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April 15, 2011

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Don't worry Eric, it's ok this time because NATO AND the UN said it was OK.

I think it might be as well to steer clear of the "two wars is enough" [emphasis added] meme.

Because at some point in the near future we are looking to be out of Iraq (at least for practical purposes. And we don't want to leave the door open for an argument like: "We're down to only one war [Afghanistan], so we are OK to send ground troops into Libya now."

Fair point wj.

Should be "it's OK to have no wars for a while, say five to ten years at least while we recover, kthxbai"

Seriously, why not do our damndest to go a decade without a war? How friggin' hard should that really be to pull off?

But Rob, if we went a decade with no wars, we could well start getting serious questions about whether we really need to be spending so much money on our military. Oh, the horror!

"More importantly, as I tried to emphasize in my prior piece, we should be careful what we wish for: if the rebels do manage to usurp Qaddafi, what comes next could prove worse in many respects."

We're there in a coalition to protect civilians under the UN mandate, under the leadership of NATO. Our success needs to be measured on those terms, not as regime changers.

Are we?

There seems to be several different purposes, with the Obama administration stating, with frequency, that Q must go.

"We're there in a coalition to protect civilians under the UN mandate, under the leadership of NATO. Our success needs to be measured on those terms, not as regime changers."

So when Qaddafi falls, there are multiple rebel forces fighting among themselves causing carnage in the cities, going from door to door settling old scores, fighting between tribes to "cleanse" areas of the country, we should all sit back and say " well we were successful under the UN mandate" stand on the deck of a ship in the Med with a big sign behind us saying "Mission Accomplished"?

"There seems to be several different purposes, with the Obama administration stating, with frequency, that Q must go."

They're saying he must go because he's besieging his own cities, pummeling them with rockets and creating a humanitarian disaster.

"So when Qaddafi falls, there are multiple rebel forces fighting among themselves causing carnage in the cities, going from door to door settling old scores, fighting between tribes to "cleanse" areas of the country, we should all sit back and say " well we were successful under the UN mandate" stand on the deck of a ship in the Med with a big sign behind us saying "Mission Accomplished"?"

We (and the UN) should cross that bridge when we come to it.

Just as a thought exercise, is it possible for us (or any other country) to be part of a coalition with a limited mandate (e.g. to protect civilians), and still hold an opinion which independent of the coalition goals and goes further (e.g. that Qaddafi must go)?

Granted, if we were the ones who had assembled and led the coalition, our opinion might well be taken as coalition policy. But in this case, we do not seem (at least to my eye) to be the organizing party. So in this case, might one expect that the public expressions of the French or British might be taken as the coalition policy instead?

They're saying he must go because he's besieging his own cities, pummeling them with rockets and creating a humanitarian disaster.

OK, all I said is that we should be careful what we wish for. Your response was to bring up the limited scope of the UNSC resolutions. My point is that we are still "wishing" for something else. And caution.

Just as a thought exercise, is it possible for us (or any other country) to be part of a coalition with a limited mandate (e.g. to protect civilians), and still hold an opinion which independent of the coalition goals and goes further (e.g. that Qaddafi must go)?

I think it's definitely possible.

And, right on cue, the French are hinting cooking up a more muscular UNSC resolution - which includes regime change.

http://bit.ly/ibou6z

(this is Eric, the link is safe)

WJ: Although I should point out that France and UK are pushing for regime change too. So while the scope of the mandate is limited, all three major players are on the same page in terms of desired end state (at least as far as public statements go).

Are we?

Indeed, that is the question.

Your post is completely on point. Back in the day we called it 'stirring up a hornets' nest.'

There are three random dudes with an Op-Ed in some English tabloid saying we should do regime change. Good thing no one listens to them.

Thanks McTex, and thanks for the guest post...

Admitted, Eric. And I wouldn't be all that surprised to see some kind of action (French commandos, perhaps?) to take Qaddafi out directly. I just get twitchy when we (and I'm guilty occasionally as well) appear to assume that all that matters is what the US government opines on some such subject.

I'm focused on US statements/posturing because I'm worried about US money/resources/soldiers being spent, yet again, on another dubious mission.

Ugh, I saw that op-ed's first two words and laughed because I thought the whole thing would read


"The Bombings Will Continue Until Morale Improves"

thanks for the guest post...

De nada. It was fun.

One presumes there will be more...(doesn't one)*

*wanktastick use of third person

I can't help but get the feeling on this issue that many liberals (sapient excluded)have a rather queasy feeling about this whole enterprise.....sort of like somebody advocating a woman's right to choose, but always prefacing it with "Well, I realize it's icky, nonetheless.....".

Come on guys & gals. If you assert you have the right to determine the outcome of internal political squabbles in other countries becasue you know better than they what a proper outcome is, then don't be shy.

On-topic: To make it more likely that someone will follow the link, here's a clickable version of Eric's pointer to discussion of a possible second UNSC resolution:

Newshoggers blog post.

The post contains a link to BBC report on public musings by the French defense minister on a second resolution, along with the blogger's analysis of how such a resolution might fare in the Security Council.

Meta:
Eric, good to see a post from you here!

As someone who has recently begun to spend an ungodly amount of time on Twitter, I empathize with you and others who may find that they have relevant links stored only in the form of shortened urls. That's not a problem on Twitter where: 1- they're automatically clickable, 2- right-clicking makes the long form of the link visible, and 3- the tweet will scroll into oblivion before the short-form link dies.

But none of those conditions hold here or on most blogs. Let me plead with all posters and commenters to take the extra seconds required to make urls clickable, transparent, and as long-lived as possible. Time saved for the poster who pastes an unclickable short url is transferred to each reader who goes to the effort of copying the link, opening a new browser tab or window, and pasting the link. The more readers who do that, the higher the collective cost of that initial "short-cut". That's the best case, though; the most likely outcome is that even fewer readers than usual follow the link.

End Meta.

bobbyp, I'm an opponent of U.S. military intervention, and of most international military interventions conducted under the rubric of 'responsibility to protect'. I was and am in the case of Libya, too, though I was more torn and less vocal about it than usual.

But it's wrong and counterproductively inflammatory to dismiss the events in Libya during the period between February 17 and the UN resolution as a "political squabble".

This is off topic, but I have to get it off my chest if I'm to take up ObWi commenting again.

@ sapient: In the comments to Eric's original post on Libya after the UNSC resolution, you took another cheap shot at me as a supposed robotic Greenwald follower. It seemed a better use of my time and those reading along just to quit the discussion then rather than respond. But I'm going to repeat here the essence of what I said when you used that rhetorical maneuver the first time, in our discussion of Bradley Manning's treatment at Quantico, in the hope that you won't do so again.

I am not anyone's follower. I've been politically aware and active since childhood. My views on a lot of things have changed and developed over the last five decades -- most deeply as a result of my own experiences, in some cases as a result of extended discussions with people holding other views, and in general through a process of testing my analysis and others' against events as they unfold.

That process continues; in fact, it seems especially important to stay open to other perspectives as I get older. Aside from the human tendency for increased rigidity with age, having been proved right about several big issues in the last fifteen years creates a real temptation to entrench my current worldview.

But entrenched or responsive, it's _my_ view, acquired through my own efforts and reflecting my values. There are a whole bunch of people whose opinions I usually agree with and whose thinking I greatly respect, but there is no one with whom I always agree. The same thing is true of most commenters here, so show us the respect of treating us as autonomous individuals.

One more point before getting back to the topic of Libya: I hope that, as a supporter of UN-authorized military intervention to protect people from being killed by their government, you also support the comparatively very mild intervention of an official visit by a UN human rights rapporteur to investigate and protect a citizen who may be being tortured by their government, and are disquieted by the U.S. government's refusal to allow such a visit in the case of Bradley Manning.

"But it's wrong and counterproductively inflammatory to dismiss the events in Libya during the period between February 17 and the UN resolution as a 'political squabble'."

Thank you, Nell, and I agree with that sentence. Of course, I support UN intervention (not US alone intervention).

To think of severe political oppression in another country as a "squabble" seems (to me) analogous to a situation where a violent domestic crime might be occurring in a neighbor's household and people ignore it, saying that "it's just a domestic squabble." This is a situation that, as a lawyer, I have fought against. Hard.

I believe that we have a responsibility as a (wealthy and powerful) member of the world community to act, not to stand by. It's legitimate to argue how we should carry out this responsibility, and how to act. The United States should not "act" as policeman, prosecutor and judge as it did in Iraq. But that's where the UN comes in. The UN can (and should) point to situations such as what is going on in Libya and say NO on behalf of the world. I believe that the UN Security Council stepped up to this responsibility by passing Resolution 1973. I do not "assert that I have a right" to decide the internal politics of another nation. But as a citizen of the US, I want to act, in concert with a legitimate body of the world community, to say (through my government) that the world won't tolerate Qaddafi's actions.

I understand the concern (and it's legitimate) that military action can prolong suffering rather than end it. I certainly am hoping that this action succeeds in its mission, and the net effect is that lives are saved. But I think it is important for the world (including the United States) to learn how to respond to these situations. Standing by and watching isn't enough. If the response that has been made isn't the correct response, I think people should consider what alternative there should be. Do you really think that watching your neighbor commit crimes against his/her family is okay because it's just a "squabble"? Do you think we should let it continue because, oh well, we know that these things happen, and successfully intervening is hard, and causes its own problems? (Because often, even in domestic violence situations, all of this is true.)

Nell: "But it's wrong and counterproductively inflammatory.."

Hmmm. Well, I certainly was not trying to be counterproductive, but inflammatory? Perhaps subconsciously. Perhaps if I termed it a political disagreement? But look. If 99.9% of the people in Libya wanted Gaddafi gone, he'd be gone. But he isn't. He has supporters. He has opponents. If that is not a political disagreement, then such words have no meaning. But I respect you deeply, so I'd ask you to please kindly go http://lhote.blogspot.com/2011/03/left-wing-non-interventionism.html> Here and give it some thought and respond. I believe this viewpoint should not only be heard, but taken seriously. See also http://lhote.blogspot.com/2011/03/open-letter-to-juan-cole-on-libya.html>here.

Sapient: The dream of a international organization dedicated and willing to fight for justice is indeed a worthy goal. However, in the context of a system of nation states where we all (in theory) recognize their sovereignty, there is a fatal contradiction. Where was the UN and Nato when Israel invaded Gaza? And that was one country invading another. What about East Timor? Did you write angry letters to the editor demanding U.S. intervention? If so, I congratulate you. The difference between Iraq and Libya is one of degree, not kind. So I guess I am deeply at odds with your position.

I ask you to rebut http://lhote.blogspot.com/2011/03/you-see-old-woman.html> this . I look forward to your response. Thank you.

With all due respect.

"What about East Timor? Did you write angry letters to the editor demanding U.S. intervention?"

Wouldn't have been necessary. We were on the side of the mass murderers. giving them weapons and diplomatic cover, under Ford, Carter (when the killing reached a climax), Reagan, Bush 1 and most of Clinton, until 1999.

As for Gaza, our UN ambassador Susan Rice said that there was no evidence that Israel committed any war crimes there, so I guess everything was fine.

link

(cross-posted at Democracy Arsenal)
Also Progressive Realist.

Wondering if you have any comment on ObWi's discussion earlier this week on the Libyan intervention. The comments in this thread are covering much the same territory, with sapient repeating his same points, CDCG, and so on, in response to the same issues, and I'd be interested if you might have anything to say, Eric, as well as those who didn't comment, about the earlier links, content, and commentary in my posts, the comments and arguments on it, etc., if you have a chance.

[...] It is not fanciful to imagine that a country with no history of democratic rule and weak civil institutions would be fertile ground for violent purges, power struggles, protracted civil wars and/or insurgencies (with forces loyal to Qaddafi attempting to re-claim the power and privilege recently lost - see, ie, the Baathists in Iraq - and rebel forces keen to settle scores - see, ie, the Mahdi Army purges in and around Baghdad). These armed conflicts would be exacerbated if the rebels receive large amounts of weapons, and the country is awash in arms.
Wondering if I should repeat some of my links about this, with quotes, since this got only passing comment, but I did have some quite detailed information I linked to, particularly Peter Bouckaert's piece in Foreign Policy.

There's no "if" about the country being awash in arms -- I can go into plenty of further links and details -- nor the rebels capturing plenty, and we already know very well that special operators from not just CIA but France and Britain, and probably others, are engaged in clandestine aid, and more arming and help, overtly, are sure to be advanced overtly if we continue down the path we're on, and I don't see that this is likely to change, since obviously the public of the U.S., Britain, France, and elsewhere, aren't going to be coming out into the streets to march against this any time in the next couple of months.

That wouldn't happen until such time as we've been in occupation for some time, and start taking a lot of casualties, which won't be any time soon, and which I hope never happens, but fear we may be on the path to.

If we're lucky, that won't happen, for any number of reasons: maybe Quaddafi's forces will rapidly collapse, maybe he'll be killed, and his sons killed and/or forced to flee, maybe some negotiated solution will occur, maybe the war will end quickly, and maybe there will be an at least semi-orderly transition to a largely local solution.

That would be grand.

But I'm not counting on it, myself. Not as matters stand.

I realize you may not have time to get into this further, Eric or even read the linked piece, or others if I toss them in, so no worries if that's the case! Hope you and the family have a great and relaxing, such as you do, weekend!

Similarly wondering what those who are commenting in this thread who didn't comment on the earlier posts might have to say about details I presented.

"Wouldn't have been necessary...."

Wait. Wait. You mean we intervened to abet a genocidal massacre? Have I been tripped up by my own inadvertently trick question?

I am beside myself with left wing purity.

"You mean we intervened to abet a genocidal massacre?"

Depends on what intervention means. We supported it and supplied Indonesia with weapons knowing how they'd be used.

A link describing our initial Timorese involvement--

link

Nell, i just saw your 8:56 comment. I apologize for having accused you of being a robotic follower of Greenwald.

My understanding of the situation with regard to the UN representative was that he was denied an unmonitored visit with Bradley Manning, but would be allowed a monitored visit. I would hope that some accommodation could be made to allow the UN investigation to proceed without endangering the integrity of the trial proceedings. Legal proceedings often involve facts and issues that aren't available to casual observers, so I don't feel comfortable weighing in. I'm assuming that there are plenty of experts (his lawyer, the UN oficial, etc.) who can competently do that for Manning.

These concerns speak directly to my apprehensions about US military involvement in Libya.
You actually posted the same post you link to there here at Obsidian Wings.

Sapient:

We (and the UN) should cross that bridge when we come to it.
By all means, when you set out to cross a bridge, seeing a great fog in front of you in the middle of the bridge, with people shouting at you and warning you that they have tremendously good reason to believe there's a huge gap in the bridge, driving straight ahead at full speed into the fog and gap is a splendid plan.

For zooming right into the river.

That's your plan? Hope for the best? You have no contingency for brakes? Stopping and getting out and walking forward slowly to make sure that the road doesn't suddenly disappear in the middle of the bridge?

I keep asking you, and you keep not responding, and replying that you believe selective portions of UN Resolutions written by the U.S., Britain, and France, which justify the U.S., Britain, and France, as if one hand holding up a puppet somehow justifies the hand's action: what's your exit plan? Where do you intend to draw a line at stopping intervening? How do you intend to stop if it becomes clear to you that there's no way to overthrow Qaddaffi without fueling more and more war, more and more killing, more and more arms, more and more foreign involvement in war?

Is your only answer that the current situation is "worrisome" and that you respect Juan Cole? Or... what?

I'm going to be spending a delightful amount of time this weekend at the hospital, and doing other fun things, and it's unlikely I'll have time or focus to post, so let me link to Frederic Wehrey's Libya's Terra Incognita: Who And What Will Follow Qaddafi? here as something to discuss.

Then I point back to Peter Bouckaert again, and ask what sort of bridge you're being blind to, here? Do you not see a bridge, or are you simply saying that we should shut our eyes and trust that the road will keep going straight, in the fog, right across this fog-obscured bridge, because... why, exactly? It's worrisome if we don't?

Isn't it worriesome if we do?

If not: why not?

Mind, I'm not saying I can see the future, either. Maybe things will work out wonderfully. Maybe a few more strong military strikes and aid will cause Qaddafi to collapse, maybe a rough democracy will quickly emerge, and things will be hunky-dory, relatively speaking, in Libya.

Or, at the least, maybe things will be a great humanitarian improvement on Qadaffi and his sons. I'd certainly hope so.

But their regime isn't destined to last forever, either. Regardless of whether it falls quickly in a month, or stretches on for a year, or years, of grinding fighting and separate regimes and civil war, or whether it falls into warring factions and tribes and regions, or whether technocrats and democrats quickly emerge, the modern world surrounds Libya, and the trends of dictatorship are strongly opposed by many non-military forces. The only choices in front of both Libyans, and us, aren't the binary ones of Qadaffi-forever and war-war-war.

I'm awfully hesitant, myself, to take responsibility for urging that other people go kill other people in order to save other people when there are so many hypotheticals and unknowns.

Couldn't we, perhaps, be a bit more hesitant in contributing to the mass killing and supplying of arms, and leave that as an absolute last resort?

Is it really the absolute last resort yet?

@bobbyp: I agree with your position and post, and I _am_ a left-wing non-interventionist. Of such long standing that my opposition to such wars has been called "knee-jerk". Thanks for the pointer to your blog post, which in my case is preaching to the choir but still well worth reading. Those who support the Libya intervention: go read!

I posted because I thought that the emotional reaction generated by the word 'squabble' would keep some people from absorbing your argument, and responding to the question you're raising.

@sapient: Apology accepted. In the spirit of the open thread, I'm clinking a virtual Devil's Peak beer (production won't get going until late this year) to your Blue Mountain.

Wrt UN rapporteur visit: An unmonitored visit will have no effect whatsoever on the integrity of the court martial process, and is the only way the rapporteur's work can be conducted. Even Guantanamo prisoners were given unmonitored visits with Red Cross investigators (eventually).

@bobbyp: Sorry, dived right into the blog post without reading the surroundings; that's not your blog, I take it, but Freddie deBoer's.

Nell: Yes. Freddie's. Many thanks.

Cheers, Nell.

It seems counterproductive for the government to bring international scorn on the US by barring the UN rapporteur. I hope that he visits under the terms that he requests.

The real question is: why do we keep selling arms to repressive regimes around the world?

novakant: "The real question is: why do we keep selling arms to repressive regimes around the world?"

Good question.

The cynical answer: It pays. Also the enemies of the people we* sell arms to may be the next customer in line.

*in this case Germany is also a major culprit.

novakant: why do we keep selling arms to repressive regimes around the world?

Because it's just about all we manufacture anymore, and it keeps alive the industry that feeds our bigger-than-the-rest-of-the-world-combined military.

Buyers like the House of Saud and UAE happily pay wildly inflated price -- making the biz even more profitable:

Boeing shares are poised for liftoff as the company's order cycle turns up.

It seems there's literally nothing the rulers of the Gulf kingdoms could do to the people in their countries, or ours, that would cause such sales not to be approved. Big sales to SA and UAE just cleared on Friday.

@novakant: why do we keep selling arms to repressive regimes around the world?

I think there's a large component of habit/inertia. We got in the habit when it was seen as a way of staving off Soviet influence. Certainly some of the regimes we support are ones that we ahve been supporting for half a century -- no matter that the original reason for doing so is long gone. (Not unlike maintaining bases in Germany, when you think about it.)

A more interesting question would be why we still start supporting regimes which are repressive. Does anybody honestly think that having a particular dictator in power in Yemen is going to make a significant difference in terrorist recruiting and training? (OK, arguably having a western-supported dictator in power will increase recruiting -- but how is that a reason to support one?) If so, I've got a special price on the Brooklyn Bridge which I can get you this week only....

Obviously our government believes in the "our bastard" thing. Our bastard will keep a lid on the crazy Islamists, they reason. So our bastard gets his tanks, jets, missles, etc., until such time as he is no longer "our" bastard (for whatever reason). Rinse, repeat, making $$$ for certain powerful interests along the way.

Yay!

Libya and R2P: norm consolidation or a perfect storm? by Tim Dunne and Jess Gifkins, 15 April 2011.

How far does NATO’s intervention to protect civilians in Libya represent a deepening of the norm of responsibility to protect (R2P)? The international community’s response to the current crisis shows signs of a progressive acceptance of R2P, although there are reasons to be cautious in thinking the same combination of factors are likely to hold in other cases of humanitarian atrocities. [....]

Via matttbastard.

Gary: Thanks for the Wehrey link. Will try to comment when I have a moment. For now, I'm tweeting that article.

Also, FTR, for those that care, my twitter address is @EricMartin24

What's twitter?

Armed Predator Drones:

Pentagon chief Robert Gates says President Barack Obama has approved the use of armed Predator drone aircraft in Libya.

Gates told a Pentagon news conference that the Predator is an example of the unique U.S. military capabilities that Obama is willing to contribute to a coalition military campaign in Libya, while other countries enforce a no-fly zone.

Creep creep.

I hadn't heard that we'd actually stopped using drones in Libya.

" hadn't heard that we'd actually stopped using drones in Libya."

We hadn't, the paperwork just caught up.

Also new: millions in aid & "advisors" from some European countries.

Creep.

Uh, wut?:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), an early proponent of helping the rebels in their fight against forces loyal to longtime leader Moammar Gaddafi, arrived Friday in Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital in eastern Libya, and told reporters that the anti-Gaddafi fighters are his heroes.

John McCain on Twitter in August 2009:

Late evening with Col. Qadhafi at his "ranch" in Libya - interesting meeting with an interesting man.

Does no one ever call him on his BS to his face?

Mavericky!

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