The Libyan intervention

There are two old sayings relevant to the U.S. intervention in Libya.

Getting into is easier than getting out of.

Hope is not a plan.

Click on The Libyan War of 2011 for analysis by Stratfor Global Intelligence.  An excerpt:

The decision has been made that the mission is regime change in Libya. The strategic sequence is the routine buildup to war since 1991, this time with a heavier European component. The early days will go extremely well but will not define whether or not the war is successful. The test will come if a war designed to stop human suffering begins to inflict human suffering. That is when the difficult political decisions have to be made and when we will find out whether the strategy, the mission and the political will fully match up.


Click on Just a Bad, Bad Idea for thoughts of Josh Marshall, publisher of the Talking Points Memo web site.  An excerpt:

So let’s review: No clear national or even humanitarian interest for military intervention. Intervening well past the point where our intervention can have a decisive effect. And finally, intervening under circumstances in which the reviled autocrat seems to hold the strategic initiative against us. This all strikes me as a very bad footing to go in on.

And this doesn’t even get us to this being the third concurrent war in a Muslim nation and the second in an Arab one. Or the fact that the controversial baggage from those two wars we carry into this one, taking ownership of it, introducing a layer of ‘The West versus lands of Islam’ drama to this basically domestic situation and giving Qaddafi himself or perhaps one of his sons the ability to actually start mobilization some public or international opinion against us.

via Talking Points Memo.

Click on Libya for a left-wing perspective.  Here’s an excerpt.

Having failed to take the country, [the Libyan rebels] … refused even to test offers of mediation.  At first they hung out banners opposing foreign intervention. Then they called for a no-fly zone.  Now they celebrate the attack, their fighters dancing on the burned-out hulks of a dozen or so tanks and supply vehicles destroyed from the air.  It seems safe to assume that taking power with the support of imperialism and its Arab client despots is what they intend to do. Now, I could be wrong about this, but I’m finding it hard to see this prospect as a win for the Arab revolutions.

via The Early Days of a Better Nation.

On the eve of U.S. intervention in Bosnia, Secretary of State Madelaine Albright reported asked General Colin Powell, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, what good it is to have this enormous military if we never use it.  The mere fact of having an enormous military with its global network of air and naval bases creates presumption that it should be used.

US F-16 over Libya

The United States supposedly is now in the middle of a budget and fiscal crisis.  I don’t know how much the intervention is costing, but it can’t be cheap.  Yet with a war in Afghanistan being waged, and the U.S. occupation of Iraq not completely wound down, our government is opening the door to a third war.

I could be wrong in my expectations.  Maybe Qaddafi will quit, or be deposed by his generals, and the Libyans will make peace among themselves.  I hope that happens.  But the U.S. experience during the past 50 years of intervening in other countries’ internal conflicts has not been good.

[Afterthoughts 3/25/11]

With all due respect to the United Nations (and I do respect its role), the Constitution of the United States gives the authority to declare war to the U.S. Congress, not to the U.N. Security Council.

It would be nice if there were more support for forms of “humanitarian intervention” that didn’t involve killing people.

Click on The Speech Obama Hasn’t Given for thoughtful comment by former Reagan-Bush speechwriter Peggy Noonan.

Click on On Libya: “What Happens Then?” for sensible comment by Atlantic magazine correspondent James Fallows.

[Added 4/2/11]

[Added 4/3/11]

A friend e-mailed me a link to an essay by Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, questioning the motives of the U.S. for intervention and the propriety of the United Nations resolution authorizing it.

… The Security Council has reached a decision supportive of military intervention that is legal, but not legitimate, being neither politically prudent nor morally acceptable.

The states that abstained acted irresponsibly, or put differently, did not uphold either the spirit or letter of the Charter.

The Charter in Article 2(7) accepts the limitation on UN authority to intervene in matters “essentially within the domestic jurisdiction” of member states unless there is a genuine issue of international peace and security present, which there was not, even in the claim, which was supposedly motivated solely to protect the civilian population of Libya.

But such a claim was patently misleading and disingenuous as the obvious goals, as manifest from the scale and character of military actions taken, were minimally to protect the armed rebels from being defeated, and possibly destroyed, and maximally, to achieve a regime change resulting in a new governing leadership that was friendly to the West, including buying fully into its liberal economic geopolitical policy compass.

Click on Gaddafi, moral interventionism and revolution to read the whole article.

David Reiff of The New Republic questions the rationale of humanitarian military intervention.

… From the beginning it has been clear that while this intervention has been couched in the language of humanitarianism and of the global good deed, invoking the so-called Responsibility to Protect (R2P), the U.N.’s new doctrine that is supposed to govern those instances when outside powers must step in militarily to prevent tyrants from killing their own people, the more important goal has been to support the insurgency, which is to say, to bring about regime change.  Had it been otherwise, the bombing could have been halted once the Libyan government attack on Benghazi had been halted. Instead, it goes on, with various French, British, and American politicians and military officials at odds mainly about how much not whether the bombing campaign should be widened, and whether Colonel Qaddafi is himself a legitimate target for assassination from the air.

So much for the hope that Iraq and Afghanistan might actually have taught the West anything lasting about trying to impose democracy at the point of a gun. Instead, it is as if Iraq, which, in the United States, was initially welcomed by most liberal internationalists and neoconservatives alike as a war of liberation, had never happened, and, instead, we have traveled backward in time. Remember those halcyon days of the late 1990s when Tony Blair was promising the world that in the future the West would fight wars in the name of its values, not just of its interests, in effect promising that the wars of the twenty-first century would be noble wars of altruism?  If you don’t, well, don’t worry: If the war in Libya is any indication, you’ll have the chance to live them all over again. … …

Why Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, or David Cameron feel that who rules Libya is any of their affair, and why they were more intent on securing the (grudging) assent of the Arab League than the assent of their own legislatures, shows just how misguided the doctrine of humanitarian intervention really is.

via The New Republic.

Click on The Road to Hell for the full article.

[Added 4/10/11]

Khalifa Hifter, the commander of the Libyan rebel forces, spent the last 20 years in Vienna, Va.  His friends didn’t know what he did for a living, but he was within commuting distance of Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Va.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Democrat from Ohio, connected the dots.

Pepe Escobar in the Asia Times of Hong Kong had more information on the background of the Libyan rebels.

All the worthy democratic aspirations of the Libyan youth movement notwithstanding, the most organized opposition group happens to be the National Front for the Salvation of Libya – financed for years by the House of Saud, the CIA and French intelligence. The rebel “Interim Transitional National Council” is little else than the good ol’ National Front, plus a few military defectors. This is the elite of the “innocent civilians” the “coalition” is “protecting”.

Right on cue, the “Interim Transitional National Council” has got a new finance minister, US-educated economist Ali Tarhouni.  He disclosed that a bunch of Western countries gave them credit backed by Libya’s sovereign fund, and the British allowed them to access $1.1 billion of Gaddafi’s funds. This means the Anglo-French-American consortium – and now NATO – will only pay for the bombs. As war scams go this one is priceless; the West uses Libya’s own cash to finance a bunch of opportunist Libyan rebels to fight the Libyan government.

He went on to report on an aspect of the situation that was entirely new to me – that Libya’s water resources may be more valuable than its oil.

Few in the West may know that Libya – along with Egypt – sits over the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer; that is, an ocean of extremely valuable fresh water. So yes, this “now you see it, now you don’t” war is a crucial water war. Control of the aquifer is priceless – as in “rescuing” valuable natural resources from the “savages”.

This Water Pipelineistan – buried underground deep in the desert along 4,000 km – is the Great Man-Made River Project (GMMRP), which Gaddafi built for $25 billion without borrowing a single cent from the IMF or the World Bank (what a bad example for the developing world). The GMMRP supplies Tripoli, Benghazi and the whole Libyan coastline. The amount of water is estimated by scientists to be the equivalent to 200 years of water flowing down the Nile.

Compare this to the so-called three sisters – Veolia (formerly Vivendi), Suez Ondeo (formerly Generale des Eaux) and Saur – the French companies that control over 40% of the global water market.  All eyes must imperatively focus on whether these pipelines are bombed.  An extremely possible scenario is that if they are, juicy “reconstruction” contracts will benefit France.  That will be the final step to privatize all this – for the moment free – water.  From shock doctrine to water doctrine.

via Asia Times Online.

Click on There’s no business like war business for the full article.  It touches on many important points besides those I’ve quoted here.

Click on The Great Arab Revolt for links to all the articles Pepe Escobar has written about unrest in the Arab world since January.

Click on New Libyan rebel leader spend much of past 20 years in suburban Virginia for a profile of Khalif Hifter in McClatchy Newspapers.  This is the source for my statement that his friends didn’t know what he did for a living.

A couple of days ago, I put up a post quoting Juan Cole and Aaron Bady on the possibility that intervention in Libya may be a lesser evil that allowing Colonel Quaddafi to stay in power.  The more I learn about the background of the intervention, the less likely that possibility seems.

Bertrand Russell wrote something in 1956 that applies to the present situation.

The fundamental fallacy which is committed by almost everyone is this: “A and B hate each other, therefore one is good and the other is bad.”

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One Response to “The Libyan intervention”

  1. The case for getting rid of Qaddafi « Phil Ebersole's Blog Says:

    […] on The Libyan intervention for links to arguments against […]


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