafi and a serious moral and political investment in the idea of revolution. But I can't pretend that this revolution will not devolve into civil war, or lead to a new repressive regime, or collapse the state, or whatever else.
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.
What is so disturbing and so disappointing about Beauchamp's posts today is that he seems to have missed the important point of all of us: if the goal is not to reach short-term military victories, which as any gloss of recent history will show do not always lead to humanitarian gains, but rather to achieve lasting improvements in the well-being and freedom of the Libyan people, then there is nothing yet to celebrate. History is riddled with new orders which ended up just as bad as the first. What makes me deeply uncomfortable with Beauchamp's commentary is that he doesn't even seem to realize that military victory doesn't lead inevitably to humanitarian benefit; or that short term successes can become long term failures; or that oppressed people can turn very quickly into oppressors; or that at the most basic and elementary level, the Libyan conflict is not resolved at all.
I have advice. Here is a response from Daniel Larison that should serve as a model for Beauchamp. It is, typical of Larison, measured and supported by evidence. Again, Beauchamp was mocking Yglesias and Larison for predictions that they themselves weren't making. They were reporting on and responding to the predictions of NATO officials, and the frequently confused positions of the Libyan rebels themselves. As Larison says in his own defense, he was merely echoing Admiral Mike Mullen. Does Beauchamp think that he was in better position to speak on the matter than Admiral Mullen at the time Larison made the original comments? I said that Beauchamp was being dishonest by acting as if Larison and Yglesias were making these predictions in a vaccuum, rather than responding to the statements of senior military officials and political figures. I firmly stand by that opinion.
I know that the point here is that he didn't, actually, feel bad about my criticism. Fair enough. For what it's worth, I am sorry if Beauchamp felt personally affronted. The point was not that "I don't like him very much," as I hope is clear. I would remind him that he is writing on one of the most popular, influential, and powerful blogs on the Internet. Criticism should and will come.