Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oceania Has Always Been at War with Eurasia

Another spurious coalition has attacked Libya. Justin Elliott writes at Salon:

President Obama, in what was obviously a carefully choreographed move, did not himself announce the beginning of the bombing. Indeed, when the news was announced by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, Obama was on an uncanceled trip to Brazil.

Obama's brief statement from Brasilia referred to a "broad coalition" that "brings together many of our European and Arab partners." He said he had authorized "military action in Libya in support of an international effort." Obama used the words "international" and "coalition" a total of ten times in a statement that lasted just three minutes.

The grandstanding was left to Sarkozy, who had ordered French planes to make the first flights over Libya -- before U.S. aircraft got involved. "Along with our Arab, European and North American partners, France has decided to play its part before history," he said.

But strikes by over 100 American cruise missiles quickly followed the French action, and early Sunday morning a slew of American planes -- including B2s, F-15s, F-16s, Navy EA-18G electronic warfare planes and Marine attack jets, according to the AP -- bombed Libya. It's not clear whether any Arab nations -- some of which supported the Security council resolution -- have contributed military support at this point.

A hundred cruise missiles, then bombing by aircraft, will almost certainly mean lots of civilian casualties. But it's not our fault, it's Qaddafi's. Though there are differences between this invasion and Bush's invasion of Iraq, there are also similarities, as Glenn Greenwald points out: instead of ginned-up panic about a threat to our shores,
purported humanitarian goals have taken center stage now (though humanitarian appeals -- rape rooms, mass graves, chemical attacks on his own people, and sadistic sons!! -- were also prominently featured in 2003 and in virtually every other war ever started).
But if we care so much about Libyans groaning under a merciless dictator, why don't we care about, say, Bahrainis under attack by a Saudi-UAE coalition? We don't, of course.

Linking to a debate at National Review Online between neocon Paul Wolfowitz and George Will, RWA1 commented on Facebook, "This is an issue without an obvious right and wrong. The burden of empire is becoming onerous, albeit Qaddafi is pretty flaky and unpredicrtable" [sic]. I sympathize just a bit. RWA1 certainly doesn't want to be an apologist for Qaddafy -- like me, he's old enough to remember when Qaddafy was an official enemy -- but on the other hand, Qaddafy was welcomed back to the brotherhood of nations by a Republican administration. (It's so hard sometimes to remember whether we're at war or at peace with Eastasia this week!) And though Obama so far seems to have Republican support for this attack, it's unthinkable for an old-school Republican like RWA1 to endorse a war waged by a Democratic President. (It seems unfair that this should be so, since Democrats are almost always willing to endorse wars waged by Republican Presidents. But life is unfair.)

Will still advocates a "no-fly zone" in Libya, apparently unaware that a no-fly zone is a military intervention, indeed an act of war. How it would differ from his Rand-like yammering that the US has "intervened in a tribal society in a civil war", I don't know. It's kind of fun to watch Wolfowitz trying to split hairs.
“One of the things that makes this situation so unique is the monstrous quality of the Tripoli regime, the monstrous quality of Qaddafi and his sons. I know people say, ‘What about Bahrain? What about Yemen?’ This is a totally different case, where a man is actually slaughtering his own people, has no regard for his own people, and uses mercenaries to kill them. It is a unique case and it is being watched around the Arab world.”
Libya is not at all "a totally different case" from Bahrain, for example, where the monarch is actually slaughtering his own people, has no regard for his own people, and uses Saudi and UAE mercenaries to kill them. For that matter, the US has enthusiastically trained police, military, and mercenaries to kill and torture in their own countries many times in my lifetime alone.

And I have to link to this totally deranged comment, which, from what I know of him, RWA probably agrees with. It's the kind of reality-free bluster that's much beloved of people who've never lifted a weapon in their lives, and never will, but don't mind sending others to commit the butchery in their place. For example, his closing qualification:
This also includes not supporting dictators, especially when theres' no USSR for them to go to instead anymore. If we'd have instituted this foreign policy when the Berlin Wall fell, how much better off would we be today?
The commenter's program (first principle: "We drill here, now, and everywhere so that the oil supply issue is moot") definitely includes supporting dictators, which was a major part of US policy before and after the Berlin Wall fell, partly to get access to the oil supply or to any other resources the US wanted. If we'd instituted this foreign policy in 1989, we'd be more or less where we are today. Not surprising, because what the commenter recommends is a cartoon version of what US foreign policy is.

I don't agree that there's "no obvious right or wrong" with regard to Libya. I think that the US-led and -directed attack is wrong, and will probably undermine the popular resistance in Libya. I don't think that the US (or France or England, let alone the Arab League) wants democracy in Libya, any more than it wants democracy in Egypt. We seem to have failed to block it in Egypt, for now at least, but we can still save Libya and Bahrain.

By the way, Salon also posted an appalling, sycophantic AP account of Obama's visit to Brazil. "And on Sunday, he was determined to be with his family, get among the people and feel the culture." What a man.