The pundits who supported Libyan regime change and now advocating the same for Syria

One of the enduring facts about the American media is that there is a group of influential members of the media and intellectuals who like to think of themselves as liberal but are reliable advocates for the use of military force and especially bombing the hell out of other countries in the name of ‘humanitarian intervention’. These people can be relied upon to cheer wars as long as it can be wrapped up in a gauze, however flimsy, that it will magically result in the emergence of a nation that is democratic and respects human rights and the rights of minorities. Of course, once the whole exercise goes sour as it almost always does, they studiously avert their gaze from the havoc they caused and look longingly for the next war for which they can advocate action.

Ben Norton writes that the same dreary crew that gushed over US intervention in Libya are now advocating the same kind of thing in Syria, when Libya is now in a horrendously chaotic state. regressing to practices like slavery.

The 2011 war in Libya was justified in the name of supposed humanitarian intervention, but it was a war for regime change, plain and simple. A report released by the British House of Commons’ bipartisan Foreign Affairs Committee in 2016 acknowledged that the intervention was sold on lies — but by the time it was published, the damage was already done.

Today, Libya is in complete ruins. There is no functioning central authority for swaths of the country; multiple governments compete for control. The genocidal extremist group ISIS has, in Libya, carved out its largest so-called caliphate outside of Iraq and Syria.

Perhaps most striking of all is the fact there are now open slave markets in Libya, where black African migrants are bought and sold. Moreover, women have been banned from traveling on their own in the eastern part of the country, which is under the control of a warlord with longtime ties to the CIA.

Far from “freeing” Libyans, NATO regime change pulled them back centuries. And, in the meantime, thousands of refugees and migrants have lost their lives, sinking into the murky water off the coast.

A coalition of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists helped sell NATO’s war to the public, in the lead-up to and during the intervention in 2011. Since then, many of the NATO war’s most vociferous advocates have fallen silent, avoiding any accountability for their colossal errors of judgment and imperial zeal. Virtually no one has expressed contrition.

Norton names names and they are familiar ones. Among the so-called liberals are Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristoff, and Anne-Marie Slaughter. They always seem to find common cause with neoconservatives like Bret Stephens, Max Boot, and William Kristol who are also named by Norton. Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power were also strong advocates for the Libyan intervention. When the bugle call for war sounds, these liberals march in unison with the neoconservative warmongers, and they of course praised Trump’s bombing of Syria.

This morning I heard Boot on the radio briefly advocating for action in Syria and, as the tension with North Korea ratchets up, these same people will probably find reasons for an attack on that country too.

It doesn’t seem to matter how wrong these people have been in the past and the immense misery their recommended actions have caused, they are still given platforms to blithely advocate for new wars.


  1. cartomancer says

    Libya was a big slave market in pre-Roman and Roman times, mainly thanks to the Garamantes (a Berber people, ancestors of the modern Tuareg), who also seized sub-saharan Africans to sell in the slave markets of the northern cities and ship abroad across the Empire. The trade continued into the Middle Ages, when Barbary Pirates were feared throughout the Mediterranean, though the markets tended to be in the Middle East rather than Europe. When the European powers got into slave trading in a big way it was these people who showed them the ropes. Sad to say but there not being slave markets in Libya is something of an historical anomaly.

  2. polishsalami says

    cartomancer #2:
    The rationale for interventionism is that regime change will benefit the populations of those nations who are bombed. Is Libya better off now, compared to seven years ago? Doesn’t seem like it.

  3. jrkrideau says

    l would have thought some of the so-called American intellectuals would have learned after Afghanistan or after Iraq. Apparently not. And it appears that their ideas are as delusional as ever.

    It appeared to me that the prime reason for Russian intervention in Syria was the fear of Syria becoming another failed state.
    I suspect that a good bit of Iran’s rationale in supporting Syria is the same though Iran also has to worry about a bunch of unhinged Sunni fanatics, like ISIS, in Iraq supported by a lot of Sunni-orientated money from Saudi Arabia and some of the Gulf states.

    And these fools are suggesting more “extreme” actions?

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    jrkrideau @ # 8: l would have thought some of the so-called American intellectuals would have learned after Afghanistan or after Iraq. Apparently not.

    They have learned that cheering on governmental violence overseas, however disastrously it may turn out (and obviously so from the beginning) boosts their careers.

    Media corporations in USAstan never* punish “pundits” for getting things wrong. (Do they in Europe?)

    *Can anyone name any exceptions? At all? Bueller?

  5. Dunc says

    Media corporations in USAstan never* punish “pundits” for getting things wrong. (Do they in Europe?)

    Hell no. Not in the UK, anyway.

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