Sunday 6 November 2011

Libya and the Left: Benghazi and After

Guest post by Michael Bauble, expert on left wing thought

In March 2011, a massacre was averted in Libya - not an ordinary massacre, mind you, but a really nasty one, with an entire city being smashed and pounded to rubble with heavy weaponry and arbitrary execution of civilians and captured fighters by Gaddafi's thugs.

The Nato-led attack on Libya saved Benghazi from this fate, by smashing and pounding a different Libyan city to rubble with heavy weaponry and with arbitrary execution of civilians and captured fighters by rebel thugs instead.

This totally awesome outcome sent a clear message to other authoritarian governments - if you're going to intentionally rub out thousands of civilians in pursuit of political goals, don't start destroying heavily-populated urban areas around the ears of residents or empowering gangs of militia to crack down violently on ethnic minorities.

At least, not without first making sure that you ask the UN for a mandate to "protect civilians".

By authorising Nato to take action to "protect civilians" then looking on in horror as Nato helped to protect tens of thousands of Libyans to death, the UN recovered some of the legitimacy it previously lost for not allowing western nations to blow up whatever they like, whenever they like, for whatever reasons they like.

The Arab League would later protest that Nato air strikes exceeded the resolution's mandate, but nobody cares what a bunch of jumped-up sheikhs think about anything. If they were stupid enough to hand Nato a blank cheque for maximal violence, they should at least have had the decency to keep quiet, once Nato started blowing shit up.

In the United States, Dennis Kucinich pointed out that the president of the United States doesn't have the authority to just blow up whatever shit he likes, whenever he likes, for whatever reasons he likes. It's almost too easy to trot out the hoary old allegation that Dennis Kucinich was objectively pro-Gaddafi, so here goes...

Dennis Kucinich was objectively pro-Gaddafi, and also wants to give Gaddafi a big kiss on the lips and be his boyfriend and hold hands with him like a girl.

It was possible to oppose American intervention in Libya for legitimate reasons. One could point out that Nato traded the total destruction of one city for the destruction of another and empowered one gang of cold-blooded killers at the expense of another, but nobody should actually point this out.

If we're going to criticise the war, we should do it with some weak-ass objections that even the most cretinous Sensible Liberal can easily swat, and definitely not with substantive criticisms that don't have any easy answers.

From the outset, the American left adopted very traitorous and pro-tyranny positions, asking why we were so very upset about vicious crackdowns in Libya but were entirely content to watch other countries that we like killing the fuck out of their citizens without saying a word.

This is a difficult question to answer without honestly reassessing some very uncomfortable questions, so let's just say that it's all, like, complicated man; imply that anyone asking it is basically evil and then leave it at that.

After all, if an antiwar movement can't get behind an opportunistic assassination/regime change wheeze in which the side we're supporting is murdering civilians because of the colour of their skin, then it probably can't get behind any mad schemes of exemplary violence, and that's no fun for anyone, is it?

Instead of cheering for war, the left succumbed to that old chestnut Obama Derangement Syndrome - that crazed, hard-leftist belief that the President shouldn't export extreme violence to any nation on Earth, just because it seems like a good idea to him.

I am not insisting that support for Nato military action in Libya should have been a litmus test issue for the left.

I am simply saying that any leftist who didn't support it is a hideous, pro-Gaddafi cock-wrangler who should probably get out of my sight before I flip out, start bellowing cursewords and insults at the top of my voice and throwing tables around the room like the Incredible Hulk on a Jagermeister binge.

All we need to know on the left is that the US is involved in killing tens of thousands of people all over the Middle East and Africa for reasons that range from dubious to insane, and then we automatically know that the action is wrong.

For the left, knee-jerk opposition to America's retarded, ultraviolent and counter-productive military adventures should be opposed because they are American, and certainly not because we object to America's a track record of wiping out tens of thousands of people for no sane reason.

Ten years ago, Michael Walzer asked if there could be a "Decent Left". After ten years of constant mockery, it's clear that the time has come to put a new shade of lipstick on the Decent pig. Clearly, the reason why the Decent Left failed to troll everyone into buying their own dishonest, hacktacular politics is because we gave ourselves a silly name, and certainly not because we are dishonest and hacktacular.

I suggest the "Internationalist Left", by which I mean the lockstep-support-for-whatever-crazy-schemes-for-revolutionary-violence-the-American-government-fancies-left, although it's probably better if we pretend that it really means something about freedom from tyranny and humanitarianism. After all, it worked so very well the last time.

After Benghazi, the left has a difficult question to answer - Do you support the use of extreme violence in highly dangerous and unpredictable situations by politicians who openly lie to their citizens, or do you want to give Colonel Gaddafi's corpse a big cuddle like a girl?

Eh? EH?


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