Quite a few of my friends and family are supporting the current conflict in Libya – a war I am strongly opposed to. We politely disagree on the rationale for war and respect each others views without resorting to moral judgments about each others character. I do not for one second believe that they are supporting military action out of any desire to occupy another country, take their oil, or create more military bases. They are watching Gaddafi kill thousands of people and would like to do something to alleviate the unnecessary suffering. I too would like to see an end to the killing and would like nothing more than to see Gaddafi thrown in jail, bankrupted and forgotten about. I just do not believe it is our place to police a region in which we have an awful track record of imperial violence, theft and serious mismanagement.
Many pro war commentators are deriding those with anti war views insinuating they are somehow in favor of Gaddafi’s abhorrent violence against his own people. Glenn Greenwald cites The New Republic‘s John Judis who believes anyone opposed to war must prefer that ‘Gangs of mercenaries, financed by the country’s oil wealth, conduct a bloodbath against Muammar Qaddafi’s many opponents,’ and ‘The movement toward democratization in the Arab world — which has spread from Tunisia to Bahrain, and now includes such unlikely locales as Syria — be dealt an enormous setback through the survival of one of region’s most notorious autocrats’.
Greenwald counters that this reasoning is completely nonsensical from a historical perspective:
What I cannot understand at all is how people are willing to believe that the U.S. Government is deploying its military and fighting this war because, out of abundant humanitarianism, it simply cannot abide internal repression, tyranny and violence against one’s own citizens. This is the same government that enthusiastically supports and props up regimes around the world that do exactly that, and that have done exactly that for decades.
By all accounts, one of the prime administration advocates for this war was Hillary Clinton; she’s the same person who, just two years ago, said this about the torture-loving Egyptian dictator: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.” They’re the same people overseeing multiple wars that routinely result in all sorts of atrocities. They are winking and nodding to their Yemeni, Bahrani and Saudi friends who are doing very similar things to what Gadaffi is doing, albeit (for now) on a smaller scale. They just all suddenly woke up one day and decided to wage war in an oil-rich Muslim nation because they just can’t stand idly by and tolerate internal repression and violence against civilians? Please.
Again, this isn’t to knock the motives of people like John Judis, but it’s pretty clear that their reasoning is deeply flawed.
Saddam Hussein carried out torture and murder on a far greater scale than Gaddafi and in retrospect, those who opposed the US led invasion were ultimately right, a fact many who cheerled the war have conceded. At the time, those opposed were ridiculed for being peaceniks, appeasers and supporters of the ‘baby killing’ Saddam. I fear that again, we are sleep walking into another conflict that will have unforeseen humanitarian and economic consequences, most of which will not be good. Those who are banging the drums for war now may well be penning articles explaining their rash decision in the near future as the region plummets further into chaos and the West bankrolls another conflict it cannot afford.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.