Some questions about the proposed Libya intervention

With any luck, the mere threat of intervention will lead to a genuine cease-fire. Failing that, the situation seems to me to be much more ambiguous than many of our hysterical pundits would have it. Some questions I have:

  1. Why should the very same powers that had made their peace with Qaddafi and appeared willing to tolerate him indefinitely be the ones responsible with removing and replacing him?
  2. Even leaving aside Afghanistan and Iraq, what is it about the West’s attempts to intervene in the situation in Egypt (i.e., to ease out Mubarak and replace him with Suleiman, who was apparently a hands-on torturer) that makes everyone think that Western powers are good-faith mediators in this situation?
  3. Why is the alternative between a bombing campaign and somehow tacitly supporting Qaddafi? Shouldn’t this emotional blackmail in itself make us suspicious? Hard as it is to believe, there are some problems that perhaps can’t be solved through Western-led bombing campaigns — and some problems that could potentially be made worse, even after near-term gains. NATO air power is not the right hand of God.
  4. And why always bombing campaigns? It seems that for the US in particular, it’s no longer a question of whether we’ll go to war with a country, but whether we’ll “bomb” it (see most discussions of Iran). What evidence do we have that bombing is the best approach to this situation, as opposed to UN ground troops? I’m not advocating sending in ground troops, but isn’t the appeal of bombing over ground troops the perceived lower cost to the bombing power? Why should we assume what we’re willing to do due to its perceived low cost is a particularly effective method? Again: NATO air power is not the right hand of God — and bombs don’t always hit their targets, nor are targets always prudently chosen in the first place. The low cost for us will predictably increase the costs for the Libyan population (see: Iraq, Afghanistan, and basically the whole history of air war). Does the math still come out in favor of intervention in that case? If we must “do something,” why does that “something” always turn out to be this same old, seemingly low-cost (for us) thing?
  5. What sovereign country, no matter what its form of government, wouldn’t react forcefully to armed rebellion? I doubt Obama would be restrained if Texas seceded, for example, or if armed rebels took control of Alaska — nor would any of the pundits now demonizing Qaddafi (which, to be fair, seems like a fair portrayal) call for restraint in such a case. Qaddafi appears to thirst for blood to an unusual degree, but collective punishment is not unheard of even among Western nations (see: Israel). Why is this case of putting down a rebellion within one’s own borders considered to be so egregious while others have been passed over in silence? And why should Nicholas Sarkozy, for instance, be trusted to make the call of which case is intervention-worthy?

These are just some of the questions that make me suspicious of this intervention and predisposed to oppose it (whatever meaning that may have, given my total lack of influence over the outcome), just as I opposed the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

8 thoughts on “Some questions about the proposed Libya intervention

  1. I’m especially concerned about the lack of tactical and strategic insight signified by our reflexive use of bombing campaigns. *If* we intervene, what is needed is close air support of rebel infantry. This would take out armor and artillery, as well as clearing the air of loyalist aircraft. This is really quite risky – A10’s, C130 gunships, and helicopters are vulnerable to antiaircraft fire. In short, the sort of action needed is one that we probably lack the will to carry out because we would face real and mounting risks and costs in terms of casualties and lost aircraft. Still, this is the only air option that makes any sense. To simply drop bombs on loyalist forces from high in the air would be pointless and, as you point out, more dangerous to the Libyans on the ground on either ‘side’ than to our forces.

    Of course, there are other disturbing problems with armed humanitarianism, but I’ve prattled on…

  2. i’m concerned that, while you are clearly trying to pose these questions as to your country’s designs w/r/t libya within it’s own framework, criticizing and questioning it on its own terms so as to avoid the trap of the cynical seeing through to the naked power plays and thus missing the affect such questions have on the way things are perceived by regular people – there’s still the danger that you might be coming across as anything other than being completely opposed to Empire and wanting nothing more than to see it’s utter destruction once and for all.

  3. I have a bad feeling about this. We’ve seen this movie before. Why not simply withdraw our support from the other dictators on a rampage in the region (Bahrein, etc.)?

  4. Libya is an OPEC nation and a crucial actor in the oil trade. Stability in the region is essential because instability threatens oil markets, thus threatens global commerce and industry. The approach of the US and NATO is Realpolitik through and through—the Libyan people never enter into the equation. Their welfare is not something that even remotely crosses the minds of NATO or the US (hence bombing campaigns). No effort will be made to liberate the Libyan people beyond the effort necessary to stabilize the country and ensure the smooth flow of that commodity which, were it not an actual object, could be called a transcendental condition for the possibility of advanced capitalist existence (oil).

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