Tuesday, November 1, 2011

the security, prosperity, and peace of the Libyan people have not been secured

Spencer Ackerman has declared that Libya is over. 

First: if you believe that the manipulation of Libya by the United States and other western powers is over, you are ignorant of the history of Libya, Northern Africa, the 20th century, and the United States. Our country has been manipulating the course of events in foreign countries, and in particular in oil-rich countries, for the entirety of our modern history. We use coercion, violence, espionage, and diplomatic malfeasance to undermine the self-determination of sovereign countries. This is not conspiracy. It is a reflection of history, revealed in declassified military and espionage documentation that is freely available to anyone. We manipulated Libya when we backed Qaddafi as he ruthlessly murdered his people; we will do it in Libya by backing whatever new military junta ossifies in the coming months. It would take a special combination of ignorance and obtuseness to believe we have no operatives in that country now. We have interests in Libya and so we are manipulating Libya, and we will trod on person, property, and democracy to do so if it suits our ends.

Second: what actually matters-- what has moral valence-- is the material condition of the lives of the Libyan people. Nothing there is finished. Nothing is settled. To call it a democracy now would be an absurd act of projection. Many corrupt men are now freely operating in Libya, armed to the teeth and with a feeling of entitlement. Some of them want to execute homosexuals, oppress women, and adopt Islamic theocracy. Some want to ensure the ascension of their tribe or clan. Some just want to get their piece of the pie. But that's the reality. There is neither security nor stability yet, and anyone who actually cares for the future of the Libyan people would admit that.

But, of course, one of the most important aspects of being a professional pundit and advancing your career is demonstrating "even handedness," even for parlor radicals. So it comes as no surprise that Andrew Sullivan and his pro-Obama propaganda shop have blessed Ackerman with one of their patented Yglesias awards, which is (as I understand it) an award given to people who make stabs at being "reasonable" in a way that defies principle, reason, wisdom, ethics, or sobriety.

People respond to incentives. Behaviors that are rewarded are repeated. And in professional punditry, all of the incentives point away from truth.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Spencer Ackerman has declared that Libya is over.

This is an absurd misreading of his post. -K.

Freddie said...

Do you think that the United States and other NATO countries are actually done manipulating Libya?

davidly said...

So, Nony 7:58 aka K:
I have to agree that your boiling this post's reading of the other post down to the first sentence is absurd.

Nevertheless, Ackerman is having two slices of mission accomplished bread with a pathetic helping of "serious questions" to complete his pure bullshit sandwich.

He clearly defines the war as successful at both the beginning and end of his "analysis" of it.

trizzlor said...

Do you think that the United States and other NATO countries are actually done manipulating Libya?

Did Ackerman ever claim that that the US and NATO are done "manipulating" Libya? He made a prediction that NATO peacekeepers would be on the ground battling insurgents, that prediction has proven wrong, and Ackerman pointed this out. This seems like the kind of accountability in blogging that you often talk about.

Anonymous said...

What trizzlor said. -K.

Freddie said...

What davidly said.

Who's being a what? said...

You are being completely tendentious. Ackerman says NATO's military operations are at an end and "Lots of questions remain about the future of Libya." He is receiving Sullivan's award for the end of his post when he says "And so, in the spirit of intellectual honesty, I need to concede that I got the Libya war wrong." and then links to his earlier erroneous predictions.

Ranjit Suresh said...

He's not being tendentious. Libya has been a disaster. Sirte was just destroyed and NATO is calling it a success. Thousands of Black Africans have been become political refugees in what can fairly characterized as ethnic cleansing. The other day there was a firefight in a hospital between rival militias when a bunch of soliders waltzed inside to finish off someone they had shot earlier.

That Fuzzy Bastard said...

So "manipulating" is synonymous with war? So the US is at war with most of South America? And China is at war with most of Africa? And Europe is at war with much of Southeast Asia?

Or do you only mean manipulation in the sense of sending troops? Which would mean that the US is already at war with China over Taiwan. Yikes!

Or perhaps you mean "manipulating" in the sense of sending drones to shoot people? In which case, well, that seems to no longer be happening in Libya.

Anonymous said...

When did Gaddafi "ruthlessly murder" his people?

Leaving that aside, who gives a crap about Spencer Ackerman, his "predictions," his "retractions," and the response thereto by little Andy Sullivan?

The real issue, as always, is imperialism. Not whether the manipulation is over (it isn't, of course) or whether manipuation equals war (it doesn't, but so what? war can be reintroduced when and if manipulation fails to do the job), and still less whether Spencer Ackerman got it right the first time, the second time, both or neither.

Predictions about the duration of overt military actions are red herrings. The imperialists love to point to all the "liberals" who "got it wrong" when it came to predciting how long it would take for the US military, or its proxies, to reach Kuwait City, Baghdad, Kabul, or Tripoli. As if that war gaming question was the key one. It isn't. The real issue is the legality and morality of the intervention, not how quickly it "succeeds." And, even at the secondary level, ie the level of
"realism" or "pragmatism," success is not achieved merely by overruning the offending leader's capitol city. Because that is the easy part. If the US, NATO and its proxies couldn't destroy the conventional forces of Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya, and do so relatively quickly, that WOULD be news. But, of course, they can. What has not been shown is that they can easily "win the peace" that follows, that they can "nation build" as they claim they can, and that, even judged solely in terms of realpolitik, these interventions are worth more than they cost, or even lead to a better situation (again, even as judged exclusively from the power political view of the empire) than that which preceded them, without even considering the cost.

Anonymous said...

(continued)

And, of course, "what actually matters-- what has moral valence" is NOT "the material condition of the lives of the Libyan people," however judged, despite what our author claims. An intervention that is illegal and immoral ab initio does not become retroactively legal and moral because, according to whatever metric, "the material condition" of those intervened upon has improved. To use a crude analogy, if M. L'Hote were to come into my home against my will, and start rearranging things, that would be both illegal and wrong. The claim, even if true, that his rearrangements saved me monetary costs or improved my convenience or otherwise improved my "material conditions" would still be an irrelevant one. Hr took away my autonomy, my right to self determination, Hr acted in a paternalistic manner, he treated me as less than fully human, thus, he did wrong, whether it really was "for my own good" or not. That is hot hard to understand at the human level, and it should not be hard to understand on the State to State level.

(The only complication is that while I clearly speak for my home ((particularly as only I live in it)), it is not always clear who speaks for a country. But, in this case, that is really a non starter. There is no way in the world that the tiny, regionally based groups of protesters in Benghazi could possibly be said to speak for Libya generally, and certainly not as opposed to the established, recognized government.)

So all of this,

"To call it a democracy now would be an absurd act of projection. Many corrupt men are now freely operating in Libya, armed to the teeth and with a feeling of entitlement. Some of them want to execute homosexuals, oppress women, and adopt Islamic theocracy. Some want to ensure the ascension of their tribe or clan. Some just want to get their piece of the pie. But that's the reality. There is neither security nor stability yet, and anyone who actually cares for the future of the Libyan people would admit that."

while true, is besides the point. The issue isn't whether the new government respects women's and homosexual's rights, whether it is corrupt, trigger happy, or religously intolerant. Nor whether the resulting regime is secure or stabile, or tribally or clan based, or indeed, whether "the security, prosperity, and peace of the Kibyan people have been" secured, or not. The issue is Western imperialsim, pure and simple.

Will said...

You know, try as I might: there is no way I can imagine what it is like to be in the head of a young Libyan. What do they think the future will/should be?

One aspect of this is how much affinity there will be between the young, Tunisian/Egyptian/Libyan community as a global movement. Do they extend the feeling of kinship to the Iranian revolution (and mockery of an election)? How do they view the protests in Oakland and New York (and whether substantial or not, how might they view the sordid/troubling history of the 2000 election)? If international interest only extends as far as Syria it will be a loss for everyone.

It will be exciting to see how the overwhelmingly young nations of the middle east react once the wall has been torn down. How far can the community extend it before the natural tendency to put up a new wall sets in? Does it include women? Foreigners? Persians? Christians? Capitalists? Europeans? Homosexuals? Socialists? Drug users? On average, I expect 5 to be welcomed in and 4 will to be cast.

We've brought the Libyan people into a wider society and removed a tired dictator. We do it at the cost of chaos in the future - but I imagine some of the saved souls will be worth the cost.

As a tangential query Freddie: Assuming that much of the revolutionary fervor globally is fueled by massive unemployment, how will Americans react to these eager Arab revolutionaries who hold aspirations (as Bush,Obama,Friedman all imagine) of joining the western democratic capitalistic culture, with the tendency to produce similar talent/products/demands? Will we appreciate the competition as reasonable globalists must, or will Americans continue a long history of keeping our metaphorical "in-group" defined by our geographical borders.

It occurred to me, you could wave away this westernized Arab youth as a myth, but if I were one of the millions of youth witnessing the birth of a global communication network toppling established regimes, I would romanticize the idea in some form.

Exciting times.

jcapan said...

"Leaving that aside, who gives a crap about Spencer Ackerman, his 'predictions,' his 'retractions,' and the response thereto by little Andy Sullivan?

The real issue, as always, is imperialism"

Yes. As Orwell put it:

"Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

This is almost universally true of the media as well (new and old alike).

Freddie said...

Will, it is none of my business. I am not a Libyan.

Freddie said...

Lord knows, we would never commit drones where we weren't in an active military campaign....

http://www.salon.com/2011/11/02/the_human_toll_of_the_u_s_drone_campaign/singleton/

Anonymous said...

"You know, try as I might: there is no way I can imagine what it is like to be in the head of a young Libyan. What do they think the future will/should be?"

That being the case, perhaps it would be beter if you, and your country, let them make their own future.

"Do they extend the feeling of kinship to the Iranian revolution (and mockery of an election)?"

There was no "mockery of an election." Just because the Western media is in consensus about something (eg that Gaddafi "murdered his people" and was responsible for various acts of terrorism, that the election in Iran was a "mockery") does not make it so. The results of the election in Iran were in line with pre election polls. The results were announced quickly. There has been nothing at all, other than the certainty of the Western media and the planned-in-advance outrage of the defeated candidate's backers, to substantiate the charges of election rigging. The simple fact is that most Iranians (ie the ones without Western backing, who don't have Facebook or, indeed, internet connections at all, who aren't in the Shah-loving, Western-educated upper middle and upper classes, etc) are actually relatively content with their regime. In any event, real power in Iran is divided, with the president not necessarily being in charge, and a change of president would not have led to a "revolution," and moreover, most backers of the losing candidate did not even desire a revolution.

"We've brought the Libyan people into a wider society and removed a tired dictator. We do it at the cost of chaos in the future - but I imagine some of the saved souls will be worth the cost."

That "wider society" being the system of global corporate economic exploitation and political subservience to the Western imperialist powers. How noble of us. Now, Western oil companies can carve up Libya, free from concern that its "tired dicator" will demand a fair payment from them, or take his business to China instead. Now the best-in-Africa systems of public health, welfare, education and housing established by that "tired dictator" can be dismantled and replaced with Western corporate looting, crony capitalism, and comprador elites. And all at the cost of a little "chaos." Clearly, it was worth it.

"Exciting times."

Not really. Just the same ole, same ole. Western imperialists riding their local despots for all that their worth, then trading them in at the last moment for new despots, paying lip service to the desires of the rebelling masses while subverting and co opting their revolutions. Or, Western imperialists replacing pesky, politically and economically nationalist leaders with docile, subservient puppets. Puppets swept into power on the back of Western military might who thus owe their postions to the West, and be counted on to do its bidding.

Until the next cycle of rebellion comes along, and it starts all over again...rinse and repeat...

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