Encircling Empire: Report #14—Foreign Military Intervention in Libya: A Report on Neo-colonial dependency and humanitarian imperialism



Encircling Empire: Report #14—Foreign Military Intervention in Libya: A Report on Neo-colonial dependency and humanitarian imperialism

Encircling Empire Reports is a selection of essays, blog posts, and news reports covering a given time period. They are intended to be useful for those interested in: ● contemporary and critical political anthropology ● public anthropology ● imperialism and imperial decline ● militarism/militarization ● the political economy of the world system ● hegemony and soft power ● counterinsurgency ● revolution ● rebellion ● resistance ● protest ● activism ● advocacy ● critique.

This and previous issues have been archived on a dedicated site—please see: ENCIRCLING EMPIRE.

This report is being published just as the UN Security Council is moments away from voting on a new resolution against Libya, that could significantly escalate and internationalize the violence there. More than that, in response Libya’s leader has promised to retaliate against all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean, which would lead to a further escalation and internationalization of the war. France is promising military action within mere hours of the passage of the UN Resolution. Now, as I finish these words, news that the UN has in fact passed a “no fly zone” resolution. See this, just published: “UN Votes for Libya Air Strikes,” by Lenin’s Tomb. An early copy of the resolution can be obtained here.

In this report ZA continues from the last one, by presenting a media roundup that focuses on arguments for and against foreign military intervention in Libya. (As usual, the reports are listed in chronological order, starting with the most recent.) Many of the arguments have centered around the imposition of a no flight zone, although frequently the argument for intervention includes proposed air strikes on Libyan government targets. First to be presented are those articles that criticize humanitarian imperialist premises and the (re)turn to validating military humanism, as they tend to be the most cogent and continue to be largely unanswered. Second, a listing of key rebel statements calling for Western intervention, and some articles about the Libyan opposition. Third, articles and essays that promote and justify foreign military intervention. Also, ZA’s top recommendations.

COMMENT: As the author of this report, what I specifically protest are minds instantly made up, with absolute certainty, when just a little over a month ago hardly anyone was speaking about Libya. The way those instantly certain minds repeat many of the exact same “humanitarian” justifications for war in Iraq and Kosovo, in the most absolute terms, with little attention to any lessons learned, is shocking and disappointing. We know from Google Trends that Libya was almost not mentioned at all just over a month ago, and yet so many speak as if they are ready-made experts on Libya, and have a deep familiarity with the rebels, who they are, what they want, and what is their depth of popular support. In addition, few remark on the fact that almost from the very start of the anti-Gaddafi protests there were suspiciously fast calls for a Western-backed no fly zone: the Libyan protests began on February 17—and yet it was, as far as can be determined using Google news archives, on February 20 that the first articles began to appear that coupled the terms Libya and “no fly zone.” One opposition leader said: “We asked for a no-fly zone to be imposed from day one” (source). This ought to raise more questions, for anyone who is a free thinker and values the importance of skepticism. What determination did Gaddafi’s opponents have to see this struggle through to the end, by their own efforts? What political groundwork, consciousness raising, and network building did they engage in before rebelling? What kind of estimate did they make of the regime’s strengths? What level of popular support do they enjoy, outside of Benghazi? Given that the army was kept deliberately weak by Gaddafi himself, to preclude any viable military coup, how has it managed so many gains when the rebels claimed to have won all sorts of defections?

Top recommendations:

  1. Another NATO Intervention? Libya: Is This Kosovo All Over Again?” by Diana Johnstone, CounterPunch, 07 March 2011.
  2. Libya and the folly of intervention: After turning a blind eye to Gaddafi’s violent rule, the West has no legitimacy to enforce a no-fly zone,” by Sami Hermez, Al Jazeera English, 07 March 2011.
  3. The Old Gang’s All Here: Libya and the Return of Humanitarian Imperialism,” by Jean Bricmont, CounterPunch, 08 March 2011.
  4. Seeing Through the ‘Humanitarians’,” by Marko Markanovic, Antiwar.com, 12 March 2011.
  5. The revival of imperialist ideology,” Lenin’s Tomb, 01 March 2011
  6. Why a no-fly zone means no freedom for Libyans— Those looking to the West to intervene against Gaddafi degrade the name of internationalism and deny Libyans the right to control their fate” by Mick Hume, Spiked, 15 March 2011.
  7. On Libya, too many questions,” by George F. Will, Washington Post, 08 March 2011.
  8. Don’t Use U.S. Force in Libya!” by Leslie H. Gelb, The Daily Beast, 13 March 2011.
  9. Iraq Then, Libya Now,” Op-Ed by Ross Douthat, New York Times, 13 March 2011.
  10. Will We Ever Learn? Kicking the Intervention Habit,” by Richard Falk, 07 March 2011.
  11. Pack Journalism Promotes War on Libya,” by Stephen Lendman, IntelDaily, 11 March 2011.
  12. Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya: Calls for a no-fly zone over Libya ignore the perils of intervention. Long-term solutions aren’t as simple as the click of a mouse,” by John Hilary, The Guardian, 10 March 2011.
  13. It’s Their War, Not Ours,” by Patrick J. Buchanan, Antiwar.com, 08 March 2011.
  14. Don’t Think, Recognize! Sarkozy’s Stupid Move on Libya,” by Patrick Cockburn, CounterPunch, 11-13 March 2011.

Continue reading…

8 thoughts on “Encircling Empire: Report #14—Foreign Military Intervention in Libya: A Report on Neo-colonial dependency and humanitarian imperialism

  1. John Allison

    Clearly this is a case of what I classed as a “System Restore” move by US COIN, in the way I described it in Double Agent Anthropologist..
    They want to restore the system to an earlier or an imagined better state than that which is now the legitimate government of Libya. But the revolution that brought Moamar Qadaffi into power was a grass roots movement from the ethnic roots of Libya.
    Apparently, a small group of dissidents acquired arms (we don’t know the suppliers, which would be interesting to know) and rose up to be the alternative government; using force to try to unseat the current political powers – a tribal coalition – that are perjoratively called the “Kadaffi Regime”. When the Libyan legitimate government responded to force with force and appeared to be successfully defending the current government, the people who had encouraged the uprising called that a “foul”, the “regime” was killing “peaceful protestors” – which they were not; and, since they are the ones who make the rules that we must honor, now the legitimate government is declared illegitimate, and a “counsel” that rose up against the legitimate government is the recognized “Transitional Government” by those behind the scenes who armed them..
    Making the world safe for capitalist domination and eliminating ethnic stumbling blocks.
    What a show!

      1. John Allison

        Actually, that was part of my endless Double Agent Article. I think one of the section headings is Using the System Restore Commend. It went like this:
        Using the “System Restore” Command in Counterinsurgency Strategy

        COIN strategy is committed to maintaining the status quo when we like it. But if, as in Bolivia and Venezuela, (*in the present case, Libya) we don’t like the status quo, we might define it by what the state was like before the socialist revolution.

        The current state government becomes, or becomes defined as a (hopefully temporary) successful insurgency. Evo Morales’ government and Hugo Chavez’s government. as well as Nicauragua, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Argentina, and many others in Latin America and many others globally fit into this as portrayed in the US media and government statements, especially as revealed in WikiLeaks.

        The obvious job of the US military is to remove that established government of the successful insurgents and restore the rule of the US’s preferred, prior government – as it facilitated in Honduras; though the “insurgents” were elected there – through some sort of counterinsurgency movement paid for and trained by the Good Guys. In other words, we would train an insurgent movement, but call them “counter-insurgents” because they are trying to restore the system to some past condition that the US approved of.

  2. Joe Hayns

    To invoke a probably musty term, a kind of political ‘negative capability’ (“when man (sic) is capable of being in uncertainty” (Keats, I think) – seems a valid, if somewhat stolid, position on interventions of various types, especially military. Preferring to take a course of skeptical, informed inaction; even a kind of enlightened doublethink, perhaps (and I really emphasize the perhaps here).

    Perhaps advocating military intervention, even the alleged ‘surgical’ NFZ-option, requires a comprehensive understanding of the groups that one is aiming (‘aiming’) to defend or aid, aswell as curb.

    Although, this realist position – ‘we need to know more about rebels, we can know more about rebels, we can steer their victory if certain criteria are met’ – might ignore that past revolutions have been tumultuous, ‘unknown unknowns’: “we found power lying in the street”, as Trotsky said. They’re revolutions; what process is less predictable?!

    Does this lead me to agree with the quote in your piece: “The idea that revolutions can be won by foreign military force is the craziest idea in the world”? I suppose all I can admit is three quarter blindness, impotency, and that my own agenda my not be quite a humane as I’d like; and what, in that state, is there to do but think again, and again?

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  4. Julie Kinnear

    One of the things that I worry about is the future development in Libya and other African countries where revolution has taken place recently. I think the Western countries will be regarded as the guarantors of economic prosperity and if this prosperity is not achieved it will be an impetus for the people of these countries to accuse the West of promising something which is not possible to obtain.

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