What is the left’s answer to military intervention in Libya?

on 82 Comments

Is it the Sarajevo debate of the 90s all over again? The rightwing and liberal interventionists know what they think should be done in Libya: the United States should bring gunboats to the coastline and fighter jets to the Libyan skies. Some even suggest another invasion. What is the left saying?

Sanctions, investigate violations of international law, bring in the U.N., but avoid military action. Below are portions of pieces by Asli Bali and Ziad Abu-Rish at Jadaliyya, Phyllis Bennis at Alternet, and a blogpost by Jerry Slater going after Leon Wieseltier, interventionist. Bali and Abu-Rish:

The first test of any would-be interventionist is this: do no harm. And there is very little evidence that direct intervention in the Libyan case could meet this test. For instance, calls for a no-fly zone by Libya’s Deputy Ambassador to the U.N. (drawing on the Iraqi precedent of the 1990s) and an air campaign by others (drawing on the Kosovo precedent from 1999) would surely fail this test. Neither option would shield the Libyan civilian population from the regime’s coercive apparatus (which is not principally aerial) and both options may entail serious costs to civilians by freezing or exacerbating the situation on the ground. Beyond raising questions of enforcement (would international forces fire on Libyan aircraft?), a no-fly zone might well block one method of escape for Libyan civilians or close an avenue for defections by members of the air force, such as the four pilots that are known to have flown out and defected in disobedience of direct orders to bomb civilians. Alternatively, air strikes run the risk of serious damage to both the civilian population and infrastructure. In short, any intervention must be crafted to offer real support to the civilian population of Libya, which direct forms of coercive intervention like no-fly zones or air strikes would not. But are there other forms of intervention that would be better suited to the task? Given limited knowledge of Libya’s internal dynamics at present and the heavy-handed interventionist toolkit developed to date by the international community any such option must be approached with caution.

Coercive options should be taken off the table. Absent the political will to commit ground forces to serve as a meaningful buffer between the regime and the population, any coercive intervention will do more damage (particularly to civilians) than good…

he Libyan regime’s position is at best isolated and at worst adversarial with respect to the West. The difference this makes in the risk calculations of the regime and the dangers associated with calls for intervention is significant. Intervention in support of regime change in Libya presents the West with a window of opportunity to shape the transition of a relatively oil-rich North African country, potentially replacing an irritant with a new client. Where the emphasis of Western interests in the Tunisian and Egyptian cases has been on stability, in the Libyan case the goals will likely be rapid transformation. For instance, in a post-transition Libya, individuals with ties to the West or experience with energy markets might emerge as favored interlocutors, identified with international approval as “moderate” and “appropriate.” To invite forceful international intervention in the last days of the current regime might empower external interveners to make such choices, potentially at the expense of the preferences of the Libyan people….

We neither advocate abandoning the Libyan people to the violence of the regime nor protecting al-Qaddafi from accountability. But as calls for international intervention grow, we must worry about the risk of counter-productive results for Libyans on the ground of some of the options being considered. A combined strategy of humanitarian assistance, severing existing military ties with the regime, and generating exit options for al-Qaddafi and his family may well be the best course for accomplishing the goal of supporting Libya’s civilian population. An exit strategy for al-Qaddafi in the short-term does not foreclose the possibility of accountability thereafter. While this course may seem less satisfying in terms of an immediate answer to calls for international justice, a grounded understanding of the humanitarian costs of other strategies of intervention should counsel against appeasing our (international) conscience at the expense of the lives of those we purport to save.


If the Council had decided, for instance, to hold Libyan officials and soldiers directly accountable for alleged war crimes against a civilian population by referring the issue immediately to the International Criminal Court, what kind of a precedent would that set, and what other political leaders or soldiers responsible for civilian deaths might face that same method of accountability — in Afghanistan or Pakistan, for instance? If the Council had passed a resolution stating that top officials of all governments and corporations who provided weapons to the Libyan regime should be held accountable for how those weapons are being used, what precedent would that set for the powerful weapons-exporting governments and corporations now arming military forces and thus enabling the barrage of human rights violations and war crimes in places such as Sri Lanka or the DRC, or perhaps Israel?

The UN Security Council should reconvene now to pass a binding, enforceable resolution. It should demand an immediate halt to the attacks, call for immediate access for international humanitarian and human rights workers, and refer the issue to the International Court of Justice to initiate on an emergency basis a full investigation and prosecution of those responsible. It should make clear that not only top decision-makers but all soldiers and mercenaries carrying out illegal orders will be held accountable for their actions in the ICC. The resolution should require that governments and corporations with ties to the Libyan regime — especially those in Europe and the U.S. — immediately sever all military ties, cancel all military contracts, and withdraw any military equipment that may be in the pipeline, with criminal liability for those who may have enabled the illegal acts already underway in Libya.

Next Steps for the United States

There has been a growing demand, in the UnitedStates from powerful neo-conservative war-mongers and from some of the most progressive members of Congress, to establish a no-fly zone in Libya. The call has also come from former Libyan officials who have defected from the regime. But at the moment that would be a mistake. There have been no reports of air strikes since February 21; the regime’s current assaults are using land-based heavy weapons. While it is certainly possible a desperate Qaddafy could lash out once again by trying to send his warplanes aloft to attack his own people, it isn’t clear he has loyal pilots left to answer his call. The discussion of a no-fly zone in the Security Council would almost certainly become the sole means of responding to the Libyan crisis – even though it would likely provide little protection against the actual threats facing the Libyan people, especially in and around the capitol – and would serve as a distraction from other actions that might actually help.

The political cost of such a decision, given its likely inability to provide real protection, must be weighed against the lessons of the 1990s-era no-fly zone the U.S. and Britain established in Iraq. The no-fly zone was imposed unilaterally, although President Bill Clinton and other officials often claimed, mendaciously, that it was authorized by the United Nations, and it was in fact never mentioned in any Security Council resolution. As documented by the United Nations, U.S.-UK enforcement of the no-fly zone in Iraq resulted in the deaths of several hundred Iraqi civilians.

And here is Jerry Slater:

Most often bad writing is indistinguishable from bad thinking. Sometimes, though, strong writing obscures and may even contribute to weak thinking. Case in point: today’s biting and eloquent attack by the New Republic’s Leon Wieseltier on what he considers to be Obama’s empty if not fatuous demand—unaccompanied by any serious US actions– that Qaddafi’s violence against the Libyan people “must stop.”

What does Wieseltier think Obama should actually do? Well, maybe the U.S. should deploy “the small number of troops that would be required” to end Qaddafi’s rule; and if we are really prevented from doing so by our past history, then “let a multilateral expeditionary force be raised and a humanitarian intervention be launched…. Europeans, Africans, even Egyptians may join the campaign.” At the least, there should be a no-fly zone: “let NATO planes fly over Tripoli to shoot down any Libyan aircraft that make war on the Libyan population.”

Where has Wieseltier been in the last twenty years or so? Hasn’t he heard about the fate of “the small number of troops” that supposedly was going to end the civil war in Somalia in 1993? Hasn’t it occurred to Wieseltier that Obama already has his hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan? What is the likelihood that Europeans, Africans or Egyptians would actually agree to form a multilateral military force to intervene in Libya if so requested—demanded?—by Obama? One percent? If they did, what are the chances that they would get there in time—say, in the next few days– to make a real difference in the outcome in Libya?

As for a NATO no-fly zone, it doesn’t appear that it would have a significant impact, for there have been very few Libyan airforce attacks on the rebels, and today’s New York Times coverage of the fighting mentions none. In any case, if “NATO” was willing to shoot down Libyan planes, why wouldn’t it have acted on its own by now? Is it waiting for a U.S. demand, which would then embarrass the Europeans into a military intervention? Bear in mind that in neither NATO nor the U.S. were willing to intervene militarily in Bosnia, right on the doorstep of Europe, until over a year after the Serbs had begun their campaign of ethnic cleansing if not outright genocide in the spring of 1992.

Not content with castigating Obama for his caution in Libya, Wieseltier adds Cairo and even “Tehran two years ago” to his list of Obama’s “diffidence about humanitarian emergencies” and popular uprisings that we “disappointed.” I don’t recall any U.S. verbal diffidence towards the anti-regime uprising in Iran in 2009; on the contrary, we supported it wholeheartedly. Of course, we didn’t intervene militarily, but I don’t recall Wieseltier or any other minimally sane observer suggesting that we should.

Finally, Wieseltier is quite confident that there would be no anger in the Middle East over yet another U.S military intervention in the region; on the contrary, he writes, “the complaint has been…that the United States has not intervened.” He does not name any states or political leaders who are so complaining.

82 Responses

  1. Potsherd2
    February 25, 2011, 9:57 pm

    I don’t think this is a failing exclusively of the left. There are no facile answers to situations like Libya.

    • seafoid
      February 26, 2011, 8:23 am

      The answer to anyone talking about military intervention in Libya is a dose of high quality medication in a secure hospital.

      The US military strategy in the Middle East is falling apart and not before time.

      Get the hell out of the Middle East and give public sector workers in Wisconsin union rights.
      link to progressive.org

      “It’s been infuriating to read much of the corporate media’s coverage of the historic battle here in Wisconsin for public sector union rights.The New York Times, for instance, continues to get the story wrong by focusing on budget cuts when the issue is collective bargaining. And just today they sent a reporter out not to give the union side but to find working class people who oppose organized labor!”

      • Citizen
        February 26, 2011, 11:58 am

        I agree we should get out of the Middle East, seafoid, but, pray tell, who will be paying for those full union rights, which include considerably more income and benefits than your average worker gets with private employers, employers who actually have to be competitive with each other to survive? Also, those union rights mostly in question involve union contracts affecting Education issues, such as teacher’s merit pay, tenure, size of class, etc–some of which also involve increased cost at a time when we are trillions of dollars in debt.

      • Mooser
        February 26, 2011, 12:45 pm

        Citizen, please educate yourself about unions, instead of drinking Tea Party Kool Aid. And for God’s sake, get the facts on Walker’s give-aways to corporations, made to gin up the entire phony “budget crisis”.

        So I guess you figure a race to the bottom by cartels of employers is a better way to go?

        And you know what, I sure as hell hope that the people who educate my children or perform my municipal or state services are well-paid and secure. I don’t want to go back to the old system, where State employees were paid poorly, and expected to make up the difference with graft.

      • Mooser
        February 26, 2011, 12:49 pm

        Quite frankly, if the level of thinking you just displayed in the comment on unions is commensurate with the level on which you reason about the I-P issues, I would have to conclude your entire stance toward Israel is based on anti-Semitism.

        And gosh, if the facts about how high-living and parasitic Union or Public Sector Unions are so ubiquitous, why didn’t you include some substantiation?

      • seafoid
        February 26, 2011, 2:32 pm

        The US economic system is broken, Citizen. Raise taxes on the rich and unionise and pay workers enough to afford a decent standard of living. Otherwise they won’t be able to buy the products that feed the consumption that drives economic growth. The US is going nowhere otherwise. Healthcare spending as a % of GDP is out of control too.

        Looking at it from a European perspective the US is neo Victorian.

      • seafoid
        February 26, 2011, 2:49 pm

        Good man Mooser.
        The US can’t afford not to have people join unions.

  2. kosmotropic
    February 25, 2011, 10:13 pm

    It would certainly reassure people in the ME that the United States does indeed care enough about them to intervene in this particular nasty situation in Lybia. That the intervention might be operationally futile is besides the point__ even a callous concern in my estimation.

  3. Jeff Klein
    February 25, 2011, 10:19 pm

    Here’s a truth about the effects of “intervention,” buried in a Times article about a strategic pullback of US troops in Afghanistan:
    link to nytimes.com

    “What we figured out is that people in the Pech really aren’t anti-U.S. or anti-anything; they just want to be left alone,” said one American military official familiar with the decision. “Our presence is what’s destabilizing this area.”


  4. lauradurkay
    February 25, 2011, 10:27 pm

    This post confuses me. It’s not clear to me whether the title is a rhetorical question or a genuine one.

    Any genuine leftist in the United States should be against all US intervention in Libya (and everywhere else) including sanctions. It’s never done for any reason other than to serve the interests of the US. The Libyan situation is proving that right now. It’s not that the Obama administration “has its hands full.” You can’t convince me that Obama couldn’t scramble a fighter jet or two from one of the numerous US bases, aircraft carriers and military operations currently going on in and around the Middle East. But he won’t, because all rhetoric aside, they don’t actually care any more about ordinary people in Libya than they do about ordinary people in Egypt or Tunisia or Yemen or Bahrain…or the US, for that matter.

    The answer is and always has been the power of the Libyan people. They are proving their amazing bravery right now and they will achieve victory soon.

  5. lareineblanche
    February 25, 2011, 10:39 pm

    h/t Justin Raimondo :

    Calculating the Costs of Nation Building…

    Start to Finish: 7 Years, with occupation ongoing
    Death of Iraqi Citizens: as high as 650,000
    Injury of Iraqi Citizens: unknown, likely in the millions, severe injuries especially amongst the civilian population
    Death of U.S. citizens: apx. 6,000
    Injury of U.S. citizens: apx. 80,000
    Results: ongoing civil war, occupation, massive destruction of local public infrastructure, former dictator murdered following drumhead trial, damage to U.S. international reputation incalculable
    Profits for U.S. military industrial complex: hundreds of billions dollars and growing
    Cost to U.S. taxpayers: seven hundred billions dollars and growing, U.S. economy in depression, another Viet Nam, near universal hostility toward the U.S. and U.S. citizens resulting in a massive loss of domestic civil liberties in order to protect the U.S. government

    Calculating the Costs of Nation Building Done Right…

    Start to Finish: 18 Days
    Death of Egyptian Citizens: 334
    Injury of Egyptian Citizens: estimated at 3,000, mostly minor injuries
    Death of U.S. Citizens: 0
    Injury o f U.S. Citizens: a few minor injuries to journalists, one major assault
    Results: apparent success, transition to democracy underway, little damage to local public infrastructure, former dictator status unknown, no impact on U.S. reputation
    Profits for U.S. military industrial complex: $0.00
    Cost to U.S. taxpayers: minimal cost of evacuations

    link to frumforum.com

    • pabelmont
      February 26, 2011, 8:40 am

      Egypt was ideal — army on the side of (or not opposing) revolutionaries. Long-simmering, so people were emotionally ready and mostly on one side.

      Libya is not ideal, army and thugs ready to kill, and killing.

      Iraq was far from ideal, first, the USA entered for its own twisted reasons, not because of any popular uprising. Government not popular but held together a diverse population which flew apart when Saddam was defeated, leaving a dreadful job for whoever came next.

      These comparisons are not really comparisons, merely facts about un-like situations.

    • MRW
      February 26, 2011, 9:16 am

      This is brilliant.

  6. yourstruly
    February 25, 2011, 10:42 pm

    based on what happened in somalia, u.s. military intervention could lead to an increase in casualties. Also it would allow the u.s to share in the credit for ousting the dictator. By accomplishing this on their own, as per tunisia and egypt, libyans will know that they did it themselves, and will be much more likely to continue the revolution. Today, for example, in both tunisia and egypt, huge rallies were held, commemorating the recent popular victories in both countries, and at the same time calling for more changes and faster. Would this have happened has the west interfered? Western countries should follow through on their demand that human rights violators be put on trial at an international courst of criminal justice, but leave the revolution to the people.

  7. Hostage
    February 25, 2011, 11:02 pm

    The correct answer is to apply international law consistently through the UN Security Council. That is something that the international community has failed to do in many cases. Preventing massacres does not require the United Nations to take over and assume the functions of local government or give anyone else a mandate to do that.

    The Responsibility To Protect (“RtoP” or “R2P”) is a recently adopted international security and human rights norm to address the international community’s failure to prevent and stop genocides, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It is neither a right or left wing issue. See link to responsibilitytoprotect.org

    • Miura
      February 25, 2011, 11:43 pm

      ‘Responsibility to protect’ is another notion that’s supposedly been denuded of all traces of beastly politics (“Apolitical – therefore extremely political” as Arundhati Roy put it), but it’s not the panacea it’s made out to be:

      link to youtube.com

      link to un.org

      • Hostage
        February 26, 2011, 4:50 am

        You mean the determination of the international community after the Holocaust to prevent similar crimes was not the panacea it’s made out to be. The Security Council’s responsibility for maintaining international peace and security is politicized and has not “spared future generations the scourge of war”. That’s irrelevant to the development of jus cogens norms like R2P and enforcing the applicable criminal law in the International Criminal Court.

        If you murder one person you are likely to be prosecuted. If you murder a thousand and “politicize” it, you’re likely to get off scott free. That is precisely the reason the Israeli’s have mastered the art of politicizing purely legal questions and of making all of their legal arguments in political forums and Op-Eds (not courtrooms). The ICC was established to eliminate impunity and it will take a while to make the system work.

  8. RoHa
    February 25, 2011, 11:10 pm

    Ask the Libyans, maybe?

  9. lysias
    February 25, 2011, 11:21 pm

    Haven’t Khaddafi’s mercenaries been arriving by air?

  10. Saleema
    February 25, 2011, 11:39 pm

    If intervention is necessary then it should be by the military of Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey. The Libyans i have been talking to on twitter like this better than a US invasion. They shudder to think about Iraq and Afghanistan.

    • annie
      February 25, 2011, 11:46 pm


    • fuster
      February 26, 2011, 12:08 am

      maybe Turkey, but you usually don’t want to send armies from neighboring countries in. that often gets a bit sticky.

  11. ToivoS
    February 25, 2011, 11:41 pm

    The left’s answer to US military intervention in Libya should be obvious to any student of US imperial intervention in the third world. Stay out! Once those forces check in they do do not checkout. Give them an excuse and once they have a foot in the door it cannot be removed. They got their excuse in Afghanistan and today after 10 years of war we cannot withdraw — why? because then it might be perceived that we have failed to achieve our goals and that will only embolden our enemies. Therefore, American troops and many thousands of Afghanis must die to make sure that the US saves face there. We are in Iraq (after killing about 1 million of them) and still cannot withdraw because it might be perceived as a failure of US policy. The more than 1 million dead Iraqs is about 3% of their entire population, so far Qhadaffi has killed a few thousand, that is less than .03% of their population. When it comes to killing people, Ghadaffi is an amateur compared to what the US is capable of doing.

    Those people that believe the US should intervene in Libya are either total fools or believe it is the right of the US to exterminate the Muslim people. Because, if we intervene that will be the result.

    • Andre
      February 26, 2011, 12:25 am

      “They got their excuse in Afghanistan and today after 10 years of war we cannot withdraw — why? “

      Because withdrawing was never intended in the initial plan. The U.S. is there to stay and this was policy from the get go, imo. Same goes for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

      • fuster
        February 26, 2011, 12:48 am

        either that or because we never actually did anything for most of that time but install a bunch of crooks and sit back while they stole from the population and the Taliban regrouped.

      • mig
        February 26, 2011, 1:30 pm

        Hooray Taliban !

        And no. They are crackpots. Unfortunately they have a right to resist occupation.

    • CK MacLeod
      February 26, 2011, 3:16 pm

      “after killing about 1 million of them”

      The whole thing – all of U.S. policy toward Iraq going back decades – has been and remains bad enough, and the reminders of that fact enough worth making, not to require any resort to exaggeration. Or do you have some other-than-speculative or polemical source for that factoid?

      • annie
        February 26, 2011, 4:33 pm

        lancet circa many years ago. i’m certain over a million dead iraqis from our war by now.

      • CK MacLeod
        February 26, 2011, 4:51 pm

        Being “certain” of something doesn’t make it true, annie. The Lancet report qualifies as a speculative and, especially given the politics of the lead researchers and their editor, also a polemical source. The study’s methodology has been widely criticized – at the time of issuance most intensively and directly by Iraq Body Count, since that time by experts in the field. Uncritically using the big round number version of a controversial and outlying study’s estimated range of “excess deaths” undermines the credibility of anyone who does so.

      • fuster
        February 26, 2011, 5:08 pm

        the lancet stuff wasn’t good, annie.

        link to iraqbodycount.org

      • annie
        February 26, 2011, 5:13 pm

        yada yada yada. wikileaks just finished blowing iraq body counts right out of the water. i’ve argued this one before and ain’t interested in it again. that’s my opinion and i’m sticking to it. iraqis don’t believe in iraq body count, why should i?

      • fuster
        February 26, 2011, 5:27 pm
      • MRW
        February 26, 2011, 5:45 pm

        The worse number for me, which Madeleine Albright did confirm on national TV, was the 500,000 Iraqi children who died as a result of our sanctions during the 1990s after Gulf I.

        I remember reading in some obscure journal somewhere, in the last half of the 90s, that a Clinton official was quoted as saying no one was really too concerned, because after all, it was keeping the breeders from growing up and multiplying.

        I’m also wondering how the Iraq Study Group is getting the numbers because (1) the US Military stopped counting after 2006, and (2) so did the morgues in Iraq. The morgue info is spotty, and so is the number of refugees who died after they arrived in adjacent countries.

        The DoD took down the numbers of soldiers dead and dying from their website — I grabbed a screen copy 2005? 2006? — because it was discovered their “Supplemental” numbers included those helicoptered from the action to the hospital in Germany who died enroute. You were only considered part of the official dead count if you died in action and on the field. Dying on your way to Landstuhl, or wherever, didn’t count. The DoD was trying to pass the supplementals numbers off as Iraqi locals who were helping the military.

      • CK MacLeod
        February 26, 2011, 6:27 pm

        Albright claimed not to have “confirmed” the 500k number, but to have fallen into a rhetorical trap. See link to en.wikipedia.org The article also rather exhaustively goes through more realistic estimates, and the controversy over attribution of responsibility (diversion of humanitarian aid by Saddam, and so on).

        Which isn’t to say that the sanctions policy was a good policy, or that Albright was right. The entire confrontation with Saddam was a vast tragedy, but thinking that it was all “our” fault is in a way another version of imperialism and self-importance – as though we’re the ones who make everything happen in the world, as though people couldn’t get on with the business of destroying each other without our help and guidance.

      • fuster
        February 26, 2011, 7:30 pm

        MRW, you should look at those numbers as well.

        if you ever do, you’ll find that the deaths for the children were clustered in areas of Iraq that Saddam did not consider loyal.
        as in everything else in Iraq, there was more than enough for everybody, except that it was all appropriated by the state and denied to the Shi’a and Kurds.

        while some children died of disease, the chemicals for water treatment went into weaponry.

        when some children simply starved, more palaces with solid gold bathroom fixtures were built for Saddam.

        those kids died because we squeezed Iraq and forced the regime to choose.

        they chose.

      • annie
        February 26, 2011, 8:07 pm

        more than enough for everybody………while some children died of disease, the chemicals for water treatment went into weaponry.

        spare us this BS. to hear you tell it sanctioning countries amounts to zilch. we are unworthy of this debate. the 10 years of sanctions were unconscionable and drastic, which was the point. more denial of arab and muslim death but deny the holocaust at your own peril. we get it. you make me want to vomit.

  12. huraok
    February 25, 2011, 11:43 pm

    No to foreign intervention. Any leftist should be concerned that sanctions can be used by the United States as blackmail in a post-Gadhafi Libya so that the country “reforms” based on American wishes. American “standards” not met = sanctions still in place.

  13. Avi
    February 25, 2011, 11:54 pm

    Foreign policy is not driven by any form of left-right dialectic or interaction.

    Therefore, what puzzles me is that people still cling to the false conception that there is a difference between the so-called left and the so-called right, especially in terms of foreign policy.

    The historical record of the last six decades shows that administrations — both Democratic and Republican — are guided by the principle of hegemony and imperialism.

    The tactics each administration or party uses to reach these strategic objectives differ at times, but the end result is the same.

    So, whether Clinton imposes economic sanctions that result in the death of a million Iraqi children, or Bush bombs Iraq killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, it makes no difference.

    In the final analysis the strategy is consistent. It’s shared between the right and the left.

    • seafoid
      February 26, 2011, 8:38 am

      Sah kalamak Avi. Totally agree.

      The US doesn’t have the moolah to invade Libya. End of.
      Do you remember Beirut 1983?

  14. fuster
    February 26, 2011, 12:04 am

    The stern measures taken by the Council of the Arab League against the Libyan regime – including the de facto suspension of its membership until it corrects its course in dealing with the people – impacted the UN Security Council in a direct and unprecedented manner through the content of a Statement echoing the tone of condemnation and censure.
    link to alarabiya.net
    The Arab League is on top of this thing!

    more seriously, it’s not up to the US to lead on this.

    the Chinese had 12,000 people in Libya that they evacuated. maybe they might send word to Gaddafi that the Gobi is a nice place to set up camp.

  15. fuster
    February 26, 2011, 12:22 am

    very nice, Hostage, but how in the real world does “establishing a no-fly zone” happen?

    does somebody somewhere read a proclamation or are actual combat aircraft involved and, if so, where are they obtained and who oversees their employment?

    • Hostage
      February 26, 2011, 5:05 am

      The United Nations has a Security Council that has the responsibility for making decisions regarding the maintenance of international peace and security. There are 192 UN member states that can help implement those decisions, not just the US and NATO.

      • fuster
        February 26, 2011, 7:32 am

        Yes Hostage, I agree that it’s not for the US to take the lead on this.
        And, of course, no one else likely will do anything other much.
        It’s going to be up to the people of Libya to rid themselves of this person and the insanity that he’s spread across the world for more than 40 years.

  16. DICKERSON3870
    February 26, 2011, 2:55 am

    RE: “What is the left’s answer to military intervention in Libya?” – Weiss
    A POSSIBLE ANSWER: Libya’s Gaddafi could find refuge in Israel ~ by Ryan Jones, Israel Today, 02/21/11

    (excerpts) Israel’s Channel 2 News last year interviewed two Israeli women of Libyan origin who claimed to be distant relatives of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
    The older of the two interviewees, Guita Brown, said she is Gaddafi’s second cousin (Brown’s grandmother was the sister of Gaddafi’s grandmother). The younger of the two women, Rachel Saada, granddaughter of Brown, explained in more detail:
    “The story goes that Gaddafi’s grandmother, herself a Jewess, was married to a Jewish man at first. But he treated her badly, so she ran away and married a Muslim sheikh. Their child was the mother of Gaddafi.”
    While Gaddafi’s grandmother converted to Islam when she married the sheikh, according to Jewish religious law (and common sense), she was ethnically still Jewish….
    …If the story told by Brown and Saada is true, Gaddafi is entitled to immigrate to Israel as a Jew under Israel’s Law of Return. Even if every other country on earth refused him entry, Israel would be obligated by its own laws to take Gaddafi in…

    SOURCE – link to israeltoday.co.il

    • Potsherd2
      February 26, 2011, 5:55 am

      Not so. Israel has denied entry to others of Jewish descent who follow other religions.

      • tree
        February 26, 2011, 6:34 am

        Potsherd is right. See Brother Daniel.

        link to en.wikipedia.org

        Israel will consider you a Jew even if you are an atheist, but if you have become an adherent of another religion you are disqualified.

      • DICKERSON3870
        February 26, 2011, 4:47 pm

        RE: “Not so. Israel has denied entry to others of Jewish descent who follow other religions.” – Potsherd2 & “Potsherd is right. See Brother Daniel.” – tree

        MY REPLY: What a pity. Muammar Qaddafi and Avigdor Lieberman seem like a match made in heaven.
        P.S. There might still be hope if Gaddafi can get Dershowitz to represent him in his application for immigration to Israel pursuant to the ‘Law of Return’. And maybe Gaddafi can get a letter of support (like Marc Rich for his pardon) from Abe Foxman.
        And what if Qaddafi underwent a “shotgun conversion” to Judaism? Would that do it?

  17. Justice Please
    February 26, 2011, 3:55 am

    If the intervening powers where somehow godlike, with perfect morality and no mistakes, intervention would be great: Shield the civilian population, harming only the bad guys, leaving the country immediately in self-government when the bad guys have been punished.

    In reality, innocents will die, infrastructure will get destroyed, and threats will arise to never be able to pull out again and leave Libya to its people.

  18. johd
    February 26, 2011, 5:11 am

    Why would the ‘West’ or the Security Council Intervene? Because Gadaffi is killing his own people? Because he is using aircraft to kill them? What exactly would be their beef?

    Let’s not be silly, the ‘West’, or even the Security Council has no problem with either of those things – Killing your own people, or using aircraft to do it. Just witness Gaza; if you ignore the legal fiction that they are not ‘your own people’.

    • Hostage
      February 26, 2011, 6:09 am

      The UN Human Rights Committee and the General Assembly did call for intervention and prosecution of the individuals responsible for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides in the Gaza conflict. So, it undercuts your argument somewhat, that Mondoweiss encouraged readers to contact the State Department and demand that the U.S. support the Goldstone Report in the UN Security Council.

      That would be a good idea in the current situation in Libya too. The UN has rapporteurs to report on crimes against humanity, extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions. The international community has demanded that governments initiate vigorous investigation and prosecution of the responsible officials.

    • fuster
      February 26, 2011, 7:36 am

      johd, if you think that it’s only a legal fiction that the people living in Gaza are not Israel’s “own people” please do explain the real facts to Hamas.

  19. Richard Witty
    February 26, 2011, 7:26 am

    Its a real dilemma.

    I don’t think that a case can be made that the majority of Libyans favor governance by Qaddafi, indicated by his diplomatic corps having renounced him.

    And, he is massacring his own people, open firing on Libyan citizens. Unlike the Egyptian army that refused to, the Libyan military and paramilitary is.

    So, the question is how to remove him? The “people” aren’t currently able to, leaving him with a para-military militia protecting him (or other complex of powers). And, the left has qualms about asking others to (though they don’t have qualms about asking the US to do something about Israel).

    So, what is best?

    This situation is much simpler than Sarajevo or Kosovo, as there are only two primary sides at play.

    It is the one site of Arab uprising so far, that the US or Israel cannot be singled out as a target, “you caused this”. So, I get the reluctance of the US to put itself into one more Arab internal conflict and oppression, whether in initiation or in response (Invader or liberator)

    • Donald
      February 26, 2011, 1:20 pm

      “And, the left has qualms about asking others to (though they don’t have qualms about asking the US to do something about Israel).”

      The case with Israel’s mass killing is different–our politicians and many of our “humanists” actively supported Israel’s war crimes, so it would have been silly to expect that we’d establish no-fly zones.

  20. Theo
    February 26, 2011, 7:50 am

    Blockade Ghadafi? The west tried 30 years long everything to break him or topple him, without any dent on his power. He has that magical fluid that makes the world go around and not he, but the ordinary libyans pay the price, also see Cuba, Iraq, Iran, etc.
    Confiscate all bank accounts and properties of that clan and let the people of Libya take care of him. Sure, there will be bloodletting, however it is much better than let a single US GI put his boots on libyan soil, because it will have far reaching consequences for that nation.

    A few days ago McCain and Lieberman showed up in Tunis, offering help.
    If the tunisians want their revolution to stay pure and serve the interests of their nation, then better watch out for the wolf in sheepskin.

  21. seafoid
    February 26, 2011, 8:03 am

    The US should stay at home and give everyone decent salaries and health insurance instead of fooling around in the Middle East achieving nothing for the sake of AIPAC.

    USD 110bn was spent last year in Afghanistan . for what ?

    • fuster
      February 26, 2011, 12:44 pm

      the US isn’t in the Middle east for AIPAC, sea.
      we were there before there was an AIPAC and we’ll be there as AIPAC fades away.

      • seafoid
        February 26, 2011, 2:56 pm

        I met a traveller from an antique land
        Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
        Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
        Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
        And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
        Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
        Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
        The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
        And on the pedestal these words appear:
        “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
        Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
        Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
        Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
        The lone and level sands stretch far away.[1]

      • MRW
        February 26, 2011, 6:00 pm

        My god, my childhood. I used to know this by heart.

  22. MRW
    February 26, 2011, 8:30 am

    No one ever solved a problem by hitting it directly on.

    The mercenaries Gaddafi is using are Ukrainian. Take those away, fercrissake. What’s this shit with bombing?
    link to earthtimes.org

    Newspaper: Ukrainian mercenaries flying Libya air force planes
    Kiev – Mercenary pilots from Ukraine are flying Libyan air force planes supporting the regime of embattled Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi, a major newspaper reported Thursday.
    The Ukrainian pilots, some of whom hold senior rank in the Libyan air force, operate MiG-21 and MiG-23 fighter jets as well as An-12 and An-26 cargo planes, the Segodnya newspaper said.
    Stratfor, a private firm that does political analysis, reported on Tuesday that Ukrainian mercenaries piloted planes that had bombed hundreds of protesters near the Libyan capital Tripoli. A spokesman at Ukraine’s embassy in Tripoli denied that report.
    The pilots receive between 2,000 and 8,000 dollars a month, Segodnya reported, citing Ukrainian combat flyers.
    A Ukrainian aircraft repair and overhaul facility reportedly has provided maintenance support for Libyan air force aircraft since 2008.
    Ukrainian military professionals fighting on other nations’ behalf have landed the former Soviet republic in hot water repeatedly.
    The most controversial recent incidents involved Ukrainian helicopter gunship pilots attacking Albanian rebels for the Macedonian government in 2001, and Ukrainian missile gunners shooting down Russian aircraft for Georgia during the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.

  23. MRW
    February 26, 2011, 8:34 am

    This is pretty interesting:

    The narcissism of the iPad imperialists who want to invade Libya
    link to blogs.telegraph.co.uk

    • seafoid
      February 26, 2011, 10:21 am

      I was reading the Spectator the week before last and this Arab intifada has really caught the west’s conservatives completely off guard. So you invade Libya. And what do you do on the Tuesday ?

  24. Kathleen
    February 26, 2011, 10:46 am

    When the U.S left, right and middle. and the U.K. have supported Gaddafi for decades and then the script is being flipped on the streets by the people with no real help from the U.s. that we are aware of I would be consulting people like Prof Cole, James Jones, Micheal Shuerer, Ray McGovern

  25. joer
    February 26, 2011, 11:08 am

    Forget about the Mideast, the US could explode if we get in another stupid war. Things are a lot different than they were ten years ago. We are now paying the price for the two invasions, as well as letting corporations run the country. Wisconsin isn’t the only place that ordinary workers are being attacked by the government. Providence Rhode Island sent pink slips out to all its teachers in attempt to break the union. Camden New Jersey, one of the most dangerous cities in America, laid off half its police force and fire department because the governor is being a hard ass. You may or may not agree intellectually with military intervention, but when you’re being tossed out of work(and the middle class) or the schools become dangerous warehouses for kids-or are shut down altogether, the situation becomes a bit more urgent. It would really be interesting to see how the country reacts to another expensive bloodbath for democracy when they are being told they are spoiled and lazy for wanting a normal life.

    • Mooser
      February 26, 2011, 12:54 pm

      “Things are a lot different than they were ten years ago.”

      Gosh, up here in Warshington State, things are not bad. We escaped the worst abuses of the real-estate bubble, and thanks to our mixed economy, the other bubbles too. We are even preserving to some extent, our concern for the enviornment.
      But then we have a two-term Democratic Governor who is a woman, Christine Gregoire (wild applause, foot stamping and cries of “hear, hear”)

      Sorry, just wanted to brag a bit.

      • seafoid
        February 26, 2011, 4:38 pm

        You need a new political party in the US.
        One that actually stands up for the people rather than Israel and the rich.

  26. Jeffrey Blankfort
    February 26, 2011, 11:28 am

    Libya presents another situation for which there are no easy answers or, for that matter, difficult ones. What has not mentioned thus far is that Khadafi might have reconsidered his hardline stand if he had not received political support from Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez.

    Iran’s PressTV showed the front page of a Caracas paper two days ago which carried a headline noting Chavez’s support for Kadafi and in Mali, the Hugo Chavez Foundation for International Peace, Friendship and Solidarity (sic) offered its unqualified support for the meglomaniacal colonel, swallowing and supporting the bullshit line that he was presenting, totally and completely. link to mathaba.net

    It is unlikely it would have taken this position without Chavez’s blessings.

    It is not a stretch to imagine that had Chavez, who is not short in the ego department himself, suggested to his buddy that it was time to give up the store, Kadafi might have done so. There was, in fact, a rumor that Kadafi had taken refuge there last Monday which Venezuela then denied. If that rumor turns into fact which it well may, it will present a major challenge to the integrity of the Western Left which, unfortunately, has a long history of looking the other way when the those carrying out repression happen to be enemies of the United States. Double standards, we should have learned by now, are not only the provenance of the Right.

    • Donald
      February 26, 2011, 1:24 pm

      Let us know when the American left follows Chavez’s lead on this, okay? The issue of Venezuela is separate–I don’t have to like Chavez to think that the US should not be supporting coups against him.

    • MRW
      February 26, 2011, 4:59 pm

      Jeffrey, the Latin American press has been denying this for a few days. Then there is this from Reuters, today:
      link to reuters.com

      And this:
      link to revleft.com

      There are more, but I can’t find the link I saw on Thursday where Chavez said No, I don’t support what he is doing to his own people. It was stronger than what JPost is reporting here:
      link to jpost.com

      • Jeffrey Blankfort
        February 27, 2011, 12:35 pm

        Chavez is in a difficult position as reflected by his comments here in a report on a statement he made at a Friday cabinet meeting. He obviously does not want to be seen as opposing someone he perceives, albeit incorrectly, I believe, as a fellow enemy of US imperialism. Khadafi has compiled a strange record over the years which makes him difficult to compartmentalize but an enemy of US imperialism? That was more image than reality:

        link to mathaba.net

        The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, lamented on Friday the situation in Libya and denounced the media manipulation and double standards of the international community is quick to condemn the government of Muammar Al Gaddafi, and say nothing about human rights violations in countries like Afghanistan or Iraq. He is also a vote for peace and condemned violence.

        “Those who condemn Libya immediately to make exits with the bombing of the State of Israel on Fallujah, and thousands and thousands of deaths including children, women, families, they remain silent with the bombing and the massacres in Iraq, Afghanistan, they have no morals then to condemn anyone,” said the head of state who made a vow because Libya will find its way through peaceful means.

        “We condemn the violence, imperialism, interventionism,” he added.

        He recalled that as now standing accused Gaddafi, in 2002, he was himself briefly overthrown by a coup, and accusers said he too was a “murderer” of his people.

        “And the sentence immediately condemned me as an equal to me: “The murderer Chavez ordered to massacre the unarmed people,”said Chavez, who on April 11, 2002 was accused by the media and some countries of perpetrating a slaughter in Yaguna bridge in the center of the capital Caracas, where they found two marches for and against management. After rigorous research demonstrated that day in buildings near the scene acted snipers, some of them foreign.

        Chavez, who reiterated the friendship that links with Gaddafi, said he can not say it supports “or I support or applaud any decision made by a friend of mine anywhere in the world. No”. No.”

        “We do support the Government of Libya, Libya’s independence, we want peace for Libya, peace for all peoples of the world and we must vigorously oppose the claims for intervention,” he said.

        He reiterated his Government’s commitment to world peace and feelings of the Arab peoples.

        “Everybody knows our position in favor of life, everyone knows our struggle for peace, as everyone knows we love all people, as we love and want the Arab people as these people (…) we want,” he added.

        He highlighted the work of journalists from teleSUR who travelled to the North African country.

        The head of state explained that since the uprisings began in North Africa and Middle East, his Venezuelan government has chosen to maintain a “prudent silence.”

        “We have kept a prudent silence because firstly there is much misinformation, not only in the case of Libya, in the same case in Egypt were very wise I said to Nicholas, Nicholas caution, because we are accustomed to handling global media”

    • MRW
      February 26, 2011, 5:13 pm

      Who knows what the real story is at this point…I mean, if troops and invasion brigades land in Libya, why not just go east to ‘help’ out the Egyptians, and ‘secure’ the Sinai? Why would Britain and Switzerland freeze his funds before he had a chance to leave the country? Why box him in and turn him into a caged animal?

  27. Mooser
    February 26, 2011, 12:11 pm

    Bernard Avashai has joined those calling for intervention in Libya:

    I realize that the shores of Tripoli seem too much for American forces just now, and perhaps never should have been in a military song in the first place. But I cannot help wondering what use are aircraft carriers if one cannot be used to keep Libyan airspace free of the lunatic’s planes and gunships, so that fewer good people will die taking him down

    Of course he goes through a big some-of-my-best-friends-are-Libyans schtick first. But it pretty obvious, he figures the best way to save the Libyans is to kill bunches of them.
    I guess in the movie in his head, it all works out, but he cannot provide a single example showing that what he proposes is possible or has ever been sucessful.

    • Mooser
      February 26, 2011, 12:55 pm

      I wonder, was Bernard Avashai calling for American aircraft carriers to intervene during Cast Lead, too?

    • eljay
      February 26, 2011, 2:28 pm

      >> … the best way to save the Libyans is to kill bunches of them.

      Bunches may die but, in the end, as Madelaine Albright so warmly put it, it’ll have been “worth it”. :-)

  28. Doctor Pi
    February 26, 2011, 12:30 pm

    When I was taking my philosophy class, Bush invaded Iraq. I opposed that war to the core of every bone in body. The peace movement was PROVEN RIGHT by the subsequent history, but being right is not enough. One still has to conform in the words of Noam Chomsky to the prevailing ideology of the time.

    Ok, sorry, I didn’t know where I was going with this. I am opposed to military intervention because I don’t think our soldiers (even though all US soldiers have joined voluntarily) have made an INFORMED choice. What right do I have to order (if I were President, “God” help us all) these soldiers to defend the civilian population of another country.

    Maybe there is a moral imperative for me (me alone and only I can make this decision) to run to Libya and help overthrow this mad dog (didn’t Reagan call him this?) One slight problem, I don’t speak Libyan (or is it arabic?), so my death will be possibly a rather banal one of being mistaken for one of Gadhafi’s mercernaries.

    • Miura
      February 26, 2011, 12:40 pm

      You’d be better off going to Cancun where they speak Mexican.

    • fuster
      February 26, 2011, 12:50 pm

      lovely idea, this INFORMED choice.

      I find that every time most everybody in the world disagrees with me, it’s because I’m better informed and have a deeper understanding.

      Yet somehow this wicked world goes on, and goes on allowing informed philosopher-kings-in-waiting such as myself not even one extra vote.

      • Doctor Pi
        February 26, 2011, 3:16 pm

        I’m not talking about people who disagree with me, I’m talking about kids fresh out of high school who may or may not disagree with me.

        I have not asked for an extra vote.

        I’m sorry I’m such a klutz at explaining myself. While I would not agree with any “official” intervention, I see nothing wrong with informed individuals intervening much like the participants of the Abraham Lincoln brigade in the Spanish Civil War.
        Ivan Avery Frey

      • fuster
        February 26, 2011, 4:51 pm


        I understood what it was that you meant, but the way of the wicked world has led us to such a sad state that we’ve resigned ourselves to the sort of government where everybody over a certain age gets to vote about stuff whether they’re really well-informed or not.

        Churchill a very well-informed man, knew what he was talking about when he said that democracy is the worst form of government….

      • annie
        February 26, 2011, 5:21 pm

        the way of the wicked world has led us to such a sad state that we’ve resigned ourselves to the sort of government where everybody over a certain age gets to vote about stuff whether they’re really well-informed or not.

        funny! you and livni and lewis! a theme is developing here. i’m so shocked!

      • fuster
        February 26, 2011, 5:30 pm

        I thought I was being pretty funny, fair annie.

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