Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Libya

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  • Neil Morrison, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    Always appreciate your insider info, Neil

    It's actually common knowledge that the US hasn't fallen for Gaddafi's spin that it's all the fault of Islamic extremists. That's sort of why Obama is acting like he is.

    If you see that as insider info you're a bit out of touch.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    It's actually common knowledge that the US hasn't fallen for Gaddafi's spin that it's all the fault of Islamic extremists.

    Really? The writer of that piece I linked to - you did read it I assume - may need your guidance back to the path of 'common knowledge'.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    Really? The writer of that piece I linked to - you did read it I assume - may need your guidance back to the path of 'common knowledge'.

    I really can't say I'm all that interested in the writer you linked to. I am interested though in what Obama is doing and he does not appear to have fallen for Gaddafi's spin that his opposition is dominated by Islamic extremists. I tend to agree.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    Good on you, Neil.

    However, that wasn't what we were talking about.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    that wasn't what we were talking about.

    I addressed the points you raised and you responded. I was under the impression the points you raised were what you intended to talk about.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Russell Brown,

    There was certainly a good argument for some sort of rapprochement, but McCain's political amnesia -- he lately described Gaddafi as "insane" -- is fairly amazing.

    Isn't it reminiscent of Don Rumsfeld's 1983 handshake moment with Saddam Hussein?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5414 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    I'd been thinking Iran might be the next in the list of lets-all-re-evaluate-things so I was surpsised at how much I agreed with Israel is blind to the Arab revolution.

    With things moving so fast there does seem to be a risk Israel will get caught out.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    I addressed the points you raised and you responded. I was under the impression the points you raised were what you intended to talk about.

    No you didn't. Not at all. The question was whether Libya had a closer relationship over the past few years with the USA than was first mooted upthread. Two people, myself included, offered investigative journalists who had written reasonably in depth pieces which offered information on this. It seemed reasonable, given the evidence, that it had, especially at an intel level.

    Your response seems to be based around your personal 'common knowledge' that everyone knows this is not true because '[Obama] does not appear to have fallen for Gaddafi's spin that his opposition is dominated by Islamic extremists.' which really has little to do with what was being discussed. It wasn't relevant to the thread at hand and it seems to exist on some sort of tangent.

    When asked to look at the work done by the journalists you responded 'I'm not all that interested in the writer you linked to.'

    I give up, Neil. It's the same imploding circle you seem to always lead a discussion into.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Conal Tuohy,

    I know a lot of people have become thoroughly disillusioned with the Western military establishment, especially after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the long foreign occupation, the insurgency, the sectarian violence, the kidnappings and torture, and the sheer scale of the suffering, with hundreds of thousands killed, millions forced to flee their homes, and son on. So many lives were blighted by the arrogant Western supremacism and militarism of Tony Blair, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and others who by rights should have tried and convicted for war crimes.

    It's actually difficult to conceive that Western governments can get away with such things again, and somehow continue to speak from the moral high ground, yet this is precisely what happened again and again in history. The invasions of both Iraq and Afghanistan had venerable precedents. The British were having problems with Afghan "talebs" back in the 19th century, and didn't they steal Iraq off the Ottomans? In fact, the history of the Western powers is an almost unbroken history of blood and guts. The European powers once conquered and oppressed virtually the entire world. The US alone must have invaded, attacked, or fomented military coups in pretty much every country of Latin America, many of them (the ones unfortunate enough to be near neighbours) on more than one occasion. In the 20th century they were the origins of both the World Wars; they were responsible for the deaths of millions of Vietnamese; they armed terrorists like Osama bin Laden and Luis Posada Carriles ... in short these countries have serious "form" as war-mongers. It's seriously naive not to acknowledge that's the case.

    And yet ... this time everything is different somehow. This time our bombing campaign will make the world a better place. This time the enemy leader really is a mad dog. This time we won't divide them; we won't plunder their resources; we won't usurp their national sovereignty and foist new laws, financial systems, foreign investors, foreign police forces, new kings and military dictators onto them.

    O RLY? Are we that gullible that we are supposed to believe that? Apparently we are.

    What's the bountiful source of all this historical amnesia? It's like magic, isn't it? The war crimes of the past are down-played, denied, ignored, commuted to "mistakes", and eventually they fade gracefully into obscurity. Of course our side were never that bad; they were well-meaning if occasionally mistaken, and if they were cynical vicious exploiters, well they were at least not as bad as Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot. And anyway, each new election cuts the thread of responsibility for past crimes, leaving each new government with a nice fresh coat of moral uprightness. Even Kissinger, who had to cut back his foreign travel in his retirement for fear of arrest, remained perfectly safe in the US, and his ongoing impunity eventually lent him a false air of respectability.

    I can understand and sympathise with the desire to believe that this time it really is different. This time the Western military will play a really progressive role ... etc. It's an understandable desire because if it really were the case then it would be a wonderful thing.

    I can understand also that some people have a healthy cynicism about the Western powers' motives, but they think that nevertheless it will be different this time. This time, because of the specifics of this particular historical juncture, or for these "10 reasons", this time the material interest of the wealthy countries of the world really will coincide with the interests of the third world, and this time the lion really will lie down with the lamb, if not for the sake of the lamb, then even just because it had some reason of its own to lie down at that particular spot. It sounds nice, but the facts of actual history are against it. If we reject history, then we are rejecting an important lesson that history can teach; that imperialism is a system of exploitation, not a charitable organisation. When imperial powers are given a free hand in other people's countries, they will inevitably wreck and plunder, because that's just how they roll.

    This is why I find it impossible to support the attack on Libya, even though it might save a few lives in the short term. I wonder what pro-interventionists will think in a few years' time, when Libya is partitioned into 2 or 3 neo-colonies, warn-torn, impoverished and indebted, and ruled over by some US-backed strongman. I'm a cynic because I think in that circumstance probably many people will think that a military attack was a great idea nd that if it had just been handled a bit better, or if only the Libyans had been more civilised in the first place, they would have gained so much from the intervention, and it would all have turned out really well.

    Melbourne • Since Oct 2008 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to chris,

    I’m more than to happy to listen to other reasons/ theories for the UN’s selectivity in its interventions.

    But here's the thing: the UN, even the Security Council, isn't some dark, conspiring bloc.

    Here's the UN's own report on the security council resolution, which was carried by 10 votes with five abstensions.

    Among the countries that spoke and voted in favour of the resolution were two that have already cropped up in this discussion: Lebanon and Bosnia-Hertzegovina.

    On the other hand, China and Russia -- both arms-manufacturing nations -- abstained.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to John Holley,

    highlighted that air power alone cannot achieve strategic objectives

    Something that has been true since WWII and demonstrated in every conflict since. There ought to be a quote about repeating history's mistakes really.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4449 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    I give up, Neil. It’s the same imploding circle you seem to always lead a discussion into.

    I thought what I said made sense, perhaps not.

    You referenced to an article about the US getting intelligence from Gaddafi. That intelligence was to do with Islamic extremist groups and is most likely of variable quality and given with various motivations.

    Given that Gaddafi has been trying to portray his opposition as Islamic extremists and the US hasn’t fallen for that I’m making a not unreasonable assumption that the US opinion of Libyan intelligence has not been high.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I think there is something different about this conflict/war in Lybia and the UN involvement. To me the key difference is that two neighbouring countries recently went through regime changes that were remarkably peaceful. I don't think anyone really expected such a thing to occur or even be possible. It suggested that the old pattern of bloody drawn out civil war was not the only way to remove a dictatorship.

    And for a moment it looked like Lybia might do the same. And I think everyone held their breath and hoped.

    The fact that Gadaffi responded so brutally is what has spurred the UN into action. It isn't that he's different in his brutality or that Lybia is different from any other oppressive regime. It's that Gadaffi is snuffing out the possibility of doing regime changes in a new and more peaceful way.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4449 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I am glad we have a thread on this finally. Still very undecided about the ideal course of action. Yes, there is the staggering failure of many of the UN sanctioned interventions to consider. There is also the Iraq debacle to undermine confidence in world leadership motives. But there is also the fact that Afghanistan and Iraq showed just how massive the power of the US has become. They can quite conceivably beat Libya's army down in a few weeks. Certainly they can destroy Libya's air force, and any mass movements of forces can be quickly and totally destroyed in the open.

    But should they? Unless they actually oust Gaddaffi, I can't see any of this going well for the rebels. And ousting him involves going in on the ground. Are there enough rebels left? Do they have the will? Do they have the weapons? Do they have popular support? What weapons does the army still have? What exactly does a ground assault on Tripoli involve, how many people have to die?

    One thing is certain, Gaddaffi won't go quietly, and if he gets the upper hand, he will kill the rebels down to the last man, and probably their family and all associates too. This is no longer a revolution, it's a civil war, and it's for all the marbles in Libya.

    If he is ousted, and his army destroyed, where does that leave Libya? When you've lived under fascism your entire life, how hard is it to establish a different form of government? When it happens by a revolution, the revolutionaries take over the government, they're now the ones with the guns, they're organized, and no one is going to argue with them. But when most of the force comes from the outside, internally, there is likely to simply be chaos. I can only think of a couple of success stories - Germany and Japan, and they were occupied for decades after they were beaten down.

    I'm thinking way ahead here, because the endgame is going to happen one way or another, and only in the end is there any justification for any of this. If Libya is totally fucked at the end, then it might have actually been better for them to have just stuck with Gaddaffi.

    My own take - the guy has to go. He's not just a dictator, he's an especially nasty one. He does not have popular support, and makes no secret of the fact that he will punish a lot of Libyans very harshly for daring to suggest he goes. Life under his is not very good for most Libyans, although admittedly it is very good for some of them.

    It would be an especially poignant object lesson right now for dictators, if it could be seen that the ones in Tunisia and Egypt actually made the right choice, that "bitter-ending", like Saddam Hussein did, is something that doesn't go well, whereas just calling it quits and retiring as a rich man in exile at least carries life and dignity with it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to chris,

    Based on this intervention, whatever is at stake in Libya could be perceived to be of more value to the UNSC than what Sudan had to offer. That Libya’s military is supplied by Brazil, China and Russia is surely relevant, as is the increase in gold and oil prices.

    Brazil, China and Russia all abstained on the Security Council vote, so it's counter-intuitive to suggest they had an interest in intervention.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • Christiaan, in reply to Steve Parks,

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting otherwise. Which side do you support, Christiaan?

    Well I certainly don't support the likes of the U.S., Britain and France having anything to do with it; they have a miserable record in the region. But why do you think it's even my business to support one side or the other in Libya? What matters is what the people of Libya want, which is clearly a problem when you have a civil war on your hands.

    I don't particularly have any answers to all this. I just find it disappointing that so many liberals seem to go to great lengths to convince themselves that a concern for ordinary people is the driving force behind these things.

    It's not. The leaders of U.S., Britain and France don't give a shit about the people of Benghazi. Just as they don't give a shit about the 1400 people massacred by Israel in 2009.

    London, UK • Since Dec 2006 • 121 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Christiaan,

    I just find it disappointing that so many liberals seem to go to great lengths to convince themselves that a concern for ordinary people is the driving force behind these things.

    Well, it is a concern for those "liberals". I'm not sure why you're even bringing liberals into it, TBH. It seems like a veiled ad hominem. As if being liberal makes any difference whatsoever in this discussion.

    Perhaps you are right in that the US, UK, French leadership are more concerned about economics, particularly arms sales and oil. So, for that matter, are the superpowers that abstained from backing a military response. But even so, you can't ignore that a massacre in Libya is likely if Gaddaffi is not stopped. Do you actually approve of this? Or are you also a liberal, just of the "hand-wringing" variety, for whom violence is only OK if you have no part in it? Because violence was happening, is happening, and will continue to happen. It could, however, result in something better than Gaddaffi killing off all opposition in his country.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Christiaan,

    I don’t particularly have any answers to all this. I just find it disappointing that so many liberals seem to go to great lengths to convince themselves that a concern for ordinary people is the driving force behind these things.

    It’s not. The leaders of U.S., Britain and France don’t give a shit about the people of Benghazi. Just as they don’t give a shit about the 1400 people massacred by Israel in 2009.

    Why do you think Lebanon voted in favour of the Security Council resolution? Why did the Arab League and the Gulf Co-operation Council urge the no-fly zone? (Both making a clear demarcation between then and intervention on the ground, which they opposed.) Why does, according to the Guardian, Egyptian public opinion run ragingly in favour of the no-fly zone?

    You say you don't have any answers, but it's more like you're not answering yourself any questions because you have the answers already. It's easy enough to roll out the boilerplate rhetoric, but a bit more complex to look at what's actually taken place here.

    I'm not exactly cheerleading, personally. I have mixed feelings about this development and how it resolves. But it does seem clear that the resolution was possible because it was very widely supported in the region. There also seems to have been universal agreement -- not least from the Interim Transitional National Council in Benghazi -- that action should not extend to putting foreign troops on the ground. The League's statement also recognised the Interim Council as the legitimate political interlocutor in Libya, and declared that the Gaddafi regime had surrendered its legitimacy. So they've picked a side, even if you haven't.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I’m not exactly cheerleading, personally. I have mixed feelings about this development and how it resolves.

    Well, who isn’t – anyone who thinks this isn’t going to get a lot worse before it gets better is charmingly, but dangerously, naive. It would be really nice if we lived in an XBox World with cheat codes and a reset button, but we don't.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    But even so, you can’t ignore that a massacre in Libya is likely if Gaddaffi is not stopped.

    The International Criminal Court has started an investigation into "crimes against humanity" allegedly already committed. Such prosecutions were a direct consequence of the intervention in Kosovo.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The CSM has an interesting interview with Ban Ki-Moon, who seems to have been a very significant player in this:

    You have seen what has happened in Libya. We had many civilians being indiscriminately killed by government forces and even some mercenaries, according reports. This was a totally unacceptable situation, and the longer we wait, the more people would have been killed. That’s why, upon the strong recommendation of the Arab League, the Security Council has taken a swift action, decisive action. Now, if you look at the history of the United Nations, this swift action was very unprecedented.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22743 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    I give up, Neil. It’s the same imploding circle you seem to always lead a discussion into.

    it was a bit of a side-issue, wasn't intending to pick a fight.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    I know a lot of people have become thoroughly disillusioned with the Western military establishment

    Conal, the UN is stationed in countries all across the globe, both militarily and economically. Sometimes it is helpful sometimes it is not. What it does have is a clear and constant mandate to intervene.

    Most of the time non-western troops are used, often for the reasons you described.

    And, that thing you mentioned about Hitler. It was quite a big deal I gather.

    But maybe it will all end up Leonard Coheny

    I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
    And even though
    It all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1645 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Neil Morrison,

    Cool, lets move on

    Most of the time non-western troops are used, often for the reasons you described.

    The French too are far more active in North Africa than most realise, with troops and aircraft in Chad and other former French colonies for many years.

    Chad gives little back to France in the fiscal sense - it is one of the poorest nations on planet earth, its oil industry has an Exxon contract and it buys no arms. The French seem to be only there currently to force open a window to allow the oil money to pay for almost non-existent infrastructure and to enforce the borders, most especially from Libya.

    It's hard to see what advantage aside from regional stability is gained from their involvement in that country.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Rosie,

    After living under a shallow of violence and torture so many decades the protesters in all these countries are so incredibly brave.
    It is a pity that the countries that are so keen to help enforce the no fly zone in Libya weren't able to persuade their great friend and ally Saudi Arabia to stay the hell out of Bahrain.
    Its seems the most important thing that can happen now is that Egypt (and Tunisia) form reasonably stable democracies and that western powers don’t interfere but only support in a non partisan way.
    If democracy spreads in the middle east and Libya can’t get rid of Gaddafi now they will get rid of him eventually. The deaths of many of those (very brave) people will be sad but it might save more deaths later on if it’s a totally Libyan effort when it happens. I can’t support the intervention in Libya. Perhaps with more dictatorships falling (if the west allows it to happen) then Gaddafi will see the writing on the wall. The best intervention the west could make in the middle east is to stop propping up all the other dictators.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 20 posts Report Reply

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