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Total number of comments: 4 (since 2013-11-28 16:50:34)


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  • Dear CNN: This is not News; *This* is News
    • You can gripe about poor coverage of international events or lack of coverage of events in the middle east, but doing so by calling coverage of charges being announced against Zimmerman as "non-news" makes you look peevish and pedantic. And yeah, CNN's Zimmerman coverage tagged with the lead of how Martin's family feels about the charges being announced is also fluff, but still does not make your point that the Zimmerman announcement yesterday was allegedly not important news.

  • An Open Letter to the Left on Libya
    • Just a partial response:

      2. There is nothing anachronistic about a reference to the Shah. The basic point is valid today, which is that the revolutionary forces you end up supporting by intervention in order to curb the humanitarian abuses of the dictator may be worse than that dictator. That is why policy of intervention cannot just be justified by humanitarian impulses, and therefore justifying war simply to prevent Qaddafi outrages is weak tea.

      3. Bombing always kills civilians. It is naive to pretend otherwise, even in this era of high tech weaponry (see Afghanistan). And my point about antiseptic warfare is not so much simply that civilians might get bombed, but a broader point that the amount it takes to overcome hesitation about advocating war wrongly gets lowered because of the belief that it can be waged without too much ugliness. Embrace the ugly if you are going to advocate war - you accept it as the ugly downside to hopefully achieve a greater good. Don't dumb down how much ugly is going to be involved, which is what Cole is doing and so much of the pro-interventionists do.

      4 and 5. Realize that you are defining humanitarian intervention based on expediency - hence not in Bahrain but yes in Libya. That is prudent, but my point is that you are making a huge error in defining the alleged expediency of intervention in Libya. The air-only approach (and it immediately went from "no-fly" to aggressive air strikes - notice the mission creep?) will most likely not succeed. Indeed, my broader point is that there is a history of underestimating the cost of interventions based on false notions that a little dab will do ya. And there is a history of warmogering forces in the US exploiting a lowered threshold for initiating wars.

      Hence, your point that boots-on-the-ground is a political non-starter should make it clear that intervention is immediately heading down a stupid path of half-assed measures that interventionists pray will be enough. Think Viet Nam and the Powell doctrine in response to that. Half-measures predictably won't be enough, as I expect Qaddafi to craftily play a long running game that exploits his overwhelming ground strength against the rebels.

      Which is why I make the point that war interventionists need to be advocating the legitimacy of full blown war, and making sure it is carried out swiftly and decisively. Prolonging the conflict because of half-measures is likely to create similar humanitarian crises as doing nothing. Supporting wars because they allegedly can be fought on the cheap is a long-term horrible policy.

    • Your response makes the same error as Cole, which is to define the dispute based on artificial constructs of what others are allegedly contending, and then argue against those positions as alleged proof of the propriety of the military intervention.

      Debate the merits of the policy, and the merits of the counter-arguments. Nothing you say actually replies to the substance of the issues.

      At the core of what I believe is that military intervention, if it is to be undertaken, should be undertaken completely. That means boots-on-the-ground and a swift regime change to bring an end to the war, and then nation building to turn over power to the rebels that are indeed motivated to bring about in Libya what we hope will happen by intervention. The failure to do so gives Qaddafi hope that he can survive in the long run. If you think that to be "too much," then you are a fool about advocating wars.

      It is critical to observe that so much of the force in favor of intervention is based on the wrong-headed notion that maybe we can get way with just some untroubling amount of force to get an outcome we desire. That was likely to be wrong from the beginning, and unfolding events are suggesting it will be very wrong. Tom Friedman today opined in the NY Times that boots on the ground are going to be needed - just not ours. Expect that to soon mutate to it being ours as long as token number of others are sent.

      A war policy should not be based on a possibility that maybe things will go as we hope if we half-way do it. And I think that so much of the opinion in favor of intervention in Libya and elsewhere is based on the idea that we can advocate half-wars without taking full responsibility for waging wars.

    • Rethink your letter in terms of the following.

      1. There is no singular left or progressive position in opposition to going to war in Libya. Don't try and justify it by reference to artificial constructs about opposition to the war, and then argue against them.

      2. At the core of opposition is the sense that we embrace warmongering principles, and the fact that it may be a little more reasonable here than elsewhere does not undermine this objection. Saddam was a far greater tyrant to his people than Qaddafi, and that war was purportedly justified based on the humanitarian wonderfulness of getting rid of that dictator. Why this does not give you pause here when advocating war with Libya is surprising.

      3. On what basis can it be said that the rebellion will be a better thing? Should we have imposed no-fly zones in Iran 1979 if the Shah was similarly murdering his people? The history of civil war and armed rebellion is less than glowing that armed resistance to awful dictators results in sweetness and light afterwards. If we are going to intervene, should we also seek to exercise significant control over the rebels to insure that the better elements in fact win the post-war, or is that too much intervention for your tastes?

      4. The concept of antiseptic warfare with "no-fly" zones is itself a sick aspect of the intervention mantra (as if we wont be killing civilians with bombings). If you support military intervention in the civil war, you should support boots-on-the-ground real dirty nasty stuff to bring it to a swift end. That is what it means to advocate war - so advocate it for real and not pretend. It must drive the military folks crazy to be tasked to fight half-wars which they doubt can achieve the desired ends. Libya presents a better than average situation for it since airpower dominates desert terrain, but that is no excuse for fighting stupid wars. A willingness to only halfway fight the thing likely will prolong the suffering. We lucked out in Kosovo in the late 90s when the Serbs decided to back down in response to aerial warfare. What is they had not?

      There is a basic problem in our world, which is that outrages against civilians by dictators go unchecked everywhere. At the same time that we intervene in Libya to assist rebels against dictators, we do nothing while Saudis murder Bahrainis (who do seem to be clearly advocating democracy) to maintain those dictatorships. The same UN powers exploiting the Libyan situation to intervene can hardly be said to have humanitarian impulses at the core of their motivation, since they are so fickle about when they feel those impulses (don't even bring up Darfur). Before you embrace the wonderfulness of intervention here, please have some circumspection to think that maybe this is about something other than humanitarian concerns. And if you advocate war, then please take the full measure of responsibility for it BY ACTUALLY SUPPORTING WAR - not some half-baked version that allegedly avoids its unpleasantness.

      And oddly, the lesson here to Iran or North Korea is that if you do bargain to give up nuclear technologies, expect the West to undermine you at the next chance and even go to war with you to destabilize your control.

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