After bombing Libya, Tories now want to sell them weapons


1:33 pm - October 27th 2011

by Ben Mitchell    


      Share on Tumblr

Merely hours after the world was digesting the news that Colonel Gaddafi had been killed, Philip Hammond, the new Defence Secretary, was telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last Friday that he hoped to see representatives from the British defence industry hopping on the next plane to Tripoli.

Philip Hammond was more than happy to concur, when asked by John Humphrys, whether in helping to liberate Libya, it was only right that the UK should now benefit financially.

Humphreys put it to him:

Should we not have a ‘special relationship’ with the new government when it comes to
oil deals…have we earned something [thanks to our support]?

To which Hammond responded:

Of course I would expect British companies to be, even today, British sales directors, practically packing their suitcases and looking to get out to Libya and take part in the reconstruction of that country as soon as they can.

Libya is a relatively wealthy country with oil reserves, and I expect there will be opportunities for British and other companies to get involved in the reconstruction of Libya.

This leaves a bit of a sour taste in the mouth. And doesn’t really do much to convince those sceptical of the motives behind the military campaign (such as myself), that it was done for the best of intentions.

Mr Hammond is of course simply emulating his predecessor in his enthusiasm for our defence industry, with Liam Fox telling us only recently how ‘proud’ he was of the ‘key role’ of the UK’s arms manufacturers in ‘enlightened international engagement.’

Last month, The Guardian reported that France and Britain were already in competition to secure the best oil contracts, with the former describing it as a “fair and logical” step.

That same Friday morning, Daniel Kawczynski, a Tory backbencher, also took to the airwaves to point out that Libya should themselves contribute to the costs of the war and reimburse Britain to the tune of £300m.

His rationale? The anger of his constituents at seeing Britain fork out for another foreign adventure, whilst public services, such as library closures, are being cut at home.

The problem for Mr Kawczynski is that he voted for both.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Ben Mitchell is an occasional contributor. He is a freelance political analyst providing commentary on current affairs. Blogs more frequently at Left Foot Forward and Ben Mitchell Writes.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy ,Foreign affairs ,Middle East

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


1. Robin Levett

I may be dense, Ben, but I fail to see how “I expect there will be opportunities for British and other companies to get involved in the reconstruction of Libya” translates into “Philip Hammond…telling BBC Radio 4?s Today programme last Friday that he hoped to see representatives from the British defence industry hopping on the next plane to Tripoli.”

Could you elicidate?

it really sums UK policy up at the moment cringeworthy.

I echo Robin @1. I flinched when I saw this from the Defence Sec, but then I read the words and it just doesn’t say what you say it says. Howevever much we want to lay into the Tories – and I want to – we do have to base our interpretation o facts, and in this case the Defence Sec is not speficically promoting arms sales, but ‘reconstruction’ sales.

4. Robin Levett

(Trying again):

I may be dense, Ben, but how does “I would expect British companies to be, even today, British sales directors, practically packing their suitcases and looking to get out to Libya and take part in the reconstruction of that country as soon as they can” translate into “Philip Hammond…telling BBC Radio 4?s Today programme…that he hoped to see representatives from the British defence industry hopping on the next plane to Tripoli.”

I suppose you could argue that because he didn’t exclude defence contractors he must have included them; but that hardly carries the same message or sense of priorities. My comment, had the headline and your first paragraph been a correct representation, would have been to the effect “surely there are things – like water, food and infrastructure, that Libya needs more than weapons”.

Given Britain’s past record of arming the Gaddafi regime, given its continuing record of arming allied regimes in the region, and given the likely security threats that will be faced by the new allied government in Tripoli, I would be absolutely astounded if the British “defence” industry didn’t constitute a significant part of what Hammond had in mind. Ben is making an entirely reasonable assumption here, I’m afraid.

Unless we view the incoming regime as illegitimate I don’t see any reason why we would object to selling them arms? The fact that we may find many arms sales made by British companies bad doesn’t mean every case is objectionable.

I see the case for “Libya doesn’t need weapons”- and its probably true to an extent, though I suspect a lot of their current equipment is out of date, and much support equipment is probably needed (night vision ect). But unless the British government is somehow leaning on them to buy weapons when they don’t want to- something not suggested, never mind evidenced, above- then isn’t that for the TNC and whatever follows it to decide?

Finding the way British arms are sold in general objectionable does not mean crying foul at even the slightest possibility that arms may at some point be sold at all.

@2 and @3:

Philip Hammond said he hoped to see “British companies, even today…to be packing their suitcases.” I’m pretty sure by that he means asap.

Yes, you’re both correct. He doesn’t explicitly speak of selling them weapons, but ‘British sales directors’ has a familiar ring to it don’t you think?

And remember, the arms embargo to Libya has only recently been lifted, so no doubt new deals and contracts will be spoken of.

Libya is now (hopefully) a democratic nation and has every right to buy arms if it wants to. The UK is also equally correct in wanting to sell arms to a willing customer.

A strong arms industry creates those manufacturing jobs you so love to see created, and it supports our own military as firms tend to use the profits from overseas sales to fund R&D that ultimately benefits the UK.

It is better for the sales to come from the UK than from (for example) China, as arms sales in of themselves make the selling nation a stronger military power.

I am a bit confused as to what you are actually complaining about – are you against arms sales under any circumstances, or just trying to take a pot-shot at a Tory politician who’s only crime was to say out loud what I am sure the majority of the British public were thinking.

sorry, @3 and @4, not @2.

10. Robin Levett

I’m pretty sure that Philip Hammond does want arms sales to Libya. There’s an argument to be had about the moraliity of that; but there is also an argument to be had about the morality of rewriting a reference to contributing to reconstruction which you would regard as entirely unexceptionable in the mouth of a non-Coalition spokesman into a specific reference to arms sales.

11. Michael Short

I don’t see the problem, Libya is a nation-state that has a right to defend itself. It’s currently in the end stages of a brutal civil war but that in no means they are safe.

Given the chances of insurgency or a military coup, is it really so shocking that they should require arms? It’s not a case of buying these *instead* of water and food, they are buying them as well. A nation born in blood isn’t exactly going to be the biggest proponents of disarmament are they?

Ben is making an entirely reasonable assumption here, I’m afraid.

It is one thing to assume something about another person, it is another to attribute to him a comment that he didn’t make.

13. Chaise Guevara

Even assuming that he was talking about arms, which isn’t specified above, what’s the specific problem with selling them to Libya? The headline (which I realise may have been written by Sunny rather than the OP) makes it sound as if the Tories are being hypocritical, but there’s no contradiction in helping to destroy a regime then dealing with the people who replace that regime. It’s not like kicking Gaddafi out then selling him guns so he can take over again.

@13. Correct, this wasn’t my title.

As @10 and @12 point out, my comment piece never says that we’re off to sell arms, but if you think these kind of discussions won’t be taking place, you’re deluding yourself.

Hammond is the Defence Secretary. Arms sales are part of his remit.

With regards to selling arms per se, surely if history has taught us anything, it’s that our allies one minute don’t always remain so forever. And that arming despots usually comes back to bite us. Not that Libya is now ruled by one. For now.

@8 Yes, I am against the whole arms industry. It is a despicable thing with tragic consequences to human life, often used to oppress and suppress.

For now, we don’t really know who will be leading Libya, what kind of government will be formed, and whether it will adhere to certain democratic principles. Its treatment of women and religious minorities will be the first thing I’ll be looking out for.

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 14 Ben

“As @10 and @12 point out, my comment piece never says that we’re off to sell arms, but if you think these kind of discussions won’t be taking place, you’re deluding yourself.”

Agreed – but you did say “defense”, which isn’t mentioned in the quote either. “defense” is closer to “arms” than it is to “sales”, which is what the guy’s quoted as saying.

@14 Its a shame that instead of just writing the anti-all arms sales to anyone case you seem to advocate, you just tenuously tried to spin a quote into an arms sales reference.

Indeed, the article seems to presume that the merest idea we might sell someone a gun is enough to presume outrage. If the article had made any effort to make the case for that, there would at least be something to debate. As is, it basically communicates nothing but your own vague horror.

First they bombed Germany, then they thought up the Marshall Plan to let them reconstruct themselves. Typical. Same old patttern. They should have just let them kill each other.

18. theophrastus

The article is just unfocused poltical masturbation. Enjoy.

It’s never bothered Britain who it sells arms to and in the past and when whichever particular regime, odious or benign, has failed to pay for them – no problem – in kicked the Export Credit Guarantee.
The British Taxpayer paid for them.
As Bob Keen Head of Government Relations at BAE said on February 1st, 2011 when addressing a Parliamentary Committee:
“ECGD support is absolutely essential to BAE Systems in a number of markets”
At one time in the not too distant past, this subsidy to the arms industry was worth £14k per every individual there employed, per annum.
Nice work if you can get it.
Perhaps BAE would be more circumspect with whom they did business if there was no cushy ‘fall back’ position to pay for their industry.

Oh yes , text book case of the industrial military complex. The real global welfare state, but only for the rich elites. It’s like banking, the tax payer just keeps on paying.

It’s probably worth changing the title of the piece, so that the central issue is not obscured, that being Nato’s war on Libya and the damage that has been caused, and there is something vile in the comments made by the Defence Secretary, which stinks of the oldest economic fallacy there is; that war is good for the economy. It is not. It may indeed make money for a few construction companies and the weapons manufacturers, but the Libyans are now going to have to rebuild stuff they already had before the war.

I’ve read far too much history to believe the cover story on this war, especially since it’s the same cover story that’s always used. Perhaps in 50 years or 100 years our descendents will learn the truth of this matter, depending on which clause of the Official Secrets Act is used to bury it.

Until that time, I shall assume this had very little to do with Gaddafi’s human rights record.

22. So Much For Subtlety

5. David Wearing

Given Britain’s past record of arming the Gaddafi regime, given its continuing record of arming allied regimes in the region

Same old, same old. Britain has virtually no past record of arming the Gaddafi regime. Or almost anyone else in the region. Their entire sales to Africa of late have mostly been of air traffic radar.

Why do you feel the need to make this rubbish up?

I would be absolutely astounded if the British “defence” industry didn’t constitute a significant part of what Hammond had in mind. Ben is making an entirely reasonable assumption here, I’m afraid.

Given the lack of factual basis to where you start from, it is of some wonder that you have managed to build a tower of cards, but it is still nonsense. There is no indication that he had the defence industry in mind.

23. Dick the Prick

Seem to remember Labour sucking Gaddaffi’s now impaled cock and balls but never mind eh?

24. So Much For Subtlety

14. Ben Mitchell

my comment piece never says that we’re off to sell arms, but if you think these kind of discussions won’t be taking place, you’re deluding yourself.

So you have no evidence, but you know, that is the sort of thing *they* do anyway? I am not impressed when this argument is applied to immigrants and missing neighbourhood pets, why does it get better when you apply it to the Tories?

Hammond is the Defence Secretary. Arms sales are part of his remit.

Surely not. He is the defence secretary, not in charge of the DTI.

With regards to selling arms per se, surely if history has taught us anything, it’s that our allies one minute don’t always remain so forever. And that arming despots usually comes back to bite us.

Actually history teaches us no such thing. But if it did, it would work the other way too, so that our enemies right now are likely to become our friends soon. Which means we should sell weapons to everyone, right? Of course Britain’s system of alliances is extremely stable. We have been aligned with America for much of the last 100 years. No fighting at all. We have been aligned with France for most of that too. No fighting at all. We have been aligned with those members of the Commonwealth who want to be aligned with us. No fighting I can remember off hand. We have not been aligned with the Communists and apart from WW2 we did not give them any weapons. Lots of fighting, but no Blue-on-Blue incidents I can think of (with the irrelevant exception of Israeli weapons of British origin being used to kill Egyptians armed with weapons of British origin but nothing to do with us either way). We were not aligned to the Nazis and we did not sell them any weapons. So the point is garbage.

The only cases where arms sales have come back to bite us are 1. Suez and 2. Malaya. Neither is significant.

Yes, I am against the whole arms industry. It is a despicable thing with tragic consequences to human life, often used to oppress and suppress.

So you want to embrace the fate of the Moriori? Good for you. Why should you be allowed to take the rest down with us? The Arms industry is entirely neutral. What happens with those weapons is what counts. What we do with them is protect the free. If you don’t think that is a worthy goal, good for you. But the rest of the human race does.

For now, we don’t really know who will be leading Libya, what kind of government will be formed, and whether it will adhere to certain democratic principles. Its treatment of women and religious minorities will be the first thing I’ll be looking out for.

Already we can be pretty sure it will be the sort of government the Guardian and the New Statesmen will approve of. So weapons sales are probably a very bad idea indeed.

Barrie J

It’s never bothered Britain who it sells arms to

That is such a delusional view at odds with everything we know about reality I have to ask if you’re kidding?

25. Rob the crip

Does anyone think that’s odd I suspect we had already been shipping arms to them, but if anyone thinks the labour party would not done the same, I suspect Blair is sniffing around in the area claiming he help defeat Gaddafi.

Money makes the world go around.

26. Rob the crip

Blair will be sniffing around with his associates, and I suspect this is the best time, I can see Blair now working for Cameron saying we have aircraft carriers which will work great on sand, we have a few Harriers in good nick, and a few nukes we are hoping, oh no cannot do that yet.

Tories in arms-to-potential-repressive-regime shocker!

28. Shatterface

Maybe I’m missing something but aren’t the Libyans they may sell arms to a different bunch of Libyans that they bombed – or are all Libyans the same?

And so the wheels of capitalism turn merrily on, @21 is spot on, we didn’t assist the rebels because of human rights issues or we would have assisted those in Zimbabwe.
There is no morality in markets (Milton Friedman)

30. Chaise Guevara

@ 28 Shatterface

“or are all Libyans the same”

Apparently so, at least insofar as it allows Sunny to get a snide line in. This headline is bad even by LC’s standards.

31. Anon E Mouse

What’s wrong with selling weapons legitimately to the Libyans?

Blair sold weapons to Saudi Arabia which stunk and why were the left bleating about the job losses at BAE Systems if this concerns them?

Typical hypocrisy from the left considering the number of wars Labour led us into without the backing of the UN as I remember plus with memories of Blair and Brown greeting Gaddafi previously I’d have thought this would be the last subject to be raised….

It is a bit of an abstract idea to say that the UK sells arms abroad. UK firms who happen to be based in the geographical area of the UK do indeed sell arms. Are firms the same thing as the nation state of the UK? That would be like saying the U.S. government sells iPhones and Big Macs. The people who manufacture and sell arms are the firms employees and shareholders.

Most of these manufacturers are heavily unionised, if we are going down the abstract route could we not say that the UK unions are selling arms? The UK government assume an interest in who they are selling to because they would prefer it if those arms were not used against their own military. That is quite different to the nation state of the UK selling arms. I’ve never worked or been a shareholder in any arms manufacturers. However, I am a citizen of the UK nation state. Yet, I do not see how that makes me a shared arms dealer. The problem seems to arise when government ministers use privileged access to work as an unofficial salesperson. Tell the firms to employ their own sales officials and then it has nothing to do with rest of us. Only our government getting involved can possibly implicate the rest of us.

we didn’t assist the rebels because of human rights issues or we would have assisted those in Zimbabwe.

This is an extemely lazy analysis. The most important factor in turning an Anglo-French led Security Council resolution against Libya was regional support. The Arab League backed the NATO mission, and most regional powers provided at least vocal support. In addition, the geographical position of Libya meant that air crews could be based either on carriers in close proximity, or from air bases on frendly soil.

None of these factors are present in Zimbabwe. The region is unanimous in its opposition for Western intervention, and in the absence of that support military engagement is logistically impossible.

Unless you’re proposing that we land at Cape Town and fight our way to the Limpopo in the name of humanitarian intervention?

31
Don’t confuse ‘the left’ with Blair’s New Labour.

33
The analysis is about capitalism really not about interventionism into other countries, however, I don’t think that you are naive enough to believe that if the potential of trade in Zimbabwe was the same as in Libya, geographical tactical positions would not have been a barrier.

@ SteveB,

you agreed with what I said @ 21, I hope you’ll take my disagreement with you with good grace.

“There is no morality in markets (Milton Friedman)”

I don’t know what this is intended to mean. It is the case that there is no morality in the science of economic theory, as it is value free. This does not deny morality in general, it only means that economic theory does not analyse ends (and the morality thereof), but the means to those ends. It is not valid to criticise economic theory for being value free, any more than it would be valid to criticise chemistry or mathematics.

I would say Friedman, if he said that, is wrong insofar as ‘markets’ is a collective term for human transactions, which are motivated by many things including morality. If he means what I’ve said above, that economics is value free, then he would be correct.

“The analysis is about capitalism really not about interventionism into other countries”

I would say that this post is indeed about interventionism and the naive gung-ho, ‘we’re always the good guys’ attitude that this nation sadly clings to, coupled with a casual disregard for the lives of our fellow human beings.

I suspect you use the word capitalism to describe the economic system as it is now, with all its state-imposed distortions, mercantilistic fallacies and oligarchic looting, but these problems are not attributable to capitalism (i.e. private property) and would not be solved by socialism. We may still agree on what a lot of the problems are that we face, although we no doubt disagree on some of the solutions and the definition of some of the words.

TT @ 35:

“the naive gung-ho, ‘we’re always the good guys’ attitude that this nation sadly clings to,”

Really? I don’t think many people would say that about Iraq or Afghanistan. And I don’t think many people are particularly gung-ho about Libya, either.

@ 29

“….@21 is spot on, we didn’t assist the rebels because of human rights issues or we would have assisted those in Zimbabwe.”

Ah, this old chestnut again eh? It just goes to show that you really can’t kill a bad idea.

As others (including some above) have pointed out, the situations were a tad different, but even if they had not been, are you arguing that we should in fact operate a zero tolerance policy to ANY nation state on the nasty list and intervene in EVERY case?

I suspect that you, and others opposed to this specific intervention and/or other (or any?) interventions, AND those opposed to any arms sales, would in fact prefer that we never intervene anywhere under any circumstances. It’s a stance of course…but on the face of it has just as many moral problems associated with it as does the case for intervention. Certainly there are plenty of Libyans alive today who would be dead if Gaddaffi had been allowed to overrun Benghazi… same goes in many other areas: Bosnia, Kossovo, Kurdistan.

As President Obama amongst others has noted, the fact that we don’t or can’t solve every issue does not give us some form of moral absolution to wash our hands of involvement in cases where we CAN make a difference. Will we always get it right? No of course not.

But I invite you to try touting your “soi distant” non-intervention line to Libyans celebrating the overthrow of Gadaffi using the line that “actually, we should have left you to his tender mercies because I think it’s ideologically distasteful that we didn’t intervene in Zimbabwe/Yemen/Burma”… and see what response you get!

@37 Probably being executed in the street by all accounts, especially if you tout that line while being black…

Certainly there are plenty of Libyans alive today who would be dead if Gaddaffi had been allowed to overrun Benghazi…

There are also a great many who would be alive today had we not got involved, along with a great many Iraqis and Afghans.

It is their blood that is on our hands.

@38

*sighs*.. so your point is what exactly? The fact that elements of the new regime may not be shining examples of liberal democracy somehow obviates the whole project? It would of course be preferable if the new regime was able to ensure total adherence to the rule of law.. but it’s hardly a realistic prospect in the short term given the situation.

After 40 years brutal dictatorship, the lack of a functioning civil society, and the behaviour of Gaddaffi’s forces during the uprising it is hardly surprising some of the people take the law into their own hands. I’d wager there is more chance of the new regime bringing Gaddaffi’s thugs to justice than there ever was of people getting justice under his rule.

@39 pagar

So in your view it would be better a few months ago if we had allowed Gaddaffi to overrun Benghazi? Of course if stark numbers are really what matter to you, shouldn’t you have been advocating measures to minimise the conflict like taking Gaddaffi out, arming the rebels, and providing MORE support rather than less?

Whose hands would the blood of the people of Benghazi have been on if Gaddaffi had overrun it Pagar… yours? No, of course not..it would have been on the hands of Gaddaffi and his accomplices.

37
I’ve already stated @34 that my analysis is about capitalism and not interventionism per se, and though Obama may be correct about being unable to assist everyone, the choice of where we do assist/intervene tends to favour those places which are of direct market benefit.
35
I use the word ‘capitalism’ to denote an economic base in which there is private ownership of the means of production. I’ve noted that since around 2007, there are growing numbers of people (I assume are pro-capitalist) who are now attempting to distance themselves from the system by blaming the intevention of the state. As if they were concerned about the matter when the state was (and still is) acting on their behalf and the economy was booming. I will cite tax-credits, I can’t remember any one employer standing up and proposing we should get rid of them, or any MP for that matter.
As for Friedman, maybe he was referring to economic theory, unfortunately, it seems that so many people believe that there really is no morality in market behaviour. and there really isn’t, there is only the promotion of individual greed, sometimes tempered by law.
Finally, there is no such thing as ‘value-free’ theory when describing human behaviour.

So in your view it would be better a few months ago if we had allowed Gaddaffi to overrun Benghazi?

Yes.

Not because we could be sure about whether more or less misery would have ensued from non-intervention (we still can’t) , but because it was none of our business.

However history also tells us that the human price of intervention in conflict is almost always increased and with the power vacuum in Libya post Gaddafi I would be willing to bet on decades of payback.

shouldn’t you have been advocating measures to minimise the conflict like taking Gaddaffi out, arming the rebels

I thought that’s what we did.

Whose hands would the blood of the people of Benghazi have been on if Gaddaffi had overrun it Pagar… yours? No, of course not..it would have been on the hands of Gaddaffi and his accomplices.

Correct.

@41 From observations of Gaddaffi troops when they took other cities, it is unlikely that his forces would have just gone on a murderous killing spree. Sure they’d have tried to kill the rebel forces, but the danger to non-combatants (outside of the usual ‘it’s a war zone outside your front door’ dangers, which didn’t exactly bugger off after the ‘no-fly-zone’ started) was largely inflated. He was more interested in holding onto his power, than killing for shits and giggles.
So if our intervention cost roughly the same in lives, perhaps more, then have we improved the local political situation? Ie removed the threat of state-level tyranny and thuggery aimed at the populace and helped bring about a bit of democratic freedom.
That remains to be seen, and the indicators do not look good.

@42

“the choice of where we do assist/intervene tends to favour those places which are of direct market benefit.”

It is incumbent on those who argue from your point of view to “prove” this supposed truism… and it is vanishingly unlikely that you can.

I’m not even arguing that supposed market benefits don’t exist, or aren’t a factor in decision making… merely that they are only one facet. As was pointed out above, the decision to intervene in Libya was made easier by the fact that it was geographically more accessible, everyone else hated him and his regime including the wider Arab world and his immediate neighbours, and even the UN had (somehow) been brought on board.

None of these were operative in the case of (say) Zimbabwe, or Burma.

Of course, you can try and make the intellectually last assertion that it’s all about the oil, or the prospect of future trade/arms sales gains… but it ain’t necessarily so. I suspect the intervention would have happened had Libya possessed negligible amounts of oil like Tunisia.

As for future arms sales, if you aren’t going to take totally high ground positions at either extreme (either sell anything to anyone with the money, or sell to nobody), the only “sensible” policy would seem to be only to sell to countries in “the camp of the saints” i.e. other liberal democracies that you trust not to re-export them elsewhere. The concomitant of that of course is that UK armaments will be relatively more expensive, and will therefore eat up a greater % of out tax pounds. It’s a price I’d see as worth paying, but others might disagree if it leads to cuts in other areas of expenditure.

@ 36 XXX,

the attitude I was trying to sum up by gung-ho etc is the whole Churchill-worshipping ‘we’re the good guys’ thing, which goes back to the idea, to put it in the terms Churchill or Cecil Rhodes would have, that the Anglo-Saxon race has some kind of ‘manifest destiny’. I think this is deeply ingrained in our psyche and shows itself whenever we are told that we have a moral responsibility to play the policeman to the world.

@ 37 steveb,

“Finally, there is no such thing as ‘value-free’ theory when describing human behaviour.”

You are incorrect. If you are saying that there is no human action that cannot be judged morally, then I guess you are right, but this is a separate matter. Economic theory does not seek to do this. This is a task for ethics. Both are very important but they study different things. Economics does not morally judge what you are trying to achieve, it examines whether your actions are likely to achieve that end.

@ 40 Galen,

“The fact that elements of the new regime may not be shining examples of liberal democracy somehow obviates the whole project? ”

Nice choice of words to draw a cloak over the wholesale lynching of Black Africans.

“I’d wager there is more chance of the new regime bringing Gaddaffi’s thugs to justice than there ever was of people getting justice under his rule.”

Not counting the ex-Gaddafi turncoats who are one section of the new regime, of course.

@ 45 Galen,

“It is incumbent on those who argue from your point of view to “prove” this supposed truism… and it is vanishingly unlikely that you can. ”

It’s not that difficult at all. We can start with the Spanish-American War or the Panama Canal or wherever you like. We could go back to the Opium Wars, and one after another the examples will show (a) a flimsy ‘humanitarian’ / ‘moralistic’ pretext covering (b) a cold-blooded calculation of the potential for plunder.

46

If it isn’t that difficult, then why aren’t you doing it?! The Opium Wars.. REALLY…is that the best you can come up with? LOL. Perhaps you’d like to cast us back a bit further….? The Hundred Years War perhaps…? Good grief, get a grip man!

If the point is so easily made, then demonstrate it with reference to something that actually matters; what was the market based analysis that made us intervene in Bosnia, Kossovo, Kurdistan, Afghanistan? Of course we’re all familiar with the “it’s all about the oil” claim…but it doesn’t get any more convincing for constant repetition.

I opposed the cluster fuck that became Iraq because it was so obviously flawed from the outset; but it had precious little to do with our mad imperialist desire to re-establish a colonial regime and milk Iraq dry of oil – it would have been more “efficient” from a purely capitalist viewpoint to buy it from Saddam.

Similarly, the reason we aren’t intervening in Zimbabwe, Burma, Tibet, Sudan, Yemen etc is somewhat more complex than the fact that they aren’t sitting on a sea of crude oil.

Don’t let a good simplistic mantra keep you from an atavistic tag line though.

@43 pagar

It was… and is… our business. We don’t live in some autarchic dystopia. Much as you might like the cosy certitudes if simply declaring that Libya is a country far away of which we know nothing (and apparently care less in your case… it is rather obvious that you know next to nothing about the situation already) we do have interested other than just economic for intervening.

Thankfully your nightmarish lack of empathy isn’t likely to be that influential…it’s just nauseating.

@47 Galen,

your histrionics do not add anything to the primary school textbook-level analysis.

It is a fact that war makes a huge amount of money for certain, very select interests but harms the rest of us by squandering scarce resources in destroying things, which then have to be rebuilt, and lives which cannot be replaced. Those same select interests are always at the forefront of calling for war. If you need evidence of this, it’s hard to know what to advise for your education. You could start with ‘War is a Racket’ by Smedley Butler, who knew a thing or two, or you could study the involvement of JP Morgan in getting the Wilson administration into WWI, or as I noted, you could look at the Spanish – American War, and contrast the cover story with what the US actually did in Cuba and especially in the Philippines.

@ 42

“use the word ‘capitalism’ to denote an economic base in which there is private ownership of the means of production. I’ve noted that since around 2007, there are growing numbers of people (I assume are pro-capitalist) who are now attempting to distance themselves from the system by blaming the intevention of the state. As if they were concerned about the matter when the state was (and still is) acting on their behalf and the economy was booming.”

I don’t know who this refers to. Defending free market capitalism from intervention goes back a lot further than 2007. Ludwig von Mises’ collection of essays published under the title ‘A Critique of Interventionism’ was penned in the 1920s. Indeed, the struggle for free trade has always been against government intervention. What were the Corn Laws if not government intervention?

There seems to be an element of ad hominem in what you say above. The position of those critics who you attack has no bearing on the economic case. The free market critique of interventionism is, as I’ve indicated, value free. This boils down to pointing out that government intervention does not achieve what it is supposed to achieve, or if it does so, it causes a host of other problems that are easily foreseen. Therefore intervention is usually short-sighted.

46
Economic theory might attempt to be value-free but it isn’t, indeed Adam Smith cited certain aspects of human behaviour as the forces behind markets, self-interested and rational spring to mind. Of course, in order to make massive predictions about something so enormous as millions of humans attempting to survive, you need to preclude so many variables that is becomes nothing more than pure conjecture and chrystal ball reading. In fact, I believe that it was Joseph Schumpeter who pointed-out that the term ‘rational’ was value-laden.
49
I would suggest that the scramble for Africa is a prime example of the state acting on behalf of owners, there is little that can be said to cover the sheer greed of it. And it was all tax-payers who paid, many with their lives as well, so that the few could reap the benefits.
50
Discussion and dissent about free-markets appear to have existed at the time of Adam Smith but, as we all know, the free-market never did exist However, bit by bit the state intervened eg education, military for imperialism, I never heard any owners complain about this. In fact on another thread, several contributors argued that what was created by it was a ‘free-trade area.’
Capitalism has, so far, managed to talk its’ way out of some rather difficult situations and, at the same time, has managed to expand by exploiting undeveloped countries. Globalization has not brought with it the shared benefits and increases to the many as suggested, in fact inequality has increased. But I don’t believe that the person in the street is now listening to the ‘don’t blame me it was the state, guv’
I actually agree with you about interventionism, it only assists the owners.
47 Beware of good simple mantras that’s what most states use as a cloak to justify actions which are not ‘good’ for the many.

@49

Trust me bud, I won’t be needing any lessons from you about capitalism or your simplistic and rather dated views about how the nasty forces of imperialism guide the world. You’re simply another in the long list of none too interesting useful idiots duped by the likes of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion into swallowing conspiracy theories.

Try and grow up before you tangle with the big boys who actually know what they are talking about huh?

As was adequately pointed out to you above, there are plenty of cases which demonstrate why the original point made was and is flawed. Your historic “examples” are neither true, nor apposite even if there WAS a shred of evidence to support them, which of course there isn’t.

TT @ 46:

“the attitude I was trying to sum up by gung-ho etc is the whole Churchill-worshipping ‘we’re the good guys’ thing, which goes back to the idea, to put it in the terms Churchill or Cecil Rhodes would have, that the Anglo-Saxon race has some kind of ‘manifest destiny’. I think this is deeply ingrained in our psyche and shows itself whenever we are told that we have a moral responsibility to play the policeman to the world.”

You could possibly argue this with the Second World War, but even there people’s views of it are often more complex than you make out. In the two most recent wars, Iraq was accompanied by mass protests, and the Libyan conflict, while it didn’t arouse strong hostility, didn’t arouse particularly strong enthusiasm either. So I don’t think you can really justify claiming that Britain has some sort of Manifest Destiny Complex.

@46

“Nice choice of words to draw a cloak over the wholesale lynching of Black Africans.”

I’m not drawing a cloak over anything. I haven’t heard anyone defending the murder of anyone in this conflict by either side. However terrible such crimes are however, they do not amount to an argument against intervention, or demonstrate anything much about the Libyan revolution, other than the fact that in such situations terrible things often happen. Revenge attacks on collaborators, or mis-identified “others” at the end of WW2 don’t mean we were wrong to take on and defeat fascism.. but I suspect you already knew that…it just didn’t fit your prejudice in this case did it?

Much simpler to try and score cheap points by using the deaths of some innocent balck africans at the hands of racist thugs on the rebel side. I mean that obviously trumps EVERY other argument in favour of intervention.

What a burk. you’re hardly worth the trouble of rebuttal really…..

@ 52 Galen,

No amount of childish sneering on your part can disguise such willful, boundless, thundering ignorance.

“tangle with the big boys”? That’s you, is it? What does this bigness consist of? An inability to grasp more than the tabloid headline version of history?

@ steveb,

you should study the original free trade movement of Cobden, Bright etc and the attempts by Bastiat to emulate its success in France. It was very much against imperialism, and their principled stand against the Crimean War was very much against the grain of public opinion at the time. Imperialism, like war, benefits certain interests and those interests lobby for more of it.

Also it is not the case that no voices were raised against the growth in state power in such areas as education. I would cite Herbert Spencer’s ‘The Man Versus The State’ as a good example.

“I actually agree with you about interventionism, it only assists the owners”

I would dispute your term ‘the owners’, but you are right that interventionism benefits some people, the same ones, coincidently (!) who vociferously call for it. Poor Galen thinks it’s a conspiracy theory that lobbyists lobby for things in their interest.

@ 54 Galen,

“However terrible such crimes are however, they do not amount to an argument against intervention, or demonstrate anything much about the Libyan revolution, other than the fact that in such situations terrible things often happen.”

The military intervention was justified by saying it will save innocent lives. Therefore the fact that it has destroyed innocent lives is indeed an argument against it. All you could do to rebut that argument is play the numbers game, that more innocent lives were saved than were lost, and that the lynched Africans’ lives were a price worth paying to topple Gaddafi. The fact that, as you say, such terrible things often happen, is certainly relevant.

“What a burk. you’re hardly worth the trouble of rebuttal really…”

Don’t bother then. I’m sure you’ve got Union Jack underpants to iron.

57.. and others even more ignorant…

Union Jack underpants..? Really? It is to laugh..honestly. As a Scot, the thought of the Union Jack has always made me slightly queasy… surpassed only by the Cross of St George… but then that has somewhat different connotations.

You simply compound your ignorance with every passing post. If you are sneered at, it is because you have richly deserved it.

Yes, the military action was (partially) justified by saying it would save innocent lives. It undoubtedly did this. It is undeniable to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the situation that tens of thousands would have died if Benghazi had fallen to Gaddaffi, in spite of some of the quaint beliefs demonstrated above that Gaddaffi would probably have just roughed a few of them up and slapped their wrists….

I think it is terrible if any innocent people were lynched because they were mistaken for Gaddaffi mercenaries… but for you to blithely maintain that this is some trump card “proving” that intervention was unjustified/a bad thing/ not successful is simply risible.

Any right thinking person will laugh at you and point because not only do you have no empathy, but because you are simply none too bright. Your reasoning is as childish as your sentiments.

It’s a war.. you thought there would be no dead? you want matron to go and give them all a good talking too instead? You are no doubt the type who was arguing we should leave Europe to it’s fate in the 30’s. Lacking a spine as well as a conscience… what a piece of work!

@53

“So I don’t think you can really justify claiming that Britain has some sort of Manifest Destiny Complex.”

Of purse the chump can’t justify it, because it isn’t true… not that this will stop him going on about it sadly… ’twas ever thus. Granted American in the past (and some nut jobs now) probably believed in Manifest Destiny… one might even excuse an element of this in the darkest days of WW2 (which was often a much closer run thing than people realise), and effectively the USA and the UK were the only things standing in the way of Germany and Japan imposing their new order.

Trooper Thompson and his like would have course been the types advising the appeasers to do a deal with that nice Herr Hitler…..

The Anglo-Saxons don’t have a monopoly… these aren’t the days of Cecil Rhodes. Democracy has spread from the dark days of the 30’s and 40’s because it is (as Churchill noted) the least bad system for all it’s faults. Simpletons like TT and the other anti-interventionist appeasers are quite happy to enjoy the benefits of living in the “camp of the saints”… just don’t whatever you do suggest they might like to share the benefits of it around a bit…. why, it’s imperialist, colonialists..and these Arabs…well, they’re not really ready for democracy are they?

I[d tell them they should be ashamed..but they obviously have no shame… far better to let those fighting for freedom in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Burma, Zimbabwe etc be butchered eh?

60. I hate Nick cohen, martin kelner and Alison Pearson

I love the idea that we might be selling arms to potential mullahs.
It is lucky we have never done that before.
Surely the one thing that area doesn’t need is more weapons.

@ 53 XXX,

take a look through Galen’s comments. You will find his outlook is almost wholly conditioned by the Second World War. Here’s a selection:

“You are no doubt the type who was arguing we should leave Europe to it’s fate in the 30?s”

“Trooper Thompson and his like would have course been the types advising the appeasers to do a deal with that nice Herr Hitler”

“Democracy has spread from the dark days of the 30?s and 40?s because it is (as Churchill noted) the least bad system for all it’s faults.”

“Revenge attacks on collaborators, or mis-identified “others” at the end of WW2 don’t mean we were wrong to take on and defeat fascism.”

This is the kind of thing I’m talking about @ 46 when I wrote; “the whole Churchill-worshipping ‘we’re the good guys’ thing” etc.

TT @ 61:

Saying that Britain was right to get involved in the Second World War doesn’t entail “Churchill worshipping”, or a jingoistic “manifest destiny” attitude. Also, I’d need to see more evidence than a few pseudonymous blog comments before concluding that it’s a widespread attitude.

@ 62 XXX,

“Saying that Britain was right to get involved in the Second World War doesn’t entail “Churchill worshipping”, or a jingoistic “manifest destiny” attitude.”

Indeed not, but constantly seeing everything through the prism of the Second World War does indicate a dysfunctional attitude towards matters of war and peace. It leads to the reductio ad absurdum that every designated bad guy is Hitler and every failure to launch the bombers is Munich all over again.

I do not think that many people believe in this ‘manifest destiny’ I mentioned. Rather that its ghost still stalks the land, and that it is most notable in the widespread fixation on WWII and the trotting out of simplistic parallels for every new occasion.

@61

Not surprisingly you entirely miss the point; making reference back to the period between the 2 World Wars doesn’t represent some atavistic desire on the part of those talking about it to promote Churchillian ideals. You do realise don’t you that just because you say it does’t make it so, hmmm?

As I went out of my way to point out, I don’t believe in the manifest destiny of the USA/UK or WASP societies; democracy and freedom are universal. The fact remains however, that for a whole host of reasons the only two nations capable of stopping the most serious threat to those values 60 and 70 years ago were the UK and USA.

That is not to say that the situation today is the same, or that “we” are somehow the chosen people. The “democratic” camp now includes Japan, the whole of Europe, virtually all of Latin America. You’ll find that most of the barely concealed racists and bigots are to be found amongst the ranks of the anti-interventionist latter day “know-nothings”…. they actually believe that some people just aren’t ready for democracy; if it weren’t so condescending it would be funny.

Like all ghosts TT, the ghosts of manifest destiny reside only in your fervid imagination.

65. So Much For Subtlety

64. Galen10

democracy and freedom are universal. The fact remains however, that for a whole host of reasons the only two nations capable of stopping the most serious threat to those values 60 and 70 years ago were the UK and USA.

My God, have the last ten years taught you nothing? Surely Iraq and Afghanistan have proved without a doubt that democracy and freedom are not universal. The locals were offered these gifts free of charge and they have declined them. These two are only vaguely democratic because the US Army is there. It is not even as if democracy and freedom are popular in the West any more – remember the first thing the Guardian did after 9-11 was commission a member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir to come as close as they dared to justifying it.

The fact remains that modern Western style democracy is Anglo-Saxon. 60 or 70 years ago, virtually nowhere outside the English speaking world was even close to democratic. Sweden perhaps. It has been the domination of those Anglo-Saxons that has meant Democracy has flourished. As they decline, so will democracy.

they actually believe that some people just aren’t ready for democracy; if it weren’t so condescending it would be funny.

Unfortunately it is also true. Democracy does not come naturally to anyone. Look at how little the Japanese value it and how much they prefer to hand over power to their civil servants. Latin America is democratic? Under the shade of the US they have to adopt US forms, but are they democratic? They have been doing all they can to reject democracy despite the US. Castro and Chavez are probably more popular than Locke or Mill ever were.

Democracy has no future. It is dying even in the West.

@ 64 Galen,

“making reference back to the period between the 2 World Wars doesn’t represent some atavistic desire on the part of those talking about it to promote Churchillian ideals.”

When you are incapable of doing anything else, and when your knowledge of history seems to start and end with Churchill’s speeches,it does indeed indicate this. I stopped @ 61 after finding four references. I could have found more

You will not find any reference in my comments here saying “that some people just aren’t ready for democracy”. What you will find is an utter cynicism with regard to military intervention. This is based on a knowledge of history that you sadly lack. Interestingly though, @ 47 you state: “I opposed the cluster fuck that became Iraq because it was so obviously flawed from the outset;” You realise, I hope, that all the arguments you are directing at me, would have been aimed at you in the case of Iraq, by equally myopic commenters?

The reason, I believe, people like you go on about Hitler so much, is that you are uncapable of dealing with the complexity of history and politics. WWII provides you with a simple ‘Star Wars’ tale of good versus evil, where Britain is Luke Skywalker and Germany is Darth Vader. It is also interesting to note that you make no reference to the USSR’s role in defeating Germany. Perhaps because you are unaware of it, or perhaps because it messes up your Manichean view.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Andrew Pogson

    "@RealJayRox: “@sunny_hundal: After bombing Libya, Conservatives now want to sell them weapons. No shame http://t.co/M0ZiL5ca”"shamefull

  2. men underwear lovers

    http://t.co/Ke2Tei88 RT @libcon: After bombing Libya, Tories now want to sell them weapons http://t.co/oWq24U59 http://t.co/mIZBfDOu

  3. David Hackett

    After bombing Libya, Conservatives now want to sell them weapons. No shame http://t.co/2RcbVBBR

  4. Lynda Constable

    After bombing Libya, Conservatives now want to sell them weapons. No shame http://t.co/2RcbVBBR

  5. Kat Friel

    After bombing Libya, Conservatives now want to sell them weapons. No shame http://t.co/2RcbVBBR

  6. Steven de Boer

    After bombing Libya, Tories now want to sell them weapons http://t.co/cdRpj2lt via @zite

  7. Janet Graham

    After bombing Libya, Conservatives now want to sell them weapons. No shame http://t.co/2RcbVBBR

  8. Ahsan Alavi

    *shock*!RT @sunny_hundal After bombing Libya, Conservatives now want to sell them weapons. No shame http://t.co/55hTN9vo

  9. Susan Michie

    After bombing Libya, Conservatives now want to sell them weapons. No shame http://t.co/2RcbVBBR

  10. Molly

    http://t.co/108ryAS9 Depressing but not at all surprisingly really. #Libya

  11. Alex Braithwaite

    After bombing Libya, Tories now want to sell them weapons | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/2Nqpl3KW via @libcon

  12. Questions must be asked about the Libyan takedown, Syria and Iran to follow? « Decline Of The Western Empire

    […] for, many of which were sold to Gadaffi by the UK? Days after the regime fell, UK defence secretary Phillip Hammond was organising new deals to arm the new regime, while  billions of dollars worth of contractsare being awarded for rebuilding the infrastructure […]





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.