If Libyan rebels want it, why aren’t we calling for a no-fly-zone too?


by Rupert Read    
8:50 am - March 10th 2011

      Share on Tumblr

Why are progressives not getting solidly behind the broadening call for a no-fly-zone to give the free Libyan forces the air-cover they need in order to defeat Gaddafi’s regime?

The most crucial argument in favour is that the free Libyans, at least as manifested in the Transitional National Council in Benghazi (the fledgling caretaker-government-in-waiting), have themselves called for.

I have just been talking with a Libyan friend of mine who is fresh back from Benghazi. He tells me that the people of eastern Libya are strongly united on two points:

(1) They oppose absolutely any foreign ground troops in Libya.

(2) They support absolutely a no-fly-zone, to be imposed upon Gaddafi’s air forces, including the necessary attacks on Gaddafi’s ground-based air defences and against the mercenary forces that will enable the no-fly-zone to function. And they want it NOW.

This is because huge numbers are dying in Libya, far more than has yet been reported: several hundred virtually every day, according to my friend, and that is excluding those who may be dying in the areas still held by Gaddafi.

Of course a no-fly-zone isn’t all that is needed, there are other non-violent options too.

And there is much that we can do as individuals to help: for example, donating to the splendid Avaaz, who are supplying revolutionaries across the Arab world with the resources to document and organise democracy protests.

Gaddafi’s air superiority is the only thing keeping him in the game. But it is leading to carnage, and could enable Gaddafi yet to win.

Just as we supported sanctions against South Africa because it was what the black South Africans themselves called for, so we should do what the free Libyans are calling for.

The responsibility to protect is unavoidable. This time, we are going to have to do what we didn’t do in the Spanish Civil War, and didn’t do in Rwanda: we are going to have to use some smart targeted military intervention to help stop this ‘civil war’, by giving the Libyan people the opportunity to save themselves from genocide and to free themselves.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
This is a guest post. Rupert Read is a Green Party councillor and ran as a MEP candidate in Eastern region in 2009. He blogs at Rupert's Read and Comment is free
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Middle East

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


THERE WAS AN INTERVENTION IN RWANDA. “Operation Turqoise”. Google it. It happened. There was also an armed UN mission in Rwanda, UNAMIR. We did intervene in Rwanda. It made things worse. Just like that time that we believed the Iraqi National Congress. Why, after so many years and so many disasters, do “progressives” still keep on marching up the same raspberry road and expecting it to lead anywhere different?

Why, after so many years and so many disasters, do “progressives” still keep on marching up the same raspberry road and expecting it to lead anywhere different?

It’s particularly bizarre when it comes from somebody who clearly realises that a) warplanes don’t shoot candy floss and b) that governments are willing to tell porkies about their intentions.

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/10/27/they-used-depleted-uranium-in-iraq-in-our-name/

I don’t know, really. What was it about that “SAS being captured by civilians” debacle that made so many people decide that actual military intervention suddenly a good idea with few, if any, unintended consequences?

Rupert Read – “thou shalt intervene when I say so” – but don’t you DARE do so if I object

dsquared: I have read extensively about Rwanda. Your reading of the UN armed mission to Rwanda is I think horrendously wrong. Do read Dallaire himself, for instance, if you haven’t yet done so: http://www.romeodallaire.com/shake-hands-with-the-devil.html. They certainly achieved more than nothing, with very little. With more, they could have achieved more.

The point, Flying Rodent, is that, just because we have a bad record, doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands and declare that we are constitutively incapable of doing any good. We have to try to turn a corner, and genuinely exercise the responsibility to protect, in responding to what the free Libyans themselves are calling for.
I hope that future commenters will respond to THESE central points in my argument.

What Dsquared said – or more windily – I think you might want a more unequivocal statement from a more solidly representative Libyan body before you start bombing Libya – that is what a “No Fly Zone” involves, it is a military euphemism. Because there are some downsides to bombing Libya . I don’t think it is really true that “Gaddafi’s air superiority is the only thing keeping him in the game” – he is still able to mobilise many supporters, including those driving tanks. He is still able to keep demonstrations in Tripoli somewhat supressed. UK/US planes bombing Libya could easily shore up some of his support. I suspect Gadaffi is most likely to finally fall to an urban insurrection in Tripoli itself – that is the typical revolutionary pattern. The advances by the revolutionaries from outside Tripoli will weaken his forces and encourage those inside Tripoli, but the people of the capital finally hold the key. Bombing Libya does not necessarily make them stronger. That’s leaving aside the possibility of accidents and mistakes – and the limited UK military interventions in Libya to date havent exactly gone to plan. There seems to be a lot of people in UK politics who want the Libyans to want us to bomb them, which seems to me to stem from a desire to show British national military strength than help out . Even Carne Ross’s non violent list has an element of demonstrating Western power. The UK has of course already intervened in Libya – by arming Gadaffi and helping reorganise his military forces. What’s wrong with reaching for a bit of hospital supplies and food before calling in the bombers ?

What “smart targeted intervention” should have occurred in the Spanish Civil War, and how would it had helped?

Can I ask who voted in that fledgling government, is it true that the minister running that government were running Gaddafi’s government only a few weeks or months ago, some of them like the foreign minister have or may have war records which could end up with them being called to a court of law.

Why are we so eager to go here, but would not piss on Darfur, Rwanda, sorry mate but I just think we need to sort out our own problems here without wondering around the world starting wars, because on day we might start one which will end up with the UK being called something else.

Thanks Solomon H. for your thoughtful remarks. That is a good worry to have, I think. But it is important to bear in mind that we _have_ to gamble in this situation. Either we gamble on trying to help the free Libyan forces, in various ways. Or we gamble on not doing so. My gamble is that the former gamble is a better gamble than the latter.

Robert, your argument is a non-sequitur. Just because we failed to help in Rwanda in any serious way doesn’t mean that we should make the same mistake in Libya!
In simple terms: 2 wrongs don’t make a right.
I think it is really weak to say ‘We have to sort out our own problems first’. Libya is in ‘civil war’! A murderous ultra-repressive rump government is torturing its own people! Please, let’s not wash our hands of it.
What is true is that any no fly zone etc. would benefit from serious regional involvement. Some level of backing from the Arab League, or at least from the liberated states of Egypt and Tunisia, would be extremely helpful.

ejh: As is well-known, we basically let the Republican forces blow in the wind while the fascist states armed the Fascists, in Spain. That was wrong.

ejh: As is well-known, we basically let the Republican forces blow in the wind while the fascist states armed the Fascists, in Spain. That was wrong.

Right. But specifically, what “smart targeted intervention” did you have in mind?

The point, Flying Rodent, is that, just because we have a bad record, doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands and declare that we are constitutively incapable of doing any good.

No, it doesn’t. On the other hand, the very poor record of interventions – some successes, some horrifyingly massive bloodbaths – ought to make us stop and think a little about achievable goals and unexpected consequences before we start spunking missiles around just so that we can say that we are Doing Something.

I would’ve thought that you, Robert, might be able to understand that. After all, it was you who complained that Charles Clarke had told you that no depleted uranium weapons were being used in Iraq, when in fact they were. Would a no-fly zone stay merely that, or would we find ourselves looking at some serious mission creep? And what will they be using to bomb SAM sites and radar bases this time, do we think? Sarcasm?

But it is important to bear in mind that we _have_ to gamble in this situation.

I’m glad that you’ve given this so much in-depth thought. You do realise that, no matter how bad it is just now, it could get a lot worse very quickly, right? Libya and its neighbours are still going to be there in five years, fifty years. Are no-fly zones going to be a short or long-term commitment? What are we going to do if this situation drags on for months, years?

How much time did you spend looking at our hand and weighing the stakes before you started demanding that we go all in with what we’ve got? Because if it was “I read a headline and now we must act”, that’s not really good enough.

Of course a no-fly-zone isn’t all that is needed, there are other non-violent options too.

A no-fly zone isn’t non-violent. Just look at the civilians killed and injured when we enforced a NFZ in Iraq.

But it is important to bear in mind that we _have_ to gamble in this situation.

What are you gambling with? What are your chips?

15. Luis Enrique

D2, FR

the set of circumstances in which you would support intervention cannot be zero. And I don’t mean some reductio ad absurdum like “what if mega-genocide” [1]. I mean taking sides in a civil war, helping an attempts to overthrow a dictator, or trying to stop some atrocity. (Maybe like the UK intervention in Sierre Leone?)

you don’t need to tell me how things can go wrong, and I guess I don’t need to tell you how things can go right. Aren’t there risks either way? Intervene and makes things worse, or fail to intervene and fail to make a bad thing a bit better. Warplanes don’t shoot candyfloss, whether piloted by “us” or by Gaddafi’s lot.

I keep sitting on the fence, because I can’t figure the balance of probabilities. I don’t think Rwanda or Iraq are a great deal of help. You seem to be pretty confident that the odds are one-sided. I don’t know how you can be so sure that sitting aside and letting them get on with it might not be as great a sin as you think wading in would be. I was going to ask what it is about the situation in Libya that makes you think the chances are intervention would turn out for the worst, but perhaps that kind of question can’t be answered.

I have no idea whether weighing in on the rebels’ side in Libya is a good idea or not. This has not been a very helpful comment.

[1] although given the way you’re using the Rwanda example, even then you think better to stay out of it, perhaps you mean never intervene, it’s not clear to me, but I try and follow the rule “never accuse somebody of saying something absurd”.

I have just been talking with a Libyan friend of mine who is fresh back from Benghazi. He tells me that the people of eastern Libya are strongly united on two points

Just how certain can we be that your friend’s impressions are truly representative?

we are going to have to use some smart targeted military intervention to help stop this ‘civil war’, by giving the Libyan people the opportunity to save themselves from genocide and to free themselves.

The problem with civil wars is that both sides are supported by “the Libyan people”. That’s what makes it a civil war. It wouldn’t be a question of supporting “the Libyan people”, but a question of supporting one faction of “the Libyan people” against another. Just because you disagree with Gaddafi’s supporters doesn’t mean you get to pretend they don’t exist or don’t count as “Libyan people”. That’s straight-up neo-colonialism: only the natives who agree with us count.

As is well-known, we basically let the Republican forces blow in the wind while the fascist states armed the Fascists, in Spain. That was wrong.

And who exactly is playing the role of Nazi Germany in this analogy in Libya today? I’d be perfectly happy with enforcing a UN arms embargo against the regime – since we’ve been its primary backers, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

the set of circumstances in which you would support intervention cannot be zero.

I’d strongly advise keeping it as close to zero as possible, especially when you’re talking about intervention in civil wars. That would be, as an absolute last resort, when there are no other options.

I already strongly object to our habit of straining at the leash to get involved in any massive paggers in the Arab world as it is, without the current situation, whereby we have a lot of people insisting that we must intervene because time is short and so on.

The one thing they have in common is that most, if not all of them are long on soundbites and rhetoric, but very short indeed on practical goals, achievable aims, contingency planning and long-term thinking. Thus do you get Rupert demanding that we “gamble”, but you’ll notice that it’s not his stake that’s going into the pot.

In short, I don’t think that anyone should intervene if the motivation is that some Britons find the pictures on the nightly news distressing. They are, but that’s a poor-ass excuse for what would be a declaration of yet another war in the Arab world.

Seriously, I can’t believe we’re having this conversation all over again, in almost identical terms. It’s ridiculous, a sign that as a culture, we have the attention span of a goldfish on acid.

Dallaire was the commander of UNAMIR, not Turqoise. As you know, he actually ended up with quite serious PTSD over the failure of intervention in Rwanda. Interventions have a really, really, really bad track record. And in fact, “having a very bad track record” is the best possible reason to stop doing the thing that you have proved yourself repeatedly to be no good at.

Luis:

Maybe like the UK intervention in Sierre Leone?

Another liberal interventionist fiction btw alongside the disappearing Operation Turqoise. The UK “intervention in Sierra Leone” took place at the request of the government of Sierra Leone. I am sorry for all the bold text here, but it is really frustrating that amazingly important historical details seem to have got lost. Operation Palliser was not an “intervention” in the relevant sense – it involved providing assistance to a UN mission (UNAMSIL) which had been kidnapped by Foday Sankoh’s gang, and to the internationally recognised government of SL. Since the interventionists’ big success stories are this one and (god help us) Kosovo, this ought to tell you something about the failures.

the set of circumstances in which you would support intervention cannot be zero

I’ve always been clear about this. The set of circumstances in which I’d support intervention are 1) when there is a specific and credible plan to do so that can be reasonably expected to make things better rather than worse and 2) when doing so does not weaken the norms of international law on which we all depend.

I’m even prepared to spell this out in practical terms; since the UN Security Council, with a veto by permanent members, is the decision making body with regard to 2), I am prepared to cede authority to their judgement on 1) as well, even though they screwed up badly by going along with French unilateralism in Rwanda. Like at least half the two million protestors in Hyde Park in 2003, I would even have allowed Blair to have the Iraq War if he could just have got the damn resolution. It is not an impractical or unrealistic position, and the fact that it rules out most actual candidate interventions is a simple and practical consequence of the fact that military intervention is nearly always a bad idea.

By the way, does anyone know a single thing about “the Libyan rebels”? I certainly don’t, except that I suspect that most of them are unlikely to be the kind of people who are mates with mild-mannered philosophy lecturers. Part of our very bad track record in interventions, has been our tendency to assume that people like the KLA must be the good guys simply because their enemies are so horrid.

19. Stephen Whitehead

Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the no-fly zone, there’s something chillingly orwellian as referring to an intervention which involves dropping a bunch of bombs as ‘non-violent’.

Imposing a no-fly zone means killing zone people. They may not be very nice people and you may think it a price worth paying, but at least have the guts to come out and say so.

Since the interventionists’ big success stories are this one and (god help us) Kosovo, this ought to tell you something about the failures.

East Timor?

21. Luis Enrique

I can’t believe we’re having this conversation all over again

I kind of agree, but actually I don’t think the lessons of recent interventions are such that upon witnessing what’s going on in Libya right now, we should all know to stay the hell out of it, no discussion needed.

I don’t know whether those rebelling against Gaddafi have done a great deal of contingency planning and long-term thinking, and if they have a practical goal isn’t it simply get rid of Gaddafi and I’m not so sure we shouldn’t try to help them with that.

@16 Dunc

“And who exactly is playing the role of Nazi Germany in this analogy in Libya today? I’d be perfectly happy with enforcing a UN arms embargo against the regime – since we’ve been its primary backers, it shouldn’t be too difficult.”

The anti-Gaddafi forces need help now; an arms embargo isn’t going to help them at all, it will simply enable Gaddafi’s forces to crush the rebellion because they are better armed. What you are suggesting is the same morally bankrupt policy that was followed in Bosnia; we basically let the Serbs (who had all the heavy weapons) do what the hell they liked to the Bosnians….. how did that end again? In mass murder and the Serbs treating Sarajevo as a turky shoot. Your solution isn’t just wrong it is repugnant.

“Just because you disagree with Gaddafi’s supporters doesn’t mean you get to pretend they don’t exist or don’t count as “Libyan people”. That’s straight-up neo-colonialism: only the natives who agree with us count.”

Errrm..no, it’s supporting people who have a chance of democracy for the first time in their history throw off a dictator and his bunch of gangster cronies. Any right thinking person should disagree with gadaffi’s supporters, and press their governements to do everything possible (including military intervention) to stop them massacaring more of their own people and reimposing their vile regime.

23. Richard Lawson

Agreed, though it would be vastly better if the arab League could implement the NFZ. And there has to be an explicit request from theTransitional Council, and UNSC authorisation.

East Timor?

INTERFET and UNTAET both put in with the (negotiated) agreement of the Indonesian government to help enforce the law against pro-Indonesian Timorese militias. There were a few people calling for Australia to unilaterally involve itself in the conflict but this didn’t happen. East Timor makes a better example than Rwanda for the “we didn’t intervene and look what happened” counterfactual, but it can’t be called a success story for military intervention.

I assume that as ever we’re talking about magic military interventions which simply knock down the bad guys in a short time and everybody else lives happily ever after. You’d have thought there’d be more of those, what with their being so easy to do.

26. Luis Enrique

D2

ah – maybe not like the UK intervention in Sierre Leone then. Although it’s not obvious that the right rule is if an incumbent asks for help OK, if the rebels do, not.

your 1) and 2) sound like good sense to me. I could say that some situations develop too quickly for 1), which would rule out intervening, but I anticipate the response: good. I am not sure whether “credible long-term plans” is always the clincher, sometimes short-term goals matter.

I know the legal side of things matters, but I’d be interested to know whether, for example, a no fly zone in Libya is a good idea, even if the UN supports it.

I really agree with your last point, though.

27. John Matthissen

Not without a UN resolution.

28. Marcus Hemsley

The question is what happens when Gadaffi’s breaks the no-fly zone? Are we willing to go in and do the job properly? I worry that post Iraq and Afghanistan the West are not sure.

Even if they do go in whole heartily, there’s a chance that it will make things worse.

The blog post below lays out both sides of the argument in a clear way:
http://dansmithsblog.com/2011/03/10/intervention-in-libya-a-case-of-shooting-slowly-from-the-hip/

29. Shatterface

Whether there should be a no-fly zone and whether WE should be the people to do it are seperate matters.

Britain and America have squandered any moral authority we had and any military intervention will be portrayed as ‘Imperialism’.

30. Dick the Prick

How do we know the rebels carry legitimacy? @29 – Shatterface – I think we have some responsibility because of our history there but I guess you could say the Romans got there first. Best left alone anyhow and let the UN fail to earn its keep, again.

Justin @14: Sorry, you misunderstood my grammar, or possibly I didn’t write very clearly. I meant that there are plenty of non-violent things that we [as individuals, and as a state] ought to be doing: for instance, do give money to these folks, as I am doing: http://www.libyamedicalrelief.org/ . But there is ALSO a need here, in the gravity of this situation, for armed preventive action with regard to Gaddafi’s air superiority.

The point, Flying Rodent, is that, just because we have a bad record, doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands and declare that we are constitutively incapable of doing any good. We have to try to turn a corner, and genuinely exercise the responsibility to protect, in responding to what the free Libyans themselves are calling for.

“We” can’t do anything much because we’re not in power. One might as well talk about “our” public service cuts. “They” – the government – would be the ones taking action and we’ve no means of impressing on them the need for sincerity.

I’m not trying to be a sod about this – I was a Perle-clutching* interventionist myself – but you can’t think about it in the terms of what you’d like to do but in the terms of what the government would do.

[*] I’ve no idea what that actually means; the thought just made me cackle.

@23: Yes, as I’ve said Richard, I strongly agree with you here (Although actually it isn’t clear that UNSC authorisation is an absolute requirement, in the case of war crimes / the responsibility to protect).

@22 Thanks Galen10. Strongly agreed. The arms embargo ought to be applied only to Gaddafi’s side.

Luis @21: I think you are basically right. The ‘rebels’ have seized a historic opportunity; we mustn’t desert them in their hour of need just because of our country’s poor past record.

@dsquared: “The UK “intervention in Sierra Leone” took place at the request of the government of Sierra Leone.” Yes, and intervention in Libya would be taking place at the request of the Transitional National Council.
I have personally had only very limited contacts with the free Libyans, in the person of my friend referred to above plus some people on twitter. The contacts that I have had have hugely impressed me. Basically, there is a vast groundswell in Libya against Gaddafi. All sorts of ordinary people are volunteering to fight against this tyranny. I think we should support them, and not just ruminate or cast aspersions.

Rupert, I can’t help noticing that you still haven’t addressed one of the key questions here: to what extent can we be sure that your friend’s desire for outside military intervention is representative of the position of the Libyan rebels as a whole? Surely they would have treated our little SAS party differently if they wanted our help?

@16: But that’s why I put the term ‘ ‘civil war’ ‘ in scare quotes. It isn’t really a civil war. The key pro-free-Libya tweeters in fact ask for the term civil war to be abandoned altogether, precisely because it risks encouraging this confusion. There may be what in UN terms technically qualifies as a genocide in progress. Certainly, there is a tyranny which appears to have very little popular support attacking its own population.

The key pro-free-Libya tweeters in fact ask for the term civil war to be abandoned altogether, precisely because it risks encouraging this confusion.

Have you ever heard of Mandy Rice-Davies?

I know this may be a shocking idea, but you can’t necessarily rely on everything you read on Twitter.

@37 What a silly rhetorical question: OF COURSE I can’t be SURE that my friend’s views and contacts are representative. But: I trust him a great deal, having known him for a decade (we met while campaigning together against the planned US-UK attack on Iraq); and what he tells me – numerous anecdotes, is confirmed by what I see in the media and on Twitter and what I supported further in my piece: that there is virtually universal opposition in Libya to foreign ground troops – and overwhelming support for actions to stop the mercenaries and to ground Gaddafi’s air force.

41. Planeshift

“I could say that some situations develop too quickly for 1), which would rule out intervening,”

Obviously detailed military action takes time to plan and execute (although I suspect there are numerous half written plans for various types of action lying around in the pentagon). But there are things that can be done quite quickly – within a couple of days of a decision being made – such as freezing assets and the issue of arrest warrents (the evidence that dictatorships commit human rights abuses is extensive and stockpiled over the years to such an extent that lack of evidence isn’t the obstacle to arrest warrents being issued, the obstacle is usually political will). In particular, there is the capability of severly limiting the ability of a regime to employ mercenaries (which is something we should be doing anyway).

The main issue is action (not necessarily military – although that should be left on the table) should have been taken about 3 weeks ago when several members of the libyan government defected live on TV, announced Gaddaffi intended to launch violence against his own people, and several people in the Libyan air force flew to Malta to claim asylum. That’s probably the clearest evidence you will ever have that an imminent humanitarian disaster was being planned.

Its worth noting that in the academic field (i.e. not harry’s place) there is an extensive literature on humanitarian intervention that seeks to theorise when it is justified to use force to prevent a humanitarian crisis. (eg: see Nicholas Wheeler’s saving strangers). Most adopt a list of criteria that must be met in order for something to qualify as a humanitarian intervention. From memory (been about 8 years since I last read it) Wheeler’s criteria are that: (1) a humanitarian disaster is imminent, (2) there aren’t really alternatives to military action that can be carried out in time to prevent the disaster, (3) the use of force must be proportionate (so no cluster bombs), and (4) you have to have an exit strategy that leaves things less fucked up than before (Wheeler may have expressed that one differently)

We can’t answer whether any plans in existance for military operations in Libya meet number 3, but I think the situation in Libya met the criteria for the first 2 about 3 weeks ago, and the probability is that (4) is also met because you have a significant part of Gadaffi’s government and military defect, and a domestic opposition that controls half the country and that could form a transition government following the removal of Gaddaffi. But the window of opportunity is beginning to close.

… to what extent can we be sure that your friend’s desire for outside military intervention is representative of the position of the Libyan rebels as a whole? Surely they would have treated our little SAS party differently if they wanted our help?

Quite – a Libyan ‘rebel source’ in the news said they made a show of not cooperating with the SAS party because they did not want to be seen as having any involvement with the West.

Quite a way back I asked what you specifically mean about a ” smart targeted intervention” as regards the Spanish Civil War. I wouldn’t mind an answer.

@41: Thanks Planeshift. Agreed.
That’s why we can’t go on prevaricating.

If by “we” you mean the UK then we actually have been calling for a no-fly zone: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12618631

Now I’m not saying that progressives are against the idea because of it’s neo-con source, but when the likes of Cameron et al are the main cheerleaders for the idea, you do kinda get the impression that such intervention will inevitably be to our benefit more than the Lybian people’s benefit in the long run.

46. Captain Haddock

Well Rupert you old chickenhawk you, I suspect that if a NFZ is authorised you’ll be complaining when Libyan civilians get killed – which they will. Any effective policing of an NFZ will mean not just poncing about flying planes in Libyan airspace, but will need to attack ground based anti-aircraft systems too. You can bet your ass that if Ghaddafi has half a brain he’ll stick a bunch of civilians in those to ensure that you kill ‘em off. Then watch the Libyan people turn against you.

Btw, do you remember the Somali capers when aid agencies asked the US military to ensure that aid could be delivered? Do you remember the handwringing from the same agencies when the US forces had to shoot people in order to get the supplies through? Do you remember the agencies saying things like “but we didn’t want you to SHOOT people”? I do!

Liberals must remember that when the military take action, it necessarily means that people will get killed – and those responsible for the deaths aren’t the military, but rather those who call for them to be sent in without understanding what the job entails.

@43 As I’ve said, among other things we should have armed the Republican govt, and/or sought seriously to have embargoed the Fascists.

@46 I’m not a liberal.

49. Planeshift

“if Ghaddafi has half a brain”

His recent statements indicate he probably doesn’t.

Gadhafi is awful and his regime needs to go. If he succeeds in fighting back then we should consider the consequences for Tunisia and Egypt and the nascent uprisings in the Middle East. They are by no means stable and his success could be catastrophic for more than just Libya.

That being said, why do we always think it should be Britain and the US flying around imposing no-fly zones? Don’t other arab countries have air forces? A strong statement from Saudi or an arab coalition could make a huge difference here.

I think it is both morally right and in our interests to work towards the removal of Gadhafi and his regime. This could be anything from providing aid to the rebels to military force, including imposing a no-fly zone. This should be done under the auspices of the UN unless we believe there is a genocide in progress.

Of course, China and Russia will resist any UN resolution of this sort, but one hopes they can be persuaded.

At the risk of sounding utterly ignorant here (put it down to simply having too much on to go out and do the research) what do we actually know about the rebels, their backgrounds and intentions?

I ask because of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Not the recent disasters but the seeds of those disasters.

My understanding is that we (the west generally) armed and supported the Mujahideen in the 80s simply because they were fighting the USSR who were the boggie man of the day and that sowed the seeds for the Taliban regime who ended up supporting lunatics flying planes into buildings.

We backed Sadam Hussain because he was fighting USSR backed Iran. Now that didn’t end up biting us on the arse did it?

Now I’m not saying we should back Gadafie at all, far from it, but are the rebels actually any better? Or will we, in 20 years time, find ourselves rather regretting getting involved with the wrong crowd again?

52. Captain Haddock

Oh Rupert, whether you are or are not a liberal doesn’t matter – you wouldn’t be trying to avoid the issues I raised by any chance would you?

53. Captain Haddock

He who seeks to interpose,
Will often reap a bloody nose.

A strong statement from Saudi or an arab coalition could make a huge difference here.

Somehow I doubt that the Saudi regime is going to be making any statements in favour of overthrowing autocracies any time soon… Quite the contrary, in fact.

55. Captain Haddock

@49
I beg to differ, his recent pronouncements clearly show that he has half a brain – and only half… but when it comes to thinking up nasty ideas with civilians as human shields, half is all he’d need.

If the Libyans rebels want some support against Gaddafi, then I’m afraid the arguments against helping them fall apart.

We definitely need some way to stop Gaddafi massacring his people and its a shame some on the left want to just sit back while it all happens in front of our eyes.

@54 They might, because it’s worth it for them. They don’t want instability or counter-revolutions. It threatens them marginally more than they benefit from a brief increase in oil prices. They may not be beacons of liberalism but it’s notable that there haven’t been the same expressions of disatisfaction in Saudi as other countries in the region. They know to keep their middle-classes happy.

Anyway, they could do their usual behind-the-scenes diplomacy and use the Arab League as a mouthpiece. My point remains that support for the Libyan rebels or a condemnation of Gadhafi from an arab source would be very useful right now.

@56 Sunny

It’s just what Nick Cohen was always going on about ;-)

If the Libyans rebels want some support against Gaddafi, then I’m afraid the arguments against helping them fall apart.

Fuck a duck, this is an insane thing to say. I hate to sound like your mother, but if the Libyan rebels wanted you to go jump off a bridge, would you do it?

Never mind whether the loose organisation of local militias and ex-military types we’re currently calling “the rebels” want us to intervene – it’s not clear to me whether they do, by the way – em>can it be done without making the situation lots worse?

What are we going to do if we rub out a load of civvies and manage to rally support around Gaddafi? What if there’s a Black Hawk Down situation and the US president comes under intense pressure to lay some serious firepower on Tripoli? What if we only succeed in extending this conflict by years and years? Do we have civil servants and military planners considering this stuff, or what?

How many times do we need to get our fingers burnt here? Look, the problem with us invading Iraq wasn’t that our leaders lied about their motives. The problem was that the whole plan was insane, staggeringly incomptent and obviously destined for mass death and disaster from the second it was suggested.

I mean, really. How many countries do we need to bomb before we start to realise that we’re usually not helping these people by bombing them and that we may, in fact, be making it much worse?

Jesus. I’ll say this – even I thought that the Afghanistan and Iraq disasters had put paid to military adventurism for at least a couple of decades. Now it turns out, not only is it not off the cards, but that you can’t even rely on the people who smelt a rat last time to realise that this is exactly the same thing, with half the planning.

I find this a remarkable argument. Let’s be clear: the piece actually advocates carrying out an air strike against the Libyan army:

“including the necessary attacks on Gaddafi’s ground-based air defences and against the mercenary forces”

The author is advocating a hit from the air against military personnel on behalf of the west. This goes far beyond the notion of a ‘no-fly zone’. It cannot be taken seriously.

But even if we limit ourselves to discussing the proposed no-fly zone and the strike against Gaddadi’s air defence system it would necessitate, I would proceed with extreme caution. Do we really want to turn this into a war between Gaddafi and a western-backed army? Is the author aware of the general view of the west held by a majority of Arab people? Would the other protestors across the Middle East benefit if their uprising was unequivocally linked to western military forces? If we carried out an air strike and Gadaffi held on, wouldn’t we be compelled to take further military action, leading the war to escalate? Have we really exhausted all other possible options?

In fact, I can only assume – such is the casual, parenthetical manner in which the author calls for the killing of Libyan army soldiers – that he hasn’t really considered the implications of what he’s saying. That should be reason enough to discount his views.

In fact, I can only assume – such is the casual, parenthetical manner in which the author calls for the killing of Libyan army soldiers – that he hasn’t really considered the implications of what he’s saying.

Those are the bad Libyans, so they don’t count. Kinda like how all the bad Afghans (and anybody standing in their general vicinity) don’t count either, so it’s totally OK for us to support that regime in decade-long military crackdown against a subset of their population.

The problem with intervention (assuming you have it covered militarily – the US problem is Somalia was simply they did not have the forces they needed or the will to commit the extra troops) is simply that you have to know what you get out of it.

As a rule, if your intervention has a stable partner to work with, who can command some popular (or in some countries tribal) support, then there is a possibility of it being successful – see Sierra Leone or much of Northern Afghanistan or Kurdistan for examples (it is easy to forget that most of these countries are bigger than Britain, and have regional differences). If it does not – or if you disband any structures they can use (see Iraq in particular, but also southern Afghanistan) then it is unlikely to be long-term successful.

Personally I’m inclined to see intervention here as a positive idea, since there is clearly public support and alternative power structures in Libya, and at least one argument against it (‘it will prove Gadaffi right that we want to invade’) is actually what Gadaffi is trying to achieve – the people opposed to him would prefer outside help (not on the ground occupation obviously) and he is trying to make it look like that would unite Libya behind him.

I hate to sound like your mother, but if the Libyan rebels wanted you to go jump off a bridge, would you do it?

Mum, how many times have I told you to stop checking out my websites? :’(

That aside, I think there’s a slight difference between taking advice from Libyan rebels on, say, baking cakes, than, say, whether they need military support to defeat Gaddafi.

What next? The Transition Council is a neo-con plant?

There is a difference between Iraq and what is being proposed here. Lumping everything together I’m afraid is neither nuanced nor clever.

The problem was that the whole plan was insane, staggeringly incomptent and obviously destined for mass death and disaster from the second it was suggested.

Does it follow then that EVERY action will be similar? That EVERY intervention of any kind abroad is a bad idea?

@ Matt, dunc

I would hope that you’re not advocating letting Gadhafi fight back sucesfully (as he seems to be) and torture and murder at will once he’s secure again?

Any moralising about his soldiers, many of whom we are told are mercenaries being paid with the Libyan people’s money, should be tempered with considerations of how other people will be affected. That’s hard to judge, but it’s not unreasonable to suggest that intervention is morally justified as the least-bad option.

Also, as I wrote above, if Gadhafi succeds what would the consequences be for other revolutions, Tunisia and Egypt, for example?

Does it follow then that EVERY action will be similar? That EVERY intervention of any kind abroad is a bad idea?

No, we’ve been given no real cause to think this is a good one. Let’s avoid politician’s logic.

Cherub,

I would hope that you’re not advocating letting Gadhafi fight back sucesfully (as he seems to be) and torture and murder at will once he’s secure again?

Oh ffs, another one who thinks that being critical of something entails support for some other thing.

Sunny,

The problem was that the whole plan was insane, staggeringly incomptent and obviously destined for mass death and disaster from the second it was suggested.

Does it follow then that EVERY action will be similar? That EVERY intervention of any kind abroad is a bad idea?

Not EVERY one, no – but precedent suggests that it’s LIKELY a bad idea.

@Cherub and @Sunny: exactly. (Though of course there won’t be any Saudi support for intervention against Gaddafi. The Saudi regime utterly hate and fear him – but they are also terrified now of their own population…)
@Matt Hill: I am calling for what the free Libyan Council and forces are calling for. And it is widely held that a no-fly-zone would require some (strictly limited) ground attack, to reduce the Gaddaf-ite capacity to take down the planes policing the noflyzone.

Rupert, please, stop being so naive! Libya has around 300 fast jets and hundreds of surface to air missiles. Even if only half of those are servicable the strictly limited air strikes you talk about are going to be a bit more than half a dozen smart bombs. This will mean a fully tooled up operation where people will die on the ground, many ofthem civilians caught in the cross fire, and could well see our airmen coming home in body bags.

Maybe you have thought this through and are happy to accept it but to be honest it doesn’t sound like it.

What next? The Transition Council is a neo-con plant?

This isn’t difficult to grasp, I think – sometimes, even nice, well-intentioned people ask for things that won’t work and will instead make things much worse. The fact that “the rebels” want air support doesn’t make giving them air support a good idea, and it certainly doesn’t mean it’ll lead to a positive outcome.

That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to say – what you’ve just said is that, if the rebels want it, then there can be no objections to no-fly zones: “If the Libyans rebels want some support against Gaddafi, then I’m afraid the arguments against helping them fall apart”.

That’s an insane position to take. What if they asked us, say, to carpet-bomb Tripoli? Would we do it and if not, why not?

There is a difference between Iraq and what is being proposed here. Lumping everything together I’m afraid is neither nuanced nor clever.

Indeed – the justification for intervening here is far stronger. Nonetheless, it should be entirely clear that there has been little or no thought or planning here. What are the objectives? Do they include achievable aims, or are they just vague and windy let’s get the bad guys bollocks? What happens if there are major setbacks – do we have any contingency plans at all?

The answers I’ve been getting to all of those questions, since the Libyan revolt began, is Time is running out – we must bomb now, and ask questions later.

That is why I’m comparing this situation to the invasion of Iraq. Those were the answers you got, back in 2003.

I apologise if this position lacks nuance or is insufficiently clever but crucially, I think I’m asking some fairly sensible questions, while others are waving their hands at telling everybody not to worry, because it’ll all be fine.

Cherub,

“I would hope that you’re not advocating letting Gadhafi fight back sucesfully (as he seems to be) and torture and murder at will once he’s secure again?”

We have to be clear that there are two extremely unappealing possibilities here: on the one hand, the possibility that Gadaffi will fight back successfully; and on the other hand, our waging war against another Middle Eastern state. If we do impose a no-fly zone, and Gaddafi continues to fight back successfully, would you advocate letting him get away with it? By your logic – which assumes we have ultimate responsibility for all outcomes – we’d be compelled to fight him. That means war.

“if Gadhafi succeds what would the consequences be for other revolutions, Tunisia and Egypt, for example?”

If the west intervenes, do you think the other Arab uprisings will benefit from their cause being directly associated with western military forces? At the moment the Arab spring is an Arab revolution – once we back it up with our own F-16s, it’s a war.

Sunny (56),

It’s the most compelling reason, but it hardly settles the question. If the west gets involved, we’ll be responsible for all the consequences of our intervention, intended and unintended. So we have our own decision to make, and it can’t simply be based on what some of the rebels have said they want us to do. If the rebels want us to take out their opponents, and not just their air defence systems, should we do it (as the author of the article suggests)? Moreover, do we know that a majority of the rebels – or their command – is in favour? Do we know that most Libyans would welcome the arrival of the western military? (It seems doubtful.) If the no-fly zone doesn’t defeat Gadaffi, should we take further action? How far do we go? These are all difficult questions.

I’m in favour of a no-fly zone if we exhaust all other options. But it seems to me that we’re not at that stage yet, and we must be very cautious before we rush into what could become another war.

“@Matt Hill: I am calling for what the free Libyan Council and forces are calling for. And it is widely held that a no-fly-zone would require some (strictly limited) ground attack, to reduce the Gaddaf-ite capacity to take down the planes policing the noflyzone.”

In your piece you clearly called for an attack ‘against the mercenary forces’ – i.e. against personnel on the ground. If you’re rowing back from that position now, I’m glad you’ve changed your mind.

73. Planeshift

“Not EVERY one, no – but precedent suggests that it’s LIKELY a bad idea.”

I’d agree with this – the burden of proof is on people advocating military action to produce good reasons for it. But to use an analogy with a court case, I think there is enough evidence to bring this one to court – whereas there wasn’t with Iraq.

Another point to consider is that there is a crucial difference with this and Iraq. In the case of Iraq we had a bunch of insane people in the white house itching for a fight with Iraq and going to great lengths to manufacture the evidence needed to do so.

In the case of Libya it is quite clear that the US, UK and EU have been extremely lukewarm at best towards the African revolutions. They have not had a stated goal or plan for invading Libya. Without the rebellion on the ground they would have been quite content to continue to host Gaddaffi’s sons and whilst they had not yet completely re-habilitated the regime, it was clear that there were plans to do so once his son’s took over. Indeed the reaction to the Libyan revolt in Italy was nothing short of disgraceful, with Berlusconi essentially echoing Gaddaffi’s line that this was an islamic fundamentalist led revolt (how much more does Berlusconi have to do before both the tories and labour realise he is scum who should be in jail).

The main change of heart has been essentially the realisation that as the North African revolutions have spread, it is really not in the interests of the US/UK/EU to be on the wrong side. Hence the talk of now ditching Gaddaffi.

74. Luis Enrique

Rupert Read, for avoidance of doubt, I am not agreeing with you, I’m hovering in the middle with fence pole stuck so far up my behind it’s tickling my tonsils. .

there are all sorts of ways in which something as simple-sounding as a NFZ to help rebels could go wrong in a nasty spiralling out of control sort of way. Whether or not he’s right in the balance, FR is most definitely right to draw attention to this and rub noses in it.

If the Libyans rebels want some support against Gaddafi, then I’m afraid the arguments against helping them fall apart.

Does the name “Kenan Makiya” ring any bells for you?

More generally, myself, FR et al are asking for practical reasons why you believe that *this* exercise in promoting democracy overseas by bombing would have results materially different from *every other* exercise in promoting democracy overseas by bombing.

In return, we are getting “we cannot desert the Libyan people in their hour of need”. FFS.

Did you really take no lessons away from the Iraq debacle other than “that’s a really sensible and ethical way to discuss the case in favour of a war, I’m going to remember to do that next time“? Or perhaps “emotional appeals can substitute for concrete planning if you really really want them to“?

76. Planeshift

“What are the objectives? Do they include achievable aims, or are they just vague and windy let’s get the bad guys bollocks? ”

Well first of all lets recognise that the UK alone doesn’t have the power or influence to do things here. But if there is a combined UN plan to do something then I would support something consisting of the following:

(1) Military action to enforce no fly zone, arrest warrents issued for Gaddaffi, his assets siezed, and as many restrcitions on his ability to finance mercenaries as is possible. (any private military company found to be involved with this also gets put in front of the ICC – if its Tim Spicer then about fucking time)

(2) Recognise the rebels as the alternative, and supply arms and training (circa US support for bosnian muslims in 95).

(3) The objective is to support the rebels in overthrowing gaddafi, then replacing it with a transitional government made up of defecting officials, rebels etc. Elections called for as soon as is practical.

(4) Once a new government is formed, support it with aid and investment, and offer the carrot of EU membership (perhaps Gaddaffi will a make a comeback as Libya’s UKIP)

78. Luis Enrique

practical reasons why you believe that *this* exercise in promoting democracy overseas by bombing would have results materially different from *every other* exercise in promoting democracy overseas by bombing.

yes, this is the question … so are we looking at a situation in which some help from outside will cause an uprising of the sort that succeed in Egypt and Tunisia, but faced with a dictator + supporters willing to use tanks etc., to prevail where otherwise it would fail? Is it just a matter of tipping the balance a bit? If that’s the situation, then there’s the reason. Or are we looking at a situation that resembles other attempts to promote democracy overseas by bombing?

79. Planeshift

“Is it just a matter of tipping the balance a bit?”

I think it is [i]at the moment [/i], but the longer this goes on and the momentum of the rebellion goes the prospects of success become less likely. A regime that looks like it is fragile will have people defecting, and nobody wanting to support it. A regime that looks like it will regain control will attract all sorts of thugs and bandwagon jumpers hoping for a share of the oil.

@67 ukliberty

“Oh ffs, another one who thinks that being critical of something entails support for some other thing.”

Another valuable contribution from you.

I was writing about the moral argument for intervention, assuming we had the power to do so. Perhaps I should have spelled it out, but I hoped by cautions re. the UN might provide a wee clue.

Besides, arguing on a moral basis, as dunc & Matt seemed to be, about the deaths of Libyan forces in any intervention means one has to pose the opposite moral question, what would be the consequences of no intervention?

Cherub,

I responded to this question you asked of Matt and Dunc, “I would hope that you’re not advocating letting Gadhafi fight back sucesfully (as he seems to be) and torture and murder at will once he’s secure again?”

If you don’t really think Matt and dunc are in fact advocating letting Gadaffi do those things, why ask such a question?

Besides, arguing on a moral basis, as dunc & Matt seemed to be, about the deaths of Libyan forces in any intervention means one has to pose the opposite moral question, what would be the consequences of no intervention?

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this point raised in the thread – we have to weigh up the consequences of doing nothing against the consequences of doing something against the consequences of doing something else and so on… I don’t see anyone arguing with that except those calling for immediate military intervention, to whom doing nothing is apparently not an option.

@81

That’s better. Top-notch reverse-ferret after your bit of snidery.

reverse-ferret

Um no, it’s been my position throughout.

@43 As I’ve said, among other things we should have armed the Republican govt, and/or sought seriously to have embargoed the Fascists.

How would the latter have been enforced, do you think?

The reason I think this is pertinent (apart from the fact that it was you who chose to invoke La Guerra Civil) is that obviously, if this had occurred, the Fascists would not simply have accepted it, they wouldn’t have allowed “us” to intercept, confiscate or attack their weapons and any attempt to do so would have met with retaliation. (In fact, precisely this did happen on at least one occasion, when an attempt was made to send supplies by ship to the Basque Country, which is why Orwell, reviewing the Thirties, talks about the incredible spectacle of Conservative MPs in the House of Commons cheering the news that British ships had been bombed.)

Now it doesn’t even follow from this that it would have been a bad idea. But it does follow that interventions have consequences and that among these consequences tends to be escalation. Once you’re in, you’re in.

Re: Sunny Hurndal’s why-oh-why contribution, I really think we would all benefit just a little bit if Sunny were to forswear the rhetorical technique of always being The Guy Who Cares When So Much Of The Left Just Doesn’t. We used to have Clare Short for this sort of thing and it wasn’t a sort of thing worth having.

Meanwhile, I have so far been unsuccessful searching for the clip from All Quiet On The Western Front in which the blokes in the pub explain to the solider back from aforesaid front how easy it would be to push on to Paris. Can anybody do better?

“More generally, myself, FR et al are asking for practical reasons why you believe that *this* exercise in promoting democracy overseas by bombing would have results materially different from *every other* exercise in promoting democracy overseas by bombing.”

If the objective is “get rid of Colonel Gaddafi”, then experience suggests that this is something which the Americans and allies are quite good at – getting rid of the incumbent regime was something which they managed in Iraq and Afghanistan, inter alia. Given the will, I think the balance of probability is that they could support the rebels to get rid of Gaddafi and then clear off. But it isn’t awfully clear why the US government would want to do this.

@86 Don

I can think of two reasons:
1) The actually believe in the democracy stuff they go on about
2) Gadhafi is bonkers, a parliamentary democracy would be more stable.

getting rid of the incumbent regime was something which they managed in Iraq and Afghanistan, inter alia. Given the will, I think the balance of probability is that they could support the rebels to get rid of Gaddafi and then clear off.

Just out of interest – what, in the conduct of its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, leads you to conclude the US would be able to “then clear off”?

@74 your bang on the money pal…but this fence pole is hurting me now.

It would be bloody ace if Gadaffi loses though, be better if he was beaten by a nation uprising, and that alone. Can we arm them. Seriously could we really properly arm them, I am just curious. Could you do that and not get involved in a civil war?

Green Imperialism …. tsk tsk …

“Just out of interest – what, in the conduct of its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, leads you to conclude the US would be able to “then clear off”?”

They didn’t want to clear off in either Iraq or Afghanistan because they had more interesting and lucrative things to do. But if they wanted to get rid of Gaddafi, experience suggests that they could, and if they then wanted to leave the others to it, then there’s nothing stopping them. I’m still sceptical, notwithstanding Cherub’s points, that they’ll think that this is in their interests, though.

Greens for war …roll up roll up …

if they then wanted to leave the others to it, then there’s nothing stopping them

This is the claim that puzzles me. How are you expecting that to work? Is there any reason to think that there would be a serious opportunity to that, before armed resistance against US forces started?

“How are you expecting that to work? Is there any reason to think that there would be a serious opportunity to that, before armed resistance against US forces started?”

I guess I was thinking of a variant on the Afghanistan model – do some bombing, outsource the fighting on the ground to the locals so there are hardly any American soldiers about for an armed resistance to oppose. Dunno if the anti-Gaddafi people have the capacity of the Afghan warlords, but send ‘em enough stuff and I’m sure it is technically feasible.

No promises about the likely long term impact, but that’s a different matter.

Isn’t that “shoot Gaddafi, give some guns to your friends and then head for the airport before the civil war kicks off again?”

“Isn’t that “shoot Gaddafi, give some guns to your friends and then head for the airport before the civil war kicks off again?””

Yes. Except you don’t know if they are your friends or not. Like I say, technically feasible, not necessarily what the Americans will perceive as being in their interests.

97. flyingrodent

It’s probably worth noting that the French look especially belligerent re: Gaddafi, and seem keen to get heavily involved in whatever operations are on the cards. That, and the fact that they’ve just officially recognised the Libyan opposition, which is an interesting move. I, for one, don’t really know who the Libyan rebels are, beyond that they’re Not-Gaddafi.

And I imagine that the idea would be as laid out above – neutralise Gaddafi’s air force, then keep our fingers crossed that the rebels win. Frankly, Gaddafi has all the armour, but that becomes less of a problem for the rebels if the Libyan air force isn’t knocking out strong points for them.

Who wins will be anyone’s guess, but imagine the scenario where Gaddafi scores a knock-out. That means a no-fly zone over the country indefinitely, with all that entails. I try and fail to imagine any intervening force not concluding well, in for a penny, in for a pound. If Gaddafi wins or holds on, I can’t see how NATO would be able to avoid aggressively attacking Gaddafi, whatever the initial mandate. Internal and international politics would press heavily for it, I think.

Anyway, I can’t see this going ahead without the Americans at the heart of it. I’ve said this on my blog before, but that presents a real propaganda difficulty. In the past decade, Britain and/or the Americans have either bombed, invaded and/or occupied Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia; our wacky allies have bombed Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, and the United States also maintains military bases in Bahrain, Israel, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Now, you can explain why all of that was absolutely essential in whatever manner you like, but it’s going to create a serious PR problem for the Libyan opposition, I would’ve thought. God knows how it’s going to go down across the rest of north Africa and the Middle East.

They didn’t want to clear off in either Iraq or Afghanistan because they had more interesting and lucrative things to do.

Let me whisper … Libya (unlike Afghanistan, and it really ought to give you more pause than it does that your two success stories are Iraq and Afghanistan) is a major oil producer.

I guess I was thinking of a variant on the Afghanistan model – do some bombing, outsource the fighting on the ground to the locals so there are hardly any American soldiers about for an armed resistance to oppose.

Oh, I’m sorry, I hadn’t realised that you were a visitor from a parallel dimension in which there were not more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. How did the Second World War turn out in your world? Is there a female Pope?

The situation is getting more urgent by the minute, folks:

But, apparently, still not so urgent as to require anything more than a no-fly zone? Talk about “desperate, but not serious”. In fact, the way that things have developed are pretty clearly demonstrating that this was always a fig-leaf, little-bit-pregnant solution; the choices are an intervention (ie, an invasion) or not.

Let me just go out on a limb here and speculate that the US and UK are not likely to just kick over the applecart in a second-tier oil producer (and one of the few with any significant prospect for increased net exports) and then let the chips fall where they may.

(I may have mixed some metaphors in there…)

Frankly, Gaddafi has all the armour, but that becomes less of a problem for the rebels if the Libyan air force isn’t knocking out strong points for them.

I don’t think this is true. I’ve seen no evidence at all that the air force has been crucial, other than in assertions by people arguing for a no fly zone. What has been making the difference is a) the tanks and b) the civilian pro-Qaddafi militias. Neither of which can be assumed out of existence by a no fly zone, and the second of which represents a very big problem indeed.

101. Richard W

We should stay well out of Libya. It is a civil war and in civil wars lots of people die. There rarely is a bloodless way to remove a tyrant and replace him with something else. How do we know what will replace him will be any better? The problem is the something else would then be our something else. A bit like the Afghan Mujahideen. Why intervene in this civil war and not others? Why don’t the other Arab states enforce a no-fly zone? Why not China? No good will come come from the West getting involved in another Arab conflict, even if the intentions are genuinely to save life.

I guess I was thinking of a variant on the Afghanistan model…

A variant where it actually works!

Typical ….people demanding that the Imperialist British state intervenes …as if the IBS has a record of intervening to help anyone but themselves …

104. flyingrodent

I’ve seen no evidence at all that the air force has been crucial…

Well, neither have I, now that you mention it. I’m going by my own experience of being under overflying air force jets – I’m a country lad, and the RAF used to fly over my house and school regularly.

When they come in fast and low, they scare the absolute shit out of you, and I imagine the effect is much worse when they’re actually blowing stuff up nearby. I think – although I don’t know – that repeated airstrikes would be pretty terrifying and demoralising for what is, basically, a disorganised civilian militia.

It’s true that the tanks are likely to be crucial, and I’d assume that any intervening force is going to come under heavy pressure to help out the rebels with the odd air-to-ground strike here and there.

The really frightening thing is that civil wars are always, always blood-curdlingly horrible and filled with terrible atrocities. Whether the war goes with Gaddafi or the rebels, any attempt to take towns and cities is going to involve lots of house-to-house fighting, which means major civilian casualties.

If I were an American general, I’d be shy about getting too deeply involved, because even the anti-Gaddafi forces will probably have to get their hands very, very dirty.

What has been making the difference is a) the tanks and b) the civilian pro-Qaddafi militias. Neither of which can be assumed out of existence by a no fly zone, and the second of which represents a very big problem indeed.

Pay no attention to the civilian pro-Qaddafi militias! There are no pro-Qaddafi Libyans! They’re all mercenaries!

@ 101

China? Did you fail geography then?! Even if the Chinese weren’t just as ready to massacre their own as Gaddafi, they have no means to project power to enforce a no fly zone: only the US and some EU states can.

Egypt and Tunisia are hardly in a position to do so, and all other Arab states are little better than Gaddafi and his thugish supporters.

Doing nothing is only an option if you have no conscience.

107. flyingrodent

Doing nothing is only an option if you have no conscience.

Looks like someone’s been reading too much York Harding.

Hi Rupert

Gotta say I’m shocked to see you arguing for a no-fly zone to be imposed on Libya immediately, because this will almost certainly involve bombing Libyan air defences, which will inevitably result in civilian casualties.

What I would be concerned about, among many other things, is that a move to imposing a no-fly zone may increase the liklihood of ground troops being used at a later date, which might not be considered if a no-fly zone had not been imposed.

And who would be imposing this no-fly zone? Your article and responses in the comments section seems to assume it would be the US/UK/NATO. The involvement of these actors seem to be a huge problem for obvious reasons.

You write: “Just as we supported sanctions against South Africa because it was what the black South Africans themselves called for, so we should do what the free Libyans are calling for.”

Aren’t there two problems with this sentence? One, would you support ground troops if the “free Libyans” call for it? And two, are we so sure that the “free Libyans” that are calling for a no-fly zone are representative of the wider Libyan people? What are their motives and what were their roles under Gaddafi?

Question: What is the Green Party’s official stance on this?

Ian Sinclair

Gaddafi’s son Saif Al-Islam says the time has come for full-scale military action against #Libya rebels – Reuters

Clearly, the correct response is to sit by and vent outrage on blogs and twitter while people are killed in their hundreds.

Yeah, nice one guys.

“I’ve seen no evidence at all that the air force has been crucial…”

Well, neither have I, now that you mention it. I’m going by my own experience of being under overflying air force jets – I’m a country lad, and the RAF used to fly over my house and school regularly.

Yeah, those bloody Libyan rebels – what do they know when we’ve got lefties in the UK who know exactly what Gaddafi is doing in Libya.

Clearly, the correct response is to sit by and vent outrage on blogs and twitter while people are killed in their hundreds.

Is this your whole routine now?

by giving the Libyan people the opportunity to save themselves from genocide and to free themselves

I should have picked up on this before, I think. Why is it, that whenever somebody wants to advocate an armed intervention of one sort or another, they always invoke “genocide”? What, please, is the “genocide” from which we are going to be saving the Libyan people? Does it in any way reduce the impression that this “we must do something” stuff is purely rhetorical, that “genocide” always has to be the casus belli?

113. flyingrodent

That point actually supports your case rather than DSquared’s, Sunny. Closer reading required, I think.

And really, are you best placed to complain about people venting on blogs? Do you have an old F-14 buried in your back garden that you’re not telling us about?

I said it earlier and I’ll say it again – if you’re taking any kind of military action, it should be based upon practical utility and achievability, and not upon whether it makes a bunch of citizens feel better about the awful things they’re seeing on their televisions. See also: the last thirty years of liberal intervention, esp. Iraq.

114. Luis Enrique

Clearly, the correct response is to sit by and vent outrage on blogs and twitter while people are killed in their hundreds.

I’ve told the SAS about that before. Log-off guys, and get back out there.

“Libya (unlike Afghanistan, and it really ought to give you more pause than it does that your two success stories are Iraq and Afghanistan) is a major oil producer.”

Indeed, which might make the Americans hang around. I’m looking at the question of whether it would be technically feasible for the Americans to help the rebels kick Gaddafi out, not whether or not they would want to. (I think this thought experiment supports your overall case, for what it’s worth).

“Oh, I’m sorry, I hadn’t realised that you were a visitor from a parallel dimension in which there were not more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.”

How many American troops were there in Afghanistan at the point when the Taliban got kicked out of Kabul?

France is recognising the National Transitional Council, which is not entirely the same thing as “the opposition”, I think, rather one, more coherent section of the opposition- they are who they say they are, on their website

http://ntclibya.org/english/council-members/

that is, I think, mostly members of the Gadaffi govt who broke away before the massacres – I don’t think that is an entirely bad thing, but they are I think a little like the first post-Ceasescu administration. They are obviously putting a lot of emphasis on getting international recognition for themselves.

On another note, as to how the rebels fight against superior weapons , they obviously have had – and won – some battles with tanks by using RPG’s and calor gas bottles — but at some cost to themselves. They also more or less overpowered a fortified military postion in Benghazi by a combination of – tin can bombs they usually used for dynamite fishing / diggers and bulldozers / a suicide car bomb. So it is possible for a civilian rebellion, with breakaway soldiers , to beat a nominally superior armed force, but it is not neccessarily easy – It also suggests to me this is still a revolution rather than a civil war (as far as they are distinct categories), not that this makes the “lets help ‘em with bombing” argument any more sensible. Surprised that the first instinct wasn’t “lets send medical supplies and food” rather than “lets send bombs”, even for those getting into the 1936 Spain parralels

I said it earlier and I’ll say it again – if you’re taking any kind of military action, it should be based upon practical utility and achievability, and not upon whether it makes a bunch of citizens feel better about the awful things they’re seeing on their televisions. See also: the last thirty years of liberal intervention, esp. Iraq.

If I had an F-14 buried you think I’d be running a blog? The point about venting on blogs isn’t merely rhetorical – if the govt polled people tomorrow on a course of action, I’d instantly support a no-fly-zone. Our govt is exploring this with the French and Americans, and I’ll happily write in support.

That said – I agree with your point about utility and practicality. But the main concern underpinning that is hwat is the correct course to save Libyan lives.

The point about Iraq supports my position – I was vehemently for it. What I don’t do is take blind positions assuming all events turn out exactly the same. India intervened to support Bangladesh around 30 years ago and saved 100s of 1000s of lives. So not all intervention is always a failure. Though, we can both agree, a lot of intervention is politically driven. In this case I don’t agree. And if I was a neo-con who was gung-ho about Iraq, your accusation against me might be true. but I’m able to make a distuinction between different situations and different responses.

Clearly, the correct response is to sit by and vent outrage on blogs and twitter while people are killed in their hundreds.

As I said to Rupert, Sunny, is the lesson that you learned from the Iraq War debate really that “ooh, that’s a sensible and ethical way to deal with people who oppose a war, I’ll remember that for next time“? Knock it off, will you?

And can we clear this up please – are you in favour of a no-fly zone, or of an actual boots-on-the-ground invasion? If you are not in favour of the second, then you might care to dial down the sarcasm and moral outrage, because it is crystal clear that exactly the same arguments you are using now could, and will, be used against you by other people in favour of sending ground troops.

That said – I agree with your point about utility and practicality.

Sunny, “utility and practicality” isn’t an optional extra. It’s not “a point”, it’s the whole point. You can’t have a war that is admirable in all respects apart from falling down a little on the utility and practicality front. If someone doesn’t think that the whole utility and practicality thing is going to work, then that person has to oppose the war, and any argument against that person is going to have to deal with the utility and practicality thing. The “this won’t work”/”but it will be awful if it doesn’t work”/”OK it works then” argument isn’t valid.

120. Richard W

@ 106. Galen10

I used China as an example that the UN security council has more than three members. Is China any further away geographically from Libya than the US? Is there any reason that they could not fly from European bases? The balance of power is changing in the world and it is up to rising powers if they want to be taken seriously to be be more proactive in policing the world. Obama campaigned on the issue that it was not for the US to intervene in foreign countries by bombing them back to the stone age or democracy. When the US neocons are itching for a colonial adventure in Libya, that alone should be a huge red flag. They want Obama bogged down in a North African conflict.

Interesting thread.

Seems to me that the bottom line is that a NFZ can’t be imposed without UNSC backing. Ideally it would also have support from the African Union and Arab League. Without these things it would be too easily presented as Western meddling in an oil-rich country, which could have serious consequences for the rebels in Libya as much as for the opposition movements in other ME countries.

As an aside, I saw RUSI are saying that a limited NFZ could be achieved by keeping planes constantly in the air above populated rebel-controlled areas. This wouldn’t require an initial bombing campaign, although it would mean being prepared to shoot down Libyan planes if they entered the NFZ.

Meanwhile there are things we could and should be doing: restoring mobile comms capacity in Libya (surely not beyond the wit of western intelligence agencies); encouraging defections by air-force pilots (I saw someone suggesting stationing aircraft carriers in international waters off the Libyan coast); putting pressure on neighbouring countries to keep land borders open so that refugees can leave; ensuring the free flow of food imports and humanitarian aid; putting diplomatic pressure on countries that may be supplying Libya with mercenaries (though this is an opaque issue I think?) and arms.

Asset freezes, sanctions, travel bans and ICC referrals have already been implemented by UN Resolution 1970. AFAIK there is some evidence that the sanctions are beginning to bite.

Got to concur with those who say we don’t know much about the members making up the NTC. We just don’t. Some of them seem to be long-term civil rights activists with good records; others are long-term Gaddafi loyalists who defected only a couple of weeks ago.

122. Oli Sawtell

Rupert and I have had words on Twitter about this. I am absolutely horrified that a Green party member of his standing is prepared to declare war on a sovereign state without any consideration to the consequences for the entire region. The last thing North Africa needs is a bunch of western fly boys wanting to play with their toys throwing bombs at anything that remotely ‘could’ be a gun emplacement. It is utterly naive to think that we can intervene and not kill people. As I have said to you on twitter, your advocating regime change which is prohibited under international law. If there has to be intervention it must be done with UN sanction and under UN command and control, preferably with a Northern African commander. Our role must be only to prevent conflict from continuing, NOT to influence the outcome of what is a civil war. For someone who is meant to represent a liberal party committed to peace such as the Greens your comments are of such a great concern to me that I am seriously considering my membership, this is something I will be talking to local party membership about, and I think a letter to the leadership might be required. You talk more like a neo-con hawk than a liberal. I’m utterly disgusted with you.

123. Bristolian

Sorry Rupert,

It will all end in an oil grab by western powers whatever the good intentions.

Green Party defence policy quite clearly envisions a role for British forces in “an international UN-led policing force”, which a no-fly zone would presumably constitute (I think it must mean “UN-authorised”). So given this, I don’t think it can reasonably be said to be inconsistent with Green policy to advocate for a Security Council resolution authorising such a force.

For someone who is meant to represent a liberal party…

(Are we thinking of the same party?)

As I said to Rupert, Sunny, is the lesson that you learned from the Iraq War debate really that “ooh, that’s a sensible and ethical way to deal with people who oppose a war, I’ll remember that for next time“? Knock it off, will you?

Sure, but the other response of some on the thread here, which boils down to: everything always happens exactly how it went down in Iraq – is just as fucking idiotic, and which is why I can’t take it seriously.

I’m happy for people to make valid points, but if the only response is IRAQ IRAQ IRAQ!!! – then frankly one should join Stop the War coalition and hang out with Lyndsey German. That is about the extent of your political nous.

I’m not saying Dqsquared, FR, you’re doing this. But you’re mighty close to it.

dsquared: Let me be clear about this: I’m for a no fly zone, but emphatically not a ground invasion.

the first one would be welcomed by Libyan rebels, the second one not.

And lastly, you may notice that I’ve stopped giving a fuck about arguments made by the pro-Iraq war lot, and my arguments are not dictated by what they would say in the future.

A full scale invasion isn’t happening anyway. there is no appetite for it, and there’s no money for it. OTOH, a NFZ is easily justified because its much cheaper, WILL STOP LIBYAN DEATHS QUICKLY, and LIBYAN REBELS WANT IT.

I hate to write in caps, but those three conditions wouldn’t apply in a full scale invasion. And I think a grown-up discussion of what’s going on here should be able to make that distinction, without reducing everything to soundbites, and worries about what the neo-cons would say in the future.

I’m not saying Dsquared, FR, you’re doing this. But you’re mighty close to it.

No they’re not. Plenty of examples from other conflicts have been brought up. But you’re saying they are, because it suits you.

128. Charlieman

Isn’t this thread a moot debate? By the time that there is international agreement for a No Fly Zone, Gadaffi’s forces will have occupied or surrounded all of the rebel towns within 120 miles or so of the coast.

It took the Libyan armed forces four or five days to get their act together. That period of time was when a NFZ made sense.

Military intervention now or shortly would require more than a NFZ. Gadaffi’s forces have established themselves sufficiently on the ground that cutting off the air force will provide little benefit to the rebels.

I agree with Sunny.
It dismays me that we aren’t readier to try to save the free Libyans, and to save the Arab Spring.
I hope y’all will remember this debate, if and when Benghazi is crushed and the Arab Spring is demoralised and essentially finished.

I hope y’all will remember this debate, if and when Benghazi is crushed and the Arab Spring is demoralised and essentially finished.

What, and think, “By Christ, if we’d not posted comments in a LibCon thread that nobody who could have done the slightest thing would read this could have been averted!” I – and, I suspect, FR, D2 et al – am not against intervention in principle – for all the good that our opinions do – it’s just that I’ve not seen a reason to believe the U.S./U.K. would or are going to carry out an intervention in an honest, sensible and, most vitally, helpful way. Perhaps I’m wrong; perhaps I’ll change my mind. (And, either way, what does it matter what I think?)

And, besides, even if those sad events do come to pass it wouldn’t mean that intervention would have staved them off. If you’re at a crossroads and aren’t sure of whether you should choose Route A or B, take A and realise it stretches off into nowhere that wouldn’t prove that B wouldn’t have led straight off a cliff.

Lastly, it’s not “our” readiness that’s being tested and there’s little “we” can do. Unless we’re going to accept responsibility for, say, tuition fees, public service cuts and Michael Gove’s employment we’ve got to deal with the fact that this isn’t a common enterprise. Someone else would plan, organise and carry out the intervention.

The debate isn’t between those who care enough to help Libyans and those who don’t. It’s between those who think a no-fly zone is likely to help Libyans and those who don’t. The main objections seem to be:
- It could backfire, leading to the discrediting of the rebels and the wider Arab spring due to their association with the west.
- It may not help.
-It may lead to further involvement, further bloodshed, etc.
I’m not necessarily against a NFZ, though I doubt it’ll be the panacea many people expect. But I object to the idea that support for a NFZ should be the test of whether you care about Libyans. That is missing the point of the argument.

132. flyingrodent

I hope y’all will remember this debate, if and when Benghazi is crushed and the Arab Spring is demoralised and essentially finished.

Jesus. You know, I’m not wildly confident that everything I’ve said in this thread is accurate or pertinent, or even basically valid, but you know what?

If, after one hundred and thirty comments raising serious difficulties with intervention, we’re still somehow stuck on Why do you hate the Libyan rebels and want them all to die… Well, I’m fairly sure that I’m not talking to anyone who basically gives a shit about how this stuff will actually work in reality.

Seriously, the country may be different; the stakes may be higher, but it’s still Wave your little flags for victory or else, Commies!

After a decade of this silly bullshit, it’s really, really dispiriting to see people who should know better pulling this ridiculous crap all over again.

I hope y’all will remember this debate, if and when Benghazi is crushed and the Arab Spring is demoralised and essentially finished.

This does remind me that the major function of these proposals is as sticks to beat people who don’t believe that intervention works. The people who propose them don’t actually have to do anything themselves of course. They just have to say “this proves I care about Libyans – or Iraqis, or Afghans, or Sudanese, or Bosnians, or whoever it is this week – and you don’t”. Which is a pitiful and not at all ethical way of conducting oneself.

(Meanwhile we still await information as to what the word “genocide” was doing in the original post.)

Many Western corporations have contracts with Gaddafi, and there is no certainty that what comes after him will honour those.

The Libyan people have made it very clear they don’t want a western make over like Iraq, so it is not that attractive to the global elites.

Good point, Sally (@134). Lefties, Greens etc. should be rushing to help these amazingly brave fellow human beings who are hardly the darlings of the global elite.

I hope y’all will remember this debate, if and when Benghazi is crushed and the Arab Spring is demoralised and essentially finished.

This debating tactic was crap when Nick Cohen and Christopher Hitchens tried to pull it and it’s crap now.

I think that something which has been obscured in this comments string is that one of the key reasons why the Libyans who I know want a noflyzone, as part of a large package of urgent actions needed against Gaddafi, is in order to stop Gaddafi flying any more mercenaries in.

138. Captain Haddock

@ Micky d 92

Yeah, if they’re so big on military intervention, why don’t Rupert and Sunny go off to Benghazi a la International Brigades, and get stuck in. From what I hear there’s no shortage of Kalashnikovs in the area, and their help would be welcomed by the locals. This would also be an astute political move on Rupert’s part, as when he finally achieves his mid / long term goal of becoming an MP, nobody would be able to accuse him of being a chickenhawk if he called for military intervention in any furure events.

It might even win him a bigger majority in the next council elections, it would certainly improve the credibility of a politician who has spent their whole life sheltered within the ivory towers of academia.

139. Green anticolonialist

The idea that the UN, the US or the condem clown army are going to do anything useful in Libya is a joke. Where is the no fly zone over Gaza? over Sri Lanka over the Congo?

Understand Rupert’s sentiments over the awful Gaddaffi, but the track record of western intervention is usually to make things far worse. The rebel leaders may be calling for a no fly zone, but they may soon find this leads to foreign occupation and the stealing of the countries oil reserves.

Rupert certainly does not speak for the Green Party whatever his ego tell him

The question is of course who runs the new government anyone bother looking at this bright new government, it has five of Gaddfi most hated ministers two will be asked to attend war tribuals, but of course if they run the new government then of course your safe. When do we learn that nothing in these countries is ever what it seems. all we will get is another government by leaders for the leaders with the leaders families.

Good point, Sally (@134). Lefties, Greens etc. should be rushing to help these amazingly brave fellow human beings who are hardly the darlings of the global elite.

I know a good cab firm if you need a lift to the airport.

136 dsquared

You may think it’s crap, but perhaps emotive language IS actually called for in some cases? You may disagree that this is one of these cases of course…. but then what exactly is your threshold for the number of deaths that be “enough” to trigger external military intervention (whether in the form of a NFZ, aid to the anti-Gadaffi forces, actual military strikes, or a UN or Nato force) ?

Are dozens of deaths enough, hundreds, thousands? What line does a rogue regime have to cross before you personally think a line has been crossed?

I agree that the use of the word genocide in the OP is wrong. However, much of the opposition above from those pointing out the potential pitfalls of intervening looks and feels like so much hand wringing; it’s a dialogue of despair which sees saving lives in Libya, and stopping tyranny, as much less important than the preservation of “right-on” anti-war credentials, and showing how pure your ideals are.

In the end, non-intervention in this case will very likely lead to the anti-Gadaffi forces being crushed, thousands killed and the re-imposition of a crazed dictatorship on people who hoped to follow the Tunisians and Egyptians toward a democratic regime.

It will of course be a great comfort to the remaining dictators in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Syria.

The best analogy here is with Bosnia, when the west shamefully stood aside and basically let the Serbs do what they wanted. The Bosnians at the time weren’t asking for western ground troops either; they were asking for air strikes to stop the Serbs using their heavy artillery on Sarajevo, and their and armour and superior weaponry to effect the ethnic cleansing of large swathes of Bosnia.

Sounding familiar yet guys?

It’s all very well to warn against the dangers of intervention, but Sunny is right @126 above; the correct interim response is NOT always “look at Iraq! look at Iraq!”.

@141

Am I the only one who thinks it is strange that so many (presumably?) left of centre progressive people on this thread are happy to conjure the ghosts of those brave people who joined the International Brigades to fight fascism in Spain in the Civil War there in the 30′s?

I wonder how those that fell and their comrades who survived would feel about the “progressives” here who are happy to see the international community 70 years on stand by and watch Libyans fighting for their freedom be crushed in the same way the Spanish republicans were?

Galen10,

It’s all very well to warn against the dangers of intervention, but Sunny is right @126 above; the correct interim response is NOT always “look at Iraq! look at Iraq!”.

It seems dishonest to characterise people as banging on about “look at Iraq! look at Iraq!” given they suggested we look at all our foreign adventures.

As to your comment @43, my comment @41 was just a snark about Rupert and Sunny’s self-righteous, macho twaddle. Other people broadly in favour of some kind of intervention are a bit more measured about it.

@139

“Rupert certainly does not speak for the Green Party whatever his ego tell him”

…and you do speak for the green Party presumably?

So your answer is what exactly?

I’m genuinely interested.

Your take on the current events is that, since bad things have happened in other conflicts across the world, the international community, the UN and all the other IGO’s and NGO’s should sit on their hands and wait to see what happens?

Your anti-colonialist and green credentials tell you that it is far better to watch more Libyans die than to actually “do” anything, lest we be seen as wicked imperialists who are bent on stealing Libyan oil?

Many of the same arguments were used in the 1990′s about the dangers of getting involved in Bosnia; we DID eventually intervene, but only after thousands had been butchered and most of the country ethnically cleansed. None of that was inevitable; it happened because those in power listened to reasoning like yours, and abandoned the Bosnians to their fate.

a NFZ is easily justified because its much cheaper, WILL STOP LIBYAN DEATHS QUICKLY..

Ok, if we’re resorting to all-caps…

APART FROM ALL THE LIBYANS WE’LL HAVE TO KILL TO ENFORCE IT, AND THE RISK OF FURTHER ESCALATING THE CONFLICT.

Gaddafi, for all his talk, hasn’t actually resorted to a full-blown scorched-earth campaign of total extermination – yet. The more we talk about intervention, the more likely he is to conclude that it’s all-or-nothing time and pull out all the stops. Things could get one hell of a lot worse than they already are.

@144

It’s not dishonest; I was paraphrasing perhaps, but the fact is that many (tho’ not perhaps all) of those who appear so viscerally opposed to ANY involvement, under ANY circumstances, will of course use Iraq and Afghanistan as their bete noir.

I’d say it was considerably more dishonest of those criticising a NFZ and/or other intervention to explain how they think the issue should be tackled otherwise.

@146 Dunc

I just don’t get this logic at all. Why is it better to sit on our hands and let Gaddafi’s forces prevail (how many Libyans do you think will die then….?), but NOT ok to risk the deaths which would occur as a result of the imposition of a NFZ, or air-strikes against Gaddafi’s forces, or even just arming the anti-Gadaffi forces?

I’m pretty sure the Bosnian Muslims would have preferred some intervention to stop the shelling of Sarajevo, or the massacre at Srebrenica, yes? Or the Kossovars when the Serbs went on the rampage there.

Why is it better to sit on our hands and let Gaddafi’s forces prevail (how many Libyans do you think will die then….?), but NOT ok to risk the deaths which would occur as a result of the imposition of a NFZ, or air-strikes against Gaddafi’s forces, or even just arming the anti-Gadaffi forces?

Because I believe that, on average, escalation usually makes things worse. Sure, we can all cherry-pick particular instances when things did or didn’t go one way or another, and we can all play the counter-factual history game where we claim that we can know what would have happened if we’d done things differently, but the fact is that no two situations are exactly alike, and we can never really know what would have really happened in whatever parallel universe you care to postulate. For example, I could argue that the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia which you keep referring to was actually accelerated and intensified by the looming prospect of NATO involvement. Whether I’m right or wrong is not something either of us can really know for sure, because we don’t have access to a parallel universe where we didn’t get involved, but can you really tell me that the idea is entirely implausible?

My observation of a very long string of broadly similar situations leads me to conclude that the odds of Western military intervention working out well in the medium-to-long term are not especially favourable.

Are there more Intervening Couldn’t Possibly make Things Worse But They Did examples? Haiti,say, or Panama, or Somalia…

http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/libya-prospect-of-war?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzEmail&utm_content=201210&utm_campaign=0
Paul Roger’s new piece here on OD makes clear how wrong are the claims of those who have written above that a noflyzone is ‘irrelevant’, or ‘too late’, or that the air dimension of the conflict is not absolutely crucial.

@139: Errr… And exactly where did I claim to be speaking for the Green Party in this matter?
Look at the plank in your own eye, mate.

@149 Dunc

Of course judgement calls are involved, and the shadow of the dumb-assed decision to go into Iraq casts a long shadow. Nobody is saying you shouldn’t judge individual situations on their merits either, but the point that you (and others arguing in the same vein) are avoiding is why your chosen “solution” is somehow morally superior, or even leaving the moral aspect aside, simply likely to lead to a lower body count than the posited alternative?

In the case of Bosnia, I think your reading of the situation is totally flawed. Thousands, probably tens of thousands, of lives on both sides could have been saved if the Serbs had been faced down before they unleashed their campaign. There were of course various ways this could have been done, but none of them were rocket science.

As Kossovo showed, (albeit belatedly even in that case) these things CAN be done, and they aren’t ipso facto going to turn into Iraq or Somalia.

Your idea about Bosnia being worse due to intervention isn’t totally implausible, but on the evidence and history it is definitely less likely.

“What exactly is your threshold for the number of deaths that be “enough” to trigger external military intervention (whether in the form of a NFZ, aid to the anti-Gadaffi forces, actual military strikes, or a UN or Nato force) ?

Are dozens of deaths enough, hundreds, thousands? What line does a rogue regime have to cross before you personally think a line has been crossed?”

The threshold for military intervention shouldn’t be “how much suffering has there been” but “is there a credible plan for making things better”. That’s where the NFZ argument is currently proving less than compelling.

Good article here – http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/725/on-international-intervention-and-the-dire-situation-in-libya

“We thus return to our original do-no-harm principle. We neither advocate abandoning the Libyan people to the violence of the regime nor protecting al-Qaddafi from accountability. But as calls for international intervention grow, we must worry about the risk of counter-productive results for Libyans on the ground of some of the options being considered. A combined strategy of humanitarian assistance, severing existing military ties with the regime, and generating exit options for al-Qaddafi and his family may well be the best course for accomplishing the goal of supporting Libya’s civilian population. An exit strategy for al-Qaddafi in the short-term does not foreclose the possibility of accountability thereafter. While this course may seem less satisfying in terms of an immediate answer to calls for international justice, a grounded understanding of the humanitarian costs of other strategies of intervention should counsel against appeasing our (international) conscience at the expense of the lives of those we purport to save.”

Nobody is saying you shouldn’t judge individual situations on their merits either, but the point that you (and others arguing in the same vein) are avoiding is why your chosen “solution” is somehow morally superior, or even leaving the moral aspect aside, simply likely to lead to a lower body count than the posited alternative?

Have you ever encountered the notion of the “precautionary principle”? Or perhaps the Hippocratic Oath to “first, do no harm”? Maybe even the hoary old aphorism that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”?

My attitude is basically that, when faced with a situation where you don’t (and indeed can’t) know what the best thing to do is, the presumption should be to do nothing.

Your idea about Bosnia being worse due to intervention isn’t totally implausible, but on the evidence and history it is definitely less likely.

Look, I don’t want to get too bogged -down in counter-factual histories, but I really don’t see how you come to that conclusion. The Serbs could have gone on the rampage at any time, but they only did when it became evident that NATO involvement on behalf of their enemies was becoming increasingly likely.

I wonder how those that fell and their comrades who survived would feel about the “progressives” here who are happy to see the international community 70 years on stand by and watch Libyans fighting for their freedom be crushed in the same way the Spanish republicans were?

cancel that airport taxi, ukliberty, I think we might have enough progressive interventionists to fill a charabanc.

@155 Dunc

Your reading of the Bosnian situation isn’t bourne out by what actually happened, sorry. The Serbs were basically given carte blanche to do what they did by the appalling inaction of the international community. Time and again, the toothless response of the UN, EU, NATO etc. allowed the Serbs to get their own way. It’s a debate for another time perhaps, but I don’t think your reading of events (that the Serbs only went on the rampage due to fear of outside interventions) holds any water at all.

As for your aphorisms, they may be true in certain cases, but I hardly see them as a guide for useful policy. “Do no harm” in your book looks and feels very much like “abandon them to their fate”.

The road to hell may well be paved with good intentions…. but if history has shown us anything, it is that situations like Spain in the Civil War period, Bosnia and Kossovo in the 1990′s, Rwanda, Cambodia etc., etc. aren’t necessarily going to have better outcomes because the international community saw fit to sit on it’s hands and see who was left standing after the killing had stopped.

@ 154 & 155

..and yes, I have heard of the “do no harm principle”…… are you absolutely convinced that it is more important than preventing Gaddafi’s forces prevailing?

From what I can see, “do no harm” is looking very much like “do nothing”….

I wonder how those that fell and their comrades who survived would feel about the “progressives” here who are happy to see the international community 70 years on stand by and watch Libyans fighting for their freedom be crushed in the same way the Spanish republicans were?

Are you happy to know that people have been dying in North Korea, Galen? No? Well, what are you going to do about it? Are you happy to know that people have been dying in Burma? No? Then how are you going to help? Are you happy that thousands of people will die in car crashes today? No? Then how are you going to save them?

As I say, I’m not a cast-iron opponent of intervention. (Sceptical that anything could work, perhaps, but not insistent.) On the other hand, “we must do something” ain’t an argument for doing anything. We can’t necessarily ease suffering. That doesn’t mean we have to like it.

151 -

Interesting article. Cheers.

“From what I can see, “do no harm” is looking very much like “do nothing””

Worth re-reading the article I linked to, which provided several suggestions about what could usefully and practically be done.

As for whether the “do no harm” principle is more important than preventing Gaddafi’s forces prevailing, it depends on what specifically you have in mind for preventing his forces prevailing.

There is no certainty that a no fly zone will prevent his forces from prevailing, so what would you support if that didn’t work? Do you think “we” should stop Gaddafi by any means necessary, or if not, which options would you rule out and why?

162. Richard P

Libya, Spain, Rwanda are very different situations. In Spain the left supported a legitimate, democratic, elected, leftwing government against rebels. In Libya the proposal is that we should support rebels who aren’t elected (admittedly through no fault of their own) and whose politics we know little about.

The left would certainly not have been united in backing military intervention by capitalist states in Spain. But many on the left would have backed arms sales to the Republic. However, whether this would have made any difference to the outcome of the war I don’t know. After all, the Republic did obtain matériel from the USSR and Mexico, albeit some of it reportedly inferior and overpriced.

While the Libyan regime may be waging a brutal war, to call it “genocide” may be a stretch. We should not devalue the language.

Any no-fly-zone would involve a bombing campaign, as Rupert says, and would inevitably drag the west into the quagmire of another military confrontation with an Arab people who would sooner or later resent western intervention.

@161:

Worth re-reading the article I linked to, which provided several suggestions about what could usefully and practically be done.

A very good point Don, and one which can’t be emphasised enough. There are tools other than high explosives available. If we really must do something, that something doesn’t necessarily have to involve military action. When did blowing shit up become our default means of interacting with the rest of the world?

From what I can see, “do no harm” is looking very much like “do nothing”….

That indeed is a logical consequence of “anything we could do would cause harm”. From my point of view, “we must do something” is looking very much like “do harm”.

165. Odi alzobi

We need it.
But it needs to be discussed with the Arabs. It is good the the Saudi family will support it. The french goverment suggest something like that yesterday. The problem is that the arabs are very suspicious on any thing the West would do.
However, I believe ordinary arabs and young people in the Arab world would agree on no-fly-zone and even giving weapons to the rebels.

A full scale invasion isn’t happening anyway. there is no appetite for it, and there’s no money for it. OTOH, a NFZ is easily justified because its much cheaper, WILL STOP LIBYAN DEATHS QUICKLY, and LIBYAN REBELS WANT IT.

OK, so lets say we impose a NFZ. Gaddafi objects to this and starts shooting at allied planes, leading to a number of allied deaths and, perhaps worse, allied airmen going on Libyan state TV and denouncing the Imperialist war. Meanwhile, on the ground Gaddafi is pretty much holding his own against the Free Libyans. So the governments of the UK and US have committed men, materiel and prestige to war with Libya (because, let’s face it, war is the correct technical definition for invading another country’s airspace in order to kill its citizens), blood has been spilt and we’re no closer to finishing off Gaddafi. The Free Libyans note that one of the key battles of the war is a damned nice thing and sending in the Paras on their side could swing the whole thing their way and Councillor Read picks up a tweet to that effect. Is there still no appetite for a ground invasion? In this scenario we do nothing and let the Tyrant Gaddafi snuff out the gallant hope of the Arab Spring? Or do we send in the boys.

Announcing ‘that won’t happen’ is not the correct answer, by the way. It might not happen but it is a possible contigency and if the proposal here is to attack a sovereign state without planning for worse case scenarios then the Iraq war is the exact parallel with what is being proposed here.

@ 161 Don Paskini

The article you linked to basically concludes:

“A combined strategy of humanitarian assistance, severing existing military ties with the regime, and generating exit options for al-Qaddafi and his family may well be the best course for accomplishing the goal of supporting Libya’s civilian population.”

Some of this is great stuff; as far as it goes. But, (and yeah, it is a great big huge but!!) severing existing military ties and generating exit options for the family aren’t going to help those anti-Gaddafi forces currently trying to oppose tanks, heavy artillery, air strikes and helicopters gunships.

Perhaps occupying Saif Gaddafi’s mansion in London was a bad idea…. after all, it’s closing off an exit option!

I know it scratches an itch for some people (generally those who are unlikely to countenance military intervention under ANY circumstances), but there are other motivations for calling for intervention than the fact you suspect those opposed to you enjoy the smell of napalm in the morning.

It is by no means inevitable that intervention (which could in any case consist of a number of different options) will result in a quagmire. Is that a risk? Yes, of course.

The issue we have to address, is whether you consider that risk is outweighed by the moral and strategic imperative not to tolerate the crushing of the uprising against Gadaffi. Further, is it tactically wise to give comfort to the forces of reaction elsewhere in the arab world? Your answer to those questions will of course dictate your view as to whether intervention is the right thing to do.

Bear in mind that doing nothing is not a tactic without risk, anymore than offering tea and sympathy and freezing Gaddafi’s assets will magically stop his regime gunning people down in the streets.

Galen -

I know it scratches an itch for some people (generally those who are unlikely to countenance military intervention under ANY circumstances), but there are other motivations for calling for intervention than the fact you suspect those opposed to you enjoy the smell of napalm in the morning.

It’s a trivial point, perhaps, but no one in the thread has done this, while people who oppose/are sceptical of intervention have been said to be – by, er, you – “happy to see the international community…stand by and watch Libyans…be crushed“. Still, our motivations, our desires and our ideas aren’t relevant. It’s in someone else’s hands.

The issue we have to address, is whether you consider that risk is outweighed by the moral and strategic imperative not to tolerate the crushing of the uprising against Gadaffi.

There is no “moral imperative” except inasmuch as there’s a strategic utility. Our analysis – sorry, isolationists – should proceed from whether it’s likely to be of service to the Libyans. Everything else is whimsy.

@166 Mordaunt

You are simply dressing up the “it’s Iraq all over again, folks!” argument discussed above. Nobody can or should guarantee that there isn’t a risk, but that risk shouldn’t trump every other possible outcome, and there many others which are more likely.

I agree we should be prepared, and unlike the baleful example of Iraq have a coherent plan and exit strategy. However, you saying it is an exact parallel doesn’t make it true.

Further, is it tactically wise to give comfort to the forces of reaction elsewhere in the arab world?

If you’re worried about that sort of thing, I’d suggest that stopping explicitly backing them and selling them weapons might be the most effective place to start…

@ 164 dsquared

“That indeed is a logical consequence of “anything we could do would cause harm”. From my point of view, “we must do something” is looking very much like “do harm”.”

So let us assume for a moment that the logical consequence, assuming we take your advice and “do no harm”, is that Gaddafi and his forces manage to turn things around, advance on Benghazi, kill a few thousand more Libyans (it seems likely the’ve already killed in the high hundreds or low thousands already), and once they have crushed the uprising start rounding up the opponenets of the regime.

Your take on the situation is that the “harm” inherent in that, is of less importance than casualties that might be caused by intervention short of trrops on the ground such as a NFZ, or arming the rebels…?

@161. Thanks Don. I have offered an answer in outline to your question in the comments string over at http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/rupert-read/british-should-heed-free-libya%E2%80%99s-call-for-no-fly-zone#

Btw, I have the lead letter in today’s INDY (print edition), with some more thoughts on why we mustn’t let the free Libyan forces down; folks might find it an interesting and relevant read.

Your take on the situation is that the “harm” inherent in that, is of less importance than casualties that might be caused by intervention short of trrops on the ground such as a NFZ, or arming the rebels…?

My point is that these are not actually either/or choices. But this was all implicit in my repeated point, backed up with examples, that intervention generally makes things worse.

174 dsquared

Your point isn’t valid though, because not only isn’t it “always” the case, but it fails to take account of what would have happened if no intervention had taken place. Would Afghanistan have been better left alone after 9/11, or Bosnia to be absorbed by the Serbs, or Kossovo….?

None of these are easy decisions, and they will often be horrible whatever happens; sometimes it’s a case of the “least worst” option.

So let us assume for a moment that the logical consequence, assuming we take your advice and “do no harm”, is that Gaddafi and his forces manage to turn things around, advance on Benghazi, kill a few thousand more Libyans (it seems likely the’ve already killed in the high hundreds or low thousands already), and once they have crushed the uprising start rounding up the opponenets of the regime.

Yes, this would involve less harm than the alternative.

Civil wars are *always* immensely bloody and violent, to the extent that they frequently kill more than 10% of the population. That seldom happens under people who are merely wicked dictators (Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot are the only counterexamples I can think of from modern-ish history: even Mao accidentally starved people by screwing the economy, rather than murdering them, which is hardly an outcome that would have been impossible if there’d been a civil war instead). Gaddafi certainly isn’t in that league of industrial-scale democide.

Would Afghanistan have been better left alone after 9/11, or Bosnia to be absorbed by the Serbs, or Kossovo….?

a) yes, particularly as the Taliban were about to hand over Osama shortly before the US cut off contact and started bombing.

b) this is a bit of a different story, as a genocide did appear to be kicking off at the time (particularly as there was nowhere obvious for Bosnian Muslims to run, with Croatia being run by an almost-as-evil, almost-as-Muslim-hating bastard as Serbia).

c) I don’t think it would’ve made all that much odds if the Albanians in Kosovo had been forced to flee to Albania. But since Serbia had just lost one war where it acted genocidally against Muslims, it would have been taking the piss a bit to let it have another go.

179. Charlieman

@70 FlyingRodent: “That is why I’m comparing this situation to the invasion of Iraq. Those were the answers you got, back in 2003.”

Funnily enough, there was a no fly zone over Iraq (parts of?) prior to 2003. After the first Gulf War, the settlement effectively removed central government control from Kurdish districts. Without air power, Baghdad relinquished power to Kurds who were able to control the ground.

And funnily enough, mass murder and forced migration of Kurds came to a halt.

180. Charlieman

@178. john b:
“yes, particularly as the Taliban were about to hand over Osama…”

That’s a minor fail, John. We don’t use the forename of despots or sociopaths to identify them. The only people who refer to Adolf Hitler as Adolf are sympathisers.

“I don’t think it would’ve made all that much odds if the Albanians in Kosovo had been forced to flee to Albania.”

3/4 of the Kosovo population identify as Albanian, about 1.5 million people. The population of Albania is less than 3 million. ~1/10 of the Kosovo population identify as Serbian.

@177 john b

“Gaddafi certainly isn’t in that league of industrial-scale democide.”

I didn’t say he was; the point is that early intervention in this case has (or had..? it may already be too late) the capacity to bring about an outcome in which many fewer people are ultimately killed than the posited alternative of standing back and doing nothing.

The question which always goes unaswered by those who are so opposed to intervention in such cases, is what scale of deaths do you consider high enough to trigger intervention? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands?

I think you have to question whether the situation in Libya is *really* a civil war at all in the conventional sense; many people would say not, but also whether your argument that somehow it would be preferable to let people languish under the rule of some sub-Hitlet/Stalin/Pol-Pot dictator, because they kill fewer people than *might* die in the event of a civil war.

The short answer to that false dichotomy of course is that we should acto to stop the situation developing into a civil war by ensuring Gadaffi can’t succeed. How we do it is another question…. there are various possible methods. I just don’t see how you can realistically argue that doing nothing, no matter how bad things get on the ground in Libya, is an option.

182. hellblazer

…an outcome in which many fewer people are ultimately killed than the posited alternative of standing back and doing nothing.

Define “ultimately”. Do you mean in two months’ time; two years’ time; ten years’ time…?

This is not meant as mere semantic quibbling. “Let’s go in and save some people who are being rounded up and killed/tortured” is a sweet and fitting slogan, but the point I think several people have been trying to make on this comment thread is that *how* is as important as *why* in such matters. (I’m a little surprised no one’s brought up The Quiet American yet, or may be I wasn’t paying attention to all the comments.)

So: “no-fly zone” is, from a logistical point of view, going to mean “armed intervention”. Suppose a mandate is sorted out – peacekeeping, or explicit “overthrow of government” – how is this going to be achieved? Which countries do we need tacit or explicit support from? Once you’re in there, who are you backing; what’s the framework by which you can internally legitimize those people/groups; and how does one get out with some guarantees that things will not implode?

These questions have to be answered if one calls for Something To Be Done. It’s possible to get out of a local minimum into an even lower minimum, and it’s not clear to me that a glow of moral well-being justifies that should it happen. And based on the track record of recent years, that *is* an eventuality you need to plan for.

This is not an argument for doing nothing; this is an argument for working out what you want to do before you do it and how it might be achieved in the presence of things that might go wrong (Murphy’s Law; or Candide v. Pangloss). “Do not screw things up even further” is a maxim that would-be DIYers presumably appreciate, and the same goes to politics I would have thought.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/world/middleeast/13libya.html?_r=1 Yes! The Arab League calls for a noflyzone over Libya! There’s still hope.. Gaddafi might yet be stopped…
What an amazing transformation in our world – who would have guessed, 3 months ago, that the Arab League would back this!

184. hellblazer

I just don’t see how you can realistically argue that doing nothing, no matter how bad things get on the ground in Libya, is an option.

One could realistically argue this, if one believed that anything which could be done would with high probability make things worse in ways that are hard to mitigate or reverse.

but also whether your argument that somehow it would be preferable to let people languish under the rule of some sub-Hitlet/Stalin/Pol-Pot dictator, because they kill fewer people than *might* die in the event of a civil war.

“Languish”? Anyway, snarking over politics and the English language aside, I feel the onus is on those who advocate action to say what actions, and to engage in discussion about the outcome of these actions.

(If we want to personalize these things: If Mr Sub-Hitler is beating up his wife, we presumably look to see what authorities such as police can do about it; if we find that they can do nothing unless she requests protection then we encourage her to do so; if he still keeps beating her and the police either don’t care or aren’t effectual, then maybe we go round with some amenable thugs and kick the crap out of him; then we get done on an assault charge or his mates come after us; then we beat the charge and fend off his mates; then we have to sort out where his wife can live safely and how we stop him coming after her, and whether or not his load of thugs are sufficiently deterred by our load of thugs or the Long Truncheon Of The Law. These are all feasible steps, but you have to think them through rather than just saying “domestic violence, isn’t it terrible, everyone not getting involved should feel guilty for being morally compromised.)

185. hellblazer

Rupert, that kind of detail in the NYT story you report is the sort of thing which could change my current stance (and perhaps those of others). It indicates that other relevant countries or political interests think they have something to gain from a “no-fly zone”, or – more accurately – from *saying* they will support such intervention; and hence will find it harder to interfere against such intervention if that’s what they really want to do.

The next question then, if one wants to put forward a plan, is to parse the details of “it should be ended as soon as the crisis in Libya was over.” Does this require Gadaffi to step down or be stepped down? if it doesn’t, then what guarantees can be extracted from him or those under/behind him that he won’t start up again in the short term? If it does, then who is taking over, and how does that get legitimized and made stable? (These aren’t meant as rhetorical questions, but as ones that I think need working out.)

But a no-fly zone is a high cost strategy which would provide an opportunity for Kadhafi to blame the atrocities that have happened in the country on evil America and the West.

187. hellblazer

Wow, politically savvy spam. What will they think of next?

I think you have to question whether the situation in Libya is *really* a civil war at all in the conventional sense; many people would say not, but also whether your argument that somehow it would be preferable to let people languish under the rule of some sub-Hitlet/Stalin/Pol-Pot dictator, because they kill fewer people than *might* die in the event of a civil war.

I agree. If it’s true that 95%+ of the people of Libya want rid of Gaddafi and would be willing to accept democratic elections following his departure, that is a strong argument in favour of intervention. But I’ve not seen any evidence showing that, beyond the fact that *we* know he’s an evil tyrant – I have seen footage of pro-Gaddafi militias and reports of more, and I’m not willing to automatically assume that they’re all or primarily all mercenaries.

The danger here is that we ["the west"/"the UN"/whoever] end up being the perceived backer of one side in a complex sectarian battle, with large number of Libyans on each side. That would lead to a bloodbath and to lowering our credibility in the Middle East still further. I think that it’s the job of those who are pushing for military intervention to demonstrate to a high level of confidence why they don’t think that will happen this time.

189. So Much For Subtlety

188. john b – “The danger here is that we ["the west"/"the UN"/whoever] end up being the perceived backer of one side in a complex sectarian battle, with large number of Libyans on each side. That would lead to a bloodbath and to lowering our credibility in the Middle East still further. I think that it’s the job of those who are pushing for military intervention to demonstrate to a high level of confidence why they don’t think that will happen this time.”

I don’t think that a sectarian battle is likely given that Libya is pretty much 100% Sunni. Nor should it be beyond the capacity of the Western governments to arrange a power-sharing deal as in Lebanon that would satisfy everyone by sharing out power according to tribe. So that no one tribe dominated anyway.

As for our credibility, given that Middle Eastern governments are often happy to massacre their own and others, and no one in the region cares (indeed Saddam was a hero despite gassing Kurds) it is likely that they won’t care either. At least not about that. I think that the Left is engaging in a fundamentally wrong interpretation of why we are so often hated in the region. It ain’t what we do.

@ 188 john b

You’re being unrealistic in your expectations. By your standards, we would effectively “never” intervene, because we don’t have perfect information about the situation. All the evidence we have is that the majority of Libyans would prefer to get rid of Gaddafi and his regime; why should it have to be 95% by the way? Do 95% of people here support the Coalition….?

The fact that Gaddafi can rustle up a few hundred loyalists to stage pro-regime demos doesn’t mean he enjoys widespread support, or that we should therefore not intervene. He’s been in power for 40 years and has had ample time to build up a coterie of loyalists who will no doubt fight tooth and nail to keep their position.

As pointed out above, this isn’t a sectarian issue as in Iraq or Lebanon. Western support is problematic, yes; but if it is effected in the right way, particularly with UN and/or Arab League support (not that either organisation has a great track record), there is no reason it might not have a positive impact.

If most countried recognise the National Council instead of Gadaffi’s regime, and they appeal for international aid, then we should give it.

191. So Much For Subtlety

190. Galen10 – “He’s been in power for 40 years and has had ample time to build up a coterie of loyalists who will no doubt fight tooth and nail to keep their position.”

It is more likely to be a tribal thing with his tribe supporting him – as they would have no matter how long he had been in power.

“As pointed out above, this isn’t a sectarian issue as in Iraq or Lebanon. Western support is problematic, yes; but if it is effected in the right way, particularly with UN and/or Arab League support (not that either organisation has a great track record), there is no reason it might not have a positive impact.”

Let’s see. Interventions in Lebanon and Iraq have had UN and Arab League support. People have not only attacked them, they have attacked the UN itself in Iraq.

There is no reason to think anyone in the Arab world takes these non-entities seriously. They are Western institutions and they have no relevance and little respect outside of Western countries.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    If Libyan rebels want it, why aren't we calling for a no-fly-zone too? http://bit.ly/eh1O2M

  2. Ali

    RT @libcon: If Libyan rebels want it, why aren't we calling for a no-fly-zone too? http://bit.ly/eh1O2M

  3. Deyan Marconny.

    RT @libcon: If Libyan rebels want it, why aren't we calling for a no-fly-zone too? http://bit.ly/eh1O2M

  4. Hazel Midgley

    RT @libcon: If Libyan rebels want it, why aren't we calling for a no-fly-zone too? http://bit.ly/eh1O2M

  5. RupertRead

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/03/10/if-libyan-rebels-want-it-why-arent-we-calling-for-a-no-fly-zone-too Mylatestpiece on LC. #noflyzone

  6. Justin McKeating

    Another keyboard warrior: http://bit.ly/exshUE

  7. conspiracy theo

    If Libyan rebels want it, why aren't we calling for a no-fly-zone … http://bit.ly/dLcDGd

  8. Phil Dickens

    Why doesn't the state support popular self-determination instead of strategic power-plays in the national interest? http://bit.ly/gQ9IQK

  9. Never give a socialist toy soldiers « Decline of the Logos

    [...] There’s a post up on LibCon today by Rupert Read, which claims that since the Libyan rebels he’s in touch with want a no-fly zone, why not give it to them? [...]

  10. Marina Asvachin

    RT @libcon: If Libyan rebels want it, why aren't we calling for a no-fly-zone too? http://bit.ly/eh1O2M

  11. The Loyal “We”… « Back Towards The Locus

    [...] the manner in which some “progressives” have been arguing for intervention seems to imply that they’re somehow involved in organising it… …just because we [...]

  12. Amber of the Island

    RT @libcon: If Libyan rebels want it, why aren't we calling for a no-fly-zone too? http://bit.ly/eh1O2M

  13. No Fly-Zone wanking | Wis[s]e Words

    [...] Sunny: If the Libyans rebels want some support against Gaddafi, then I’m afraid the arguments against helping them fall apart. [...]

  14. Hague now has a whole series of questions to answer | Left Foot Forward

    [...] humanitarian crisis in Libya – in which we should be breaking with Britain’s sorry past and side with the free Libyan forces – brings to mind two names which would actually carry some international [...]

  15. The Arab spring/Spanish echoes « Poumista

    [...] If Libyan rebels want it, why aren’t we calling for a no-fly-zone too? (liberalconspiracy.org) [...]

  16. FlyingRodent

    Where now are the progressives who were warblogging? They have passed like rain on the mountain, into shadow http://tinyurl.com/6cf45s6





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.