Look, I don’t think Iraq and Libya are the same situation or have identical sets of circumstances. I do think that the only legal rationale for either action is the pretty standard assumption that once your regime starts killing civilians, your regime loses the sheen and protection of an observed sovereignty among the nations. It’s the closest thing to international common law we have.
Related: Does it feel to anyone else like as soon as President Obama took office the media stopped reporting very much about Iraq? Everyone keeps saying Afghanistan has become Obama’s war, but you just don’t hear very much about Iraq, or about protests and calls to hasten the official end of our presence there. You hear bits and pieces, you hear reports, but it’s not like it was. I don’t have anything else to say about that, really.
In my heart, I feel like striking military targets in Libya to impede government forces from killing people is a good thing, but let’s not forget that the Libyan resistance is not unarmed. They’re underarmed, to be sure (there’s no Bill of Rights in Libya), and yes, the government fired first. The sham regime lost any lingering claim to sovereignty it had that day, which was weeks ago. It’s simply just the case today that in attacking Libya now, we’re not only protecting peaceful protesters. We’re also aiding an armed resistance. The armed resistance is acting in response to its unjust treatment by the regime in the only way that makes any rational sense.
I know a lot of people who believe in total pacifism. People who believe that nations and oppressed groups can collectively turn the other cheek when their civil disobedience is met with murder as a matter of national political policy. Most of these people are Americans who will never really have to worry about choosing between ideology/Anabaptist piety and protecting their families from agents of the government. Some of these people tell me that the cross is God’s sign that violence is not overcome by violence, and most (not all) of these people live in relative safety. At any rate, we Americans, we French, we British, most of us, anyway, have the absolute privilege of being morally and spiritually vexed. People living through it need to do just that, and they need our prayers, our support, our solidarity. Figure out what that means for you. Then do it.
4 thoughts on “Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq; Qoheleth, Pacifism, Action.”
On the one hand, I’ve become a non-interventionist.
On the other hand, when I hear the people of Libya, (and also recently Egypt) interviewed on the radio asking “Where is the United States? Why aren’t they here to save us? When will they come and rescue us from our government?”
Well, it does make me stop and think…
Yes. And it’s also shitty timing, quite frankly, for the US to be non-interventionist by policy. I saw one Libyan leader saying “if the US doesn’t help us now, it would prove once and for all that they’re only interested in helping Arabs when it’s about American national interests and not when it’s about our democracy.” Even though we’re in a different place, nationally, than we were in 2003, I don’t think the bulk of the nation is non-interventionist at heart…especially because of the kinds of questions from people on the ground that you bring up. We have the luxury of being vexed, but we also have to do something.
News about Iraq is thin on the ground too in the UK. We’ve had our enquiries and they have told us nothing we didn’t know. The latest situation in North Africa is particularly embarrassing for the West (and especially Britain in this case) given that we have been selling arms and training military personnel for years now. In oppressive dictatorships who on Earth did we think they , Gaddafi et al, were going to use these weapons and skills on but their own people ? ! So now we have to wade in and stop it. Our successive governments should hang their heads in shame. But they won’t. They’ll conveniently sweep the arms trading under the carpet. The parallels with Iraq and Saddam Hussein’s regime are mind-numbing . 80’s – arm him/ 90’s Gulf War 1 / 00’s Gulf War 2. …….and , we have the gall to ride on our white charger and pick our fights. So no help for the slaughtered of Bahrain or Yemen !………..and let’s give it fancy name too….Odyssey Dawn……….hypocracy makes me sick !
Passionately and insightfully stated, Mike. Thank you. And thank for bringing a UK perspective. Just today, I see on the news new abuse stories coming from Afghanistan, stories of unrest and protest in Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia. This is so much more widespread than we’re being shown, or in some cases, than we’re willing to see.