Does Gaddafi’s end in Libya strengthen the interventionists?


8:50 am - August 22nd 2011

by Sunny Hundal    


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I think it is safe to say, after the events of last night – that Col. Gaddafi is no longer in control of Libya. Three of his sons have been arrested and the International Criminal Court is preparing to indict one of them – Saif Al-Islam.

There’s little doubt that David Cameron will try and extract political capital out of this, though in fairness it is not undeserved: without France and the UK leading Nato into Libya, the liberation of Libya wouldn’t have come so quick.

One argument will almost certainly flare-up again.

As Matthew D’Ancona tweeted last night:

Shows that US has to be there, but not nec in lead – Anglo-French leadership the key. Isolationists of Left and Right need new arguments!

As someone who urged intervention in Libya from the start, I don’t think it is that easy.

For a start, the conflict had met with little success for months, and various people (including @Flying_Rodent) have documented how badly it was going.

This could easily have carried on for months longer, forcing Nato into a slow withdrawal as the money ran out.

Secondly – Nato poured weaponry into the country to strengthen and arm the rebels. I’m not sure the British people were told about that: we were simply sold a No Fly Zone. So there was an element of mission creep that cannot always be justified. After all – western govts armed the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union and that eventually came back to bite us.

Third – and most importantly – this isn’t over yet by any stretch of the imagination. Cameron could declare ‘Mission Accomplished’ like Bush but Libya could descend into further instability and infighting as Iraq did.

It will be important for the Labour leader to ask William Hague what plans they’ve drawn up to promote democracy in Libya and prevent a collapse in law and order. If previous experience is anything to go by, the hard part has just begun.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


I certainly think it would be prudent for Cameron to hold himself back from declaring any sort of victory. I wouldn’t say that anything has been ‘sorted’ in Libya until their first free and fair, independently observed general election.

However, I think the comparisons with Iraq are spurious. The clear distinction is that in the case of Libya, NATO has answered the calls for help of a democratic uprising. There was no such widespread pro-democracy movement in Iraq before or after the invasion, the support of the Iraqi people was never considered necessary by Bush or Blair, who thought they could violently insist on what was best for Iraq and the people would just accept it.

Libya, on the other hand is a people’s revolution, I think the unsurprising absence of thousands of willing, Gadaffi supporting martyrs in Tripoli and the general lack of resistance suggests that the potential for any kind of civil war is relatively low. This is a revolution led by Libyans and facilitated by NATO, which sets it immediately apart from Iraq when considering the potential for elongated post-war civil conflict.

The real mess comes later as the West tries to make sure Libya has a government to its liking, irrespective of what Libya’s people want. Its all gone so well in Afghanistan and Iraq. Boom time for spooks, private security companies, weapons salesmen, privatisers and oil companies.

3. Torquil Macneil

“I wouldn’t say that anything has been ‘sorted’ in Libya until their first free and fair, independently observed general election.”

I think you have to have your fingers crossed until after the second election, but it is a time for optimism. What a relief that those commentators on LC and elsewhere such as Flying Rodent who considered Gaddafi a better bet for Libya have been prove wrong.

“There was no such widespread pro-democracy movement in Iraq before or after the invasion”

That is not true. Support for democracy in Iraq was and is massive as can be seen by the mass participation in elections, flourishing free press, widespread membership of political campaining parties etc despite real threats of violence. The difference in Libya is that there is unlikely to be an influx of foreign fighters trying to foment civil war. That is partly because that battle has already been fought in Iraq.

@3
“That is not true. Support for democracy in Iraq was and is massive as can be seen by the mass participation in elections, flourishing free press, widespread membership of political campaining parties etc despite real threats of violence. ”

Didn’t mean to imply that there wasn’t a desire for freedom in Iraq, but it didn’t take the proactive form that it has in Libya. Our involvement was inevitably going to be seen as an exercise in imperialism because there was no widespread anti-Saddam uprising for our forces to get behind.

That said, its interesting to consider whether the Arab Spring would have been as confident and effective without Iraqi democracy.

5. flyingrodent

I think the comparisons with Iraq are spurious.

Unnamed British diplomats were telling the Times last week that the UK had accepted the assertions of western-educated Libyan rebels at face-value, only to find that the rebels are significantly more diverse and less unified than they’d been led to believe. We’re about to find ourselves baby-sitting a nation trying to magic democracy out of thin air, in a nation with no institutions in place to create it.

Make no mistake, this is a great day for Libya and it holds out very real hope for a better future for that nation. The current triumphalism is reminiscent of the fall of Kabul or Baghdad, though. Let’s not forget that we’ve jumped with both feet into a conflict between numerous factions that we don’t understand, seem to struggle to predict and have no control over. I’ll be a hell of a lot happier if it’s all still calm a few months down the line.

Support for democracy in Iraq was and is massive as can be seen by the mass participation in elections, flourishing free press, widespread membership of political campaining parties etc despite real threats of violence.

Including the threat of violence from their own government, of course, which has been well-documented using torture and shooting protesters, amongst other measures, and is taking a quietly supportive line on the Syrian army’s current crackdown. There are many positive signs in Iraq, but it still has innumerable deep-seated and serious problems, ones that can’t convincingly be conveniently dicked off for political reasons.

Perhaps the reason that there was no mass movement in Iraq was that the people had been terrorised for so long, and all opposition elements had been driven away or murdered?

I welcome the fall of Gadhaffi and I hope the rebels, with the help of friendly nations, can now move to form a government. It won’t be easy, but at least unlike Iraq we haven’t had some twat ostentatiously binning postwar invasion plans on TV and declaring faith in a free market solution.

Perhaps, rather than “postwar invasion plans” I should have said post-invasion reconstruction plans. Sorry.

Torquil: Oh my god, you’re serious, aren’t you? *boggles*.

Cherub: the Colonel’s reign lasted longer than Saddam’s, and he’s no stranger to torture and murder of political opponents.

9. Torquil Macneil

“We’re about to find ourselves baby-sitting a nation trying to magic democracy out of thin air, in a nation with no institutions in place to create it.”

Babysitting? Why is there such a desire among some commentators to belittle Arab people? Yes, state building will be difficult in Libya, but I see no good reason for believing that Libyans can manage it without any a babysitters. Can we drop the orientalist condescension?

“Make no mistake, this is a great day for Libya and it holds out very real hope for a better future for that nation. The current triumphalism is reminiscent of the fall of Kabul or Baghdad, though.”

I haven’t noticed any triumphalism outside of Tripoli, but I am glad that we are agreed that this is a great day, that it was only achieved because of leadership in the west agreeing to support the rebellion and that the condition of the Libyan people would be immeasurably worse if the anti-interventionists such as FR had had their way. It is just a pity tat, had the war not taken this successful turn, so many of those anti-interventionists would have continued to strike grandiose moral poses, as if the moral value in fighting for freedom depends on a successful outcome.

I hope Libya has a happy immediate future, but if it doesn’t, that will not mean the NATO intervention was wrong. Just imagine what it must be like to be a Libyan this morning, feeling that foot lifted from your throat however temporarily.

For a start, the conflict had met with little success for months, and various people (including @Flying_Rodent) have documented how badly it was going.

I’d challenge that actually. The initial aim of the conflict was to prevent Gaddafi’s forces from committing a massacre in Benghazi. That was accomplished very quickly. It was then to provide logistical and air support to Libyan rebels as they attempted to defeat Gaddafi’s military. That took six months against an enemy that was better equipped and better trained. In the grand scheme of things that really isn’t that long.

I’d hate to have seen the commentary on Lib Con during World War 2.

11. Torquil Macneil

“Cherub: the Colonel’s reign lasted longer than Saddam’s, and he’s no stranger to torture and murder of political opponents.”

Yes, but the west did not sit by and watch Ghadafi murdering the rebels as they did in Iraq (and as many on LC and elsewhere urged that they should do in Libya), shaking their heads sadly at the tragedy of war and murmuring ‘Powell Doctrine’ to make themselves feel better.

12. flyingrodent

Babysitting? Why is there such a desire among some commentators to belittle Arab people?

In almost ten years of discussing issues like this, I’ve never had this type of point made to me by someone who wasn’t an egregious bullshitter.

I am glad that we are agreed that this is a great day, that it was only achieved because of leadership in the west agreeing to support the rebellion and that the condition of the Libyan people would be immeasurably worse if the anti-interventionists such as FR had had their way.

This is all entirely true. I thought it was a lunatic decision then and I still think that it was, based on the information available at the time and the range of possible outcomes. Fingers crossed that we’ve lucked out here, because it could’ve gone very, very differently.

It is just a pity tat, had the war not taken this successful turn, so many of those anti-interventionists would have continued to strike grandiose moral poses, as if the moral value in fighting for freedom depends on a successful outcome.

Just wanted to bring this point to people’s attention. It implies some fairly wacky concepts, ones like My “Moral values” entirely trump the bodycount, result and practical effects of any given war. That’s quite a claim, although sadly not unusual this last decade.

13. Joshua Fenton-Glynn

I think one of the key things the left need to argue is that lessons must be learnt from Iraq, handlig the post war rebuilding is as important as winning the war and if the entrie governing structure is dismantled in the same way then the result risks being the same.

I was against NATO intervention, but don’t buy the knee jerk ultra leftism that says therefore a victory for the rebbles is negative. When we say that we don’t look seriouse.

14. Torquil Macneil

“In almost ten years of discussing issues like this, I’ve never had this type of point made to me by someone who wasn’t an egregious bullshitter.”

I am happy to give you a once-in-a-decade new experience!

“Just wanted to bring this point to people’s attention. It implies some fairly wacky concepts”

No, it draws attention to the logical fallacy that many bloggers cling to like a threadbare security blanket, that the validity of a decision cannot be determined by its unpredictable consequences. Some actions are wrong because the negative outcomes are entirely predictable (firing a semi-automatic in a crowded supermarket) but those actions would be just as wrong if the negative outcome, by some fluke did not appear. The same follows in reverse. The military action in Libya was enormously risky, but it was evident that it had, at the outset, a good chance of success.

If we ask the wrong questions about this, we’re only going to come up with the wrong answers.

I’m not sure I know of any serious left-wing critique of Western military interventionism that rests on the argument that the US or NATO powers aren’t capable of knocking over the armies of weak, poor states. I recall people saying that Blair was vindicated by the fall of Saddam, which merely served to advertise the fact that they’d completely missed the point. Better if we don’t go through all that again.

The reality, as I argued in a piece for LibCon back in March, is that Britain and its allies have no principled commitment to promoting democracy or to averting humanitarian disasters. Rather, they have a habit of opportunistically seizing upon such concerns where they can be used as cover for promoting familiar state-corporate interests, and a habit of completely ignoring such concerns, and worse, where those same interests demand. The historical record renders that point irrefutable. http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/03/21/analysis-of-libya-must-include-a-healthy-dose-of-scepticism/

Lest we forget, Britain and its allies were supporting and arming Gaddafi right up until the point where the revolution started. The idea that this was a principled intervention to free the people of Libya doesn’t even pass the laugh test. Membership of the left involves recognition of the basic fact that Western power is not a moral agent in international affairs, unless by exception or by accident.

This was not a question of military competance but of moral competance. The reason that I and many others on the left have not been involved in any kind of sustained and energetic campaign against this intervention was purely a case of lesser evilism. It was a choice between a NATO intervention or a savage crackdown on the uprising in the east, with the likely chilling effect that would have on the Arab Spring as a whole. Personally, I wasn’t about to demonstrate againt the intervention on that basis.

However, we now have a situation where the rebels are victorious and our former ally Gaddafi is being brought face-to-face with justice. It is therefore now time for NATO to leave. Any further involvement can be expected to be aimed at shaping the new Libya, especially its economic and foreign relations, to suit Western state and corporate interests, not the interests of the Libyan people. Libya does not need the sort of corrupt interference and supervision suffered by the Iraqis post-April 2003, before anyone had had the chance to vote for the direction the country should take. The left’s analysis of the nature of Western power remains the same, and it demands that we get out of Libya immediately.

Babysitting? Why is there such a desire among some commentators to belittle Arab people?

Its called racism

It’s champagne time- another magnificent victory for Western imperialism.

What now?

The Libyan tribal factions will car bomb each other for the next twenty years no doubt but we get to fund a puppet government that will secure oil supply stability.

Hurrah for democracy!!!!

18. Shatterface

‘Unnamed British diplomats were telling the Times last week that the UK had accepted the assertions of western-educated Libyan rebels at face-value, only to find that the rebels are significantly more diverse and less unified than they’d been led to believe.’

I’m not sure why diversity is such a bad thing.

19. flyingrodent

The military action in Libya was enormously risky, but it was evident that it had, at the outset, a good chance of success.

And the invasion of Iraq was, if you recall, a cakewalk right into Baghdad city centre. Boy, we’re very cavalier these days.

20. Torquil Macneil

“And the invasion of Iraq was, if you recall, a cakewalk right into Baghdad city centre. Boy, we’re very cavalier these days.”

It was a surprisingly easy military campaign followed by a surprisingly incompetent post war administration, saying so doesn’t mean anyone is being cavalier. There are risks in this sort of action, but if you think freedom is worth fighting for (in a more literal sense than posting blog entries) those risks will have to be taken. Libya may well now struggle, it may get bloody, or it may go smoothly. Are you seriously suggesting that it would be better to have Ghadaffi in power with a free hand than to take those risks? If not, how do you escape the self-accusation of being ‘cavalier’?

21. Torquil Macneil

“Unnamed British diplomats were telling the Times last week”

I meant to comment on that ‘unnamed’ bit. Imagine how much British journalism would improve if all sources had to be named? Less gossip, more matter. In this sort of case it is likely that the ‘unnamed’ source was just a junior staff member who recently went to Oxford wit the reporter making airy comments in a bar.

@17. The population of Libya is five times smaller than Iraq’s.

@15

If you’re serious, you typify the moral incoherence of much of the isolationist left. You pretend you’re anti-imperialist but a genuine anti-imperialist would hold their views because imperialism is a threat to freedom, self determination etc

If you suggest we should have left Gadaffi to his private ownership of Libya and its people, by what means do you stand for any of the underlying principles of anti-imperialism?

We have been far from perfect in our foreign policy dealings in the past, but the suggestion from some that because of Iraq and Afghanistan we lacked the moral credentials to prevent a massacre in Benghazi is laughable on the face of it. The ill thought out implication is that to have left Gadaffi to it we would somehow have strengthened rather than weakened our moral credentials on the world stage. It’s pure casuistry and nothing more.

Yes, it’s clear that defeating pissant third world dictorships on the field of battle is not beyond the ability of Our Glorious Leaders. However, I don’t think anyone ever really doubted that. We have the technology (although it is not cheap). The problem instead is all the other stuff–y’know, the stuff that requires guile, cunning, statemanship, brains, authority, etc, etc. That is where we struggle.

25. Torquil Macneil

That’s where everybody struggles vimothy (although the battle in Libya was won by Libyans, not western forces), but are you therefore suggesting Libya would be better of now under a stable, unthreatened Ghadaffi regime? Can you really wish that on them?

The Workers Revolutionary Party aren’t happy.
http://www.wrp.org.uk/news/6651

27. flyingrodent

Are you seriously suggesting that it would be better to have Ghadaffi in power with a free hand than to take those risks?

Given that “those risks” have in recent years included unending, vicious and seemingly irresolvable insurgency in Afghanistan, in a war that has rampaged over the border and turned huge swathes of Pakistan (a nuclear power!) into a no-go zone; that “those risks” have included a sectarian mass-slaughter in Iraq that amounted to a mutual extermination of competition resulting in a list of civilian casualties that extends at least into the high hundreds of thousands, and that…

Well, I could go on. Our recent record in military matters is diabolical; we clearly knew nothing about what we were getting into, for at least the third time in a decade; our governments were, once again, telling us a whole string of stonking great lies about their intentions, not least that the overthrow of Gaddafi was off the table – recall, the initial suggestion was a “No-Fly Zone” and the current operation is “protecting civilians” and about eight million other factors, foreseeable and not…

…Then yes, back in March, I was against intervention and if an identical scenario blew up somewhere else tomorrow, I’d oppose that as well.

how do you escape the self-accusation of being ‘cavalier’?

By acknowledging all possible eventualities and considering their possible effects, rather than just waffling about moral imperatives, regardless of the cost.

28. Torquil Macneil

“By acknowledging all possible eventualities and considering their possible effects, rather than just waffling about moral imperatives, regardless of the cost.”

No, you don’t, you simply seem to be saying (if I have understood) that you will oppose all interventions except those that prove successful. Your only concern seems to be with keeping your hands (metaphorically) clean. At the start of this conflict those of us who supported the UN-sanctioned NATO action were very clear about all the possible risks and the appalling possible consequences of failure. Any the only peon making windy statements about ‘moral imperatives’ is you. You may feel nostalgic for Ghadaffi and the security of a properly controlled series of horrors in Libya rather than the potential for more widespread and unpredictable mayhem, but I have a feeling you will be all alone on this one.

29. flyingrodent

At the start of this conflict those of us who supported the UN-sanctioned NATO action were very clear about all the possible risks and the appalling possible consequences of failure.

I think not. I think there was much windy assertion about the urgent need for more intervention and less thinking. The link below, posted merely for illustration, is a good summary of how much deep thought was expended on the “appalling possible consequences”.

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

I was against the Nato campaign, and I’m not going to change my anti-interventionist stance. I hope that there is peace and I won’t wish ill on Libya to justify my opposition to Nato, but I’m not going to talk about military aggression by Nato and UK forces in the first person plural. No one asked me and it wasn’t in my name.

31. Torquil Macneil

I doubt we are going to agree FR, but I remember long tedious exchanges with you on this subject where you insisted over and over again ‘war is dangerous and unpredictable, why can’t you idiots understand that’ to a chorus of replies along the lines of ‘we do know that for christ’s sake, it can go wrong, but this war is not Iraq and it is worth the risk even if that risk is massive’.

32. Torquil Macneil

Duly noted Trooper. To spare your blushes I will personally send a message to Tripoli reminding nobody to thank you.

If you suggest we should have left Gadaffi to his private ownership of Libya and its people

This is why most discussions of ‘intervention’ and ‘imperialism’ end up waffle about entirely bogus categories.

Gadaffi ruled Libya for his personal profit,. He used imported arms not available to any other faction to gather exports, which then paid for the security infrastructure which kept him in control. There was not an iota of gap between the structure of his system and that of King Leopold in the Congo. As such, he was a true blue, old style imperialist, and support for him is about as valid as those who think poor little Belgium was unfairly picked on by larger empires.

As for ‘intervention’, about the only nation in the world in which you can genuinely say there is minimal outside intervention is North Korea. Everywhere else, we intervene, and the only choice is how we do so, which faction we end up explicitly or implicitly on the side of.

Tactics matter, but the relevant question of principle is always ‘what are the rules that should be governing that intervention?’. Is buying and selling always ok? Including slave shackles to King Leopold? A pure free market is not a morally neutral choice.

So sanctions? Subsidies? Direct supply of aid, weaponry, training, drones or forces? Which do you rule out, and who do you trust to choose between the other options?

34. Torquil Macneil

As for ‘intervention’, about the only nation in the world in which you can genuinely say there is minimal outside intervention is North Korea. Everywhere else, we intervene, and the only choice is how we do so, which faction we end up explicitly or implicitly on the side of.

There’s some truth in that. The ‘Prime Directive’ attitude towards foreign policy and imperialism has always been a bit childish and a bit patronising at the same time. You can’t help thinking that the people who see the world through these adolescent, simplifying lenses, people like Richard Seymour and other trots of differents
stripes, could so easily have become obsessed with action figures, dressing up, and comic book collecting instead.

Adam @21

If you’re serious, you typify the moral incoherence of much of the isolationist left. You pretend you’re anti-imperialist but a genuine anti-imperialist would hold their views because imperialism is a threat to freedom, self determination etc

Though not of the morally incoherent left, I am anti-imperialist and am so precisely because imperialism is a threat to freedom.

If we had stated clearly that our ambition in Libya was to overthrow Ghadaffi in our own narrow interests- to replace him with a corrupt government that we could manipulate to ensure our oil security, I would be less hostile.

But to pretend to justify our aggression by spouting weasel words about preventing massacres and freeing populations from tyranny is hypocritical and defiles the very notion of freedom. (Quite apart from it insulting our intelligence).

Dressing up pragmatism as a moral imperative weakens morality and watching Cameron speak from both sides of his mouth simultaneously is as nauseating as I thought it would be.

@11 & others

The sheer deranged bloodthirstiness and cruelty of Saddam makes Gadhaffi look like Barbie.

It exposes the hypocrisy and double standards of interventionists who are strangely silent over repression in pro western tyrannies like Bahrain,Saudi Arabia etc. Cameron invites the bahraini dictator to no 10 for tea. So much for human rights in western backed middle eastern despots. Rwanda uses aid money to hire hitmen to attempt to assassinate dissidents in london , British response – silence. British politicians are friendly with rwandan tyrant kagame. mass murder in sri lanka – silence from those same sanctimonious interventionists. No wonder the public are cynical of interventionists who claim to be doing it for moral reasons – but ,of course ,only in certain countries we don’t like.
I look forward to the next visit from the king of saudi arabia and the subsequent silence and grovelling of our politicians. The arguement used by interventionists is we can’t do everything at once,one country at a time ,the same arguement used at the time of iraq . strangely we never did get round to pressuring pro west tyrants and we never will. If the egyptian people hadn’t overthrown mubarak themselves,he’d still be in power now, supported by our politicians and mainstream media.

@pagar

If we had stated clearly that our ambition in Libya was to overthrow Ghadaffi in our own narrow interests- to replace him with a corrupt government that we could manipulate to ensure our oil security, I would be less hostile.

So in your view: a corrupt government we can’t manipulate > a corrupt government we can manipulate?

Somehow if those actually were the bluntly stated aims of Western governments then I think you would be even more hostile rather than less hostile. All of which means your rant against the duplicitous nature of political rhetoric is actually duplicitous political rhetoric.

Deliciously hypocritical, well played!

strangely we never did get round to pressuring pro west tyrants and we never will.

There kind of an obvious reason for that, once you remember that a few years back Gadaffi counted as ‘pro western’, just as a few decades back Saddam did.

‘pro-western’ means exporting natural resources and buying security services: imperialism without the overheads of running schools and hospitals. Any time ‘the West’ (or to be more accurate the rest of the world in general), musters up enough outrage to refuse to buy the exports, or embargo the weaponry, the resulting regime is by definition no longer pro-western.

It either has to find another external prop, gain some internal legitimacy, or fall.

@Pagar

(Adam posting at #36 is a different Adam to me, although I share his sentiments)

I am struggling to understand what you’re saying. Is it that you’re convinced that this is a blood for oil war, but all the same you’d be more rather than less supportive of it if the government ‘came clean’ and said they were just in it for the oil? So you don’t have a problem with oil wars as long as governments are just open about it? You’re a perfect illustration of the moral incoherence I was talking about.

And to completely dismiss the prevention of a massacre as ‘weasel words’ is to ignore a perfectly valid argument because it’s inconvenient to a certain kind of paranoid world inculcated by the likes of Alex Jones and the ‘Info Wars’ brigade.

But perhaps you’re not being serious, it’s hard to tell.

*worldview

@ Adam (all of you)!!!!

I am struggling to understand what you’re saying. Is it that you’re convinced that this is a blood for oil war, but all the same you’d be more rather than less supportive of it if the government ‘came clean’ and said they were just in it for the oil?

Nation states are not characterised by their morality- they always operate foreign policies that are in their national interest and gestures that seem to indicate they do otherwise are designed to obfuscate.

This is clearly a “blood for oil” war and to pretend it is anything else is disingenuous. If it were stated to be such it would be no more morally justifiable but it would, at least, be honestly described.

And of course we always expect honesty from our politicians don’t we?

Personally, I’m of the opinion that Western states frequently act in ways that do absolutely nothing whatsoever to advance their own national interests. The Libyan intervention clearly falls under such a description. Our leaders are actually far above anachronistic concepts like “the national interest”, preferring instead feel-good sentimental crap like “freedom and democracy” when they want to motivate themselves. Hooray for us, and our glorious modernity.

@pagar

Nation states are not characterised by their morality- they always operate foreign policies that are in their national interest and gestures that seem to indicate they do otherwise are designed to obfuscate.

Nation states are frequently characterised by their morals it is one of the frequently cited factors used to distinguish them from their neighbours (c.f. USA & ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ or Iran and islamic morality). What you must mean is that they don’t conform to your own particular morality. You haven’t actually displayed or explained any of your own moral precepts other than a hatred of the West.

What is intrinsically wrong with a country acting in its own national interest? Sometimes interests coincide and everyone’s happy (well apart from you and Gadaffi)

Our recent record in military matters is diabolical;

And our record in the post-conflict, nation building stage is even worse. Basra, anyone? Don’t think they’ll be naming any streets after Tony Blair in that particular town.

We can’t even stop the most apathetic and disinterested generation of stoned teenagers in all of human history, armed only with Blackberries and mountain bikes, from burning down London. Is nation building in Libya expected to just be a hell of a lot easier, or what?

@ Adam

What is intrinsically wrong with a country acting in its own national interest?

Nothing at all.

That’s what the governments of nation states are expected to do.

The problem arises when they attack other nations and attempt to justify their violence on the grounds of moral superiority, and some people swallow the lie.

If the Libyan people wanted to get rid of Ghadiffi they would have done so. If we’d wanted to help them we might have done so by, say, not selling the dictator the riot equipment to subdue them.

But, of course, at the time selling him the equipment was thought to be in…..our national interest…….

@pagar

If the Libyan people wanted to get rid of Ghadiffi they would have done so.

Are you really that obtuse/naive to think that a popular uprising could succeed against a trained and well equipped armed forces that include an active airforce?

“if they really wanted it they would’ve made it happen…slackers!”

Jeez!

“Are you really that obtuse/naive to think that a popular uprising could succeed against a trained and well equipped armed forces that include an active airforce?”

Like in Egypt, for example?

Like in Egypt, for example?

You missed the part of the events there where the Egyptian army decided _not_ to open fire on the protesters with tanks, cluster bombs, and so on?

How do you think things would have turned out if they had, instead, made the same choice that Gadaffi’s officers (i.e. his sons) did?

Torqueil MacNeil: “Support for democracy in Iraq was and is massive as can be seen by the mass participation in elections, flourishing free press, widespread membership of political campaining parties etc despite real threats of violence.”

That’s really not the point at all, though – support for democracy as a concept is one thing, and support for foreign intervention in your own country for the purpose of bringing democracy is an entirely different thing. Iraqis are certainly capable of telling the difference – despite the continuing support for democracy, about the only thing the disparate bits of Iraq have had in common in the aftermath of the invasion has been anti-occupation fervour.

@35. paul: “It exposes the hypocrisy and double standards of interventionists who are strangely silent over repression in pro western tyrannies like Bahrain,Saudi Arabia etc.”

No, it defines a strain of diplomacy. Trade with Bahrain is legal in spite of civil liberty restrictions and probable torture in that country; and some companies don’t do business there, by choice.

“Cameron invites the bahraini dictator to no 10 for tea. So much for human rights in western backed middle eastern despots.”

If you wish to change minds, do you conduct it over tea or in a kick boxing ring?

“Rwanda uses aid money to hire hitmen to attempt to assassinate dissidents in london , British response – silence.”

We know about this alleged “silence” because London coppers warned Rwandan dissidents about threats. And we have a diplomatic response for it because Rwanda is a member of what we used to call the British Commonwealth, now Commonwealth of Nations.

Paul’s argument declines at this point so I will skip the final paragraphs.

What about the case for intervention at home?

Only a few days ago, a government minister declared that Britain is in the throes of a terminal social crisis brought on by moral decline. But every flaming news broadcast is now taken up with events in the Middle East.

I reckon the bankers got on to the government and told it to lay off on the moral decline stuff before some anti-social degenerate brought up bankers bonuses again and the billions being paid out to depositors in compensation for the mis-selling of Payment Protection Insurnace.

@50. damon: The fly that is buzzing around me demonstrates more nous than Jody McIntyre.

From your link, don’t take it personally, damon. Jody: “This is not a revolution; it is a western-backed, NATO-sanctioned, colonialist regime change in a sovereign African nation. As political analyst and eyewitness Mahdi Nazemroaya, whilst being interviewed on Russia Today…”

Jody is fooled by Gaddafi. Why doesn’t he just take the extra jump to hold hands with David Icke?

55. Baby Clanger

Liberation? The people of Libya aren’t being liberated, their oil and gas profits are. Gadaffi’s crime was to defy the West by actually using some of the oil revenue to improve the lot of the Libyan people, albeit not that well. Compare two African countries, oil rich Libya and oil rich Nigeria. One of these countries has millions on the bread line living in fear of oil company sponsored thugs with no health care, education or clean water. The other, until Nato’s bombing is the only African country where there are no beggars in the streets. The so called rebel leaders in Libya are CIA stooges and are going to loot the country for their own benefit and the benefit of their sponsors. In five years time, life expectancy and literacy will have fallen, poverty and insecurity will have risen. This is a warning for any country that does not want to embrace the American way.

56. Neocons are morons

It’s like Iraq never happened.
Dumbass Neocons never learn.

Wait till the eastern rebels start killing more than the general in command of the rebels and the civil war tears the country apart.

When has an Oil War ever gone wrong ?
Why would rebels and 140 tribes start fighting when the supposed leader of the Libyan national transitional council sacked his entire cabinet of 14 just days ago. That sounds like a good omen.

Repeating same tired polyanna bullshit we heard when Baghdad fell about peaceful and democratic isn’t going to make it any more convincing now.

The hilarious irony of McIntyre, who rose to prominence through being active in a political protest movement (and was famously dragged out of his wheelchair), backing a government like Gaddaffi’s – who started this whole thing by cracking down on protests with live ammunition.

The total lack of self awareness is bizarre.

@54. Charlieman. Please don’t think I’m a fan of Jody’s. 🙂
The guy discredits any cause he gets involved in.

@37 Paul

“It exposes the hypocrisy and double standards of interventionists…..” etc

No, it really doesn’t. Plenty of people who supported this (and other) interventions have done just the opposite of what you claim. The threads discussing this 6 months ago were replete with people who supported intervention like myself pointing out that they were equally opposed to tyrannical regimes like those you mention.

The issue issue is whether “the people” in those countries staging interventions can be, or are convinced that since we can’t intervent everywhere, whe therefore shouldn’t intervene anywhere, irrespective of the circumstances. there is definitely a debate to be had about why some tyrannies are felt to be more tolerable than others, but the fact that the limited intervention Libya happened given experience in Afghanistan and Iraq shows that those opposed to intervention under ANY circumstances, and even those opposed in most cases…. haven’t convinced the public of their case.

60. tom mcghee

my problem with the overthrow of gadaffi is the lack of straight talking and honesty from the west. u cant square providing tactical air support to rebels with a supposed mandate to protect civvies. just admit it was an easy target to remove gadaffi and protect primarily european oil interests.
of course we cant do nothing about n korea cos of their nukes, sudan cos of chinas backing of bashir, syria cos they havnt got enough oil or eastern drc cos the mining assets are too hard to extract and export.

61. Comrade Tebbit

From the ideological perspective, Its a remarkably simple argument.

Position A: “Interventionists” are probably celebrating the downfall of a vicious dictator. This is also a significant demonstration of power by a much maligned NATO. No longer can people say Western military action has to be led by the US. Ironically, Britain now appears more influential and formidable as an enemy than at any time during the Labour years. A foreign policy success that eclipses anything achieved by the foreign policy PM – Blair.

Position B: There are many kinds of “non-interventionists” from paleoconservatives to racists. I think we are specifically talking about Leftist “anti-imperialists” in this case. These people cannot affect change so they make unverifiable claims about ‘motives’.

– Gaddafi is a bad man, but the real threat is the ‘imperialism’.

– Its all about the oil and anyone who says otherwise is naive/a useful idiot.

Random unverifiable claims about motives. The intention is to undermine the revolution and NATO position.

If you study posts by people like flyingrodent you will see this pattern in almost every comment. They do not support Gaddafi, but consider the ‘imperialism’ to be the real threat or enemy.

62. Comrade Tebbit

60 is a good example of this.

Position on the Libyan Revolution – Maybe its OK but my problem is with the West.

Unverifiable claims about motives –

– Why not China?

– European oil contracts.

I promise you will find exactly the same pattern with Newman/flyingrodent and all of them.

Its the desperate attempts of discredited and somewhat hated ideology to pretend it can still explain the world. Look at the cheering crowds, these people don’t know or care about irrelevant Leftist strands of ‘anti-imperialism’.

63. flyingrodent

If you study posts by people like flyingrodent you will see this pattern in almost every comment. They do not support Gaddafi, but consider the ‘imperialism’ to be the real threat or enemy.

To my knowledge, the only time I’ve ever made any kind of song and dance about “imperialism” was in a joke post about soldiers torturing Iraqi kids by… making them play cricket.

Back to the drawing board, you cardboard cutout you.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Does Gaddafi's end in Libya strengthen the interventionists? http://t.co/xazYoMN

  2. Will Wilcox

    Does Gaddafi's end in Libya strengthen the interventionists? http://t.co/xazYoMN

  3. Jonathan Davis

    Does Gaddafi's end in Libya strengthen the interventionists? http://t.co/xazYoMN

  4. sunny hundal

    Does Gaddafi’s end in Libya strengthen the 'interventionists' in foreign policy? http://t.co/RYrvv72

  5. flyingrodent

    Does Gaddafi’s end in Libya strengthen the 'interventionists' in foreign policy? http://t.co/RYrvv72

  6. Dr*T

    Does LibCon ever answer rather than ask questions? RT @libcon: Does Gaddafi's end strengthen the interventionists? http://t.co/w7XndHW

  7. Alasdair Thompson

    Does Gaddafi’s end in Libya strengthen the 'interventionists' in foreign policy? http://t.co/AShqgtk << real or hundal.casiotone.org/ ?

  8. mary.athanas

    Does Gaddafi’s end in Libya strengthen the 'interventionists' in foreign policy? http://t.co/RYrvv72

  9. Jane Phillips

    Does Gaddafi’s end in Libya strengthen the 'interventionists' in foreign policy? http://t.co/RYrvv72

  10. nofrills ?????

    Does Gaddafi’s end in Libya strengthen the 'interventionists' in foreign policy? http://t.co/RYrvv72

  11. Alistair Sinclair

    Does Gaddafi’s end in Libya strengthen the 'interventionists' in foreign policy? http://t.co/RYrvv72

  12. Abdibashir Ali

    RT @sunny_hundal: Does Gaddafi’s end in Libya strengthen the 'interventionists' in foreign policy? http://t.co/6WrQIjX

  13. Moonbootica

    Does Gaddafi’s end in Libya strengthen the 'interventionists' in foreign policy? http://t.co/RYrvv72

  14. A grubby tax deal with the Swiss, a spike in female unemployment and the end of Gaddafi in Libya: : round up of political blogs for 20-26 August | British Politics and Policy at LSE

    […] laurels. Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy wonders if the end of the Gaddafi regime strengthens interventionist […]





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