Cole/ Van den Heuvel on Libya: Nation Podcast

My conversation with Katrina van den Heuvel, the editor of the Nation, “Do we belong in Libya?” is available at the Nation’s web site. .

They also kindly reprinted my open letter to the Left on Libya.

Here is the embedded podcast:



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13 Responses

  1. It defies logic: “an Obama administration that keeps unleashing drones and air strikes over civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and – now and then – Somalia is now deeply concerned with protecting Libyan civilians?”

    I don’t buy it.

    • “It defies logic: “an Obama administration that keeps unleashing drones and air strikes over civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and – now and then – Somalia is now deeply concerned with protecting Libyan civilians?”

      I don’t buy it.”

      Not really, obama believes that certain levels of violence are acceptable and can be used to prevent an even greater level of violence from occuring, that is what he has done in libya and that is what he (rightly or wrongly) believes he is doing in those other regions.

    • Except that it’s not just “Obama”, it’s the UK and France for starters, along with those European nations not allied with Russia or China or Belgrade.

  2. Genocide in Libya? Really quite a bit of nonsense and truly an insult to those people in places where efforts at extermination of a people have indeed taken place. Attempted genocide in Yemen? Absolutely. Where was NATO when the Saudis were bombing refugee camps?

      • It mean they should stop pretending they are there to protect civilians and start admitting that they are there to get access to the Sirte oil basin. This civil war has absolutely nothing to do with humanitarians and the depiction of Libya as genocide is either willfully ignorant or generally obtuse.

  3. This “debate” over Libya among people who call themselves progressives fascinates me. Because more than any previous debate, this one brings into the open a selective use of language that amazes me.

    Let us take the word quagmire. In the dictionary it presents that a quagmire is a difficult entrapping situation. How can a rational person talk about a less than two week old situation as being a quagmire???? Furthermore, does any person call a conflict a quagmire that is an honorable fight against illicit oppression, regardless of how long it takes? Did the people warning of a quagmire in Libya call the decades long civil rights fight in the US a quagmire????

    Then there is “civil war”. Which the dictionary states is a war between two opposing groups of citizens. When one party is a dictator, whose only supporters are either mercenaries or people who benefit from corrupt actions of the dictator, you can’t call them a “group of citizens”. So there is no civil war in Libya, and never will be as long as Kadhafi remains. There is only brutal oppression and the honorable citizens of Libya attempting to eliminate that oppression.

    Then the “why not the same in Bahrain or Yemen”. When you pointed out that there is no Libya-like invention option in Bahrain, Van den Heuvel did not reply; and you didn’t repeat that regarding Yemen, which would have been true there.

    And what is the problem with Libya being a precedent? If the international community promptly produced sanctions and freezing assets each time a dictator wreaked havoc on a people, and introduced a no fly zone each time a group of citizens first protested peacefully and then took up arms against brutal actions by that dictator, I think it would not be long before rarely would a person act like a dictator, making that a worthy precedent.

    Then the “weaken the UN” point. The UN has always been weak, never able to do anything that the major world powers don’t support. So it can’t be further weakened. And why not have a Security Council resolution passage be required before any country can wreak havoc on a group of people? That would have stopped Russia from its genocidal actions in Chechnya, China invading and oppressing Tibet or suppressing the Uyghurs or actively oppressing all people who choose to practice Falun Gong. Or Sudan’s oppression in the south and Darfur. Or the genocide in Rwanda. Or Idi Amin in Uganda. And so forth in many places. What is wrong with that precedent? There would have been no war in Afghanistan or Iraq if that had been done.

    • Thank you for this. I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one who had these views. The reaction of the left to this intervention is very odd and I’ve not found any theory to explain it that doesn’t involve questioning motives. So I am quite puzzled.

  4. Minor spelling correction: The Nation editor’s name is Katrina vanden Heuvel.

  5. I am deeply saddened and worried that President Obama has taken America to war in Libya, a country that was no threat to America, without asking for approval from Congress. President Obama has to me broken American law but such law breaking will now become a precedent, a dangerous precedent indeed.

  6. As the late historian Barbara Tuchman wrote in The March of Folly:

    “Limited war is basically a war decided upon by the Executive, and ‘without arousing the public ire’ — meaning the public notice — means parting company with the people, which is to say discarding the principle of representative government. Limited war is not nicer or kinder or more just than all-out-war, as its proponents would have it. It kills with the same finality. In addition, when limited on one side and total for the enemy, it is more than likely to be unsuccessful, as rulers more accustomed to the irrational have observed.”

    When I heard President Obama begin babbling about his swell new “limited” war-of-choice in Libya — addressed to an uncritical audience of career military officers rather than to the Congress and the nation — I thought immediately of Professor Tuchman’s timeless comments.

    I’d say that President Obama has jumped the shark of instantaneous escalation to humiliating mission-creep failure — again. Coming soon: the predictable violation of U. N. Resolution 1970 which ostensibly establishes an arms embargo on ALL of Libya. Gotta love those U. N. Resolutions that either authorize or prohibit what the United States either hides behind or disdains, depending upon the time of day, direction of prevailing political winds, tribulations of the tar-baby puppet/client du jour, and/or anonymous corporate campaign contributions promised or in hand.

    President Obama has started an Executive war-of-choice in Libya with limited prospects for gain and maximum opportunities for loss — which explains why Brazil, Russia, India, China, and Germany decided to have no part of the misadventure. When the Lunatic Leviathan decides to shoot himself in the face once more, wisdom councils non-interference.

  7. Juan — although my extreme reservation regarding this mission remain, I am grateful to you for standing up and being “present” to man the “pro” side on this issue.

    My fears wrt “our” potential-like-always overreaching seem more likely to me this afternoon with the CIA finding, debate wrt “arming the rebels” (and all that ripples out from such a proposal) … and yet, I do believe that sometimes it is admirable to take the risk and make the dangerous choice to wade into a situation like this.

    Again, thank you. (I will continue to try to think good and positive thoughts.)

    I’d love to know the mood in France, Italy, etc. and what’s up with the Arab League and the African League

  8. When Obama was elected into power by an unsuspecting US public the entire world too joined in rejoicing while also being filled with admiration at the remarkable progress of true democracy in the great land of the founding fathers. People like Rev. Jesse Jackson were seen in tears of disbelief after the result of Obama’s victory was announced.
    There was euphoria from the whites and blacks alike.
    Judging from two years on the US public is truly disappointed at Obama’s inconsistency of statements,his rash immature foreign policy apart from being exasperated by his local politics. Shockingly, Obama who came into power by his anti-war rhetoric,his peaceful approach to nations of the Middle East and his humantistic decision to close down guantanamo and so on has proved himself to be a consistent liar.This is dangerous for the world. This man is nothing but a war monger. He has proved himself even worse than Bush. He seems to have a passion to bomb and kill people by taking decisions at the drop of a hat.Countries of the Nato appear to sheepishly follow him and are equally guilty of criminal intervention in other counries while the great UN simply looks on impotently as usual.
    Obama’s decision to continue bombing of Afghanistan and employment of more and more troops to ‘win the battle against the Taliban’. Unfortunately any Pashtun of Afghanistan is looked upon as a Taliban or a terrorist with the frightening consequence that old men, women and children become the main casualties of this despicable ‘war’.
    The insensitive insane policy of using drone attacks to shoot down down miltants requires an explanation. The world should demand it.98% of the casualties of these barbaric drone atttacks have been poor peasants most of them women, (some pregnant)little children or old men. Hasn’t this man learnt anything from this? He has bribed and blackmailed Pakistanis leaders in order to carry out such attacks. This was his sinister plan all along.Even before he came into power these were his words:’ If I became president of the US I will conduct raids into the heart of Pakistan with or without the approval of the Pakistan government.’ This caused quite a stir in the Pakistani parliament. Drone attacks are carried on almost on a daily basis and the casualties have been all the time innocent families. This is not video game. This are serious murder tactics against human beings who also breathe and think like other human beings of the world.
    Obama has violated the UN constitution more than once the recent one being his intrusion into Libya. If this is a humanitarian interference as it is publicised to be what happened to the human compassion when the Israelis used hellicopter gunships,cluster bombs and even phosphorous bombs to slaughter 1500 innocent men,women, children in the Gaza? Why was Israel not even warned leave alone attacked.What happens to human compassion when peace activists aboard sea vessels are murdered by Israeli soldiers? What happens to human compassion when settlement after settlement is built on the land of Palestinians who have been living there since generations and are now rendered homeless.What happens to the concern for WMDs when fully knowing that Israel is in possession of more than 300 nuclear warheads and olther deadly weapons . So these double standards and lies do not convince anyone Mr Obama. You have proved yourself inept and a violent minded liar who does not deserve to lead what is considered to be the world’s superpower.

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