3 March 2011

Timothy Garton Arse

"Libya's escalating drama reopens the case for liberal intervention" headlines his Guardian column. "Iraq gave it a bad name. Blair nearly killed it. But there are responsible versions of a much abused doctrine" chirps the sub-head. If you can be bothered, read the convoluted reasoning that follows. Some highlights
The other massive distortion in the debate about liberal interventionism is that the military actions now most closely associated with the term (Afghanistan, Iraq) were not really liberal at all – or, at least, they were not primarily liberal. Some of the justifications of them used liberal arguments, and some liberals supported these actions, but the core of the case was not liberal in the way that the west's military interventions in Bosnia (far too late), Sierra Leone and Kosovo genuinely were.
OK - so it's liberal interventionism when those intervened against are too small to fight back, but nasty neo-imperialism when they can. The following is a classic example of limp leftyism.
The main reason western forces invaded Afghanistan was because al-Qaida, then based in Afghanistan, had attacked the US. [1] The mission there soon crept to, or became mixed with, that of building a society in which, for example, women would not be treated as hooded slaves and chattels – a good liberal purpose from which the west is now quietly and shamefacedly retreating. But it is a safe bet that George Bush had not spared many thoughts for the oppressed women of Afghanistan before 9/11.[2] Iraq is a more complicated story. Here, motives such as frustration at the failure to catch Osama bin Laden, the desire to use US military superiority to overwhelming effect ("shock and awe"), and interest in Iraqi oil [3] – were mixed from the outset with a neocon agenda of spreading democracy, as an example to the whole region.[4]
  1. Yes - and? The liberal interventionist argument is that it is in the interest of the developed world to eradicate third world shit-holes precisely because of the spill-over effect.
  2. So what? If the effect was to bring about "a good liberal purpose", who gives a shit?
  3. Sigh - "Itsh about oil". Give it a resht. Was Saddam a murderous dictator and a threat to the stability of the region or not? If so, how can someone claiming to be a liberal interventionist argue against his necessarily military overthrow?
  4. And this was a bad idea why? Ooooh! I see! If it's neo-con, then the outcome doesn't matter. It must be bad, because that means the results cannot be "liberal". 
He ends by admitting that to impose a no-fly zone over Libya would necessarily involve bombing Libyan AD assets (which will certainly be positioned near schools, hospitals and mosques). So, he says, maybe not unless Kaddafi starts gassing his people. Well, what then? How is it worse to gas people than to rip them apart with high explosives?

Should they receive the permission of TG-A, the Americans are the only ones capable of doing anything military in Libya, so that would be Iraq all over again in the limp lefty world-view. Dear God, they make just anyone a professor these days.

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