And on to the next great intervention!

Glenn Greenwald points out that Libya is a classic example of something that happens over and over again: War hawks drum up some case for attacking some country, the ‘humanitarian interventionists’ gleefully sign on to the war effort and condemn those who think that the wars are wrong, there is great gloating among the war hawks when the invaded country’s leaders are toppled at the beginning of the war and a ridiculing of the war’s opponents, and then silence as things go badly awry, leaving the situation worse than before

The unraveling of Libya is now close to absolute. Yesterday, the same New York Times editorial page that supported the intervention quoted the U.N.’s Libya envoy Bernardino León as observing: “Libya is falling apart. Politically, financially, the economic situation is disastrous.” The NYT editors forgot to mention that they supported the intervention, but did note that “Libya’s unraveling has received comparatively little attention over the past few months.” In other words, the very same NATO countries that dropped bombs on Libya in order to remove its government collectively ignored the aftermath once their self-celebrations were over.

Into the void of Libya’s predictable disintegration has stepped ISIS, among other groups. ISIS yesterday released a new video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, which they carried out in Libya. This, in turn, led to all sorts of dire warnings about how close ISIS now is to Europe – it “established a direct affiliate less than 500 miles (800 kilometers) from the southern tip of Italy,” warned AP – which in turn has produced calls for re-intervention in Libya.

Yesterday, the U.S.-supported Egyptian regime bombed targets in Libya. Meanwhile, “Italy warned that ISIS is at Europe’s doorstep as France and Egypt called for the United Nations Security Council to meet over the spiraling crisis in Libya.” It’s only a matter of time before another western “intervention” in Libya becomes conventional wisdom, with those opposed being accused of harboring sympathy for ISIS (just as opponents of Libya intervention the first time around were accused of being indifferent to Gadaffi’s repression).

What we see here is what we’ve seen over and over: the west’s wars creating and empowering an endless supply of enemies, which in turn justify endless war by the west. It was the invasion of Iraq that ushered in “Al Qaeda in Iraq” and ultimately ISIS. It has been the brutal, civilian-slaughtering drone bombing of Yemen which spawned Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in that country. As Hillary Clinton herself acknowledged, the U.S. helped create Al Qaeda itself by arming, recruiting and funding foreign “Mujahideen” to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (“the people we are fighting today, we funded 20 years ago”). And now it is the NATO intervention in Libya which has laid the groundwork for further intervention.

We are now ready for the next stage of this process. Both the warhawks and the humanitarian interventionists will claim that yes, things are bad in Libya now but that ‘everyone’ felt at that time that the war was justified and that no one could have predicted that it would be a catastrophe, despite the fact that many people predicted just that. And they will bemoan the fact that the locals just don’t seem to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that have been presented by our bombing that country and completely destroying its infrastructure.

And then it is on the next great humanitarian intervention!


  1. Chiroptera says

    …and then silence as things go badly awry….

    What amateurs. Real patriots blame the catastrophes on the defeatists and the traitors hidden among us.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    Well, how is the military-industrial complex supposed to sell more bombs and missiles unless the ones they sold last year are fired at poor people? It’s basic economics.

  3. Dave Huntsman says

    The final, ‘tipping point’ moment for the Libyan intervention was when Ghaddafi was about to, literally, destroy Benghazi. What were you suggesting at that moment we do, Mano?

  4. Paulo Borges says

    Although in many cases there is a direct link connecting the havoc in many countries or regions in the world, is the case of Libya that is more to the case than that. Connecting the havoc and foreign intervention is oversimplifying the question.
    In the moment that people decided to legitimately expose their grievances there was no correct action, anything would be wrong, the intervention was wrong as it would be wrong the no intervention.
    However, the many reason for the chaos that reigns in Libya today is related to the inability of the government elected in 2011 to unite the country around a common concrete goal and a method to reach it. I was in Tripoli in 2011 right after the elections, there was hope and a sense of purpose which if it had been harnessed could have made many things possible but alas the momentum last lost in petty squabbling.
    It’s all very fine and dandy to proclaim the universal motto of liberté égalité fraternité, however in the real world, real problems are not solved by brandishing abstract concepts no matter how noble they might be.
    The problem resides in the fact that today there are no longer politicians, there are technocrats whose action are mere reactions, I miss the old days when politicians were statesman with whatever vision or goal.

  5. Mano Singham says


    Whatever the reasons for the attack on Libya, genuine concern about the residents of Benghazi must have been pretty far down the list since once the US got rid of Ghaddafi, they did not seem to care what happened to that hapless country. The plight of the Libyan people now is horrendous, as they are tossed back and forth in a major civil war.

    As Greenwald said:

    Far from serving as a model, this Libya intervention should severely discredit the core selling point of so-called “humanitarian wars.” Some non-governmental advocates of “humanitarian war” may be motivated by the noble aims they invoke, but humanitarianism is simply not why governments fight wars; that is just the pretty wrapping used to sell them.

  6. brucegee1962 says

    Dropping bombs is easy; rebuilding nations you have bombed is hard. It is also expensive, in a way that doesn’t enrich Big Contractors nearly enough.

    That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do either one. After we bombed Germany and Japan in WWII, we actually had the guts and the political leadership to step up and do the necessary rebuilding. The result was two of the most successful nations of the latter half of the twentieth century.

    We also had plenty of example of what happens with the bombs but not the rebuilding after WW1.

    I suspect, though, that if Haliburton had been around in 1945 and had been put in charge of the Marshal Plan, we would have ended up with another crazed German attempt to take over the world within another few decades.

    I don’t feel at all bad about taking down Qadafi — as @3 says, he was murdering his own people at an astronomical rate. But we should absolutely admit our own culpability at walking away whistling “mission accomplished” after we were done.

  7. says

    The final, ‘tipping point’ moment for the Libyan intervention was when Ghaddafi was about to, literally, destroy Benghazi

    That happened after the US-sponsored insurgents, armed and trained by the CIA, started causing trouble. If there hadn’t been US-led efforts to destabilize Libya Ghaddafi would not have walked into the trap that was laid for him.

    The time for the US to have acted was to have not started the whole rebellion in the first place.

  8. says

    (If you don’t believe that the US was backing the anti-government rebels that touched off the fighting that Ghaddafi announced he would repress, which was the reason NATO gave for toppling Libya’s government, just search for information about Khalifa Hifter; do your own research)

  9. says

    Khalifa Hifter was one of a long line of CIA backed agents in Libya. Back in the Reagan days it was Hissene Habre. Again, do your own research. The US has been prepping the scene for “regime change” over and over and Ghaddafi finally stepped into the trap. He probably felt that he was safe, because he’d spun down his nuclear program (it wasn’t going anywhere anyway) and was pumping oil. Oops. So the poor motherfucker died with a bayonet up his ass in the hand of a CIA-backed mob.

    I don’t know if you can find them anymore but when the Libyan “rebellion” was starting there were pictures on BBC of bearded white guys with “operator” written all over them, organizing and training the rebels. When the “rebellion” started there were only a few hundred or a thousand “rebels” -- most of whom were training across the border in Niger.

    Another funny thing: the militants that attacked the CIA base in Benghazi were occasionally employees of the CIA. They just didn’t stay bought that night.

  10. bmiller says

    Hey, Dave:

    The crocodile tears are great! Maybe we could have saved benghazi by bombing it? We are so good at that?

    Given that we used white phosphorus and de-pleted uranium in Iraq, I’m not sure we have the moral standing anyway. All of our humanitarian interventions seem to result in a lot of dead people. Go concern troll the people of Yemen.

  11. sundoga says

    bmiller, I keep hearing about us “using White Phosphorous”, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, etc. etc. But I haven’t seen any evidence that we used it for anything other then it’s official purpose -- smoke laying. For which it is, in fact, the best substance so far developed. And the use for which is, in fact, totally moral.
    And I’m sorry, but I have no compunctions against using Depleted Uranium either. It’s a mildly poisonous, very slightly radioactive material -- which makes it significantly less dangerous than a lot of the other stuff we use, like JP-4 fuel (quite poisonous) or RDX based explosives (ditto).
    You want to complain about our interventions, please do. I’ll even support you in a lot of cases. But these are media beat-ups.

  12. Holms says

    The final, ‘tipping point’ moment for the Libyan intervention was when Ghaddafi was about to, literally, destroy Benghazi. What were you suggesting at that moment we do, Mano?

    How about something other than invasion so as to avoid the total collapse of all infrastructure and stability? You know, the same outcome that invasions- oh sorry, humanitarian interventions have always had?

    Also I’m curious, what is the source for the ‘Ghaddafi about to destroy Benghazi (literally!)’ claim?

  13. Dunc says

    Also I’m curious, what is the source for the ‘Ghaddafi about to destroy Benghazi (literally!)’ claim?

    Obviously Dave is visiting us here from a parallel timeline in which everything else is identical, except we didn’t intervene in Libya…

    I also notice that nobody seems to really give much of a shit about the fact that, shortly after we prevented Ghaddafi from shelling the crap out of civilians in Benghazi by turning the tide of the war in favour of the rebels, they turned around and shelled the crap out of civilians in Sirte. Sucks to be them, I guess.

    This is the thing that probably pisses me off the most about “our” modern attitudes to these sorts of events: the apparent belief that only one side is killing people, or only one side’s crimes matter. War is a messy business, and nobody comes out of it with clean hands. Now, sure, you can try to make an argument that one side is better than the other, but most of the time nobody bothers. It’s just “but they were killing people!”, like that’s enough. Well, duh. It was a civil war. It’s not like the rebels were only using interpretative dance and harsh language.

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