Tuesday, March 22, 2011


So people have been asking what I think about the Libya situation. A lot of "liberals" and "leftists" are upset with the Obama administration for getting the U.S. involved in yet another military action. A lot of my friends, and people I don't know but admire, don't believe military force is ever warranted.

But I'm not one of them.

I wrote an anti-Iraq war poem ( called "MARCH 18, 2003") before that war even started, finishing it on the eve of our invasion of Iraq. In it I foretold a lot of what would happen in that war and referred to a lot of the history of the U.S. using force, often coupled with deception, to protect the interests of corporations and industries and those whose wealth depended on them.

I was an anti-Viet Nam activist and an anti-the-first-Gulf War activist as well as the latest. And war certainly seems a lousy solution to the world's problems most of the time, and most of the time it is. But sometimes force is necessary to stop another force bent on wiping out an entire tribe (as in Rwanda) or generation of men (as in Bosnia) etc.

In one of the readings I gave of that anti-Iraq War poem several years ago, I shared the bill with the late Howard Zinn. In the Q&A discussion afterwards I disagreed with him about whether war was ever necessary. I totally agreed with, and still do, his anti-war philosophy, but when mass murder is being carried out I think force is justified to stop it, as in the case of Nazi Germany.

Now obviously the protestors being shot in Bahrain and Yemen are just as deserving of life and liberty as the Egyptians and Tunisians and Libyans. And I am sorry the Obama administration hasn't condemned the regime in Bahrain, as well as Saudi Arabia for it's part in putting down the demonstrations in Bahrain, including the killing of protestors.

But it's clear that the tribal forces at work in Libya, and the ruthlessness of Ghaddaffi and some of his sons and cohorts, was leading to the strong probability of mass killing when their forces took over the main rebel stronghold.

Those opposed to the Libyan regime had already tried peaceful protest and been met with murder, kidnapping, torture and the rest, and when they took up arms it was clear that they had the support of a lot of their countrymen and women, or at least their fellow tribesmen and women. But no matter their popularity, their defiance of a regime that had the military might to squash them was leading to the "no mercy" massacre Ghadaffi himself said was coming.

I believe that Obama literally felt like he couldn't live with a Rwandan or Bosnian size mass murder that he might have been able to prevent. So his administration worked hard to convince not only European partners to join in and in some cases take the initiative (the French were already pushing for that) but also to get the Arab League to sign on (no matter how reluctant some in that coalition may be now).

I've heard and watched all the talking heads complain that there's no end-game strategy for what might replace the old regime in Libya, or what a divided Libya might look like, or what will happen if Ghadaffi, or his sons, decide to keep fighting for as long as they can and it's either a stand off or a prolonged civil war. And they're right, there is no way of knowing this. But in my experience and reading of history, there rarely is. The future almost always surprises us, even when it turns out the way we thought it would.

The fact still remains, what looked like an imminent massacre of a large part of the Libyan population has been avoided. Deaths are still occurring on both sides—including "innocent civilians" (a phrase that obviously has some real meaning but doesn't diminish the seriousness of any death)—but there is little doubt in my mind that a lot fewer are occurring than would be had Obama not taken the initiative in getting the U.N. resolution passed and convinced the Arab League to sign on to it.

I think many on the left who are criticizing Obama are justified from their perspective, but I'm not one of them. And I think those on the right who are criticizing him—either for not doing enough soon enough (Palin, Newt, et.al.) or for giving too much power to others (the French especially, how the right hates the French except when it comes to nuclear power) etc.—are being hypocritical, as usual.

They supported Reagan when he bombed Ghaddaffi and invaded Grenada and Bush/Cheney when they invaded Iraq, for reasons a lot less humanitarian and consistent with our nation's stated goals—no matter how erratically we live up to them—than Obama's mission in Libya. So, that's (partly) what I think.

1 comment:

War = Peace said...

Yeah, and he's doing so much for American Indians too.