Friday, March 18, 2011

Qualified support for the UN resolution

I think I'm with Andrew Coates:
The left has to begin from the premise of support for the Lybian people’s resistance to the Gaddafi tyranny. This is only a ‘civil war’ in the sense that all revolutions are civil strife. Given the opportunity the Lybian masses rallied to calls to overthrow the Gaddafi-state. Only its immediate use of violent repression halted their advance.
The Lybian uprising takes place within the context of pan-regional Arab democratic revolutions. It is directed against a bureaucratic capitalist tyranny, with close links to international capital, Western states and institutions. 
The UN-endorsed military interventions are neither part of a plan for military occupation, nor for the installation of an externally created political replacement for Gaddafi. In the first instance they correspond to the express wishes of the Lybian popular masses, as organised in their provisional governing bodies. 
The UN sanctioned actions are not part of any generalised right to ‘humanitarian intervention’ but correspond to the particular needs of the Lybian population, under imminent threat of repression by the Gaddafi state machine. The are aimed to protect civilian populations.

Those who seek retrospective justification for backing the invasion of Iraq – to overthrow Saddam Hussain - misjudge the present resolution. It has been made within the context of a genuine popular revolution, internally rooted. It is not a recipe for external regime change, nor for a world-wide policing operation to enforce liberal democracy. Iraq remains proof of the way in which geopolitics are not dominated by ethical universalism but by military, commercial and resource interests. The political and civil society structures it has left behind remain an open wound.


Those who oppose such help to the Lybian revolution have some justification. The UK, France, and the US are undoubtably as concerned to be in the ‘wave of history’, that is, on the side of the Arab movements for change, and their own strategic interests as they are bothered by humanitarian concerns. Equally their capacity to help effectively and impartially, without unnecessary violence, the Lybian people, remains untested.

However blanket opposition to such measures is morally bankrupt. The Stop the War Coalition’s call to demonstrate today against the help offered to the Lybian people in their desperate hour of need isrepellent.

We should not put all anti-interventionists in the same camp as the charlatan George Galloway and others who will no doubt brandish the threadbare accusation that this resolution is a mask for naked imperialism. The claim by Counterfire that the UN move is inspired by fear of a revolution already fighting-back are empty.

But arguments, such as those employed by Tony Benn, that this is a ‘civil war’ – giving each ‘side’ a weight, are we have seen, false. Further claims about the West’s hypocrisy are distinctly distasteful. That, for example, the West does not intervene in Bahrain. This comparison is used by those who would immediately oppose Western miliary action in such countries.

The decisive point is that UN excludes a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory. Intervention can naturally excalate, and we should be wary of this – as the Weekly Worker has pointed out. But, as Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the Parti de Gauche says, there is no mandate for physically landing French or any other foreign troops in the country (Here).

Reports are that the people of Benghazi welcome the decision.

In the absence of any other means of international support, and in view of the dramatic threat posed to Lybian lives by Gaddafi’s’ forces, we would therefore give qualified support for UN resolution 1973.
Peter says its more succintly. News and updates at Modernity's place.

Update: Support with no illusions from Dave Osler. Lots of relevant items from Norm.

Update 2: A more nuanced case against intervention and for solidarity, but I find it a little unconvincing.

Update 3:  Harry Barnes on why Libya 2011 is not Iraq 2003; Little Richardjohn: on David Cameron agreeing with him and on the end of nuclear credibility.

8 comments:

Flesh said...

I was interested to hear a BBC Today Programme reporter saying that had Obama led the campaign for intervention against Gadaffi, the Arab League might have felt obliged to oppose it, compounding the inertia. In this light, Obama looks more judicious than e.g. Terry Glavin would have us think. Any thoughts, anyone?

Eamonn said...

"It has been made within the context of a genuine popular revolution, internally rooted."

Message to people living in countries where the degree of repression is such as to make a "genuine popular revolution" impossible or where attempts to mount one have already been crushed, "Screw you, we're not interested."

ModernityBlog said...

I have to say I am genuinely ambivalent about this particular implementation of the no-fly zone.

Had it been done earlier and swifter, then hundreds if not thousands of Libyans would not have been killed by Gaddafi's forces.

I want Gaddafi to be overthrown, but I have serious questions on the implementation of the no-fly zone and the complicity of so many countries with Gadaffi, until only two months ago.

My gut feeling is that it will be implemented in a cackhanded fashion and Libyans, civilians will suffer as a result.

I hope I am wrong I hope Gaddafi and, more importantly, his sons can be persuaded to stop their bloody campaign now, but I'm not optimistic.

Waterloo Sunset said...

"Hey, I've got back with liberal interventionism. But he promised me he won't cheat this time!"

As you can tell, I'm cynical about this to say the least. As it seems to be based on the belief that the ruling class is actually all nice and cuddly underneath and that it has no interest in forcing neoliberalism on people in the name of 'free people means free markets', despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. That said, some positive recommendations, in order of least to most controversial.

1. I do think that, whatever people's views on the nfz/military intervention, that's actually not the priority at the moment. (Which I suspect may be an issue with Stop the War, in particular). Slogans etc need to start from the position of solidarity with the Libyan people. Everything else is a side issue in comparison currently.

2. Lift the arms embargo. I can't see how the anti-imps could object to that one- the embargo is a type of foreign interference and one we should all be able to agree needs to go.

3. Step up the fight against the arms trade, who are highly complicit in arming Gadaffi and other dictators in the area. And I'm talking economic damage where possible. Hit the fuckers where it hurts. That's meaningful solidarity, that can be done pretty much anywhere in the west.

4. Target the individuals who are most complicit in working with Gaffafi. Heckling. Disruption of their speaking engagements. Harass them wherever they go. In the UK, the most obvious target for that treatment is Blair.

bob said...

Like Coates, Mod, Osler and others, I am very hesitant in my support for the intervention. I whole-heartedly approve of WS's 1-4 - but I also don't think that they'll do enough to stop the slaughter.

Terry Glavin said...

I'm not sure what is "qualified" about your support or what the "hesitancy" is. I get your points, and largely agree, and I can take your comments to mean we should look at all this with our eyes open. But that's not exactly a qualification, and hesitancy is what put the rebels on the back foot to start with.

As for Waterloo's proposed priority list, it appears to properly identify solidarity with the rebels as the first priority, then veer off into rather less than immediate priorities.

From day one, the rebels have been clear what their priority for interventionist solidarity was. Number 1 on their list: A no-fly zone. There were celebrations in all the rebel-held towns after the Security Council vote passed. They were even happier today when Gaddafist tanks were bombed.

Sometimes, certain things are actually simple enough, or at least urgent enough, that neither qualifications nor hesitancy will do. If the rebels want a no-fly zone, the rest of us should do whatever we can damn well do to get one for them. If the rebels are happy, I'm happy. Vive La France.

I don't buy the notion that Obama allowed the French and the British to lead so as to make it easier for the Arab League to come on board. It could be true I suppose, but Obama would have had to calculate and come to terms with the enormous costs he's paid in his own credibility and the larger costs to America's standing, all in return for appearing to be "more judicious." Seems somehow unlikely. You'd think he would have learned from his truancy during the Egyptian revolt. For his mincing in Egypt, the secularists, reformers and democrats couldn't even bring themselves to flatter Clinton with a meeting when she showed up in Cairo last week.

Mike Walzer's handwringing today seems to be based on similarly unexamined assumptions as your own, if you'll forgive me for saying, the key one being that there is something good about having the Arab League onside. I guess it is good, if you're for the status quo. If you're a democrat or a would-be rebel in any of the Arab League torture states, you might take it as an unambiguously bad omen.

Besides, the inside pages and below-the-fold reports have the White House frantically courting the Arab League states to get them onside before the vote and keep them onside after it. That doesn't seem like playing coy to me. If we are expected to read craftiness rather than something more closely resembling cowardice or just plain confusion in the inscrutable conduct of the White House to date, here's the questions I'd be asking.

What price did the tyrants of the Arab
League exact from Obama in exchange for their agreement to support the Security Council resolution? Was it a guarantee that America will no longer just sit back and watch, but from now on will actively participate in stabbing Arab democrats in the back?

Waterloo Sunset said...

@ Terry

The comment about priortisation is a fair point, although I'd suggest the lifting of the arms embargo is also an immediate tactic.

Points 3 & 4 however, are more about stopping this happening again. Because, unless we actually take on the arms industry seriously, there will be more dictators being armed in the future and more oppression and more death. That's the way this river runs.

And targeting the likes of Blair has two main effects. Firstly, it's the threat of making an example over those who might think to do this kind of thing in the future. And, realistically, it's something that those of us in the UK can do. (I'm sure that you have your own equivalents in Canada).

There is a danger that weighty pronoucements on foreign policy actually ends up being an excuse for not doing anything of substance ourselves.

Terry Glavin said...

"There is a danger that weighty pronoucements on foreign policy actually ends up being an excuse for not doing anything of substance ourselves."

There is a far greater danger in weighty statements being taken to actually mean something, when they're just empty statements. That was the mortal danger into which the US put Iraq's Shias and Kurds 20 years ago, and they died in their thousands. It was the danger in which Obama placed the Libyan rebels last month; they chose to believe him and they fought. When they found that he was faking it, it fell to the French and the British to pull everything back together.

A good read is John Judis, How The Left Got Libya Wrong:

http://www.tnr.com/article/world/85559/libya-intervention-american-left-wrong

Bad craziness abounds. As seen from a slightly more Canadian vantage, Left Wing 'Progressives' Deaf to Libyan Democrats:

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/03/21/terry-glavin-left-wing-progressives-deaf-to-libyan-democrats/