International concern for Libya must be regarded with scepticism


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4:00 pm - March 21st 2011

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contribution by David Wearing

Now that Britain is engaged in military action over Libya, a particular responsibility falls upon us to understand what is happening there, to make sense of it as best we can, and to use the political freedoms we enjoy to place appropriate pressures on the British government where necessary.

This is not a responsibility that we can begin to discharge with any degree of seriousness if we simply assume the states engaged in this action to be agents of liberation and humanitarianism.

Unfortunately, the discussion around Western intervention in Libya has included many voices, including some on the left, who make precisely this assumption. What is required instead is an analysis of the nature of Western foreign policy that is rooted in the factual record.

As the world’s major energy-producing region, the Middle East and North Africa constitutes not only a source of huge material wealth but also of strategic power in world affairs. Securing that power means ensuring that regional states remain integrated into a US-dominated military and economic system, and do not move off in an independent direction.

It is these concerns that have led Western states to provide consistent, long-term support to some of the most despotic regimes in the world. It is why there are no calls for “humanitarian intervention” when Israel carries out its periodic massacres in Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, or when Bahrain violently crushes a peaceful campaign for democracy with the backing of a Saudi invasion force.

Indeed, to the extent that the West intervenes in such situations, it tends to be on the side of those committing the atrocities, by virtue of having supplied them with arms and other forms of support.

Until a few weeks ago, Colonel Gaddafi was himself a force for regional “stability”, with David Cameron’s government last year approving the sale of tear-gas, small arms ammunition and crowd-control equipment to his regime. Now, shocked that a tyrant might use the tools of tyranny that we sold to him to tyrannise his own people, Cameron poses as Libya’s liberator and protector. Plainly this is absurd.

To ensure that we ask the right questions about what is now happening in Libya, it is vital for us first to acknowledge the true nature of Western interests in the region, and the ruthless way in which those interests have consistently been pursued.

It is this understanding that makes us alive to the possibility of the intervention force committing its own atrocities, such as the destruction of Falluja in 2004, or to Western states attempting to manipulate the outcome of the Libyan revolution to their own advantage, perhaps leading to the installation of another anti-democratic, human rights abusing regime in Gaddafi’s place.

It is of course possible to be under no illusions about the nature of Western power and the dangers raised by its involvement, whilst still taking the view that international intervention is less undesirable than a Gaddafi victory would have been. It is also possible to take the view that any imperial involvement brings with it a host of problems that are likely to make a bad situation far worse.

Both positions are respectable ones, and likely to lead to worthwhile analysis and productive activism, since they are at least grounded in an understanding of the true nature of Western power. By contrast, those who retain an almost religious faith in the West’s benevolence, in defiance of what is perfectly well-known about its shameful track record, are unlikely to make so helpful a contribution.


David Wearing is a postgraduate researcher in political science at University College London.

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Until a few weeks ago, Colonel Gaddafi was himself a force for regional “stability”, with David Cameron’s government last year

A silly aside that detracts from a good point.… approving the sale of tear-gas, small arms ammunition and crowd-control equipment to his regime. Now, shocked that a tyrant might use the tools of tyranny that we sold to him to tyrannise his own people, Cameron poses as Libya’s liberator and protector. Plainly this is absurd. Here is some arms sales data compiled by the Grauniad. As can be seen, the UK is not the only country nor is Cameron’s the only UK government to have sold arms to Libya, nor did the UK sell the greatest value of arms, munitions or equipment to Libya.

argh – oh for a preview function. Second try – mods, please delete my previous comment @1.

Until a few weeks ago, Colonel Gaddafi was himself a force for regional “stability”, with David Cameron’s government last year

A silly aside that detracts from a good point.

… approving the sale of tear-gas, small arms ammunition and crowd-control equipment to his regime. Now, shocked that a tyrant might use the tools of tyranny that we sold to him to tyrannise his own people, Cameron poses as Libya’s liberator and protector. Plainly this is absurd.

Here is some arms sales data compiled by the Grauniad. As can be seen, the UK is not the only country nor is Cameron’s the only UK government to have sold arms to Libya, nor did the UK sell the greatest value of arms, munitions or equipment to Libya.

Good article. I am really shocked by the ease with which a narrative of purely humanitarian intervention has been created. Whilst not wanting to make a reflex opposition to the intervention, I feel acutely that there is not remotely enough scepticism and caution in our reaction to the military action.

The intuitive plausibility of a humanitarian no-fly zone, plus the serendipitous intervention of a distracting earthquake, tsunami, and near-nuclear-disaster, have caused us to sleepwalk into a new Shock and Awe bombardment with an only-cursorily-denied agenda of regime change.

And the background of recent liberal amelioration in neighbouring Arab states has allowed the whole affair to be decorated with talk of ‘liberation’, ‘popular revolution’ etc — talk that is engaged in with very little knowledge of the actual dynamics of opposition to the Libyan regime, opposition which is influenced not solely by popular demands but also by tribal fractures and probably by the desires of a younger generation of military leaders eager to take their place in power like Gaddafi himself did as a junior officer.

In Bosnia, a no fly zone was established following the request of a sovereign state there and there was clear genocidal intent. Here we have a civil war, in which the no-doubt brutal military assault by Gaddafi is aimed at armed fighters. The no fly zone (plus assault on ground troops and a refusal to rule out allied ‘boots on the ground’) seems very much like a decision to support one side rather than another in that civil war (no doubt as part of a strategy to shape Libya’s future leadership in accordance with western needs).

‘Unfortunately, the discussion around Western intervention in Libya has included many voices, including some on the left, who make precisely this assumption. ‘

That seems a pretty extraordinary claim, are there any links that would support it?

Unless by ‘left’ you mean Niall Ferguson, or read benevolent as ‘occasionally capable of being non-genocidal’.

“As the world’s major energy-producing region, the Middle East and North Africa constitutes not only a source of huge material wealth but also of strategic power in world affairs. ”

Ok, I’m going to play devil’s advocate here.

Doesn’t the huge amount of resources in the region justify a continued western presence in the region?. Our economy isn’t going to run on tea.

David,

Can you show any examples of anyone who believes western intervention in Libya to be an unallyoed good thing with no risks involved? Because I think your article rather sets up a straw man there.

Incidentally, in terms of justifying your statements, I would hope you do not consider a newspaper comment piece to be evidence enough for the ‘Destruction of Falluja’ (didn’t work – it’s still there…). Opinion does not equate to evidence, as I am sure you know.

OK, I’ll put my hand up and say I am under no illusions about the nature of Western power and the dangers raised by its involvement, but I still take the view that international intervention is less undesirable than a Gaddafi victory might be.

A Gaddafi victory would give a lead to all dictators to take his line with their own instance of the tsunami of non-violent democratic protest that is sweeping across MENA.

The intervention is the first clear use of the UN’s Responsibility to Protect (R2P) policy that was adopted, against all predictions by the pundits, six years ago.

R2P needs further definition and instruments – not least the Global Human Rights Index – http://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/reports/ReportHRI_-4-2.pdf .

Whatever our views on the military intervention, people from both sides of the argument can surely campaign to press Cameron to block Gaddafi’s Libyan State TV, which is helping maintain such support as he does have in his country. http://bit.ly/hphEZV

I have a genuine question about the discussions surrounding Libya, particularly within the context of internet discussions.

We all regularly criticise the use of ‘whataboutery’ on these fora, particularly regarding feminist issues. However, when it comes to Libya it gets pulled out in the form of ‘what about palestine’ ‘whatabout sudan’ ‘whatabout bahrain’ ‘whatabout x’. The fact is that I would be perfectly happy to see a western intervention within some or all of these situations. Indeed I would say that the situation in Ivory Coast may require some form of intervention sooner or later.

A purely interests based foreign policy is not inevitable. Indeed the intervention would seem to suggest that there is a tension within most western foreign policy between interests and ideals.

A purely interests based foreign policy would either remain silent, or actively support Gaddaffi, as he was perfectly prepared to get rich selling oil and contracts to the west. However, the lure of democratic/liberal ideals is strong, even among Tories.

“It is also possible to take the view that any imperial involvement brings with it a host of problems that are likely to make a bad situation far worse.”

Those taking this view (which I actually don’t think is respectable) need to spell out why they think the possibility that intervention MIGHT make things worse, is more important than the immediate necessity to prevent the imminent and very much more likely possibility that not intervening would have had; namely a humanitarian catastrophe in E. Libya over the weekend, with thousands dead (on top of the many hundreds or thousands already killed), and a mass exodus of refugees for the Egyptian frontier.

The use of the term “imperial” is also tendentious. The intervention is under a UN mandate; what other countries were you expecting to enforce a NFZ and stop Gaddafi’s forces in their tracks? Unless you are going to give the UN the tools, soldiers and finances to undertake these kind of operations alone, what you are actually doing is saying that you are happy for them never to happen.

Western military could be in Libya for years….

http://haringeygreens.blogspot.com/2011/03/war-in-libya.html

12. the a&e charge nurse

The Mash highlights further interesting developments?
http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/war/planes-kill-baddies-201103213643/

Not to get all consequentialist on you. But perhaps we should work out what the options actually are. Plus, perhaps what we would like to happen: – ie. the rebels overthrow Gaddaffi and hold democratic elections in which the Libyans choose their own government.

Options on the table:

1) Do nothing / minimally effective economic sanctions / political pressure – Result: probable Gaddaffi victory, probable large scale reprisals against eastern Libya, probable influx of anti-Gaddaffi refugees into a somewhat delicate Egypt and Tunisia. – Is this a good outcome – No.

2) Airborne support for rebels/no-fly zone. – Results, either:
Gaddaffi fails to destroy rebellion. Rebels take hold in eastern Libya, but West probably remains in Gaddaffi’s hands. – is this a good outcome – probably OK

Or:
Gaddaffi still destroys rebellion but at greater cost see 1 above.

Or:
Rebels advance and defeat Gaddaffi, which could either go down the successful democracy path or perhaps more pessimistically leads to a civil war and quagmire between factions within Libya – this is also a pretty crap outcome.

So, all the options produce terrible outcomes, but inaction is a guaranteed terrible outcome, whereas action has the slimmest possibility of success.

@13 Ed

Thanks for injecting some realism to the debate. Of course for many committed non-interventionists, there will never be any justification. Option 1 is the “only” option for them, because the very likely outcome you outline is not as important as the many “whatiffery” nightmares chiefly:

1) it’ll be another Vietnam/Afghanistan/Iraq;
2) we can’t intervene because we are wicked imperialists with an agenda and a bad history;
3) we shouldn’t intervene because it will cost too much, and we’re a bit skint;
4) intervention will result in people being killed, and the risk of those deaths trumps any number of deaths on the ground if no intervention takes place; and
5) the Arabs will hate us, and it will tarnish our Blue Peter badge for right-on marxist anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism.

You have been warned…..!

By reports, crucial parts of the original coalition supporting the intervention in Libya are now having second thoughts about the scale and scope of the military operations, including, significantly, the Arab League:

Libya: UK battles to hold coalition together
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/21/libya-uk-battles-hold-coalition

Cameron is ambivalent about the use of British ground troops:

Downing Street has so far strenuously sought to dampen down any suggestion that there could be ‘boots on the grounds’, but it has carefully not ruled out the possible use of special forces.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12804204

Btw by what signs will we know the mission is complete?

@15 Bob B

Well of course the sundry Arab dictators making up the Arab League will be a tad worried… it’s suddenly looking a little less certian that they will manage to avoid a cell at the ICC, or a lamp-post in their main square.

Moussa now appears to have rowed back from his previous roe back… and says he fully supports the full UN resolution, allowing “any means necessary” to protect civilians.

The rest is window dressing…nice to have, but not essential: the 4 Qatari jets, the other NATO allies… but as usual the US, UK and (surprise, surprise!) the French will do the donkey work.

Hopefully the mission willbe complete when Gaddafi and his head honchos are behind bars either in Libya or the Hague, and the Libyan people can begin the same process as the Tunisians and the Egyptians.

@13 Ed:

Airborne support for rebels/no-fly zone. – Results, either:
Gaddaffi fails to destroy rebellion. Rebels take hold in eastern Libya, but West probably remains in Gaddaffi’s hands.

I think it’s unlikely that there will be a s lnog-lasting stalemate in Libya. If Gaddafi’s ability to capture cities from the rebels is halted (as appears to be the case), then the rebels will be able to use the breathing space this creates to improves the size, training, and weapons of their army, which will allow them to capture those parts of Libya currently held by Gaddafi. And once Gaddafi’s forces look like they’re losing, I expect most of them will defect.

An amusing interlude: Russian discord over intervention in Libya:

Russia’s Medvedev raps Putin’s Libya “crusade” jibe:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/21/us-libya-russia-idUSTRE72K5AJ20110321?pageNumber=2

What Putin – and Gaddafi – overlook is that the Papal call for the first Crusade in 1095 was more than 300 years after the Moors had invaded Spain in 711.

@16: “Hopefully the mission willbe complete when Gaddafi and his head honchos are behind bars either in Libya or the Hague”

Several Western leaders – notably President Obama – have been clear that regime change is not the objective of the mission. The UN Security Council resolution 1973 does not authorise the objective of regime change and intervention to effect regime change would be illegal under international law.

Thanks to all for the comments. Will reply to a couple

@7 Richard Lawson

A Gaddafi victory would give a lead to all dictators to take his line with their own instance of the tsunami of non-violent democratic protest that is sweeping across MENA.

…as would success for the Saudi-backed crushing of the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain. The absence of any meaningful attempt by the West to prevent this – and indeed, the continued arming of those responsible for the atrocities – will undoubtedly be a source of great comfort to the many autocrats which continue to enjoy our support. And note that the West has been providing comfort of this kind quite consistently for decades. Those tyrants who are still in favour with Washington and London are very unlikely to be unnerved by what’s happening to Gaddafi now. Substantive support for them – irrespective of their abuses – appears set to continue uninterrupted.

@8 Ed – on “whataboutery”.

When someone notes a discrepancy between the way a given actor responds to two comparable situations, and uses that discrepancy to draw some conclusions about the nature of that actor and its likely behaviour, there are various ways you can deal with that form of argument. Simply calling it “whataboutery” is not one of them.

Lets be clear about what I’m saying. The West in general and the UK specifically have a long-established and consistently shameful record in foreign affairs, including support for some of the world’s worst tyrants and involvement in various atrocities and human rights abuses. Therefore:

1/ claims of benign intent in respect of the Libya intervention must necessarily be treated with rational scepticism, with other more plausible explanations considered instead; and
2/ citizens of countries like the UK must be highly vigilant about the possibility that Western forces may commit their own atrocities in Libya, and/or manipulate the outcome of the conflict so that Gaddafi is replaced by another non-democratic regime.

Neither of those possibilities (or their own potential repurcussions) are considered in your post @13 about consequences (which is not without merit, btw, but the omission is a serious one).

News update:

Arab League slams air strikes on Libya . .
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3hYtfvsKto

That effectively finishes off all those dubious claims made by Cameron and his allies about wide support among Arab countries for the air strikes on Libya.

It’s patently clear that there is no wide support across Arab countries for the scale and scope of the bombing operations in Libya.

hi Bob…I guess you do not expect war-mongers like Galen to take any notice of facts.

Good work Dave – there was a need for a sensible middle ground between cheerleading the attacks and the Stop the War coalition’s absolute rejection of everything, which I feel is a bit dogmatic.

I agree wih Richard Lawson, that Western involvement is less bad than Gaddafi crushing the revolution. Yes, of course, the fact that the West has so far turned a blind eye to goings-on in Bahrain is hypocritical, but we can hardly expect our governments to be perfect! In any case, I would imagine that the more high profile nature of the Libya revolution means that what happens there is more likely to set the trend than what happens in Bahrain.

Of course, the West has ulterior motives. Gaddafi was, whilst an ally, a bit of a loose canon, and they would prefer to have a more stable power in Libya. The support for the rebels is clearly designed to ensure that they can’t turn their back on the West – at least not immediately. But… if we can be optimistic about Egypt, I think we can also be optimistic that the nature of democracy in Libya would mean that, in the medium-term, there’s no a priori reason for governments to be any more suplicant to the West than Gaddafi has been of late.

Another ulterior motive the West has is to smooth relations with the arab world (I imagine, for sarkozy in particular, that’s important given the large arab population in france). The West can at last portray itself as the good guys. Well, to be honest, I can’t get too angry about that. Unless the arab world somehow crushes the west, the only way for things to get better for the former is by a more positive relationship developing. I’m talking soft-power here, and it’s not such a bad thing!

For the time being, I’m happy to believe that these reasons are enough for those evil scheming western governments to intervene in Libya. Yes, they want to preserve access to the oil, but they already had that. I may be wrong, they might whip out the ground-soldiers and do an Iraq, but I very much doubt they’ve got the energy for that after the last two invasions. We do need to be vigilant, very vigilant, but for the time being, I do feel the Left should stop assuming that anything our governments is do is wrong and for once be happy that their interests are aligned with ours.

The Obama administration is evidently trying to find an escape route to reduce its commitment to the Libyan mission:

US ‘to tone down role in Libya’
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12813757

The media is full of reports about the confusion in the coalition over the aims and objectives of its Libyan mission, whether Gaddafi is or isn’t a target, as to whether special ground forces will be deployed or not and about how to know when the mission is completed and the bombing can stop.

Little thought seems to have been given as to what is to follow the mission authorised in UN Security Council resolution 1973 – when the coalition has finally worked out what precisley was authorised by that resolution, that is.

None of this provides much comforting reassurance for ordinary citizens about the basic competence of their political masters.

Good article mate. I’m very dubious about intervention, but you already know this following wine consumption in Claaaam.

Modern day colonialism by corporations who wish to control the new Global economy?

A war for the benefit and profit of the few?

While we are being told we must suffer economic hardship, cutbacks, job losses, etc….it is an insult to then go ahead spending our money allegedly defending a bunch of unknown Libyan rebels thousands of miles away…. we all know the real aim is regime change and control of Libyas resources for the benefit of a greedy minority group…..as in Iraq our army has been hired out (free of charge – we’re paying) to these wealthy business folk building their Global Empire/economy. Troops are sadly mistaken if they believe they are fighting to protect the interests of queen and country. They are now just hired mercenaries.

If the UN called a ceasefire and managed to assist in oganising a democratic election in Libya….would you bet against the Libyan people voting for Gadaffi? He still appears to be fairly popular! – Of course the UN won’t offer this peaceful option….they want Gadaffi out, so they’ll carry on bombing, risking the lives of civilians, troops (cannon fodder), and spending our money furthering the interests of a minority of rich CEO’S, businesses, politicians, investors, etc…whilst telling us to suffer because they can’t afford to invest our money in public services, youth employment, education, etc.

DISGRACEFUL!

@21 diogenes

The day you come up with a factually based argument will be a joyful one diogenes; I look forward to it happening someday!

Until then, best you just carry on your role as an apologist and enabler for Gaddafi and his regime.

27. the a&e charge nurse

British politicians in conflict with senior army figures while discord amongst international protagonists seems to be escalating as well?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/21/top-brass-question-libya-strategy

On day 3 of the exciting bombing campaign are jets unloading on all of Gadaffi’s forces, including the crazed dictator himself, or just those units who pose a direct threat to the protestors – who knows?

Meanwhile people across Britain said they were surprised to discover it takes more than three days to destroy everything in Libya.
Tom Logan, from Hatfield, said: “There does come a point at which you have to accept that you’re just bombing holes.”
http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/war/i-kind-of-assumed-you're-trying-to-kill-me%2c-says-gaddafi-201103223647/

In response to those upthread. The problem I have with the ‘whatabout’ arguments when used to argue against intervention is that they are actually arguments for intervention. Saying ‘whatabout – Bahrain’ or ‘whatabout – Ivory Coast’ are actually pointing out good reasons for intervening in those countries.

However, reality and resources mean that there are limits on what can be done. I’m also fed up with the argument that this is “all about oil”. Which is a longstanding criticism from the left – that the inherrently evil west are out to steal resources. This is inconsistent and illogical on the west’s part. Particularly as many (Stop the War in particular) have contrasted this with Congo.
1. If it was all about oil, they would have backed Gaddaffi. 2. The international community is already involved in Congo, and Congo is actually swimming in natural resources.

In cases like these it seems that the motives of the west would be suspect regardless of their actual behaviour.

At the heart of this entire argument is a clash of worldviews.
On one side there are people who believe that the ‘West’ (based on past behaviour) are incapable of doing the right thing, they are ‘evil’ and must not act. Thus Gaddaffi’s control is preferable to western intervention.

On the other side there are people who believe that the ‘West’ is capable of living up to its self professed ideals. That if the ‘west’ does have a material advantage over the rest of the world, it has a responsibility to use that power to do the right thing. Thus the (admittedly unpredictable) consequences of intervention are preferable to a Gaddaffi victory.

Pessimists vs Optimists once again.

29. the a&e charge nurse

[28] “On one side there are people who believe that the ‘West’ (based on past behaviour) are incapable of doing the right thing, they are ‘evil’ and must not act” – that’s what this article is all about, putting today’s political action in it’s historical context in order to unravel some of the unspoken, and even hidden agendas.

I would not describe the west as ‘evil’ (although others might) in the sense that it’s primary objective is to inflict unnecessary suffering, but given that we are bombing yet another oil rich state it is hard to overlook the coincidence?

Outside of Europe it is hard to think of any significant military intervention, involving western forces, where oil, arms, or other important natural resources are not lurking in the background?

@28 Ed

Agreed. An interesting take on “whaddabouters” can be found in Sunder’s piece on Next Left:

http://www.nextleft.org/2011/03/what-whaddabouters-ignore.html

Good article and nicely rebalances the argument around ‘what do we think intervention means?’, instead of the fruitless ‘are you for, or against intervention?’.

I’ve been thinking and thinking about this and, surprisingly, found myself agreeing with Conservative MP Rory Stewart. He has voted for intervention, but says that it is up to us to make sure that there is no ‘slippage’ in the aims of the UN resolution. He stressed the importance of keeping ALL sides on board, at ALL times, and not being dragged into trying to achieve outcomes we have no control over, and cannot fully predict.

I honestly don’t know what that means for the Libyans, or the West, in terms of the ‘end game’. It is that uneasiness that makes those on the left, and right question not whether or not we should intervene, but what we think we are doing when we do intervene.

@ Gallen

<Until then, best you just carry on your role as an apologist and enabler for Gaddafi and his regime.

I oppose bombing France but that does not make me a francophile.

I oppose bombing Russia but that does not mean I like Putin.

Opposing an attack on another country does not make you an apologist or enabler for its regime……….but actually I think you knew that…………..

@32 pagar

“I oppose bombing France but that does not make me a francophile. I oppose bombing Russia but that does not mean I like Putin. Opposing an attack on another country does not make you an apologist or enabler for its regime……….but actually I think you knew that…………..”

The French government isn’t currently butchering its own citizens.

The comments above are directed at those who arguing against intervention in Libya, which is the only way of stopping Gaddafi’s forces…….. but actually I think you knew that…..

34. the a&e charge nurse

[31] “He has voted for intervention, but says that it is up to us to make sure that there is no ‘slippage’ in the aims of the UN resolution” – this sort of comment only makes sense if we can predict with reasonable confidence how the bombing will pan out, and whether or not further violence, or political instability will engulf the ensuing vacuum.

Remember Gaddafi has been at the helm for over 40 years so there is virtually no culture of opposition holding any sort of power – will it all be settled in 7 days, 7 weeks or 7 years – who knows?

One development that swayed me slightly toward military intervention was the fact Sir Robert Mugabe committed Zimbabwean troops in support of Gaddafi – there can be little more wrong than an axis between these two crackpots despite the fact both were once fawned over by western super-powers
http://www.thezimbabwemail.com/zimbabwe/7572.html

@33: “The French government isn’t currently butchering its own citizens.”

No. The French government is trying to distract its citizens from recalling the events leading up to the sudden resignation of Mme Michèle Alliot-Marie, the French foreign minister, and the appointment of M. Alain Juppé to replace her.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/27/french-foreign-minister-resigns

And hoping that not too many will remember this:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4058821.stm

36. Political_Animal

One of the ‘options’ that has still not been touched upon, is whether supporting the ‘rebels’ is a good idea in itself. It is quite easy to point at Gaddafi and say ‘there is a brutal dictator’, but who the hell are the rebels? Are the ordinary people from Libya? Are they an amalgam of various opposition groupings to Gaddafi? Are they there to free the Libyan people? Or are they there to snatch power for themselves? And how about Gaddafi’s claim (yes, I understand the concept of propaganda, but we don’t know what the truth is) that they are Al Qaeda insurgents?

Are we seriously going to back up one particular group, purely because they are rebelling against someone we don’t like, even though we haven’t got the faintest idea who they are, or what they represent? There was a guy from ‘the opposition’ on the radio this morning proclaiming Gaddafi was dead. Who is he, the Libyan Comical Ali?!! And if they are engaging in such ridiculous and literally, un-believable propaganda, how else are they going to deal with the conflict?

Apart from the fact I see this intervention as yet another in a very long list of the West sticking their nose in and causing all sorts of long-term strife, I also see the dangers of backing one side, when we don’t know what they want, and how it could turn around to bite us on the ass in years hence (Iran, anyone?).

I seem to recall on another thread, someone saying we should support the rebels, as it would be good for them – and us – if there was a secular democracy in Libya. How on earth can we make such a huge assumption, when, in all likelihood, we would end up replacing Gaddafi with years of internicine arguing between various tribes, or maybe even a theocratic dictatorship?

Is this rebel movement the ordinary people of Libya, demanding freedom and democracy, or is it something other, with sinister motives? By backing the rebels, we have made our decision. Those supporting the intervention by the West, had better hope they haven’t backed the wrong horse.

No coalition ground troops in Libya?

“US troops opened fire on Libyan villagers in an operation to rescue two jet fighter crew after their warplane crashed in the east of the country, according to a British report.

“Channel 4 News is reporting at least six villagers were injured when US Marines came in with ‘all guns blazing’ to extract the pilots. The Telegraph website is also reporting six locals ‘were believed to have been shot by a US helicopter during his rescue’.”
http://www.smh.com.au/world/marines-opened-fire-on-villagers-in-mission-to-rescue-crash-crew-20110323-1c5g1.html

38. alan clark

David raises the right questions.

I’ve been wondering whether what we are seeing is a grab for the Libyan resources before the instability invites Chinese attention. How many Chinese workers shipped out when this all got started?

quotes post on another place on Lib Con – effortlessly batted away by stalinist-in-chief galen.

130. diogenes

http://yorkshire-ranter.blogspot.com/2011/03/status-its-complicated.html

I just wonder what anyone makes of this? It casts a fresh light on the question that I have asked a lot and to which I have never seen an answer – probably because I am too busy gloating at the deaths occurring in Libya if you want to believe galen – just who are the rebels and what are there aims?

We have, of course, deep and continuing humanitarian concerns about North Africa and the Middle East. Really?

Try this report about Algeria from The Observer in January 1998:
http://www.algeria-watch.de/en/articles/1997_2000/who_killed.htm

And this for the conflict in Algeria from 1991 through 2002:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algeria

Quoted estimate of those killed in the conflict: 160,000. But no western intervention then to stop the killing.

42. domestic extremist

@planeshift: “Doesn’t the huge amount of resources in the region justify a continued western presence in the region?”

Not unless you also think that in the heyday of British coal production an invasion of the UK by Libya would have been justified.

“Our economy isn’t going to run on tea.”

If the West stopped interfering in oil-rich Middle Eastern countries, what reason is there to suppose that they would leave the stuff in the ground and try to make a living exporting sand, camels and dates?

@40 Bob B, as I raised upthread, that isn’t an argument against intervention in Libya (although there are other strong arguments on that front) It’s an argument FOR intervening in Algeria.

If we take as a starting point that a state committing mass murder is bad, and that doing so can justify intervention.

The first question is thus one of degree, How many deaths / how horriffic a war-crime, can justify intervention.

The issue then becomes one of practicality. Who deserves intervention first and foremost / are there alternatives to intervention to prevent the killings / what resources do we have.

I know that past Western involvement in the middle east has not been successful, or morally motivated. This does not mean that future involvement must be the same. – There is a clear difference between overthrowing a democratically elected leader like Mossadegh, and overthrowing an un-elected dictator for life.

@43: “that isn’t an argument against intervention in Libya (although there are other strong arguments on that front) It’s an argument FOR intervening in Algeria”

It wasn’t just a case of not intervening in Algeria for humanitarian reasons. We found no persuasive reasons for intervening in DR Congo conflicts either – which are estimated to have killed over 5 millions:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Congo_War

We didn’t intervene in Zimbabwe as Sir Robert Mugabe wrecked the economy.

We didn’t intervene in the consequences of the 2007 elections in Kenya – where: “The death toll in the aftermath of Kenya’s flawed elections surpassed 1000,” according to the NYT report.

A raft of Middle East authoritarian states have recently taken to routinely shooting demonstrators pressing for democracy and regime change, the latest being Syria:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12827542

A humanitarian disaster is currently overtaking the Ivory Coast and the West is doing nothing effective about that:

“The United Nations Security Council expressed ‘indignation’ on Monday at an attack that killed 30 civilians in Ivory Coast, and pledged the crime ‘shall not remain unpunished.’ The civilians were killed Thursday when missiles, believed to have been fired by forces loyal to the strongman Laurent Gbagbo, were fired into a suburb of Abidjan.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/world/africa/22briefs-ART-Ivorycoast.html

There are evident parallels with issues in the recent financial crisis where it is widely agreed now that government bail-outs of failing banks have the unintended consequence of promoting high risk behaviour by banks as their directors, managers and traders strive for those bonuses in the belief that if anything goes seriously wrong taxpayers will always pick up the tab to avert financial meltdowns – the privatisation of profits coupled with the socialisation of losses.

That was similar to the reasons for the increasing reservations in Britain over the unintended consequences of the regular practice during the 1970s of state bail-outs of failing manufacturing companies – so the Blair government calmly stood back in 2001 and allowed Marconi to fail:

“Lord Simpson’s sacking from the post of chief executive of Marconi follows one of the most catastrophic declines in UK corporate history.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/uk/2000/newsmakers/1527551.stm

Game theorists dub those unintended consequences of intervention: the moral hazard.

45. the a&e charge nurse

One of the concerns in the OP is Britain’s chequered past when it comes to rubbing shoulders with some of the most dangerous men on the planet, but little is being said about the general volatility of the region with all manner of politically driven disasters regularly occurring in Chad, Sudan and Niger to name just 3 of Libya’s neighbours.

These catastrophes are related in no small measure to long running tribal disputes that have already plagued Africa – will the removal of Gadaffi precipitate a similar humanitarian crises in Libya?

@44 Bob B.

What is it with some people that they can’t appreciate that the “whaddabout Congo/Algeria/Bahrain…etc, etc” is NOT some knock out response? It totally fails to take account of what Ed was saying @43, and others have been saying elsewhere.

Read Sunder’s piece @ http://www.nextleft.org/2011/03/what-whaddabouters-ignore.html

47. Political_Animal

Galen10, as you seem to be the most vociferous in support of intervention, could you tell me who the rebels are exactly? Just who are we intervening on behalf of?

@46 “What is it with some people that they can’t appreciate that the ‘whaddabout Congo/Algeria/Bahrain…etc, etc’ is NOT some knock out response? It totally fails to take account of what Ed was saying @43, and others have been saying elsewhere.”

@47 Presents a critical question about who and what the rebels in Libya represent. Do we know and if so, how?

Judging by recent opinion polls, Intervention Fatigue has certainly set in.

Folk want to know the effective limits to Britain’s apparently boundless obligation to interfere whenever and wherever some government is deemed – by whom? – to be maltreating its citizens or is embroiled in some internal conflict where thousands of lives are being lost. It’s completely untrue to claim that issue has been definitively settled – so I should quickly shut up.

I think folk would also like to know how much larger our military budget will need to be set to maintain this capability for (? global) intervention – within the prescribed issue limits – and what else we shall need to give up to pay for it.

Personally, I regard it as absurd that a nation with a population of 61 millions should currently rank as having the fourth largest military budget in the world when there are many far better claims for taxpayers’ money at home.

@47 politicalanimal

No, of course I can’t tell you, and at this stage neither can anyone else encompass every strand of the opposition to Gaddafi. We’re talking about a country with hardly any “civil society” as we’d understand it, emerging from 40 odd years of dictatorship by one of the strangest characters to have graced the international stage.

It is impossible for anyone to guarantee that there will not be elements of the opposition “we” might not like. In general of course those most vociferous in calling for guarantees about the future are asking for the moon on a string, because they know it is impossible to be 100% certain that the outcome of intervention will be rosy.

Anyone listening to the news, and watching TV however can see that there are a lot of ordinary Libyans who, like their Tunisian and Egyptian cousins, just want an end to tyranny. They may not all be in favour of turning Libya into a liberal democracy overnight, but they should at least be given a shot at having free elections and deciding their own fate. The nightmare scenario of an islamist state, or a civil war isn’t an inevitability, what ever the cassandras arguing against any intervention claim.

Like all such situations it requires a calculation of the risks. Interestingly those opposing intervention always talk up the supposedly huge risks of intervention, but insist the risks of doing nothing either don’t exist, or are unimportant.

I’ll take my chances with the opposition over sitting on my hands doing nothing, and watching another shameful debacle like the early years in Bosnia and Kossovo any day.

The rebels asked for 4 things to begin with: 1. Recognition of the Transitional council, 2. Give them access to Gaddafi’s horded funds, 3. Sell/supply them with weapons, and 4. Put an end to mercenary flights.

The answers they got were 1. We only recognise countries, 2. Not so simple, 3. No – because of Al Qaeda, 4. No interfering with “security contractors”.
5.We’ll happily bomb stuff though, if that helps.

@ 48 Bob B

“@47 Presents a critical question about who and what the rebels in Libya represent. Do we know and if so, how?”

See response above @ 49; we can’t expect cast iron guarantees about the future make-up of Libya; it’s just another way of avoiding our responsibilities to stop a humanitarian disaster (and before you say it, yes we should have stopped others elsewhere… but let’s make a start in the here and now….)

“Judging by recent opinion polls, Intervention Fatigue has certainly set in.”

Yes, it has. Hardly surprising after the disasterous decision to go into Iraq. More people seem to be in favour than against thoug.. and it probably depends how you ask the question.

“Folk want to know the effective limits to Britain’s apparently boundless obligation to interfere whenever and wherever some government is deemed – by whom? – to be maltreating its citizens or is embroiled in some internal conflict where thousands of lives are being lost. It’s completely untrue to claim that issue has been definitively settled – so I should quickly shut up.”

Well, you can’t have it both ways. We could simply have a policy of no intervention anywhere, withdraw from NATO, not participate in UN actions at all, declare armed neutrality like Sweden used to have. It would no doubt save us some money… but then convincing armed neutrality to take on all comers isn’t cheap. We could limit ourselves to much less frequent interventions, or only do it in conjunction with others, but that would require a pretty serious rethink of our global role, and how we dealt with places around the globe we still have responsibilities in (not that many are left).

In the end “we” have to decide, because there may be occasions when our national interests dictate that we might want to intervene, even if e.g. the UN couldn’t or wouldn’t do it.

“I think folk would also like to know how much larger our military budget will need to be set to maintain this capability for (? global) intervention – within the prescribed issue limits – and what else we shall need to give up to pay for it.”

Agreed: that’s the case for all areas of policy. We’ve historically had much higher levels of defence expenditure than we do now, and we spent a lot more than other European powers due to the imperial baggage, occupying Germany post WW2, and the fact that we were “on the top table”. It is quite legitimate to argue we should reduce defence spending further, or try to spend it more efficiently, but there will come a point where you would no longer be able to project any meaningful power abroad, whether in pursuit of narrow national self interest, or in support of a multi-lateral purpose for the UN or NATO.

“Personally, I regard it as absurd that a nation with a population of 61 millions should currently rank as having the fourth largest military budget in the world when there are many far better claims for taxpayers’ money at home.”

I agree up to a point, but there is a history to why we are in this position. I’d be much happier to see us co-operate much more closely with our European NATO allies in both defence procurement, and in planning for using forces to protect ourselves and potentially intervene abroad. That would however require a fair amount of sovereignty being surrendered… so it is hardly likely in the short or medium term. We couldn’t even get our arses in gear to jointly produce aircraft carriers with the French… which is one reason we don’t now have any carrier based aircraft.

Course, we could just give up armed forces altogether and rely on……. who… the USA? Hmmnnnn.. maybe not eh?

On the one hand Bob B, you are right, there are possible problems with intervening in Libya: we don’t know enough about these rebels, we don’t know if we’ll succeed.

Determining the effective limits of our responsibility is hard. It is correct that our military strength is somewhat out of proportion with our current international role. But is the alternative preferable? Would a world in which the ‘West’ has no military power at all, or military power only in line with its population, be preferable to the current situation? Would it be any softer, or less competitive, or less Hobbesian? Arguably, the UK would need less military capacity if other states within the EU pulled their weight. It is also worth acknowledging that some of the largest contributors to international forces (like that in Congo) are India, Nigeria et al.

However, your argument seems to take issue with the entire concept of humanitarian intervention as an abstract. If you think we have no obligations beyond our borders, that’s fine, but those borders are entirely arbitrary. Moral responsibility doesn’t end at the white cliffs.

@51

More people seem to be in favour than against thoug.. and it probably depends how you ask the question

Do you have a source to back this up? Figures on last nights news showed comres poll showed only 41% supported and in the US polled support at 36%.

As you say we don’t know what will happen, but the points put in @50 must Ho towards a valid argument that perhaps long term intervention isn’t without very high risks.

To me and others in this and the other post the risk is too great.

@50 cylux

“5.We’ll happily bomb stuff though, if that helps.”

Bit of a case of “damned if youdo, damned if you don’t” surely? Most people (inlcluding the rebels) don’t want allied boots-on-the-ground….. so what other ways of stopping Gaddafi’s attacks on the opposition are there?

Yes, we could arm the rebels (perhaps they could pass some test in liberal democracy first since people aren’t sure of their right-on credentials?)…. but that wasn’t likely to happen quickly enough to stop them. A NFZ without taking out air defences is a tad problematic, so unless you are going to allow ground strikes on Gaddafi’s armour, heavy artillery, arms dumps and bunkers…. then you’re going to see more situations like Misratah.

Perhaps we should rely on Gaddafi’s cease-fire guarantees…. that ought to work…

Oh wait….

@51: “Well, you can’t have it both ways. We could simply have a policy of no intervention anywhere, withdraw from NATO, not participate in UN actions at all, declare armed neutrality like Sweden used to have.”

But I’m not having it “both ways”. The great majority of other west European countries don’t share our addiction for intervening in the internal affairs of other countries when they are not directly threatened – or lie to make up claims of threats as the Blair government did with its dossier on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. Most other west European governments very sensiibly don’t choose to spend national budgets on maintaining military capability.

The regular historic practice of countries in North Africa and the Middle East is to have embedded authoritarian governments which periodically change only through rebellions and coups that establish some new authoritarian rule. Incumbents are well aware of this potential threat and take appropriate pre-emptive counter measures to secure their position by suppressing any signs of opposition.

It has long been thus. Britain has absolutely no international mandate to change that state of affairs – especially since we manifestly have such difficulty in keeping our own domestic affairs in good order.

@ 53 ukcuts

“Do you have a source to back this up? ”

The YouGov/Sun poll had UK public supporting intervention at 45%, against 35% who opposed it. The ComRes poll had the figures the other way round at 35% to 43%, but their question may have influenced the figure as it only referred to the UK taking action, whereas the YouGov question referred to the USA, France and the UK.

Interestingly, the YouGov poll also shows 54% beleive that it is only possible to protect Libyan civilians if Gaddafi is removed from power, but only 30% think we should actively aim to remove him from power (whereas 56% think we should only do waht is necessary to protect civilians. 46% also think we should target Gaddafi personally if the opportunity arises, with only 30% against.

The polling data was done over the weekend, so possibly a little early to tell until more polling is done.

http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/

@ 55 Bob B

You are having it both ways if on the one hand you beleive we ought to intervene in “other” areas where humanitarian intervention might be called on to avoid a double standard.

There are reasons why other western European countries don’t share out “addiction” as you call it. In many cases it is because they lack the military resources to do so, even if they had the political will. People are (understandably perhaps?) somewhat wary of German involvement in military adventures abroad… not least the Germans themselves.

Ever since the end of WW2, most European NATO members have hidden behind the skirts of the USA. They relied on the USA to protect them from the Russians, ran down their military capabilities, bought most of their equipment from the USA and some from the GB and France.

Only Britain and France spent more, partly due to delusions of grandeur and partly for continuing colonial commitments, but also because they saw higher spending as having technological/industrial advantages, and because they didn’t fully trust the Americans. Only Britain and France maintain any significant capacity to project force outside their immediate back-yard (despite the best efforts of successive UK governments to cock things up, such as recently with the “Strategic” Defence Review).

I disagree with your last statement (altho’ I’m obviously not going to convince you differently), because I do think Britain and indeed all other democracies have an interest in stopping people like Gaddafi massacaring civilians. How good we are at keeping our own affairs in order is arguable I suppose; but I bet most Arabs living under authoritarian regimes would swap their systems and problems for ours in a New York minute.

@57

Do try and face reality.

The government’s claims about “humanitarian concerns” in Libya are simply not credible in the light of manifest lack of concerns not only about the scale of conflicts in many other countries – like Algeria, DR Congo, Bahrain, the Yemen and the Ivory Coast – but about the foreseeable social consequences of the cuts in welfare spending at home and proposed reforms of NHS which have been widely condemned from within the medical profession.

The inevitable consequence of making those widely disbelieved claims about “humanitarian concerns”, is that the military intervention in Libya is widely interpreted across Arab countries as therefore having undeclared and sinister motives.

The scale of military spending necessary to maintain the capability for intervention is absurd for a nation of our size and transparently inconsistent with all those claims that the government is presently making about our dire financial predicament and the unsustainable budget deficit.

I put the government’s Libya stuff down to the enduring influence of classics upon our ancient, more prestigious universities, which most of the cabinet attended, naturally.

There was a perennial recipe in Imperial Rome for keeping the proles compliant:

When the bread get scarce, increase the circuses.

@58 Bob B

Oh trust me, I know all about the realist school Bob.

“The government’s claims about “humanitarian concerns” in Libya are simply not credible in the light of manifest lack of concerns not only about the scale of conflicts in many other countries..”

Of course you can believe that if you like ; it doesn’t make it true of course. Plenty of people both within and outside the government have genuine humanitarian concerns for the people of Libya; I would suggest that those opposed to intervention cannot credibly claim to have any humanitarian concern. The “whaddabout country x, Y and Z” fallacy has been dealt with extensively above and elsewhere.

The fact we have not (to our eternal shame) seen fit to intervene in other places in the past, cannot be flourished like some joker by non-interventionists, pacifists, far left ideological purists, and anti-democratic nationalists, to justify doing nothing.

“….but about the foreseeable social consequences of the cuts in welfare spending at home and proposed reforms of NHS which have been widely condemned from within the medical profession.”

Rather ironic that you accuse me of not facing reality; do you actually think the voters and politcal elites in this country are going to vote for huge cuts in defence, or simply decide we should unilterally disarm? What % of GDP would you suggest we spend on defence; I’m genuinely intrigued. Since you obviously think it should be less than at present, what things would you do without, and what kind of missions would the reduced force structure you envisage be allowed or able to carry out?

“The inevitable consequence of making those widely disbelieved claims about “humanitarian concerns”, is that the military intervention in Libya is widely interpreted across Arab countries as therefore having undeclared and sinister motives.”

We can’t be responsible for the mistaken beliefs of others, either the Arabs or the people in here who think it is better that a few thousand more Libyans die than we get our hands dirty. The immediate necessity was to preserve life in Benghazi, which appears to have worked. From what I saw, plenty of Arabs there seemed pretty pleased about it. The automatic response for many self-loathing lefties is accept that there can ONLY be sinister motives. Reality (which you purport to be so attached to) is rather more complex.

“The scale of military spending necessary to maintain the capability for intervention is absurd for a nation of our size and transparently inconsistent with all those claims that the government is presently making about our dire financial predicament and the unsustainable budget deficit”

I don’t know if it is absurd, but it may certainly be unsubstainable…. hence the spectacularly ill-judged SDR recently. I bet Gideon wishes he’d kept Ark Royal and those Harriers now, eh? Of course, it is contingent on those calling for a reduction to tell us what they would cut, what we’d be left with, and what that would enable us to do. It would also necessitate relying much more heavily on either the USA, greater European collaboration, or the UN. Good luck with any of that.

You may be right about the “bread and circuses” thing… but Labour adminstrations haven’t been any better since WW2 in strategic terms.

60. the a&e charge nurse

[59] even if we agree that full blown military intervention in Libya is the right thing to do now is there any reason why the Arab league cannot address the humanitarian agenda rather than distant and politically tainted states like the UK and USA?

@60 a&e

“[59] even if we agree that full blown military intervention in Libya is the right thing to do now is there any reason why the Arab league cannot address the humanitarian agenda rather than distant and politically tainted states like the UK and USA?”

Firstly, what we have now ISN’T full blown military invention; it’s a fairly limited exercise in imposing a NFZ and destroying some of Gaddafi’s C3 and military forces who were in the act of shelling Benghazi. It hasn’t stopped his forces in the west of Libya, and it isn’t doing much to help the rebel forces facing Gaddafi’s forces on the road to Tripoli.

How many democracies are there in the Arab League do you think? Two if we are being charitable: Tunisia and Egypt. Neither are exactly in a position to take a stand and help their cousins in Libya right now are they? Otherwise, you are therefore expecting an organisation of various flavours of despotism to help overthrow one of their own.

Granted, most of them hate each other almost as much as they fear their own people…. but what would be in it for them helping to install another (hopefully) democratic regime in N. Africa. I can just see that being attractive to the President of Yemen, the Emir of Bahrain, the Saudi royal house, President Assad, the Algerians…all of them have been busy shooting their own demonstrators on various scales.

Much easier of course for them to stand on the sidelines, expect other people to do the work, and then complain about what nasty imperialists they are, what an awful track record of helping suppress their people we have… oh , and of course we’re unbelievers too…

The US, UK anf France et al., may be tainted; sure we have an agenda and an interest in not seeing a strategic area descend into chaos…. but try and remeber it is the politcally tainted states that just saved several thousand lives in Benghazi.

An interesting contribution to the debate from Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton ( http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/03/2011322135442593945.html# ) – he says

“With respect to Libya there is no firm evidence of a genocidal intention on Gaddafi’s, no humanitarian catastrophe in the making, and not even clear indications of the extent of civilian casualties resulting from the fighting.”

“The main pretext given for the intervention was the vulnerability of Libyan civilians to the wrath of the Gaddafi regime. But there was little evidence of such wrath beyond the regime’s expected defence of the established order, although admittedly being here undertaken in a brutal manner, which itself is not unusual in such a situation”

“It seemed, although there is some ambiguity in the media reports, that the Libyan oppositional movement was violent from the start, and was more in the nature of a traditional insurrection against the established order than a popular revolution inspired by democratic values.”

“In Libya the opposition forces were relying almost from the outset on heavy weapons”

@62 Richard P

I don’t find Falk’s analysis persuasive, partly because he doesn’t really produce any evidence to back up his claims about the opposition, but also because he seems to have an overly rosy view of what would have happened if Gaddafi loyalists had succeeded in Taking Benghazi. In the end he has no real solution to offer. I am much more persuaded by David Hillstrom’s argument:

http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2011/03/21/the-libyan-no-fly-zone-responsibility-to-protect-and-international-law/

For the UN’s Responsibility to Protect (referred to as R2P) programme to be successful however, a number of things have to happen: The UN security council has to be reformed (possibly by making it for the G20 nations), national vetos have to be abolished, majority or qualified majority decisions based on the application of international law would have to be enforced, and the UN would have to have the resources to enforce decisions taken by the reformed security council (rather than at present rely on the USA and Europeans to do it all).

Anyone who is against intervention on the basis that the west can’t be trusted / has an agenda / wants to recolonise and grab the oil etc., but isn’t against ALL intervention in principle, might find that implementing the R2P principles will involve more rather than less intervention. Of course, if they have another cunning plan to prevent dictator’s like Gaddafi killing their own people, let us hear it.

I’m just absorbing what Bob B said @55 –

“The regular historic practice of countries in North Africa and the Middle East is to have embedded authoritarian governments which periodically change only through rebellions and coups that establish some new authoritarian rule. Incumbents are well aware of this potential threat and take appropriate pre-emptive counter measures to secure their position by suppressing any signs of opposition.”

Followed by an assertion that the UK and ‘the west’ has no mandate. In which case neither side has a mandate. I am however, shocked that Bob seems to believe that the peoples of North Africa and the Middle East either don’t deserve self determination, or are somehow incapable of popular self governance.

@64 Ed

The idea that “the peoples of North Africa and the Middle East either don’t deserve self determination, or are somehow incapable of popular self governance..” is worryingly common however, both amongst anti-democratic forces of reaction in the islamic world and in the middle-east (democracy as something foreign, wester and un-islamic), but also amongst sections of opinion in the west, ranging from neo-con wing-nuts all the way thru to right-on lefties.

As they say.. you can’t kill a bad idea…..


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  8. Liberal Conspiracy

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  28. ???

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  29. Zafar

    I'm for Qaddafis removal, but this is *precisely* why I'm sceptical about the intervention. [Espesh last 2 paragraphs] http://bit.ly/i2Z9pF

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  38. Jack Seale

    A couple of things worth reading re why we should be wary/sceptical about intervention in #Libya: http://bit.ly/i2Z9pF http://t.co/DsIJdx9

  39. Jennifer O'Mahony

    @Davidwearing has a warning for gung-ho interventionists in Libya http://bit.ly/hxsOa1. He can also write well, which is even better.

  40. Ruben de Dios

    RT @tamsinchan: The West's concern for #Libya should be regarded with scepticism | @davidwearing for @libcon http://bit.ly/i2Z9pF #Gaddafi

  41. Ellie Mae O'Hagan

    RT @jaomahony: @Davidwearing has a warning for gung-ho interventionists in Libya http://bit.ly/hxsOa1. He can also write well, which is …

  42. Hannah M

    International concern for Libya must be regarded with scepticism | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/wm9nm27 via @libcon

  43. Jonathan Taylor

    RT @libcon: International concern for Libya must be regarded with scepticism http://bit.ly/hxsOa1

  44. An Phoblacht

    RT @jaomahony: @Davidwearing has a warning for gung-ho interventionists in #Libya http://bit.ly/hxsOa1

  45. Allan Siegel

    RT @kalimakhus: RT @norashalaby: International concern for #Libya must be regarded with scepticism | Liberal Conspiracy http://is.gd/bBTCjO

  46. Owen Jones

    Great article by @davidwearing on treating Western concern for Libya with healthy scepticism http://tinyurl.com/4sxj6ro

  47. Allan Siegel

    RT @davidwearing: The West's concern for Libya should be regarded with scepticism http://bit.ly/i2Z9pF My article for @libcon

  48. Allan Siegel

    RT @davidwearing: The West's concern for Libya should be regarded with scepticism http://bit.ly/i2Z9pF My article for @libcon

  49. Daniel Pitt

    International concern for #Libya must be regarded with scepticism http://bit.ly/hxsOa1

  50. Daniel Pitt

    International concern for #Libya must be regarded with scepticism http://bit.ly/hxsOa1

  51. Daniel Pitt

    Analysis of #Libya must include a healthy dose of scepticism http://bit.ly/hxsOa1

  52. paurina

    RT @davidwearing: The West's concern for Libya should be regarded with scepticism http://bit.ly/i2Z9pF My article for @libcon

  53. Andrew Diver

    RT @libcon: International concern for Libya must be regarded with scepticism http://bit.ly/hxsOa1

  54. SFo

    @davidwearing "The West's concern for Libya should be regarded with scepticism http://bit.ly/i2Z9pF My article for @libcon"

  55. paurina

    RT @OwenJones84: Great article by @davidwearing on treating Western concern for Libya with healthy scepticism http://tinyurl.com/4sxj6ro

  56. Andrew Jeffery

    International concern for Libya must be regarded with scepticism http://bit.ly/i2Z9pF Good piece by @davidwearing

  57. AdamRamsay

    RT @libcon: International concern for Libya must be regarded with scepticism http://bit.ly/hxsOa1 by @davewearing

  58. Alison Charlton

    Intelligent look beyond '#Libya intervention – are you for or against?' by @davidwearing: http://t.co/ceid6m5 via @libcon

  59. Farid

    A v good analysis RT @davidwearing: The West's concern for #Libya should be regarded with scepticism http://t.co/ekGhp7o @libcon

  60. JamieSW

    RT @davidwearing: The West's concern for Libya should be regarded with scepticism http://bit.ly/i2Z9pF My article for @libcon

  61. Asa Winstanley

    The correct opinion on #Libya by @davidwearing "International concern for Libya must be regarded with scepticism" http://t.co/faVVJIH

  62. Fen

    International concern for Libya must be regarded with scepticism | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/ouQX79W via @libcon

  63. Jennifer O'Mahony

    RT @chuzzlit: Intelligent look beyond '#Libya intervention – are you for or against?' by @davidwearing: http://t.co/ceid6m5 via @libcon





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