Over the past couple days, the Libyan rebellion forces have been moving west towards the Gaddafi controlled cities of Tripoli and Sirte. While the past weeks have been bloody, it appears that the conflict will be won by the Libyan people.
Of course, while I’d like to spend the next few paragraphs exalting the power of the people and solidarity for the struggle of all oppressed peoples across the world, there is a nagging issue that I feel has to be addressed- that of Western intervention.
With the US, Britain, France, and other countries involved in the conflict (apparently bombing the HQ of a foreign head of state doesn’t constitute an act of war), there’s been no little controversy as the exact legitimacy and justification of American and European intervention. Perhaps not without good reason- the US, Britain, and a number of other allied countries are already neck-deep in two long, expensive, unpopular wars (excuse me- operations) with no end in sight. After ten years in Afghanistan and seven years in Iraq, it’s tough to take Western leaders seriously when they claim that their goal is to simply help the citizens of those countries. By now terms like “intervention”, “operation”, and “campaign” all seem like euphemisms for “invasion”, “occupation”, and “destruction”. On the whole, the left seems fairly unified in opposition to America-and-friend’s latest adventure in the Middle East, and I can’t say my position is any different.
First, let’s look at similar instances of this- Iraq and Afghanistan being the most obvious examples. In both situations, the US and coalition forces have become hopelessly entangled in both situations and have no discernible exit strategy. It’s hard to see how Libya will be different than any other conflict.
And that brings us to the second issue- other conflicts. I’ve got the same problem with the American-led/backed coalition attempting to unseat Gaddafi that I had when America and it’s allies attempted to unseat Saddam Husein. As bad as these dictators are, they’re far from the worst despots out there. Why does the US et al. feel compelled to get involved in Libya and not Burma? The oppression and genocide has been going on in Burma far longer than in Libya, and there’s been a resistance movement (both violent and non-violent) for about as long. Again- why hasn’t Than Shwe’s compound been bombed?
Which brings us to the third problem- motivation. When the West has decided to become involved in a conflict like this, despite their insistence that their goals are merely the propagation of democracy and freedom, there’s always something in it for the invaders. Be it the installation of a pro-Western puppet politician like Hammed Karzai in Afghanistan or the elimination of WMDs/securing oil supplies (depending on which you believe was the US’s real motivation), you can safely bet that if the West becomes involved in a conflict, it’s for their interests- not the interests of the people.
Look- I’m not saying that Gaddafi shouldn’t be unseated- he should. I’m not saying we shouldn’t support the Libyan people’s struggle- we should. I’m saying that America and the West’s professions of revolutionary fervor should be taken not so much with a grain of salt, but with a small ocean.