On Power As We Know It, In It’s Natural Habitat: The Western World
[No, this isn’t the post promised about democracy. That will come… eventually.]
THIS PROBABLY ISN’T a proper Anarchist critique, but I don’t care. I’m my own person and come by these views honestly. The following was conceived in the comment section on this JRB post On Intervention.
I don’t think of Western power as something that we can solicit. It’s something to cope with, an element in the ecosystem in which we survive. Like the wind. Sometimes a nice cool breeze is all you need on a hot Summer day to take the edge off. But wind is unpredictable! Most of the time it’s out there being a pain in the ass, trollin’, blowing your paper plate off the picnic table, messing with your hair, slowing you down on your bike ride. And with alarming frequency, if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, it’ll tear through and suck the roof off every house in the neighborhood.
Just as Western power isn’t something we solicit, it’s also not something we can really foreclose to anyone else. My criticism of the Libyan situation is its violence. I don’t believe that any of the three violent actors (i.e. the Colonel, the rebel leaders, nor Western power,) are honestly acting with the interests of everyday Libyan people at heart.
Reflecting on my own principles, the largest part of my idea of ethics is simply: persevere! By that measure I should be happy for the nonviolent Libyan who has been bought some time by a US cruise missile strike against Gadhafi’s troops. Sure there is dissonance here, but is it inconsistent or hypocritical to both feel sympathetic to that person while abhorring the violence of the situation?
Western power says, “Look! An incredibly violent and regrettable situation!” And “BOMB ‘EM!!!!” is the first and best answer? Really? Is that as far as your imagination will carry you? I mean, there are literally (literally, Joe Biden!) an infinite number of things, short of launching missiles, the powerful could do to help if only they were concerned with the interests of people.
That’s not how Western power operates. No matter how good a cool ocean breeze can sometimes feel, the wind don’t know how to do anything but blow.