It’s kind of absurd that I should even be writing this post, since I know next to nothing about Libya. But I’m writing it because I have the uncomfortable impression that those policy-makers who urged the current American and European military intervention in Libya – aka instituting a “no-fly zone” (a strange formulation when it involves so much use of fighter jets) — know very little more than I do.
I hope I’m wrong about this. But hope isn’t much of a substitute for reason when people’s lives are at stake.
Why Libya? Apparently because it seems safe. Everyone in the west can agree that Qaddafi is nuts, that his regime sucks, and – most important from their point of view – that they have nothing to lose by intervening. No strategically important naval base to protect, as in Bahrain. No major oil supplier to coddle, as in Saudi Arabia. No “partner” in the struggle against the elusive Al Qaeda, as in Yemen. No close military ties, as in Egypt.
I can almost imagine the decision-makers thinking “Finally, a chance to prove that we really are on the side of freedom and democracy and all the things we keep talking about but don’t back up with action. Phew!”
Of course the last time they did that – barging with heavy firepower and astounding ignorance into a country where it seemed clear who was Good and who was Bad – the result was disastrous. Iraq is still a mess. Afghanistan, an even worse mess. But this time, you see, it will be different. This time, we’ll do it right. From the air,. No feet on the ground. So what if we don’t even know who’s who in Libya? They hate Qaddafi; what more could one ask for?
When I was a dreamy adolescent, I used to think that if I could only go round the world with a six-shooter and assassinate the worst dictators, the world would be a better place. I spent hours deciding which six I would target (some weird English sense of fair play dictated that I could only have six bullets), until I grew up enough to realize that those I killed in my dreams would only be replaced by others, that this was not a matter of individuals, but of systemic social and political problems way beyond my grasp. (As for “solving” violence by violence, I’m glad to say I quickly grew out of that too.)
Now, in 2011, it seems that powerful nations are acting like that naïve adolescent that I once was, the difference being that their choice of target is determined not by dumb idealism, but by strategic realpolitik. So sorry, Bahrain – we know you’re right in your demand for democracy, but our hands are tied. Too bad, Egypt – we know the military has no intention of giving up power, but we need them. You’re on your own, Yemen – who knows if you mightn’t threaten our good Saudi friends next?
But Libya? Thank god for Qaddafi. A chance to prove how good we are, at last…
well i can see how many people think this way, and i can see this is happening in the west and here too (i am egyptian) but i think it’s important to note that only Gadhaffi was so vocal in his intent to kill opposition figures, no other country you mentioned did that. Also it’s important to note that this was a UN resolution and not america trying to “export democracy”
as for why america is taking a leading role, america is the world’s leader in terms of military, but of course we can argue you don’t really need that much strength to bomb libya.
this is my opinion and i think that america already knows that it is risking its reputation just by interfering, no matter what the outcome is
Hossam — just one two-bomb example of what can go wrong, from the NYT’s Elisabeth Bumiller yesterday on the rescue of a US pilot who ejected over eastern Libya when his plane malfunctioned:
“A Marine Corps officer said that two Harrier attack jets dropped two 500-pound bombs during the rescue of the pilot, about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday local time (about 7:30 p.m. Monday E.D.T.). The officer said that the grounded pilot, who was in contact with rescue crews in the air, asked for the bombs to be dropped as a precaution before the crews landed to pick him up.
“My understanding is he asked for the ordnance to be delivered between where he was located and where he saw people coming towards him,” the officer said, adding that the pilot evidently made the request “to keep what he thought was a force closing in on him from closing in on him.”
That is scary of course. Of course there is a lot that can go wrong.
I have to admit i am not looking from an american perspective, but from an arab perspective or an anti-gadaffi perspective, what other solution can be done to stop him from killing his people?
While we wish international politics and relationships were based purely on human ideals, unfortunately it is based on specific interests. We do that on a personal level too. A sibling or friend’s mistake always seems less bad than someone else’s. Don’t u think?
Am not sure it isn’t somehow worse — like we feel more responsible if it’s someone close to us or someone we identify with in any way.
What do others think?
i am not sure i am following the relation of this to the topic, but i will take this chance to say something i want to say.
i agree with Lesley 100% on that it feels worse when someone somehow related to you does a mistake or something “wrong”
i feel that particularly when i see a fellow Muslim commit a terrorist act or call for a terrorist act, i feel somehow responsible (even though i’m not) and i feel it somehow damages my image
especially when that person does that terrorist act in the name of my religion
Hossam I agree with what you are saying. What I meant was that international politics are built on interests. USA will be less critical of a dictator who is an ally than one who is not (and so the different standard in treating the “uprisings” in Libya compared to Bahrain or Yemen.) what it shows u is that politicians twist the talk and spew morals, but ultimately every country’s leaders will do what they perceive as in their country’s interest. There is more to gain in supporting a change in oil rich Libya than there is in supporting change in any sub-Saharan poor African country. Which is sad. Who will fend for those people? Who will fend for Palestinians? Who will fend for every oppressed people in the world who don’t have oil or who are oppressed by an ally of superpower countries. I hope I’m not too long with this reply?!
Chad — No way is this too long!
@ Hossam — Nick Kristof agrees w/ your first comment: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/opinion/24kristof.html?_r=1 Still not sure I do. Am torn both ways.
@Chad, @Hossam, @Lynn — Yes, some of us feel responsible, even though we know we aren’t personally, and find ourselves immensely frustrated and angry that someone who declares themselves part of our “we” should commit terrorism. But then there are others who are seduced into that declared “we,” maybe even only half-willingly, and get caught up in rationalizations to cover up that uneasy feeling of wrong, even evil, done in their name. They end up justifying the unjustifiable in the name of the “we.”
Dangerous words, “we” and “they.”
yes, “us” and “them or “we” and “they” are dangerous words and dangerous thoughts, unfortunately i think that ultimately the majority of people think in terms of us and them, of course the definition of us and them may be different, for example in Egypt when a Muslim talks with another Muslim or Christian with another Christian about religion in Egypt, the us and them is Christian or Muslim, yet when a Muslim and Christian here are talking about US intervention then it’s the West vs. East or whites vs. Arabs.
I Think the same can apply for example when you have a stereotypical American neoconservative and right winger talk about Muslim immigration to USA (i may be way off with this one but would like to hear what you think)
About US intervention in Libya, i just thought of an interesting question, what would have people thought if the US had Vetoed the UN resolution?
I would’ve been baffled, i would’ve thought it is for a reason beyond my knowledge. I also think that many people here (probably the same who object to the intervention) would have thought and said that America really is evil, not only is it not helping, but is preventing other countries from helping.
what do others here think? sorry for long comment
Good point Lesley. All the Khalifa, Malik, King they are same in killing people. its not matter which one killed more,
khalifa of Bahrain Oppressed people Bahrain,
Malik of Saudi Oppressed people Bahrain and Saudi,
Malik of Qatar Oppressed people of Bahrain (and maybe his people in near Future),
in Yemen and Egypt and Libya as well.
But the problem of Libya as I believe:
1- Gaddafi: (as you pointed Nuts) 🙂
2- its an American plan: to stop revolutions in other countries, by showing the people of Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain and … if you want democracy this will happen to you as well, not easy(fast) like Tunisia. (Scar them)
Is evident that America its not happy with revolutions (new Middle East) in these countries (but revolutions in Iran absolutely happy!!!).
American Plan make revolution longer and to take more time, and this plan have very good Benefits for them like: A: people of world please forget Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen …. oh and what about new politic happening in Egypt right now, most of concentration is on Libya(Miserable people, like football ball). B: Israel Killing people of Gaza, did you see the body of cut baby only few month of age? (excellent time for Killing). C: time to think, Transfer Weapons (selling), …..
But as all we know it will be revolutions and victory is with Nation will. [….]
Why we have Religion, Why Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (Peace be upon them all) [….] We have god and one day this world will end and we are front of our Almighty God with empty hand or ….
Ammar — I seriously doubt that things are as conspiratorial as you seem to imply. I think those who urged intervention in Libya were deeply frustrated at having been held back from doing more to support protest in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and more, and so perhaps over-compensated re Libya.
My concern is that good intentions without good information can create bad unforeseen consequences.
dont doubt Lesley, this is politic.
I like your blog, thanks
Ms. Hazleton, I’ve decided to become a regular commenter :-).
People in power don’t like to lose power, those not in power want to gain power, other people in power tend to support people in power for they derive benefits out of that support, they withdraw that support only when they see another center for power emerging.
None of this has any thing to do with freedom, democracy etc etc. If US realizes a pro-US entity may gain power why mustn’t it support it, it is just the instinct of self preservation, every organism has it.
Similarly if they realize anti-US entity gaining power
they’d use whatever means permitted to ensure it doesn’t come to power.
Isn’t that all that is there to any political situation? It is interesting to note in all major revolutions – when did businesses start financing the revolutionaries that tells a lot about when the revolution or any movement really gained critical mass required for potential success.
Bombing Libya is less about freedom chest thumping and more about gaining a potential foothold with a favorable regime which you help install 🙂
I understand that Gaddafi is nuts and he threatened to kill his people. However I feel very uncomfortable with what is happening. The Americans have the reputation of being stumble bums and as its been pointed out, their track record is not the best. I feel very sad for the people of Libya that the situation has escalated.
Lez you are beauty…right on spot.
your words satisfied the feelings of many.
I will add character of new Bully France joining the ranks of Britains….Angela Markel lagging behind probably saved for better evil project until then she should play half willing doll of the puppet master
Since Things started in Tunis and Egypt and then other nations…uneasy feelings were always there wheres the name of Al-Qaida why its not poped up yet…what happened to Bullys…are they sleeping.
Nay they were working …working hard.
Al-Qaida is old trick…now more reasonably theatrical approach is adopted.
They kill to save. What difference would it make if few thousands or few hundred thousands of Libyans are killed…still millions would be left…only few hundreds needed to pump oil to France and other civilized countries where human life is as expensive as oil.
I wish Libyans understand it sooner than later.
i love this blog!
you know, i talked with my wise friend today about US interests and Libya intervention, and he pointed out something interesting; he told me “don’t forget the word interests is very broad” it can be something like a Military base (which US does not have any in Africa), can be oil, can be even preventing China’s possible future foothold, etc…
So i think there is always self interest when it comes to States, but i like to think that there is a little bit of humanitarian side to it too, i hope.
I guess what I’m saying is that definitely there is US interest involved, but that doesn’t mean that it is exclusively US interests in mind, or even if it is, but in that situation it will also bring humanitarian interests to the Libyan people, whether on purpose or not, if nothing goes wrong as you pointed out Lesley
The history of the mankind shows that many atrocious oppressors try to hide their unhumane deeds under the veil of persuading justice-seeking slogans, they also seek protection under the rubric of fighting against corruption and unsecurity.
I have neutral feelings about international intervention. I will know how I feel about it after we see the results! LOL
I do wonder and hope that this is some form of “Renessaince” happening in the Middle East after 300-400 years of “dark ages”. Or maybe its just wishful thinking. I think people have started to lose interest in the “palestinian-israeli conflict”. Maybe people have started to realize that you only gain respect in the world by growing economocally, through education, through freedom. You don’t get what u ask for just because its “right”. People are looking at their own financial situations and freedom and realizing they need to stand up for their rights. I hope….
I sure hope what you are saying is true … i pray it has nothing to do with the oil … we don’t need another occupation … i pray for the best
thank you … I LOVE your blog
Turkish President Abdullah Gul says the goal of NATO-led invasion of Libya is not “liberation of Libyan people,” warning against pursuing any hidden agenda. ….. whats happening in libya!
@hossam Sir with due respect — The humanitarian interests to the Libyan people is hard to envision. We can forget but history always record.
Look at Afghanistan and Iraq…trillion $ wars. Had we spent 10 billion each on infra structure, we could have won the hearts of people. more than 10 years of occupation…we had plenty of time resources and expertese to build roads and schools and industrial network plus railway tracks…that had generated jobs and created a middle class in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has upper ruling class and tribal leaders AND down trodden lowest class which is 80% of population…they eat and feed their family the day when they can find work on daily wages…they sleep with empty stomach the day when their labour is not required.
Whats the worth of 20 bil in 10 years in a multi-trillion dollar war…… that could have given them reasonable means to survive respectfully.
Other means of survival there are to join Taliban which is left wide open and I am sure intentionally. Believing in their sincerity is naive.
I’ve recently discovered your blog, and I can only shower you with praise. You are among the few who are so learned without a glaring agenda or bias, who has an honest disposition toward peace and accord among different cultures.
Your tremendous wealth of knowledge in religious scriptures is enviable.
Perhaps one of the less mentioned praiseworthy characteristics you have is an unashamed curiosity.
I mean this as no insult when I say that you appear to be beginning a long journey of learning about the true nature behind political and economic incentives in that region. All I will say about it is that there should be no shred of doubt that the US’s involvement in Libya is far from “humanitarian.”
A great resource for thorough analyses by well-intended academic political ‘demystifiers’ is counterpunch.org, among a few other sites.
On a side note, I respect your opinion a lot, and I was wondering if you have any familiarity with ourbeacon.com and/or Dr Shabbir Ahmed’s interpretation. If so, I’d like to know what you think of it.
Dr. Shabbir […] is a strong advocate of Quran alone…. Prophet’s prime job was to explain Quran… He thinks all Quran explained by Prophet is within Quran.
When Quran says “For believers the best example is life style of Prophet”…he thinks all life style of Prophet is enshrined in Quran.
He is against Prophet’s traditions [….]
[By way of explanation: AJ is talking here about the hadith — later reports of Muhammad’s life and practice — and the ongoing argument within Islam as to how much emphasis to place on them and how reliable they are. For AJ, they are ultra-reliable and an essential part of Islamic belief; for Shabbir, not. — LH]
Ms. Hazelton, I want to applaud you for your wonderful blog, for your wonderful work. I agree with your opinion about Libya completely.
The West has a phenomenally bad record in helping people to embrace democracy in the past 40 years. I understand why protesters in Syria, Libya, Egypt and Yemen want the West to intervene, but that doesn’t and shouldn’t give us permission to do so. We have example after example of how we ‘intervene’ wrong, no matter how noble or ignoble our intentions. We don’t leave places better off than we found them. It’s seems easy to make a bargain with the devil when you’re in pain, but you’ll pay for it later. Look at Iraq. Look at Afghanistan.
Dear Ms. Hazelton,
I don’t have to fully agree with you to extend my fulliest respect! You are a very inspiring person and humanity can never thank you enough for making us think on many levels, I really believe this does make the world a better place, ultimately.
I was very sorry to find that someone is using your name as a You Tube Channel, promoting zero tolerance in additions to other spcial poisons you actually warn of.
Good luck, and wishing you peaceful productive times.
Thanks Eddie — and yes, several fake Lesley Hazleton videos on YouTube, and YouTube stunningly unresponsive to complaints. So much for their ‘community standards.’