Libya’s people need uninvited infidel foreigners to save them!

Summary:  Another crisis, more calls to invade.  With maximum moral tone, minimum specificity about the costs, maximum use of euphemisms, and no mention of costs or risks.  No need to wait for an invitation, since good hawks know those brown people are too dumb to ask for our help.  Updates appear in the comments.

Here are today’s readings.   The first 5 give call for interventions (vague) of various kinds, made by liberals and conservatives.  Followed by 3 responses.

  1. Spectacular use of euphemisms for killing:  “70 rights groups urge US & EU to eject Libya from UN Human Rights Council for ‘crimes against humanity‘”, UN Watch, 21 February 2011
  2. Airpower über alles:  “Libyan protesters standing firm“, The Independent, 21 February 2011 — Former UK Foreign Secretary calls for action.
  3. It’s Time To Intervene“, Shadi Hamid, Slate, 23 February 2011 — “What the international community can do to support regime change in Libya”
  4. On Libya we can’t let ourselves be scarred by Iraq“, Ian Birrell, op-ed in The Guardian, 23 February 2011 — “The international community must get over the foolishness of the 2003 invasion, and take swift action against Gaddafi.”
  5. Libya – ‘Now’s the time and now’s the hour‘”, Pat Lang (Colonel, Special Forces, retired), 25 February 2011 — And another vague call for action here.
  6. A note from Libya:  “Anti-Gaddafi figures say not contacting foreign govts“, Reuters, 27 February 2010 — “Opponents of Muammar Gaddafi based in eastern Libya said on Sunday they did not want any foreign intervention in the country and said they had not made contact with foreign governments”
  7. Response:  “Dreams of Western Intervention in Libya“, Susil Gupta, AntiWar, 26 February 2011
  8. Response:  “The narcissism of the iPad imperialists who want to invade Libya“, Brendan O’Neill, The Telegraph, 2 February 2011
  9. For more information

Before we start the examination, the standard definition of humanitarian intervention is by JL Holzgrefe in Humanitarian intervention: ethical, legal and political dilemmas (2003):

“the use of force across state borders by a state (or group of states) aimed at preventing or ending widespread and grave violations of the fundamental human rights of individuals other than its own citizens without the permission of the state within whose territory force is applied .”

Some questions to ask before we send our troops to kill and be killed.

  1. What forces should we send? What’s necessary to have a substantial impact?  A battalion of blue helmets? Re-deploy our over-extended special ops groups from Afghanistan? Send the USS Kearsarge ARG with the 26th MEU (now in the 5th Fleet’s AOR)? Larger forces?
  2. How long will they stay?
  3. Western troops would be uninvited infidel foreigners. Will they stabilize or further destabilize the situation?
  4. What precedent does this create? Civil wars are a dime a dozen. How do we choose in which ones to play? Are we there to keep the oil flowing, or for humanitarian reasons? The first makes this a special case (of esp interest to the Saudi people); the second makes us global cops.
  5. What are the risks?  Especially to our overstretched military (think straw and camel), and our credit rating (our ability to borrow more from OPEC and China to pay for our overseas adventures).

Excerpts

(1)  70 rights groups urge US & EU to eject Libya from UN Human Rights Council for ‘crimes against humanity‘”, UN Watch, 21 February 2011

Because the Libyan national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their population from crimes against humanity, should peaceful means be inadequate, member states are obliged to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the UN Charter, including Chapter VII.

… Member states and high officials of the United Nations have a responsibility to protect the people of Libya from what are preventable crimes. We urge you to use all available measures and levers to end atrocities throughout the country.

(2)  Airpower über alles:  “Libyan protesters standing firm“, The Independent, 21 February 2011 — Excerpt:

Former British foreign secretary Lord Owen {Labor, 1977-79}called on the UN and regional powers to enforce a no fly zone over Libya.  He said: “The UN Security Council should meet in emergency session and declare the situation in Libya as a threat to peace under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter and declare a no flight zone for the Libyan airforce and ask the regional power, Nato, to enforce it. And hopefully other arab nations, particularly Egypt, might decide to participate to demonstrate that this is not just a Western initiative.”  He also called on “airforces in the region with sufficient range to reach Libya to prevent any Libyan airforce military action against civilians”.

(3)  It’s Time To Intervene“, Shadi Hamid, Slate, 23 February 2011 — “What the international community can do to support regime change in Libya” — Excerpt:

The international response to the Libyan crisis has so far been lacking in both vision and resolve. … We are, however, well beyond leverage. Qaddafi and his family do not seem in the mood for negotiation or compromise. Their promise to fight to the “last drop of blood” has said as much. The objective, then, is not to pressure Qaddafi and his sons but to support pro-democracy forces and encourage regime defections to the opposition. The goal is no longer change but regime change.

… What can be done? This is a time for bold, creative policy-making. For starters, NATO should quickly move to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, both to send a strong message to the regime and to prevent the use of helicopters and planes to bomb and strafe civilians. The United States and European allies should freeze the assets of senior Libyan officials and consider other targeted sanctions. Meanwhile, the international community should also let it be known that any individuals involved in perpetrating atrocities will be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court, while regime figures who defect to the opposition will be granted amnesty.

If the conflict threatens to spill over into outright civil war, and the death toll reaches into the tens of thousands, the United Nations will need to consider more advanced measures, including authorizing the deployment of peacekeeping troops to protect civilian populations in the eastern part of the country.

At such a critical moment, it is unfortunate that the Bush administration’s destructive adventurism in Iraq tainted the notion of humanitarian intervention. Understandably, the world is wary of aggressive Western interference in the affairs of other states. Libya, in this respect, provides a critical test for the effectiveness of the United Nations, norms of humanitarian protection, and international law more generally.

(4)  On Libya we can’t let ourselves be scarred by Iraq“, Ian Birrell, op-ed in The Guardian, 23 February 2011 — “The international community must get over the foolishness of the 2003 invasion, and take swift action against Gaddafi.”  Excerpt:

It is like an apocalyptic Hollywood film. There are even rumours of systematic male rape in this elegant city of jacaranda trees and Italianate buildings. Who knows what is true and what is false, only that there is a whirlwind of terror amid a media blackout as the people of Libya try to overthrow the despot who has ruined their country these past 41 years.

… It is fine to talk of freezing assets, sanctions and stopping arms sales, but these will not make a difference in time to end the tyranny. … Clearly the United Nations must make a forceful response, condemning the regime for turning on its people with such savagery and making it clear those involved will be held responsible in the international courts. And if Nato can impose a no-fly zone then they should do so immediately – even if this means bombing the airports being used to send up planes to kill and maim innocent people. There is no time for hesitation.

But this may not be enough to stop the bloodshed. Gaddafi is holed up in Bab al-Azizia, a massive military compound in the south of Tripoli. It is protected by thick walls studded with squat concrete towers and bristling with machine guns.

… The international community may be forced to make a choice: does it sit back and prevaricate while people are massacred, as it has so often in the past. Or does it refuse to be scarred by the foolishness of the Iraq invasion and show that it can act when there is unacceptable barbarism

  For it is possible the only solution is a rapid intervention led by perhaps Egypt or Tunisia, whose armies have won respect in recent weeks, to winkle Gaddafi out of his air base and end his appalling regime. It would have to be endorsed by the Arab League, and such events are highly dangerous and unpredictable. The alternative, however, may be worse.

A commenter posted this:  “A couple of cruise missiles take out Gaddafi’s HQ in the middle of the night. Who’s to say what caused the big explosion? A big crater is seen at sunrise.”  For many Americans  (such things are often said on conservative blogs) assassination is the easy solution to geopolitical problems.

(5)  Libya – ‘Now’s the time and now’s the hour‘”, Pat Lang (Colonel, Special Forces, retired), 25 February 2011 —  — Also, another vague call for action here.  Excerpt:

American inaction helped create this monster still lurking in the outskirts of Tripoli. Our credulity and political opportunism helped maintain him in power when Bush 43 accepted his nonsense and let him back in out of the cold.  Now, brave men and women have risen up against tyranny and hold eastern Libya against the tyrant.

There should be an Article 7 UNSC Resolution against this man’s rule and then foreign intervention to help the patriots of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania complete the liberation of their country. A “no-fly zone?” We can’t do better than that?

Probably not, probably we will leave the patriot people of Libya to be butchered by Qathaafi if he regains power.

(6)  A note from Libya:  “Anti-Gaddafi figures say not contacting foreign govts“, Reuters, 27 February 2010 — Excerpt:

Opponents of Muammar Gaddafi based in eastern Libya said on Sunday they did not want any foreign intervention in the country and said they had not made contact with foreign governments.  The comments were made by a spokesman for a new National Libyan Council, which was formed after a meeting in Benghazi. The spokesman described the council as the face of the revolution and not an interim government.

(7)  Dreams of Western Intervention in Libya“, Susil Gupta, AntiWar, 26 February 2011 — Excerpt:

Yes, and it would all be over by Christmas.  It is obvious that these war enthusiasts have not thought this through – but then they would not be doing any of the fighting.

Imposing a no fly zone. This would require extensive air patrols by foreign air forces. They would have little effect since air power is not key to Gadhafi’s strategy. It would, however, create an atmosphere of major war and give Gadhafi a propaganda boost.

Creating a military barrier or cordon sanitaire around eastern Libya to protect rebel positions. Likewise this would crystallize the situation into a two-sided war, which could only play into Gadhafi’s hands. {as in good Libyans vs. foreign infidels}

… Bomb. But where? Tripoli? Gadhafi’s hideout? In addition to the lack of any meaningful target, Western bombing might give others the idea of bombing targets that are indeed of great strategic value: oil wells and pipe lines.

Sanctions. Libya’s massively long borders are totally porous and populated by peoples and countries keen to do business and who don’t give a damn about UN Security Council resolutions. On the contrary, given the strategic importance of Libyan oil and gas to several European nations, Libya is the only country in a position to apply effective sanctions against anyone else.

(8)  Response:  “The narcissism of the iPad imperialists who want to invade Libya“, Brendan O’Neill, The Telegraph, 2 February 2011 — Excerpt:

In a modern political sphere that has its fair share of narcissists and ignoramuses, no one is quite as narcissistic or as ignorant as the liberal interventionist. From the comfort of his Home Counties home, possibly to the sound of birds tweeting on the windowsill, the liberal interventionist will write furious, spittle-stained articles about the need to invade faraway countries in order to topple their dictators. As casually and thoughtlessly as the rest of us write shopping lists, he will pen a 10-point plan for the bombing of Yugoslavia or Afghanistan or Iraq and not give a second thought to the potentially disastrous consequences.

Now, having learned nothing from the horrors that they cheer-led like excitable teenage girls over the past 15 years, these bohemian bombers, these latte-sipping lieutenants, these iPad imperialists are back. This time they’re demanding the invasion of Libya.

… The White Man’s Burden is alive and well, it seems, though it has been thoroughly de-Kiplingised and turned into a super-liberal, PC endeavour.

The ignorance of liberal interventionists is captured in the fact that they seem to have wilfully forgotten the disastrous interventions of the past 15 years, all of which, from Yugoslavia to Afghanistan to Iraq, exacerbated local tensions and led to more, not less, bloodshed. It takes a special kind of arrogance to be able to demand yet another international military venture when the terrible consequences of your last one are still plain to see. And their narcissism is contained in the fact that the real reason they are making these demands for war is to make themselves feel good, to demonstrate that they care with a capital C.

… A people is liberating itself, city by city, and in the process is creating the foundations for a new kind of society and even a potential democracy. To invade now in order to satisfy Western politicians’ and hacks’ lust for a bit of purpose in their humdrum lives would be to turn this fledgling democracy into a moral protectorate of the West – and store up more war for the future.

(9)  For more information

About Libya:

America’s military machinery:

  1. Only our amnesia makes reading the newspapers bearable, 30 April 2008 — About General Petraeus.
  2. The Core Competence of America’s Military Leaders, 27 May 2008
  3. One of the best geopolitical posts of the year, IMO, 12 August 2008 — “War is the great auditor of institutions”
  4. Is COIN the graduate level of military hubris?, 30 July 2008
  5. The foundation of America’s empire: our chain of bases around the world, 8 September 2008
  6. No coins, no COIN, 6 October 2008
  7. Another example of war advocates working their rice bowls, 24 December 2009
  8. Think-tanks bribe journalists to promote our wars, 24 December 2009
  9. It’s not too soon to begin planning for the next war, 7 March 2010

One thought on “Libya’s people need uninvited infidel foreigners to save them!

  1. As mentioned in this post. Statement by SecDef Gates at tghe March 1 Press Conference:

    Well, first of all, I have directed several Navy ships to the Mediterranean. The USS Kearsarge and the [USS] Ponce will be entering the Mediterranean shortly and will provide us a capability for both emergency evacuations and also for humanitarian relief.

    About 1,400 Marines from the Kearsarge are serving in Afghanistan. And so we are sending about 400 Marines from the U.S. that will be in support of the Kearsarge’s mission.

    So those are the actions that we have taken at this point. We’re obviously looking at a lot of options and contingencies. No decisions have been made on any other actions.

    I would note that the U.N. Security Council resolution provides no authorization for the use of armed force. There is no unanimity within NATO for the use of armed force. And the kinds of options that have been talked about in the press and elsewhere also have their own consequences and second- and third-order effects. So they need to be considered very carefully.

    Our job is to give the president the broadest possible decision space and options, and to go into the things that we’re thinking about, the options that we’re providing, I think, have the potential to narrow his decision space. And I have no intention of doing that.

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