I like where this is headed. If either side in the Libyan civil war fails to discriminate between civilians and combattants, NATO is going to bomb them. But NATO can't seem to determine who is a civilian and who is a combattant; indeed, the presence of so many irregulars makes it almost impossible to tell. So an organization that has no idea who is whom is going to bomb people for not distinguishing who is whom. With any luck, NATO will find itself in violation of its own principles and bomb itself. Isn't NATO headquarters in Belgium? THEY DON'T EVEN HAVE A FUNCTIONING GOVERNMENT! What if Islamists talk over the capital? From Mogadishu to Brussels! YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST, brah!
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Despite his propensity for writing ghastly sentences like, "There are unbounded downside risks all over the place," when a simple shit is fucked would do, I just want to say that Yglesias has been as good as the mainstream can get on Libya: sensible, duly skeptical, and even, occasionally, observant:
Chris Adams for McClatchy also has a story out headlined “Libyan rebel leader spent much of past 20 years in suburban Virginia”, which is presumably because he really liked the Tyson’s Corner mall and has nothing to do with the location of the CIA or the Pentagon.Shit, that's even funny. This comes just after he notices, as I'm sure most of you already have, that "While President Obama has insisted that no American military ground troops participate in the Libyan campaign, small groups of C.I.A. operatives have been working in Libya for several weeks as part of a shadow force of Westerners that the Obama administration hopes can help bleed Colonel Qaddafi’s military, the officials said." So I guess this whole "no boots on the ground thing" is sort of like, oh, I don't know, the martial equivalent of semiformal attire--tie or open collar? regular or paramilitary?
It seems it was just the other day that pro-rebel enthusiasts here in the West were celebrating the rebel advance. Oh, right, it was just the other day, because the rebels cannot hold territory once they come under attack.He goes on to note some rather dubious activities on behalf of our people-powered allies-manqués in the east--door-to-door raids and all that. Shades of Kosovo, anyone? Memories of Iran-Contra? Plus c'est la même chose.
Sorry, did I say rebel advance? I meant to say glorious triumph of the “liberation movement.” When I see someone write enthusiastically about a foreign “liberation movement,” I ask myself what he is trying to sell me, because there are few more loaded and propagandistic ways to describe an insurrection than that. There are few words in political discourse more abused than liberation, especially when it comes to rebellions. Just eight years since we heard endless cheers for the “liberation” of Iraq, I cannot believe that otherwise reasonable people would resort to such language.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
STEVE ROGERSGlenn Greenwald finds a bunch of apparently liberal commenters falling all over themselves to proclaim that Obama's commitment to bombing other countries proves that he believes in American exceptionalism. Oh, good.
Do you know what "special people" means?
Special people equals retarded. Your club is for retards.
Daniel Larison makes a, um, not-unrelated observation:
Supporters of a military action are always supremely confident that the administration responsible for taking that action did not rush to war and had no other choice. It’s important to point out that these are not impartial observations or balanced descriptions of the situation. They are rhetorical devices designed to make outrageous, reckless, controversial decisions seem well-reasoned, careful, and unavoidable. When opponents of the war in Iraq described Bush’s relentless push to attack Iraq as the “rush to war,” advocates of the invasion emphasized how long, careful, and well-aired the period before the invasion was. Compared to Libya, those defenders of the Iraq invasion have a point.Oh, good.
One of the more common errors I see my fellow-travellers make is the desire to find conspiratorial and malevolent motives behind the aggression of the empire, and while it is true that some wars and some campaigns and some interventions are indeed moved by design, it is equally and likewise true that many of its actions really are dumb and reflexive. I mean, the old Albrightian axiom is the most accurate insight into the relevant mindset: what is the point of having this magnificent military if you're not going to use it? And these things do not have to exist in mutual exclusion. The US invasion of Iraq can be a viciously deliberate expansion of the global garrison while the Afghan invasion can be a war of retribution that metastasized into a cryptocolonial exercise of semipermanent occupation while the Libya kintomagnetoelectrodynamicalimited military prestochangeo whathaveyou can be a hastily conceived exercise in happytime goodluck bombing. At the same time! There is no reason at all to presume that some cabal of Illuminati are actually directing all of these things along a single axis of intention toward a singular evil end. There is a certain "exceptionalism" in the imputation of omnicompetence or even consistent design--and this is not to say that America can never be malevolent, but that it is just as likely merely malicious, and that its rulers really do believe in bombs for peace even as they believe in bombs for democracy and bombs for American material interest and bombs for first-dibs-on-oil and bombs for The Women. They believe in bombs for everything as surely as Joanne down in the copyroom believes in the universal curative powers of fish oil or vitamin C.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
A time-limited, scope-limited, kinetic military regime change.
The Stiftung Leo Strauss delivers a fine ballpeening to Obama's speech, but what was especially striking:
Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities.The argument for the particularism of the war on Libya, and the attendant insistence that it in no way represents the setting of precedent, is obviously ridiculous given the insistence in the very same speech that the current "intervention" itself represents only the latest in a long, precedential line: "For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role . . ." etc. etc. etc. etc. Hell, and for good measure, The Blessed even hauls out Bosnia. His non-precedent-setting action is largely justified by precedent. Notably he does not bring up the Iraqi interregnum, the fun-and-balloons period between the "First Gulf War" and the subsequent "Iraq War" (as if they are two distinct conflicts!) during which "Air Power" managed to fragment and destroy a society while doing nothing to help any sort of native opposition other than starving and stunting a whole generation of young people who might've one day formed its core. Well, whatever, no homo. IT WORKS BECAUSE WE SAY IT WORKS.
-Bush v. Gore
In fact, much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya. On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all – even in limited ways – in this distant land. They argue that there are many places in the world where innocent civilians face brutal violence at the hands of their government, and America should not be expected to police the world, particularly when we have so many pressing concerns here at home. It is true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what's right. In this particular country – Libya; at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Gaddafi's forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.
-Obama v. Libya
Monday, March 28, 2011
Just remember, reflexive skepticism about Western military action is by its very nature fallacious. Every situation must be evaluated on its specific merits. How can we know in advance that army units will model themselves into Kill Teams and go around massacring villages? This is not to say that once we have invaded and occupied a foreign nation and our army units have modelled themselves into Kill Teams and gone around massacring villages we should approve. Indeed, having invaded and occupied a foreign country and then beset their countryside with Kill Teams, we should strongly disapprove of Kill Teams. But to presume in advance that these Kill Teams will exist based simply on the precedent of every major conflict in the last six decades is to engage in logically fallacious a priori reasoning. The only moral moral objection to armed massacres is retrospective.
Nothing says humanitarian like the aerial bombardment of population centers and the harrassment of retreating units.
Interesting to watch them attempt to draw the fine distinctions, though:
“There’s a difference between calling out aircraft and indiscriminately strafing and bombing your own cities,” [Hillary Clinton] said, “and police actions that frankly have exceeded the use of force that any of us would want to see.”What a fucking catastrophe. What a nightmare. I am somewhat astonished to find myself proven wrong in one regard, however. I predicted that Obama would bring a certain cold-blooded competence to the business of empire, a managerial discipline that the sprawling, gaudy, sententious Bush junta lacked. I was wrong. In retrospect, Rumsfeld and Cheney and all the villains of that unlamented regime are beginning to look positively professional.