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On US Military Involvement In the Enforcement of an UN Sanctioned No Fly Zone Over Libya and Bombing of Selected Ground Installations While NOT Targeting Moammar Gadhafi Himself

March 23, 2011

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY be more ineffectual, in terms of actual US foreign policy, than Ol’ Montag’s opinion on Libya? Nothing. What US leaders and their allies do, the sausage they make? It is what it is.

Who is harmed by Ol’ Montag’s knee-jerk reaction of cynicism at US leaders’ stated humanitarian intentions? Or the conviction that over the long run, no good, indeed more bad than good, will come of yet another projection of US imperial power? Or the skepticism, considering the track record in every ongoing US military engagement, that the types of weaponry at work won’t result in indiscriminate death and destruction nor effectively bring about, you know, a reasonably quick end to the violence. Because, really, when has it been proven yet that people can be bombed into freedom or democracy or stability, whatever the desired result is?

Now admittedly I haven’t ironed out all of the philosophical ins and outs of my opposition to US military involvement in the Libyan conflict. I admit feeling somewhat chagrined for this lack of philosophical vigor after reading JR Boyd’s call for solidarity with the struggle of the Libyan people. But despite whatever incoherence my view suffers, it’s baldly offensive if you’re going to tell me that my criticism betrays a preference to “just watch [Libyan’s] die.” This is a rhetorical cheap shot, and a piss poor refrain for your side of the debate, so fuck off. Because let’s not forget the truth of the very first two sentences of this post.

My knowledge of Libya is nearly nil. I can point to it on a globe, and I can remember Gadhafi being THE boogeyman during my youth. The Libyans killed Doc Brown for fuck’s sake! The information I’ve heard/read/seen about the current conflict is so limited that I wouldn’t necessarily trust my own sense of it, though I am nonetheless going to tell you what that sense is. I’ve seen, on one hand, early on, women whose titles would indicate that they held some official role in the rebellion calling for a no fly zone. I’ve seen an armed rebel man asking for a no fly zone as well as strikes against Gadhafi’s ground troops. I’ve also seen images of armed Libyan’s holding a banner, the sentiment of which was essentially, ‘Foreigners keep out. We got this.’ Mixed signals. And not a large enough sample size to accurately extrapolate the views of the active rebels, let alone the general population.

My sense is that the population of Libya, largely(?) opposes Gadhafi’s rule, and that many of them were inspired, even emboldened, by the protests in neighboring countries to begin what was at first a peaceful protest of their own. It is also my sense that there was an established organization of hardcore rebels who had perhaps been waiting for such a moment to arise, even if they were caught unawares by the suddenness of the current situation. So I suspect this somewhat organized core and some new recruits from the ranks of the protesters are who were ready to meet force with force and had some initial success when Gadhafi retaliated.

There are surely a great number of regular folks just caught in the middle of the conflict. I get the sense that regular Libyans are scared of the hardcore rebels as well as Gadhafi. Alternating between flying the rebel flag or Gadhafi’s flag based on who they perceive as having the upper hand. Almost as if they fear for their lives for putting up the wrong one.

The hardcore rebels seem to be violent power seekers looking to take control of the state through naked force. My personal view of power seekers in general and violence is pretty dim. But what I don’t have a great sense of is this: Are the rebels, should they win, definitely better for Libya than Gadhafi? Is that for US to judge? What is missing from this picture, and I think this is what JR Boyd is driving at, is that we, way over here in America, don’t have a good sense of what the regular, caught-in-the-middle Libyan people want to happen.

Let’s assume they want Gadhafi out, to be replaced with a free and fair democratic process. (Next post in this space will discuss my distaste for democratic movements.) Great. Now compare and contrast that with the entirely predictable result of Western military involvement in the process, and allow me to repeat the rhetorical cheap shot refrain to my own argument: When has it been proven yet that people can be bombed into freedom or democracy or stability, whatever the desired result is?

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Jack Crow permalink
    March 23, 2011 9:37 AM

    The problem with Mr. Boyd’s argument, such as it exists, is that it fails to define who the “Libyan People” with whom we ought to identify are. The persons actually asking for help from the US speak for themselves and their own interests, and with the assistance and encouragement of sponsors in France, England and the US.

    Mr. Boyd seems to be operating from the position that this request for US bomber assistance reflects an undemonstrated, unproven and ultimately blindly hoped based unity with the voiceless Libyan populace.

    History has so few landmarks which validate this hope as to be rightly counted as “none.”

  2. March 23, 2011 9:49 AM

    Aside from what Jack said… assume we can identify “the Libyan people” with sufficient specificity, know their aims, know their needs.

    With that knowledge there are many, many ways to help them.

    Armament afly, that’s the most destructive of all. Troops on the ground is 2d most destructive.

    Strategic assistance, that’s 3d on the list.

    How about free medical care for their injured? That sounds pretty good.

    Repair any broken body, no matter what side they’re on. That sounds even better.

    We won’t choose these latter courses. Why?

    Because of the kind of nation we are. Because people who WOULD use the health care mandate HERE would rather use guns and bombs and soldiers THERE.

    Which tells you a lot about their humanity, I think. And about the integrity (or lack thereof) in their “political” positions.

  3. March 23, 2011 9:57 AM

    right on, fellas.

  4. BDR permalink
    March 23, 2011 10:10 AM

    Even if we knew who the specific Libyans are who asked for help and trusted their motives, it wouldn’t be those asking for help through bombing whose motives I’d distrust, it’s the motives of those eager to do the bombing I distrust.

  5. ohtarzie permalink
    March 23, 2011 11:39 AM

    “Even if we knew who the specific Libyans are who asked for help and trusted their motives, it wouldn’t be those asking for help through bombing whose motives I’d distrust, it’s the motives of those eager to do the bombing I distrust.”

    Skepticism toward the bombers goes without saying, but skepticism toward those requesting our involvement should be viewed critically also. Not every rebel is a good guy. Sometimes he’s just another aspiring strong man.

    • ohtarzie permalink
      March 23, 2011 11:40 AM

      I worded that poorly. Meant to say ‘skepticism toward those requesting. . .is warranted also.’

      • BDR permalink
        March 23, 2011 1:58 PM

        Yes, you’re right. I was proposing an impossible hypothetical in the first case to weigh against the inevitability of the second – I should have been clearer. Apologies.

  6. drip permalink
    March 23, 2011 3:24 PM

    “What is missing from this picture … is that we, way over here in America, don’t have a good sense of what the regular, caught-in-the-middle Libyan people want to happen.” This is a very clear statement of a point I have tried to make. Let me also add that I believe the requested military aid will be bad for the regular Libyans and that is an ideologically produced response, of the sort JRB was questioning. I don’t know what the outcome will be, but without more information which I, you, JRB and our so-called intelligence community don’t have, the exercise of power is not authorized. It is not consented to by all parties because none of them know enough.

    It is a bad business. The Colonel seems to be a really bad guy doing really bad things and if I thought there was a way to make him stop killing without more killing and sort it out, the path would be clear, but that doesn’t seem possible and it surely isn’t the plan.

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