Juan Cole: Libya Is Not Iraq

liyaIs the bombing of Libya Obama’s Iraq redux? Informed Comment says no, laying out the factors that make the Libyan intervention ethical, non-imperialist, and fundamentally different from Bush’s 2003 invasion. Convincing or not?

On the surface, the situation in Libya a week and a half ago posed a contradiction between two key principles of Left politics: supporting the ordinary people and opposing foreign domination of them. Libya’s workers and townspeople had risen up to overthrow the dictator in city after city. Even in the capital of Tripoli, working-class neighborhoods such as Suq al-Jumah and Tajoura had chased out the secret police. In the two weeks after February 17, there was little or no sign of the protesters being armed or engaging in violence.

Then Muammar Qaddafi’s sons rallied his armored brigades and air force to bomb the civilian crowds and shoot tank shells into them. Members of the Transitional Government Council in Benghazi estimate that 8000 were killed as Qaddafi’s forces attacked and subdued Zawiya, Zuara, Ra’s Lanuf, Brega, Ajdabiya, and the working class districts of Tripoli itself, using live ammunition fired into defenseless rallies.

Some have charged that the Libya action has a Neoconservative political odor. But the Neoconservatives hate the United Nations and wanted to destroy it. They went to war on Iraq despite the lack of UNSC authorization, in a way that clearly contravened the UN Charter. Their spokesman and briefly the ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, actually at one point denied that the United Nations even existed. The Neoconservatives loved deploying American muscle unilaterally, and rubbing it in everyone’s face.

The Libya action, in contrast, observes all the norms of international law and multilateral consultation that the Neoconservatives despise. Libya 2011 is not like Iraq 2003 in any way.

The proposition that social problems can never be resolved by military force alone may be true. But there are some problems that can’t be solved unless there is a military intervention first, since its absence would allow the destruction of the progressive forces. Those arguing that “Libyans” should settle the issue themselves are willfully ignoring the overwhelming repressive advantage given Qaddafi by his jets, helicopter gunships, and tanks; the ‘Libyans’ were being crushed inexorably. Such crushing can be effective for decades thereafter.

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  • Simiantongue

    If you keep them asking the wrong questions it doesn’t matter what the answers are.

    I have seen this problem phrased the same way by apologists. The false dichotomy being “We either do the “humanitarian”(hows that for Orwellian?) thing and help the Libyan people or sit back and watch a genocide”. Utter bullshit. That is not the conversation, it’s not even some small aspect of the conversation. It’s a narrowly dogmatic self serving propaganda.

    “Those arguing that “Libyans” should settle the issue themselves are willfully ignoring the overwhelming repressive advantage given Qaddafi by his jets, helicopter gunships, and tanks; the ‘Libyans’ were being crushed inexorably. Such crushing can be effective for decades thereafter.”

    An overwhelming repressive advantage was given to Qaddafi by jets, helicopters and tanks? Are you kidding me? Those are inanimate objects they have no intent. Those things have not given Qaddafi a repressive advantage, the people who sold him those things did. Why do you imbue the intent on inanimate objects? Because that way the conversation can be focused narrowly, dogmatically. Britain, France and the US sold Q’daffy something in the order of 500 million dollars in advanced weaponry last year alone. Unless you frame the conversation by alluding that somehow inanimate objects have given Q’daffy a “repressive advantage” then it becomes very obvious that it was Britain, France and the US that actually gave, with intent, that repressive advantage.

    This allows you to completely ignore where the real problem lies. That’s why this is propaganda. Originally coined from “to propagate the faith”. So what faith are you propagating here? There is the appearance of choice in the argument that we either help them or watch them die. False Dichotomy as I said. That is not the real problem here, the real problem is the further propagation of the Military industrial complex. By your reckoning the discussion and therefore the solution must always flow in one direction dogmatically framed within a narrow paradigm, the solution has always got to be more weapons more bombs. It’s always win win no matter the outcome when the conversation is framed very dogmatically. That is why the answers don’t matter, those are the wrong questions. We sell Madmen advanced weapons, we win. The solution to the genocide they create with those weapons, yep you guessed it, we use more weapons. Like I said utter bullshit.

    How we frame things is critical to how we associate to them, you frame a pretty good bit of propaganda here, making people, unable to see that the solution to these crisis that pop up all over the world is simple. Stop selling advanced weapons to fucking Madmen. That way when people, like the Libyan people, feel as if they’ve had enough of insane dictators there is a glimmer of hope that they can change things because there is not an insurmountable imbalance of power that they need to overcome.

    The article you linked to is replete with this kind of bullshit. I read it and dismiss it. We can sit here and go over the whole thing in minute detail except that these things take a good amount of explaining to unravel. Just look at what it’s taken to untie just a few details. Such is the advantage of propaganda.

    As far as the question of what’s to be done in Libya. It’s been done, we’re bombing. Now the job of the apologist is to say “We had no choice, we must do the right thing”. But I reject that out of hand also. No the conversation is now “Who the fuck is selling this shit to this type of Madmen?” You are just as culpable as Q’daffy. Find them and prosecute them.

    The first 1:30 of this video. Libya is not a new problem it a symptom of an ongoing one.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EakP08lx9Mo&NR=1

    • Nolocontendere

      CIA coup for oil and water aquifers, plant, nice try.

  • Simiantongue

    If you keep them asking the wrong questions it doesn’t matter what the answers are.

    I have seen this problem phrased the same way by apologists. The false dichotomy being “We either do the “humanitarian”(hows that for Orwellian?) thing and help the Libyan people or sit back and watch a genocide”. Utter bullshit. That is not the conversation, it’s not even some small aspect of the conversation. It’s a narrowly dogmatic self serving propaganda.

    “Those arguing that “Libyans” should settle the issue themselves are willfully ignoring the overwhelming repressive advantage given Qaddafi by his jets, helicopter gunships, and tanks; the ‘Libyans’ were being crushed inexorably. Such crushing can be effective for decades thereafter.”

    An overwhelming repressive advantage was given to Qaddafi by jets, helicopters and tanks? Are you kidding me? Those are inanimate objects they have no intent. Those things have not given Qaddafi a repressive advantage, the people who sold him those things did. Why do you imbue the intent on inanimate objects? Because that way the conversation can be focused narrowly, dogmatically. Britain, France and the US sold Q’daffy something in the order of 500 million dollars in advanced weaponry last year alone. Unless you frame the conversation by alluding that somehow inanimate objects have given Q’daffy a “repressive advantage” then it becomes very obvious that it was Britain, France and the US that actually gave, with intent, that repressive advantage.

    This allows you to completely ignore where the real problem lies. That’s why this is propaganda. Originally coined from “to propagate the faith”. So what faith are you propagating here? There is the appearance of choice in the argument that we either help them or watch them die. False Dichotomy as I said. That is not the real problem here, the real problem is the further propagation of the Military industrial complex. By your reckoning the discussion and therefore the solution must always flow in one direction dogmatically framed within a narrow paradigm, the solution has always got to be more weapons more bombs. It’s always win win no matter the outcome when the conversation is framed very dogmatically. That is why the answers don’t matter, those are the wrong questions. We sell Madmen advanced weapons, we win. The solution to the genocide they create with those weapons, yep you guessed it, we use more weapons. Like I said utter bullshit.

    How we frame things is critical to how we associate to them, you frame a pretty good bit of propaganda here, making people, unable to see that the solution to these crisis that pop up all over the world is simple. Stop selling advanced weapons to fucking Madmen. That way when people, like the Libyan people, feel as if they’ve had enough of insane dictators there is a glimmer of hope that they can change things because there is not an insurmountable imbalance of power that they need to overcome.

    The article you linked to is replete with this kind of bullshit. I read it and dismiss it. We can sit here and go over the whole thing in minute detail except that these things take a good amount of explaining to unravel. Just look at what it’s taken to untie just a few details. Such is the advantage of propaganda.

    As far as the question of what’s to be done in Libya. It’s been done, we’re bombing. Now the job of the apologist is to say “We had no choice, we must do the right thing”. But I reject that out of hand also. No the conversation is now “Who the fuck is selling this shit to this type of Madmen?” You are just as culpable as Q’daffy. Find them and prosecute them.

    The first 1:30 of this video. Libya is not a new problem it a symptom of an ongoing one.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EakP08lx9Mo&NR=1

  • Nolocontendere

    CIA coup for oil and water aquifers, plant, nice try.

  • Olga8sokol

    PLease people wake up You must stop wars !!! We must unit to stop wars and to respect each other and live in peace! We must stop war machine ! They take the power to kill !!! They know the only way to fill thier pockets! Pl people come to demand STOP THE WARS !!! STOP KILLING POEPLE !!! STOP !

  • Olga8sokol

    PLease people wake up You must stop wars !!! We must unit to stop wars and to respect each other and live in peace! We must stop war machine ! They take the power to kill !!! They know the only way to fill thier pockets! Pl people come to demand STOP THE WARS !!! STOP KILLING POEPLE !!! STOP !

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