Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hmmmm ... I find myself feeling ... how shall I put it? ... "positive" that UK, French and US militaries are attacking Libya. Thank heavens we're going to save the poor idealistic, freedom loving, twitter / facebook revolutionaries from being slaughtered by the evil dictator.

And then I wonder ... huh? UK, French and US militaries attacking an oil-producing Arab country? And I'm feeling positive? Have I just uncritically imbibed several weeks of propaganda without noticing it?

What do readers of this blog think? Is this a justified use of force by the West? A war to actually support? Or is it just another scam? I really am pulled in two directions on this one.


John Powers said...

When it comes to foreign policy, I just don't have the chops for it. My opinions often are as much about gut feelings than reason. Ah, but like everyone I come up with reasons.

I opposed the war on Afghanistan. My reason boiled down to "we don't have a dog in this fight." But people here in the USA seemed intent on that one and I just didn't argue about it much. However when it came to the prospect of war in Iraq I was strongly against it no matter what people were saying.

Reading the realists disparage the Libyan war I finally get why what I thought were realist reasons against the Iraq War, especially around the 2004 election, seemed offensive to people. They needed reasons for the war to be right.

When it comes to Qadhafi I want reasons for the war to be right. My opinion is that his rule has caused grave harm especially in many African countries other than Libya.

But my head tells me that Obama's decision is a big mess. Pax American is crumbling in the region. I get the sense that Obama wants a reboot returning the region to "the same as it ever was" with perhaps a new cast. There seems little prospect of that.

Reappraising the US role in the region is important. I need to see other efforts to adjust American policy to begin to make sense of what changes. Israel/ Palestine festers with little hope of positive change in American policy.

Deeply conflicted about Libya. On balance it seems a messy mistake and a prelude to even messier mistakes on the part of the USA going forward.

John Powers said...

Atrios at the blog Eschaton wrote about Americans and Libya:

"When there's a Problem somewhere out in the world, we kinda sorta hope that America is like Superman and can go take care of it, but we also suspect that we aren't actually an all-powerful force capable of handling just about any problem. So quickly we go from "do something" to "oh shit we're doing something."

You ask whether you've uncritically in propaganda and point to Facebook and Twitter. That brings to mind John Robb's Global Guerrillas and "networked tribes."

Propaganda suggests buying into a narrative. Clearly social media is being used by the US military precisely with a network-centric view. But I haven't seen Libya discussed from a network-centric policy perspective. The standard schools of foreign policy don't seem to be able to accommodate a network perspective well.

The primary criticism of the response to Libya is that it will result in stalemate. Perhaps with a network-centric view that outcome might be understood differently.

John Powers said...

My comments seem dumb to me and I don't feel much smarter a few days later. This discussion at Zunguzungu seemed enlightening to me.

Composing said...

@kaunda stop putting yourself down!

That's an awesome link too. Lot of food for thought.

John Powers said...

What I want in my gut are politics that make space for ordinary people. Of course I know my gut is blind, but that blindness goes for people who are really knowledgeable too.

Thinking about the Liberian Civil War makes my gut sink far out of proportion to what I know. More than anything else it was Qaddafi's support of Charles Taylor that makes me despise him. I still come across American leftists praising Qaddafi as a tireless supporter of the people's revolution; a gut-level call that on my gut-level makes my stomach turn.

I hate war because it always seems to salt the Earth depriving ordinary people space. Probably all politics is corrupt, but I still cling to the hope the process could bend towards justice.

A non sequitur, Obama visited Archbishop Oscar Romero's grave in El Salvador on the 31st anniversary of Romero's assassination.

I've had it up to my neck with Obama. But politics is strange: Romero was an oligarch who became a champion for ordinary folk. Counter his realist advisors Libya was Obama's call. There are many reasons to be cynical about that call. I can't be so cynical to think there can never be any solidarity among ordinary people. Inventing common interest among people is harder than being right.