Another humanitarian success story!


Glenn Greenwald writes that the country of Libya is now in a state of total collapse and anarchy, not quite what we were promised when we bombed that country on ‘humanitarian’ grounds.

So widespread is violence and anarchy there that “hardly any Libyan can live a normal life,” Brown University’s Stephen Kinzer wrote in The Boston Globe last week. Last month, the Libyan Parliament, with no functioning army to protect it from well-armed militias, was forced to flee Tripoli and take refuge in a Greek car ferry. The New York Times reported in September that “the government of Libya said . . . that it had lost control of its ministries to a coalition of militias that had taken over the capital, Tripoli, in another milestone in the disintegration of the state.”

Sectarian strife and economic woes destroyed efforts by the U.S. and U.K. to train Libyan soldiers, causing those two nations last week to all but abandon further programs: “not a single soldier had been trained by the U.S. because the Libyan government failed to provide promised cash.” AP reports this morning that an entire city, Darna, has now pledged its allegiance to ISIS, “becoming the first city outside of Iraq and Syria to join the ‘caliphate’ announced by the extremist group.” A report issued by Amnesty International two weeks ago documented that “lawless militias and armed groups on all sides of the conflict in western Libya are carrying out rampant human rights abuses, including war crimes.” In sum, it is almost impossible to overstate the horrors daily faced by Libyans and the misery that has engulfed the country.

All of that prompts an obvious question: where did all of the humanitarians go who insisted they were driven by a deep and noble concern for the welfare of the Libyan people when they agitated for NATO intervention? Almost without exception, war advocates justified NATO’s military action in Libya on the ground that it was driven not primarily by strategic or resource objectives but by altruism. The New York Times‘ Nicholas Kristof wrote: “Libya is a reminder that sometimes it is possible to use military tools to advance humanitarian causes.” Former Obama official Anne-Marie Slaughter argued that intervention was a matter of upholding “universal values,” which itself advanced America’s strategic goals. In justifying the war to Americans (more than a week after it started), President Obama decreed: “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different.”

But “turning a blind eye” to the ongoing – and now far worse – atrocities in Libya is exactly what the U.S., its war allies, and most of the humanitarian war advocates are now doing. Indeed, after the bombing stopped, war proponents maintained interest in the Libyan people just long enough to boast of their great prescience and to insist on their vindication. Slaughter took her grand victory lap in a Financial Times op-ed headlined “Why Libya sceptics were proved badly wrong,” Dismissing those who were telling her that “it is too early to tell” and that “in a year, or a decade, Libya could disintegrate into tribal conflict or Islamist insurgency, or split apart or lurch from one strongman to another,” she insisted that nothing could possibly be worse than letting Gaddafi remain in power. Thus: “Libya proves the west can make those choices wisely after all.”

The overt warmongers who want to bomb countries to advance US or Israeli interests are one thing and there is some chance of opposing them. But when they share the same goals as these odious ‘humanitarian’ warmongers like Slaughter, then all hope is lost because the opposition simply collapses.

Greenwald exposes the appalling shallowness of these humanitarians (in a manner similar to the way Noam Chomsky ripped apart William F. Buckley’s noble reasons for the Vietnam war and other US militaristic actions in a previous era):

[V]irtually all wars, even the most blatantly aggressive ones of conquest (such as the Iraq War) are wrapped in humanitarian packaging. Moreover, there should be enormous doubt about the ability of the west to use bombs and military force – in distant lands with radically different and complex cultures – to manipulate political and social outcomes to its liking (except where total disorder is what it craves, in which case it likely can achieve its goals). Beyond that, the devastation and human costs from having the powerful U.S. military bomb countries are enormous, and will virtually never be outweighed by supposed “benefits.”

But the most compelling reason to oppose such wars is that – even if it all could work perfectly in an ideal world and as tempting as it is to believe – humanitarianism is not what motivates the U.S. or most other governments to deploy its military in other nations. If you have doubts about that, just look at how the supposed humanitarian concern for Libyans instantly vanished the moment all the fun, glory-producing and self-satisfying bomb-dropping was done. If there were any authenticity to the claimed humanitarianism, wouldn’t there be movements to spend large amounts of money not just to bomb Libya but also to stabilize and re-build it? Wouldn’t there be just as much horror over the plight of Libyans now: when the needed solution is large-scale economic aid and assistance programs rather than drone deployments, blowing up buildings, and playful, sociopathic chuckling over how we came, conquered, and made The Villain die?

As with all these fiascos, all those who eagerly advocated the bombing to destabilize that country are now conspicuous by their silence, moving on to the next target. How many more of these ‘humanitarian’ wars can the US initiate before people finally realize that they are all a charade?

Comments

  1. movablebooklady says

    I lived in Tripoli for two years back in the mid-1950s (military dependent) and loved it. Libya was newly independent from Italy and the city was beautiful in a most Italianate manner. Even then, there were undercurrents of unrest, mostly on a tribal level. Those of us who were there are connected on Facebook and bemoan the state of the country now. There seems to have been no plan in place for reconstruction after Gaddafi and the country has devolved into chaos, an easy way for radicals and terrorists to move in. I’m so sad, and mad, too, at all those who promised and promised and then failed to help.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    How many more of these ‘humanitarian’ wars can the US initiate before people finally realize that they are all a charade?

    “What is Infinity, Alex?”

    Here is a list of aircraft carriers by country. With 10 in active duty plus 2 in reserve, it would take the whole rest of the world put together to match the USA’s fleet. And that doesn’t count the 3 under construction. Isn’t it strange how the GOP never mentions this fact when they complain the budget has too much debt? To paraphrase the old comic strip Pogo, “We have met the Evil Empire and they is us.”

  3. nemistenem says

    We also lived in Libya, 1963-72 (oil family) when dad took his first assignment as a geologist for Mobil working out of Tripoli. As a kid it was a wonderful place to live – lots of sun, sand, and beautiful beaches. The people were generally very kind to us – my parents had may Libyan friends over the years. We could freely walk through the souks, visit the amazing Roman ruin sites of Sabratha and Leptis Magna, and were invited for traditional dinners at our neighbors (no compounds in those days, we all lived in villas), camped in the desert, and felt reasonably safe all along. As I grew a bit older and as some of the geopolitical events of the times unfolded (’67 war, overthrow of King Idris by Kaddafi), the mood of the people did change, we had more confrontations with local Libyan kids who made us know they did not like us so much anymore. I have not missed the country much since then but have kept an ear to events in that part of the world. Kaddafi was never spoken of well among us expats and I did not cry over his demise, but after Saddam was deposed and we witnessed the resulting chaos, I had a pretty bad feeling for the future of that poor country, Libya, as well. I think it has become worse than I had imagined, another hellhole that we have unfortunately helped to create. However, if we had not bombed I think the result would have been the same, perhaps taken a little longer to happen. I feel for the Libyan people, life under Kaddafi was no cakewalk, but much better than what they have now (same as Iraq).

  4. lorn says

    As I remember it Muammar Gaddafi had said he intended to attack Benghazi and wipe out he rebels without offering and quarter. The armored units were poised to strike after getting close enough to pose a credible threat to the lightly armed resistance forces. The Rebels in Benghazi claimed, possibly as a propaganda ploy to get western powers involved, that they were trying to build a democracy.

    We, and the French, went in and bombed the armor. This likely avoided a massacre and kept the resistance alive. It was very likely a necessary condition if the resistance was to survive but it was not anything close to sufficient to guarantee development in any particular direction.

    It took many years for the various organizations that would coalesce into the US to come to terms and get their act together to form a very shaky, weak, and imperfect union. We won’t know for several more years if our intervention in Libya paid off in a way we might view as favorable.

    Generally speaking when the question is to act or not the edge goes to action. Had the western powers not acted there may have been a massacre and we would be hearing recriminations because of our inaction.

    And tall that is before we get to the iron-clad rule of Washington: Nothing Obama does can ever be right, good, beneficial.

  5. alkaloid says

    @lorn, #5

    I’d say the far more fundamental question than action or inaction is why should the United States and France, given the long, sordid histories of interference the case of the former and occupation in the case of the latter in the region that both countries possess, have invaded (I won’t use the euphemism ‘intervention’ because it masks the reality) Libya in the first place?

    Not only does Libya seem to be vastly worse off now than it was before both countries did anything (and I hardly think that an outcome similar to Tunisia, which overthrew their US-supported dictatorship on their own, is particularly likely), but from what research I did since your post massacres still took place there-except that they happened to African migrants who were falsely accused of being mercenaries for the Qaddafi government. There is no way that Israel’s attack on Gaza can be called anything but a massacre. Protesters die and are imprisoned en masse in many countries in the region at the hands of governments that the United States supports, whether its Egypt or Bahrain.

    Why do you turn a blind eye to all of this?

    Furthermore, in the case of the United States, somehow I don’t believe that you would consider interference (much less invasion) in the United States’ development by the dominant European powers during most of the United States’ history to be a positive direction. Why do you refuse to allow the people from other countries similar freedom?

  6. lorn says

    We were asked to intervene. We did and several thousand rebels from one group got to live another day and several hundred Libyan army troops died as their armored and support vehicles were blasted from above. The armored drive to Benghazi was turned back with heavy losses.

    What happen afterward was undertaken by the various rebel groups. It is unclear if the one we saved had a lot to do with the attacks on African immigrants. It is pretty clear that those actions were undertaken without consulting the US, or with our help. Our avowed intention was to avoid a massacre of rebels in Benghazi by a column of Libyan armored vehicles. The rebels made noises about promoting democracy and a sectarian state but I doubt anyone took those seriously. It wasn’t as if we had a lot of leverage after the fact. We were not allies.

    I think you make better points if you keep this narrowly focused.

    Conflating the situation around Benghazi with the attacks on African workers and the wider Libyan situation, and that with the Israeli-Palistinian conflict doesn’t help anything.

    Quite frankly, until the Palestinians recognize Israel and its right to exist I really don’t care what Israel does this side of actual genocide Even limited to conventional weapons if Israel wanted to level Gaza and kill the entire population it could do it. Which tells me they are showing an incredible amount of restraint against a foe that has consistently demanded the elimination of Israel and the Jews, and has done everything in its power to kill as many Jews as possible.

  7. Mano Singham says

    lorn #7,

    “We were asked to intervene.” By whom?

    I am appalled by the logic of those who claim that the fact that Israel does not massacre larger numbers of Palestinians than they already do, not to mention destroy their homes and take their land, is a sign of its ‘restraint’. I guess it is like the US showing ‘restraint’ in Vietnam by not annihilating it with nuclear weapons, as some were urging at that time.

    You “really don’t care what Israel does this side of actual genocide”? That is an astounding statement, revealing a remarkable callousness for the lives of people.

  8. alkaloid says

    @Lorn, #7

    What happen afterward was undertaken by the various rebel groups. It is unclear if the one we saved had a lot to do with the attacks on African immigrants. It is pretty clear that those actions were undertaken without consulting the US, or with our help. Our avowed intention was to avoid a massacre of rebels in Benghazi by a column of Libyan armored vehicles. The rebels made noises about promoting democracy and a sectarian state but I doubt anyone took those seriously. It wasn’t as if we had a lot of leverage after the fact. We were not allies.

    So what I can take (or rather, restate) from your paragraph is that the US had little to no leverage with the rebels, wasn’t allied with them, and as the author of the original blog post pointed out, helping them created a demonstrably worse situation in Libya (which was hardly unpredictable)…but they just asked and the United States helped them anyways.

    I’m a bit unclear as to how this is supposed to be an argument for ‘intervention’ on your part?

    I think you make better points if you keep this narrowly focused.

    Conflating the situation around Benghazi with the attacks on African workers and the wider Libyan situation, and that with the Israeli-Palistinian conflict doesn’t help anything.

    No, I will not keep this narrowly focused because American interference/invasion/occupation (and by proxies) is not just a series of isolated incidents as much as it is a pattern. It almost always turns out a disaster that gets a lot of innocent people killed, and with the United States government either supporting those who do the killing or creating a chaotic situation which is even worse than if the United States hadn’t done anything at all.

    Quite frankly, until the Palestinians recognize Israel and its right to exist I really don’t care what Israel does this side of actual genocide Even limited to conventional weapons if Israel wanted to level Gaza and kill the entire population it could do it. Which tells me they are showing an incredible amount of restraint against a foe that has consistently demanded the elimination of Israel and the Jews, and has done everything in its power to kill as many Jews as possible.

    Do you know what the definition of genocide entails?

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