27
Mar
11

Libya

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.

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3 Responses to “Libya”


  1. March 27, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Do you feel like the USA is more altruistic or less altruistic than other nations in terms of foreign involvement?

    “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.”
    Do you feel like this was true of our involvement in WWI and WWII?

    Does it ever happen that the interests of the USA and the interests of an oppressed people align?

    Aren’t these two statements contradictory?
    “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.”
    “I’m not saying we shouldn’t support the Libyan people’s struggle- we should.”

  2. March 27, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    I understand your deep suspicion of U.S. involvement in the Middle East. I can hardly think of a single instance where we have gone in and actually ended up improving human rights situations. (The closest thing I can think of is Gulf War I where we went in to protect a country’s sovereignty – but even that ended up in the slaughter of thousands of Iraqi Shi’a who we incited to rebellion and then left to face Saddam’s tanks alone.) Any involvement should be very closely scrutinized to make sure that a) our goals are appropriate and b) our means to achieve those goals do not themselves lead to gross human rights violations.

    That said, I honestly think that our involvement in Libya passes the test. The U.S. and Europe have U.N. approval to institute the no-fly zone (this also means that Gaddafi opposes them in carrying out the UN resolution he opens himself up to attack) and, on a wider scale we are intervening to prevent human rights violations by a bloody, ruthless dictator. What is essentially different in this case than Iraq or Afghanistan is that we are not sending in ground troops – this is significant because if ground troops are sent in, we would effectively control the country. As long as we’re fighting from the air with permission from the rebel government, they can still claim meaningful sovereignty over the country.

    Now obviously there are other, less “high” motives behind US and European involvement. Both have an interest in seeing Libyan oil exports resume. Europe has even more at stake in this than the US since they will have to deal with an exodus of refugees to Europe as long as Gaddafi is in power (I think this is reflected by how much larger the European role in this mission is than the American one – the Euros have more to lose.) But to me, this seems like a happy coincidence of economic and political interests with the goal of protecting human rights. You could say the same thing about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but again, I think the key difference here is the lack of ground troops and the fact that we are responding from a plea for help by the rebels. I don’t remember Iraqis and Afghanis celebrating in the streets like the rebels are celebrating now.

    • 3 trotskyite
      March 28, 2011 at 1:53 am

      In response to the question concerning WWI and WWII, let’s keep in mind that the US only became involved in those wars after it was directly affected (the sinking of the Lusitania and the attack on Pearl Harbor respectively). Prior to these events, the US, while sympathetic to the plight of France and Britain, wasn’t particularly active in the war effort.

      With regards to supporting the rebel forces, I believe that the US and it’s allies, rather than attacking directly, should be giving weapons, supplies, and basic necessities to the Libyan public.


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