47 Responses

  1. The Berube article is well worth a read. Here is a taste:

    It may be that some of the knee-jerk opposition to US involvement in Libya—that is, the kind that does not take into account the momentum from the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, or the support for NATO action by the Arab League and the United Nations—is an epiphenomenon of the left’s version of Obama Derangement Syndrome. In the U.S., ODS is especially pronounced among the “netroots,” where “progressive” bloggers vie to outdo each other in the agonies of their disappointment in and/or the virulence of their disdain for Obama’s presidency. (Last I looked, they had moved on from determining that Obama is worse than Bush, and had begun deliberations as to whether he is the worst president in U.S. history—though one of the more restrained frontpagers at FireDogLake did say, in July 2011, “I’m not ready to crown Barack Obama the Worst President Ever just yet.”) Often based (quite plausibly) on Obama’s various compromises with Republicans and conservative Democrats over health care and the budget, or his collapses on civil liberties, and often led (rather less plausibly) by partisans of Hillary Clinton, who have apparently decided to take her loss in the 2008 Democratic primaries as an occasion for building an alternate reality in which she is somewhere to the left of Eugene V. Debs (and secretly a hardened opponent of the administration in which she serves), Obama Derangement Syndrome is not specifically about foreign policy. It does, however, allow American leftists to cheer on the Arab Spring while denouncing Obama’s, and the international community’s, attempt to support its expression in Libya.”

    • Thanks for reading and summarizing the “Firebagger” blogs, so we don’t have to!

      You’re right; the leftist version of Obama Derangement Syndrome is real, and in my opinion, is much more harmful than the rightwing version in that it’s designed to STOP ALL POLITICAL PARTICIPATION and constructive action. We’re so disappointed, we’ll just stay home and not vote for anybody. Boo hoo hoo. What’s the point in trying; Obama always folds. Yada yada yada, ad infinitum.

      Rightwing ODS gets people mad. It gets them out of their comfortable chairs, away from the welcoming keyboards, into the streets and voting booths. Leftwing ODS causes people to sit around moping in fashionable and satisfying cynicism.

      I could well believe that leftwing ODS is a rightwing plot, the reactionary right being so good at that sort of manipulation. But lefties make it too easy, by eagerly grasping for the most hopeless interpretation of the President’s every action – and thus rationalizing taking absolutely NO ACTION themselves.

      • @Zandru: “taking absolutely NO ACTION themselves.”

        Speak for yourself, Zandru. For me, disappointment in Obama has led me to more focused, local, and participatory action than I took before.

        • Bless you, Eric! May others follow your example. (Personally, I think all one needs to do is view one of the Republican Presidential debates to get themselves “all fired up and ready to go” Democratic…)

        • Zandru, I take it you haven’t heard of the Occupy movement?

  2. The actions of Congressman Kucinich disclosed in the article are very disappointing. The leader of the very anti-war movement that has worked tirelessly the last ten years to stomp out the “Arab dissent = al-Qaeda” meme sought to use it himself against Arabs who dissented against “socialism”.

    He has demanded explanations many times for outrageous actions by higher officeholders; now I demand to know why he was eager to stamp the al-Qaeda brand on the rebels in concert with Fox News, Palin, Bachmann, et al, a smear that he knows taints the entire Arab Spring movement in the eyes of easily-prejudiced Americans. Besides, I just want one of these guys to explain why they love Gaddafi so much for promises he broke years before Obama even made any. At least Ron Paul is consistent in his indifference to massacres by left-wing and right-wing tyrants alike.

    • Rep Kucinich has often talked a good talk, but has seemed unable to lead any kind of follow-through. When he announced that he would move to Oregon to run for Congress if he got paired in the Ohio redistricting, I lost all respect for him.

      His stance on the Libyan intervention just confirms my bad opinion of him. While Kucinich remains a hero to other lefties, I have cut him loose, and good riddance.

  3. Good reading–thanks for the link.
    It would be good to have a consistent set of guidelines for intervention–and what kind of intervention (e.g., whether or not to send in ground troops). There are certainly other places in the world where the dictator is as bloody as Qaddafi, but there was/is no call for American or any foreign intervention. As Berube says, that does not in and of itself mean that we should or should not have intervened in Libya, but it does raise the question: how do we decide?

    • You’re right, that’s the debate we should be having. None of the tools at our disposal to influence the actions of foreign governments work well. Sanctions are a disaster, killing as many people as major wars. Humanitarian intervention is too elastic and easy to politicize. Drones, don’t get me started on drones.

    • I think Libya was a black swan, and we’re unlikely to see its like again.

      We had the Libyan people themselves calling for foreign militaries to intervene in their country. We had the Arab League, the relevant regional body, calling for intervention. We had the UN Security Council authorizing action, with China and Russia doing nothing to stop western militaries from intervening into a former Soviet client state with close economic ties to China. We had NATO willing to commit to a non-defensive military action. And we had a military situation on the ground in which air power could actually play a meaningful role in protecting civilian populations.

      Those things don’t happen all together every day.

      • Just for the record – Gaddafi’s ties to Europe were MUCH, MUCH, MUCH closer to Europe than to China.

        Europe buys 80% of Libya’s oil, Italian, French and Spanish oil companies pump about 70% of it.

        The value of weapons sold to Gaddafi between 2005-2010 by NATO countries was more than 50 times the value of weapons sold to Libya by China.

        China has some non-productive oil leases, some construction and maybe some telecomms contracts in Libya.

        • Yes, indeed, I didn’t mean to suggest that Libya’s only economic ties were with China, just that they had such ties.

          But, nonetheless, Libya was a country with considerable economic ties to China, and China has traditionally stood up in the UN on behalf of such countries when the West looked askance at them.

  4. So, why exactly is it unimportant that NATO/US/UN didn’t intervene in (list of catastrophes)? If city cops only arrest blacks and never whites, that points to something smelly, even if the blacks arrested are actually guilty. But Berube just tosses this issue aside.

    Also, loads of ad-hominem here. ODS? Still fighting Vietnam? Seriously? Juan, you made a case for intervention, but Berube’s article is just content-free drivel. Examples of moon-eyed Khadafi worship are where, exactly? Berube doesn’t give any examples of this at all; he just points back to your blog, Juan. So, OK, maybe you agree with Berube, but his article adds exactly nothing to the discussion.

    • So, why exactly is it unimportant that NATO/US/UN didn’t intervene in (list of catastrophes)?

      Because the question of whether stopping Gadaffi’s military from committing mass slaughter is a good idea has absolutely nothing to do with the moral standing of NATO, the US, or the UN.

      To wit: “Help, officer, help! A gang of murderers is breaking into the orphanage!”

      “Sorry, madam. I have three DUIs on my record, and I totally didn’t break up a bar fight last night when I was walking by the pub. So, good luck kids. I’m sorry I don’t have the moral standing to help you.”

  5. from BBC Monitoring / BBC News Africa

    The threat of radical Islamic extremists coming to power in Libya was a spectre repeatedly invoked by Muammar Gaddafi and his supporters in order to delegitimise the Libyan revolution.

    It was an argument that largely failed to convince the major international powers, who extended significant military and economic assistance to the Libyan opposition and ultimately helped bring them to power.

    But recent statements by National Transitional Council (NTC) leaders on Islam being the principal basis for legislation in the new Libya, coupled with the increased prominence of former jihadist figures, have led some to believe that Libya’s new political reality may be decidedly less liberal and closer to Gaddafi’s scenario than initially anticipated.

    link to bbc.co.uk

    • Whoa. “Have led some,” eh?

      Anybody who could be “led” to believe that a majority-Muslim state’s invocation of Islam as the basis of law is an indication that al Qaeda is going to run the place is an idiot who knows absolutely nothing about the region.

      As is anyone who thinks that “former jihadist figures” taking up electoral politics is a bad thing. That’s sort of the POINT, you know.

    • Article 1 of the TNC Interim Constitution has stated that basis of the new Libyan legal system shall be Islamic Law (Sharia) since it was first published in April 2011.

      The head honcho of the TNC, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, graduated from the department of Shari’a and Law in the Arabic Language and Islamic Studies faculty of University of Libya in 1975.

      What is the MSM on about, cant they read or something.

      Israeli law is based on Jewish Rabbinical Law, Anglo Common Law is based on Christian Canon Law as is European Roman Law, what would you expect a Muslim country to use as the basis for its legal system – Druidic Law, Confucianism.

  6. I’m come to learn from this episode that a large segment of the anti-war left approaches questions of American military power using the same intellectual strategy as the neoconservative right. They don’t need to know anything about the particular situation or circumstances; they just have to consult their pre-existing ideological script about American military action in the abstract. That the two groups’ prejudices about American going to war are polar opposites, they are used in the same way.

    If you read liberal or leftist commentary about issues like global warming, health care, public transit, income inequality, or the federal budget, you find an astounding level of knowledge and a deep commitment to the facts. It’s clear why the phrase “Reality-based community” applies. The contrast to the commentary about Libya, or any other military-related subject, could not be more dramatic. It isn’t just that they don’t know anything about Libya and what was happening there, but that they so obviously didn’t think that they need to in order to decide exactly what they think.

    • I reluctantly supported our actions in Libya, but for you to assert equivalency between a pro-war bias and an anti-war bias is absurd. A bias against US military action is much, much better than a bias in favor of it. In fact, I’d say having a bias against US military action is a feature, not a bug.

      • It’s not the presence of a bias that’s the problem, and that is the equivalent of the neocons’ bias, but it’s use. I prefer anti-war biases to pro-war biases, too, but that’s not the point.

        Everyone has their biases, their ideological constructs, their ways of viewing the world. The question is, do you treat your biases as sufficient for answering questions, or do you let the evidence to make up your mind?

    • Knowing too much military history makes you suspect in left-wing circles. Which is how you can tell America doesn’t really have a militant left, which should be spending all its nights studying how rag-tag guerillas keep embarassing the Pentagon in wars. You never know what our future holds…

      • Ditto with knowing too much about the military’s make-up and equipment.

        It leaves the less-militaristic factions in our country at a real disadvantage in debates about the defense budget.

  7. Here is an article about the new Libyan PM el-Keeb and the direction he wants to take the new government. What are your thoughts Prof. Cole about The Tripoli Post as a reliable source? I find it interesting that the 3rd comment on this article is a job request.

    link to tripolipost.com

  8. Excuse me, [i]was[/i] the left opposed the Libyan intervention? Jame Hamshire’s Firebaggers were, but I’m pretty far left, and among my circle, the general opinion was this was the first military intervention they’d agreed with in years. In fact, this was a situation where certain parts of the radical left and other parts of the radical right found themselves in strange agreement, united in their general opposition to anything Obama did.

    I’ve always found Michael Berube to be one the most disingenuous psuedo-intellectuals on the psuedo-left, so while I’m in full agreement that the Firebaggers should hang their head in shame, I’m afraid Berube is himself not arguing honestly.

    Note how he disingenously claims [i]not[/i] to accuse Kucinich of being “objectively pro-Gaddafi”, then does precisely that, when he brings up the constitutional argument. Note how he disingenuously fails to address that argument. In fact, while I support Obama’s action, Berube would have to acknowledge Kucinich is precisely right: the Libyan war precedent signals the death knell of the War Powers Clause along with the War Powers Resolution. The constitution has, in actually, been shredded through simple executive lawlessness — but I don’t care, because I think that clause is silly and unworkable anyway.

    The other problem he glosses over is that the Benghazi opposition was indeed not covered in virtue itself. We’ve already seen the usual reprisal killings, both during the campaign and in the aftermath. These of course include Gaddafi himself. Even Mr. Cole surely accepts by this point that he was simply murdered in custody. Nobody knows at this point how far the score settling is going, but it’s entirely possible we’ve facilitated a massacre as well as prevented one.

    In summary, while I support the intervention I find Berube’s determination not to recognize the complexity of the issue dishonest in the extreme. The opposition was not simply “the left”, and not all the opposition’s arguments were invalid. On balance, the air campaign was justified, but let’s not pretend we’re in a Hollywood movie here — the casualties have been the US constitution, and the new leadership in Libya is only an incremental improvement on the old one.

    • How big an improvement the new regime will be depends on how much of the $200,000,000,000 Gadafi is said to have stolen can be recovered, and how it is distributed between the regions, which was the proximate cause of the protests that led to the revolution.

      By the way, has anyone heard any more about Gadafi’s overseas booty and efforts to recover it?

      • If you do the numbers on Libya’s oil revenues over the past 40 years its very hard to get to anything like US$200 billion of revenue let alone “savings”

        For most of that time oil prices were under $20 a barrel and Libya has zero debt. The man made underground river cost tens of billions, most of which went to Europe for material, no money was borrowed – cash on the line. Then there was all the money he gave to African countries – Uganda, Ghana, Niger, the African Union HQ in Addis etc.

        I posted the numbers here somewhere a couple of months ago, from memory I came up with a guesstimate closer to $40 billion. I did not include interest earned, because I couldn’t find much info on where the money was invested. Apart a bit of info on the Siberian Alumina refinery deal that Tone Bliar negotiated with the Gaddafi’s for JP Morgan.

    • Both the left and the right were divided over this operation. It’s tough to remember now, but in the decade between the end of the Soviet Union and 9/11, military questions in America were not polarized between left and right. We seem to have gone back to that situation.

      Kucinich is precisely right: the Libyan war precedent signals the death knell of the War Powers Clause along with the War Powers Resolution.

      No, it doesn’t. There is nothing the slightest bit novel about Obama’s assertions. Other Presidents have gone much farther than this operation on their own authority.

      I find Berube’s determination not to recognize the complexity of the issue dishonest in the extreme.

      I don’t understand how you can say this. Berube went out of his way throughout the piece to say that there were certainly legitimate grounds on which to criticize this war.

      • The military actions between the collapse of the Soviet Union included:

        The first Gulf War which had UN blessing because Iraq invaded Kuwait. Universal global approval for the action and the leadership of President G.H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker – and IMO rightly so.

        The eventual action in former Yugoslavia, after watching hundreds of thousands ethnically cleansed from the Krijina, the destruction of Vukovar, the establishment of concentration and rape camps in places like Cavtat etc etc.

        Outstanding achievement awards for 15000ft bombing of Fleeing Refugees on Tractors, Plywood Tanks in Muddy Fields, a Chinese Embassy and couple TV Stations.

        My memory is that some Repubs opposed these interventions; saying this a problem for the Europeans; IMO they were right. But the EU states were busy smuggling former Soviet countries into their Union, negotiating monetary unions that no one in their right mind believed would ever work, and green lighting entry into their currant bun folly to anyone willing to sign on the dotted line. George Soros did the UK a favour by making sure they wouldn’t fall into this trap.

        Meanwhile President William J Clinton and Madame Secretary Indispensable Albright found that Repub position to be indefensible. So they set about creating the Bosnian Badlands & the Kosova Kleptocracy aided and abetted by left wing eurocrats and brussel sprouts like Bernard Kouchner.

        Those were the days.

  9. Well,Berube is not entirely wrong in his critique of the left, but he seems to ignore a number or rather obvious facts.

    Ostensibly, the UN resolution’s purpose was to protect the civilian population in the East from Gaddafi’s thugs – and NATO’s intervention was timely and succesful in that respect. We should all applaud that aspect of NATO’s intervention. But NATO didn’t stop there, despite all the promises to the contrary – it very rapidly became the airforce and intelligence arm of the rebellion, with an increasingly clear objective – the deposing or physical elimination of Gaddafi and his clan – which was never authorised by the UN mandate. Special forces were sent into Lybia, the rebels were provided arms and cash and valuable intelligence. Gaddafi’s command and control systems, military installations and family homes were bombed repeatedly, obviously to try to kill him and fast forward regime change – in short, “mission creep” was so pervasive, that the ostensible objective : “protecting civilians” or “saving lives” revealed itself to be not much more than a rather transparent fig-leaf to provide cover for a very different agenda.
    The big question is of course : what was the real agenda (or agendas) being pursued here by those driving the intervention? Considering past experience (the case of Irak comes to mind, but there are plenty of others in recent history), it is hardly surprising that many should have legitimate grounds for concern about the real intentions of this coalition led by Britain and France (in passing, two of Lybia’s biggest clients for oil supplies, alongside Italy, as well as the number 4 and 5 global arms merchants – with BAE systems, Britain’s producer, the word’s leading developer).

    This is important because if their real intentions are not quite as pure as they claim to be, the consequences in terms of Lybia’s future development could be far-reaching and possibly devastating for Lybia’s population, which enjoyed a relatively prosperous lifestyle in comparison with neighbouring countries, though living under constant threat of retribution from Gaddafi’s ruthless thugs (the comparison with Irak again comes to mind). If the result is a more open, prosperous society, with the wealth from oil revenues fairly shared among the population and democratic institutions, then who can complain? However, the consequences of the West’s previous military interventions in this part of the world are less than encouraging on this score, primarily because the real objectives were very different from those trumpeted accross the media.

    So what might those objectives be, in the case of Lybia?
    In these cases, there is never just one objective – they are often multiple, sometimes contradictory, the product of a balance of the conflicting interests of the ad-hoc coalitions that are cobbled together to carry out projects of this kind. Absent a smoking gun, no one can say for sure, but as in all investigations, there are a number of clues that can help to clarify the possible unstated motives of this intervention.

    Oil? Juan, both you and Berube apparently scoff at this notion, but I’m not so sure. After all, the need to secure the oil supply has been one of the principal drivers of the West’s foreign policies for nigh on two centuries and despite nuclear power, our societies remain heavily dependent on it for energy, as well as for a myriad other industrial by-products. We are in the middle of an accelerating global resource war, with oil still the key prize that both industrialised and industrialising nations are scrabbling to control, at a time when cheaply accessible sources are becoming increasingly scarce. Lybia still has enormous untapped reserves of the stuff – much of it high quality (light sweet crude) and easily accessible (the same is true in Irak). Gaddafi was a tough negotiator and had his eye increasingly on China among others – the new regime, still very weak and heavily indebted to France and the UK, may not be quite so demanding – and has openly promised that those nations who led the onslaught will be the prime beneficiaries of new contracts. Here’s an article dated August 22nd from the NYT “The Scramble for Access to Libya’s Oil Wealth Begins” link to nytimes.com . The information in this article, sourced mostly from spokesment of oil companies such as ENI, BP, Total, etc.. confirms that yes, oil was never far from anyone’s mind here.

    These “humanitarian” interventions always come with a price tag – is it pure coincidence that the British forces stationed in Irak were concentrated in Basra and that – surprise, surprise, the contracts for the Basra oilfields were awarded to…BP? Or is this just the wild imagination of a conspiracy theorist?

    What about arms ? Well, as stated earlier, both Britain and France are two of the world’s leading producers of military systems, right behind the US (in Britain’s case, over a hundred thousand people are employed by the defense industry, which has a turnover of £22 billion, £9,5 billion in exports). Successive defense ministers in both countries never tire of extolling this industry’s value and of supporting its export effort (Liam Fox being the latest). And what did we witness in Lybia ?
    Unending media coverage of Typhoons and Dassault Rafales (both of which were suffering from empty order books at the time) taking off and landing, dropping “intelligent” bombs, detailed descriptions of their amazing capabilities and weapons systems (Brimstone missiles have now become a household name), guided tours of the equipment….there was a point when perhaps the best way to describe it was “The Lybian Air Show”. The Americans were also provided with plenty of promotional material : I shall never forget certain surreal headlines in the institutional press, when helicopters were the stars of the day. From the BBC :
    Title : ” “How Apaches could aid Libya mission” (capabilities)
    “Misrata rebels’ hopes for Apaches” (“humanitarian” fig-leaf”)
    “Tour of Apache attack helicopter” (operation seduction)
    link to bbc.co.uk
    The same day, Le Monde published an article in similar vein, extolling the “kills” carried out by “Alouette” Dassault helicopters…with only a passing reference to the Apaches.

    This of course just a week or two before the Bourget air show….and since then, orders have been piling in, mostly from Gulf states threatened with unrest. Interesting that while our politicians encourage Arab populations to revolt against their tyrants, they are actively lobbying with those same tyrants to provide them with the hardware they need to suppress the popular revolt they are fomenting –revolting being the operative word here.
    And once the Bourget Air show was in full swing, we had articles such as this one appearing « Arms firms eye Paris air show order bonanza » link to bbc.co.uk
    An extract : “Military conflict obviously bolsters arms sales, because it uses up weapons and ammunition, and there has been plenty of it in recent months.

    Conflict uses up weapons and ammunition, which need to be replaced In particular, several countries that are normally not actively involved in armed conflicts are now in a position where they will need to restock bombs, ammunition and weapons following months of action in Libya and conflict elsewhere in the region, an executive at an international arms company told BBC News.

    Orders from these countries could top several hundred millions – and perhaps even billions – of dollars, industry officials predict.

    At the same time, many procurement officers have been impressed by the accuracy of some of the weapons used in Libya, an officer involved in bombing missions told BBC News.

    These include laser-guided bombs designed to hit and destroy armoured vehicles without causing much collateral damage, he said, predicting demand for such hi-tech weaponry to be strong at this year’s show.
    But demand for weapons from the Middle East and North Africa is also expected to remain strong in the wake of the Arab Spring….”

    “Interstate and internal tensions provide drivers for demand,” according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).

    And if this doesn’t ring a certain number of alarm bells, how about this latest article from the Independent :
    . « British delegation will visit Libya in effort to kick-start arms deals ». link to independent.co.uk
    An extract « The Independent has learned that a defence industry trade delegation is planning to travel to Libya early next year in the hope the country’s new pro-western National Transition Council will become lucrative customers.

    UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the government department which promotes British business interests abroad, is planning to take defence manufacturers to Tripoli in February for a series of meetings with senior government officials. The news will alarm human rights campaigners, who have spent the past nine months documenting the readiness of autocratic Middle Eastern regimes to use imported equipment to violently quell popular opposition movements. » … » Last month Lord Green, minister for Trade and Investment, visited Tripoli to see what role Britain could play in rebuilding Libya’s infrastructure and economy. After months of internecine conflict in a country with vast energy reserves, international businesses are well aware of the vast sums of money to be made.

    Those nations that took part in the Nato airstrikes against Gaddafi’s regime – notably Britain and France – are determined to reap the rewards of backing the National Transition Council and claw back some of the money spent on their costly bombing campaign. Some have estimated the value of contracts in oil, infrastructure and education to be worth as much as £200bn.

    Kaye Stearman, from the Campaign Against Arms Trade, criticised the delegation plans and its timing. “The UK government professes to support a democratic and peaceful future for Libya, yet, even before the dead and injured have been counted, it is mounting trade missions to sell arms to a damaged and traumatised people,” she said. “They show no shame at their past record on arms sales and no willingness to change.”

    So, is it really all a conspiracy theory ? Just how clean are the motivations of our liberal interventionists ? (the shiny new brand name which seems to have replaced the discredited « neoconservatives » of the New American Century). Because the same agenda seems to be at work. In their plans at the time, described more or less as « using our superior military capabilities to kick over the anthills, drive democratic change and extract lucrative pickings » the primary targeted regimes were Irak, Iran, Syria, Lybia, Lebanon, the Sudan, according of course to opportunity. Well, it would appear we are headed on the same course.

    Other motivations of the coalition of actors involved may well include : protecting Israel by pre-emptively bombing or dislocating regimes that could pose a future threat or get in the way of the settlement agenda (a key concern for the neoconservatives), furthering the neo-liberal « free market » agenda touted by the European Union and the USA by imposing IMF policies in those countries (with a massive drop in living standards for local populations and an open market for Western multinationals, as we have seen time and again). In this respect, listen carefully to William Hague’s declarations extolling popular revolt against undemocratic regimes in Africa and the Middle East – every few sentences, the leitmotiv « free markets » keeps popping curiously up….. pre-empting the growing competition for the resources of the « developing » world from the emerging economies of China, Russia, Brasil, India, diverting what is likely to be growing unrest among the populations of Western countries as the crisis bites deeper and living standards fall (a classical motivation for foreign adventures), neutralising dissent by whipping up popular support for the military and branding protesters as traitors… the list is endless.

    And now, as we have seen, Iran is unsurprisingly in the cross-hairs, though the eventuality of a military campaign is yet uncertain, considering the opposition within certain establishment circles.

    So no smoking gun perhaps, but plenty of disturbing evidence that the virtuous motives so loudly proclaimed are only a minor part of the story. I am happy to see the end of Gaddafi, of Saddam Hussein, of the Iranian Mullahs and hopefully in the future of Assad and his nightmare regime, but at what price for the populations of these countries, once « Western friendly » regimes have been installed ? How much of this is a genuine desire to improve people’s lives and freedoms in the developing world, how much will it benefit our own populations and how much is simply a further example of neo-colonialism at work, with the prime beneficiaries being the increasingly wealthy global financial and multinational elite ?

    It’s an open question and everyone will draw their own conclusions, but in the light of all this admittedly circumstantial evidence, I for one remain to be convinced.

    • From “mission creep” to “obviously a hidden agenda” to “every conspiracy theory I can think of” is not necessarily good reasoning. Those arms and oil conspiracies are so versatile, aren’t they? If the west had stood by while Benghazi became a bloodbath, many on the left would have trotted out those theories to explain Western NON-intervention.
      Try this explanation: after seeing how widespread the uprisings were, and after NATO smashed the armored columns with air strikes on the ourskirts of Benghazi, the success of the rebels must have seemed imminent, or at any rate, easy. Then the war ebbed back and forwards along the central coast, Misrata came under relentless bombardment, Gaddafi dug right in and called in mercenaries, and a long stalemate, or even a rebel loss, began to seem likely. Not only would this mean all sorts of practical problems for the NATO leaders (and the Arab Spring), it would make Sarkozy et al look ineffectual, so NATO did what it could to help the rebels – stretching the resolution and sending in special forces. Realistically, they had no option – by equipping the Gaddafi regime so well before the war, they HAD to intervene a lot to gve the rebels a chance.

      • Well Sigil, without being inside the heads of the movers and shakers or a fly on the wall during their meetings, it’s hard to do much more than speculate. But you must admit that the facts I have pointed out (and supported with a certain amount of evidence)are troubling to say the least. Your interpretation is also an interpretation. The point you make is sensible, but my recollection is that right from the start, France and Britain wanted Gaddafi’s head on a platter and regime change (the contradictory statements Cameron, Hague, Obama and Sarkozy kept making were hilarious : “Nato’s mission is not regime change, but to protect civilians” in one breath, “Gaddafi must step down” in the next) which is why they spent so much time trying to engineer a wording of the resolution that would allow them to do more than simply prevent Gadaffi’s thugs from carrying out a massacre. And the bombing of Gaddafi’s personal residences (claimed to be command and control centers), began from the word go.
        You say so clearly yourself “they had to intervene to give the rebels a chance” (to win). Yep, they wanted the rebels to win. And that was clearly not part of the UN resolution – which was simply a mandate to protect civilians and impose a no-fly zone – it was never about helping the rebels to win the war.

    • The “so NATO could get at the oil” thesis doesn’t stand up

      More that 70% of Libya’s oil was already being pumped by Eni (Italy), Totale (France) and Repsol (Spain), most of the other 30% was being pumped by the Russians, the Brits and the Chinese in that order. Companies like KBR and Haliburton already had large lucrative oil services contracts.

      I cant see the sense in going to war to get something you already have

  10. I’m with Jason. I lukewarmly supported what we did in Libya, but I respect those like Greenwald who argued against it on principle. If you are willing to forgo principle and rules and so on whenever civilians are in danger, then you are essentially taking the pro-torture position of the bush administration. Worthwhile ends do not automatically justify any means.

    • Whatever the legal arguments are, you can’t imply that only the legalists have principles. Allowing massacre is against my principles. I would have loved it if the UN forces standing by during the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda had disobeyed their mandate and shot the murdering, raping scum. Sadly, legality prevailed instead; if legality meant Gaddafi would have killed thousands more who simply demanded a vote, I’m very glad legality failed this time.

  11. This essay addresses a real problem in the antiwar movement, but in my opinion it is marred by many things. One is a nararow and idiosyncratic description of “the left.” For example, it does not reference the mainstream pacifist organizations (American Friends Service Committee, War Resisters League, etc.), which developed cogent arguments from that perspective. There was also the perspective (which I shared) of those who supported both the Libyan rebels and opposed NATO intervention (Campaign for Peace and Democracy, Phyllis Bennis, etc.). Indeed, if the author truly wanted to find out what the “antiwar left” was doing about the Libyan war, he might have interrogated the discussions within large antiwar coalitions such as Peace Action or United for Peace and Justice, rather than use spot quotes from a 9/11 truther, etc. Whatever the merits of the author’s arguments for military intervention, he provides us with a nearly useless map of pro/anti intervenion sentiment among the organizations and leading public intellectuals who e.g. opposed the war against Iraq.

    Also, based on the experiences of the (mis)use of the “responsibility to protect” doctrine over the last two decades, might we not suggest that the burden of proof is on those arguing for intervention, rather than non-intervention? In this latter case, opposition to US/NATO interventiono was hardly “left,” but simply common sense.

    Additionally, the author’s foundational premise – that there was an imminent danger of mass slaughter and that the NATO bombing prevented it – is far from certain. (Phyllis Bennis made this argument repeatedly; for the pro-intervention people, the likelihood of mass killing is simply taken as an article of faith.)

    What NATO intervention certainly did do was to transform an Arab Spring uprising into an externally supported (and directed?) civil war. Whether revolutionary embers still burn under the rubble remains to be seen. Many of us who saw the Arab Spring as a huge step toward democracy and economic justice opposed NATO intervention because it would thwart the radicalism of the anti-Gadaffi uprising.

    We might also ask the author whether he is surprised and/or unhappy about the large number of civilian casualties resulting from the NATO intervention/bombing, and whether this could/should have been anticipated from the outset.

    Finally, it is not enough to pooh-pooh as knee-jerk leftism the common-sense suspicion that an armed intervention by former colonial powers (France, Britain, and Italy), each of whose governments was tottering with internal/domestic crises, might be somehow related to oil and the control of oil resources and profits, as well as to the public opinion/electoral advantages of an inflamed nationalism. We will know more when the archives are opened, but it is simply naive to dismiss the classic mainsprings of European intervention in African as a retro-hangup of leftist ideologues.

    • The ICG published its paper on R2P in the CFR Foreign Affairs in 2002
      The UN agreed to the RtoP in 2005, the UN SC adopted it in 2006.

      So on what basis is this “(mis)use of the “responsibility to protect doctrine” over the last two decades” made. The concept has barely existed for one decade and the actuality for barely 5 years.

      It doesn’t take much effort to fact check these days.

  12. Much like you, professor, whenever possible, Berube asserts that the goal of the NATO intervention was to prevent a massacre and protect Libyan civilians (without providing any evidence)…”humanitarian bombing,” if you will (this concept only exists in the west). We are supposed to believe that the governments of the US, Britain, and France are the only ones that care about civilians in Libya, and that the only way to express that concern is with NATO bombing campaigns.

    I didn’t support the bombing because I understood immediately that it was more about positioning for future oil contracts, and punishing Gaddhafi for being an unreliable client. I saw NATO turn a largely nonviolent revolution into a drawn-out, bloody civil war (remember, Benghazi was taken without firing a shot.) NATO didn’t “keep alive the Arab spring,” as Berube laughably claims with questionable syntax…NATO hijacked it.

  13. Libya was the first military action I have supported in my nearly 50 years and it was a bizarre feeling. I cracked jokes about being a gun toting patriot. I greatly respected Mr. Cole’s reasoning on Libya, though I notably parted with Juan previously on supporting the original invasion of Afghanistan, deeming it a wildly disproportionate and misguided response to 9/11.

    One name in the list of Qaddafi apologists caught my attention though- Robert Fisk. Someone I respected and used to follow closely but seemed to disappear for a while, but I see he has recently had much to say, and though I find it had to swallow his criticism of stopping Qaddafi’s tanks, I’m mulling over his points. I don’t think anyone can afford to just discard what Fisk has to say, agreeing or not.

    link to independent.co.uk

    • Also wanted to mention that Human Rights Watch has some serious concerns about the situation and certain events in Libya. Not saying Qaddafi was better, but it seems to me this is a critical time for Libya when the real work is just beginning.

      I think the outright killing of Qaddafi (like Saddam and Bin Laden before him), was an ominous sign, a mistake and a possible setback for Libyan democracy. These events are easy fodder for critics who will rightly point out that all these figures would have said many incriminating things to say about the US at their own trials.

      • Well, when the mob butchered Mussolini nobody regretted it. I miss the days when you could just kill a tyrant without everyone questioning your motives.

  14. I supported Obama’s Libya intervention. Also, I agree with Glen Greenwald that it stamps out the last minute flickering bit of life of the War Powers Act. Personally, I doubt that it makes any difference given the presidential power grab since it was passed.

    Berube is naive when he criticizes the left for claiming the intervention was all about oil. Of course it was an attempt by imperialist powers to control oil. They just were wily, unlike the intolerably ignorant and incompetent Bush/Cheney. Self interested motives can accompany positive interactions- any adult observer of twentieth century history ought to have been able to figure that out. Ask Noam Chomsky if you don’t believe me.

    As to the criticism of revolutionary violence- have any of the critics ever organized and tried to direct something like the relatively tame outbreaks of the anti-Vietnam War movement? Or been in an urban riot? The men who shot Qaddafi were basically civilians with guns- a mob.

    The emphasis on obeying orders and respect for hierarchy in the US Army is not just due to personality aberrations- it’s to prevent similar situations. Young men with guns are extremely dangerous and very hard to control.

  15. I was glad to see Gaddafi overthrown, and I was in favor of the NATO campaign for the reasons Juan and others cite. That doesn’t mean those intervening did so for good reasons, and Fallujah shows how cruel, pitiless, and barbaric the American empire and its forces are.

    But I’m still glad Stalin’s Red Army liberated Auschwitz.

  16. What is the point of these exercises?

    Counter-critiques of “the left’s” anti-war position are of course welcome.

    If “the left’s” critique of military intervention by our representatives is found wanting, then by all means let us work out better and sharper critiques (or look around for more interesting ones in the rather big tent that is the left).

    After all, it is not like helping people by bombing a foreign country and killing people is an intrinsically unproblematic activity that cannot be criticized?

    Reading informed comment on Libya I get the sense that more ink is invested in counter-critiques of “the left’s” anti-war critiques than on actually inquiring into whether getting our hands bloody was really the best option available at the time.

    Now what is the sense in that?

    • The sense is in demanding to know why so many anti-war leftists on the Internet actively praised Gadaffi for positions he had long since betrayed, just for the decaying scent of his past anti-Americanism and support for terrorism. They also demonized the rebels for destroying the country by daring to fight on, and denied that they even did any of the fighting by claiming that Tripoli was taken by NATO commanders and that all the news video was faked. Berube is being too kind at hinting that there is a problem on the Left with romantic love for ostensibly progressive dictators. It’s a lazy attempt to dream of a shortcut, a Napoleonic figure who could somehow overthrow our corporate overlords instead of the massive endeavor of recreating the workers’ movement that once kept those overlords in fear and at the bargaining table.

      In the ’60s, it was certainly appropriate for oppressed people in the 3rd world to make a big deal about Ho or Che as long as it didn’t distract from hard thought about how they could create actual revolutionary democracy, but for their Western sympathizers like the Baader-Meinhof Gang or the Weather Underground to fetishize those icons was ridiculous and pathetic, because it did not address the issues at stake in Western societies. But to keep fetishizing their inferior successors once the latter were proven to be tyrants and cranks is an abdication of any radical work ethic. For instance, we spend a lot of time arguing about Hugo Chavez, who I think is simply a latter-day Huey Long. We don’t talk about the Bolivian Indians and their anarchism, but we make a big deal about Evo Morales, whom the Indians view as a sellout because he even is willing to hold an office. Those Bolivians are the hardest-working radicals of all, because it takes far more work for an entire population to try to govern themselves than to hand everything over to a representative government, and that in turn is more work than giving in to a guy in a uniform.

      The Libyan rebels haven’t united behind a single messianic leftist icon; that’s why they have a hell of a hard job ahead of them making a working government. It also seems to scare the hell out of American left cultists, who probably still think Angela Davis will save us, that the masses are so ungrateful for what Gadaffi has done for them. Screw that, no one is going to do anything for the poor anywhere; the best Americans can do is elect leaders who will obey the Constitution and stand aside while the poor, who soon will be most Americans, exercise their rights to reorganize society to obtain life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s already started in our Occupied streets, and if the capitalist response is to send in the Army to slaughter us, I demand we have the courage of the Libyans in moving to the logical next step.

    • If “the left’s” critique of military intervention by our representatives is found wanting, then by all means let us work out better and sharper critiques (or look around for more interesting ones in the rather big tent that is the left).

      I have a thought: if the best critique of a military intervention anyone can come up with is “found wanting,” then perhaps it’s worth considering that the case against that intervention is weak, and that the pro-intervention side won that argument because they have the better case.

      Another thought: you talk about “military intervention” the way Republicans talk about regulation: as some undifferentiated mass, identical in root and branch, that needs only be discussed in the abstract and in reference to one’s ideological constructs – as opposed to discussing specific regulations, which can often have quite different purposes and effects, and using factual evidence from the specific situation to guide your understanding of it.

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