don't be fooled: support the libyan revolution, oppose a no-fly zone

Progressive people are divided over whether to support a no-fly zone over Libya as a means of supporting the anti-Gadaffi revolution. The Libyan resistance is itself divided on this issue, so for many of us, it's difficult to know who to support.

If you're on the Avaaz mailing list, you've received an urgent request to speak out in favour. Anti-war activists, however, are lining up against.

I was surprised that Avaaz didn't have a more historic view, understanding the long history of Western nations supporting what appears to be a resistance movement, but is in fact a counter-revolutionary party friendly to Western interests. A no-fly zone will not support the Libyan people's revolution. It will ultimately strengthen Gaddafi - and kill Libyans.

John Hilary in The Guardian: Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya: Calls for a no-fly zone over Libya ignore the perils of intervention. Long-term solutions aren't as simple as the click of a mouse

Simon Jenkins, The Guardian: 'No-fly zone' is a euphemism for war. We'd be mad to try it: Cameron's urge to dust himself in military glory may be strong, but he should not interfere in the Libyan rebels' cause

Robert Fisk in The Independent: America's secret plan to arm Libya's rebels: Obama asks Saudis to airlift weapons into Benghazi

My friend Dr. J at your heart's on the left has a good summary of why people of peace and conscience should oppose a a no-fly zone. In short, a no-fly zone would kill Libyans, strengthen Gaddafi, undermine the Libyan revolution, provide a cover for US imperialism, and provide a cover for yet more US-led war.

Dr J: 5 reasons to oppose "no-fly zones" in Libya.


Anonymous said...

For anyone on the fence on this issue let us look at what history shows will happen. First the diplomatic no fly zone will be put into place (insert diplomatic logical fallacy here). Then you have the matter of enforcing that no fly zone. So this includes things like patrolling it. You send in planes to do this. One get's shot down. That is seen as an act of war to the U.S. and soon the battle cries reign in the news and backyards across the U.S. So, they begin "surgical strikes" to make way for troops easy clean up. The troops move into to find a decimated Libya. After months of searching and nasty fighting they find Ghadaffi and try him for war crimes. He is found guilty, of course. t Meanwhile the U.S. troops are still there" to maintain stability" while a Libya "transitions". Eventually the citizens of Libya realize they are being occupied and Anti-American forces began to crop up causing bloody guerrilla style warfare........If the U.S. wanted Ghadaffi gone and cared about the Libyan people, trust me when I say this "He WOULD be gone".

laura k said...

If the U.S. wanted Ghadaffi gone and cared about the Libyan people, trust me when I say this "He WOULD be gone".

And you don't even have to trust him. Just brush up on your history.

Thanks CHL :)

Kev said...

Once we militarize our response we run the very real risk of escalation, in fact the former Yugoslavia and Iraq show us that escalation is far more likely than not.

That's not to say that we shouldn't do everything possible, short of armed intervention, to assist the people of Libya.

allan said...

If the U.S. wanted Ghadaffi gone and cared about the Libyan people, trust me when I say this "He WOULD be gone".

That is exactly what I say when people talk about the porous US borders and what an impossible-to-solve problem illegal immigration is.

If the US truly wanted to secure its southern border, it could be done in a relative eyeblink. But the country, for myriad reasons, does not want to.

Sixth Estate said...

Lewis Mackenzie, who I normally don't look to for anti-military writing but whatever, had a really good piece on this in the Globe and Mail today.

Basically, he argues that even if Western politicians intervene with no imperialist intentions to begin with, they're going to get drawn into complete occupation, one step at a time. Once the aircraft are in place, they will feel they have to bomb the army to protect the opposition. Once they do that, they will feel they have to help guide the creation of a new government. Once they do that, they will need to send ground troops to provide security for the new regime. And so on. Basically, once you commit to a no fly zone, there's no easy way out.

The Mound of Sound said...

I totally support a military response only not from the West. Neighbouring Egypt has 240 modern F16s and a large force of M-1 tanks. It would be an afternoon's work for Egyptian forces to crater Gaddafi's runways, destroy his jets in their shelters and take out most of his tanks and artillery.

Once the firepower advantage is gone Gaddafi's own people would turn on him and his sons. They would have no other choice.

We Westerners, particularly the Americans, have no useful role to play in Libya's revolution.

Even "people of peace and conscience" need to face reality - Libyans are going to be killed either way and if Gaddafi isn't unseated it will be long and protracted and as ugly as it can get.

laura k said...

What a very sad thing to see someone refer to mass bloodshed as "an afternoon's work".

allan said...

What a very sad thing to see someone refer to mass bloodshed as "an afternoon's work".

You "need to face reality".

The Mound of Sound said...

Laura grow up. It's not "mass bloodshed" to take out airfields and armour. Putting an end to an otherwise protracted slaughter of civilians by surgically removing one side's heavy firepower advantage is how you can save lives. Any Kurd in northern Iraq can explain that if you can't grasp the point.

laura k said...

"Laura grow up."

MoS, we don't speak to each other like that here. Please be civil, or don't comment here. That's your only warning. Thank you.

Amy said...

I agree that this is a difficult issue, and I would hate to see more bloodshed and more war. I do not want military intervention, but I also do not want the world to sit by and let Qadafi slaughter the Libyan people. So what is the alternative? Certainly not diplomacy. Humanitarian aid? That seems inadequate.

I am not disagreeing with the views expressed here; I am honestly at a loss as to how else the world can stop this despot.

laura k said...

There has never been an air strike in history that has "take[n] out airfields and armour" only. I've heard that about every US military adventure for the last 30 years. Either it's just "the bad guys" or it's just the weapons or just the bad ruler. The wonder is that everyone on the left doesn't recognize US imperialism when they see it.

laura k said...

Amy, I understand and share your feelings.

When we ask, how can "we" stop it, we must also ask, who is "we"? It is never the intent of US military intervention to stop war or to aid a people's revolution, as you know.

Amy said...

By "we" I do not mean the US. I mean all decent human beings who care about the plight of other human beings. Of course, as individuals there is almost nothing we can do, so ultimately it comes down to the responses of governments, US and otherwise. Of course, the UN is useless. But what can the US, Canada, Great Britain, etc., etc., do? Orchestrate a coup against Qadafi? How do we fight force without force?

I certainly share your skepticism about US goals and means, but as I said, I am at a loss when it comes to realistic alternatives. This is not Vietnam or Iraq; this is a situation that calls for some response in order to protect the lives of millions of people. But what is that response? I wish I had an answer; I wish someone did.

Kev said...

Amy, I have struggled with this issue as well,going back and forth.

What tipped the scales for me is that whenever the west has brought "democracy" to a nation, it usually has resulted in the loss hundreds of thousands of additional lives and prolonged suffering.

allan said...

by surgically removing one side's heavy firepower advantage

I am incredulous that anyone who reads even a little bit of actual news, in 2011, still buys into the farce of "smart" bombs and weapons.

Amy said...

I certainly agree that US (and other nation's) interventions have usually resulted in disaster for all involved. But then do we just sit on our hands and let the Libyan people fight on their own? Is that the best answer?

I am not trying to be a smartass here; I am truly confused. Is no action better than the wrong action? Maybe it is. But the world tried that with Hitler, and millions of people ended up being murdered. In the end only self-interest motivated the countries of the world to step in and stop that mad man. Perhaps self-interest is ugly, but I am not sure inaction is any more honorable.

laura k said...

I'm not arguing that self-interest is ugly. I'm arguing that self-interest will lead to much more bloodshed and to occupation, rather than the Libyan people building the country that they want. Self-interest in this case is a three-letter word.

I share your horror. Watching such bloodshed, who can argue for neutrality? Neutrality is surely evil. We have to look for ways to support the resistance. Bombs and air strikes won't do that.

I understand you're not arguing for war. I'm saying this generally.

laura k said...

From Simon Jenkins, above:

There is no point is repeating that Libya is not our country or our business. It was always going to be bloody one day. I find it incredible that Labour ministers, as they simpered in Gaddafi's presence, could have thought he would lie down like a lamb should his people rise against him. But unless we redefine words, he is not committing genocide and his brutality is hardly exceptional. If the rebels win it should be their victory, emerging from a new balance of power inside Libya. If they fail, they must fight another day. There is no good reason for us to intervene. However embattled they feel, Obama and Cameron should find other paths to glory.

Amy said...

OK, that is helpful. Now I just need help finding ways that we, meaning people individually as well as nations, can support the Libyan people and the resistance without getting involved militarily. Is that financial aid? Humanitarian aid? Speaking out against Qadafi? How else can the world help without military intervention?

Thanks for helping me struggle with this!

Kev said...

What happened with Hitler is a far cry from what is being advocated here today. The world tried to appease Hitler allowing him to invade other nations and signing pacts with him.

We all agree that Gaddafi must be removed, the question is how do we accomplish that with the least amount of suffering.

laura k said...

It's a limited menu of options, to be sure. Freezing assets, humanitarian and arms aids if we knew it went directly to rebel forces (I am all for helping the resistance fight back), and any kind of covert assistance from other resistance movements in the region itself - those are some of the only things we can do, that I know of.

Speaking out, certainly - which to me means speaking out against Western military intervention.

The Mound of Sound said...

Actually Allan, smart weapons are very effective when used properly - as strictly battlefield weapons. Our side has repeatedly used them improperly, notably in civilian areas.

If you learn about Gaddafi's military capabilities you'll find that not only are they antiquated but they're also concentrated in legitimate - and very vulnerable - military installations.

A number of times I have written about the misuse of precision guided munitions. You can guide a 2,000 pound aerial bomb quite accurately to its target but there is nothing precise about its lethal blast effect which can extend for hundreds of feet. You might recall that the US dropped two of these weapons in a crowded Baghdad market acting on a tip that Saddam was there.

It is an entirely different matter when these types of weapons are employed against a military airfield or an exposed armoured column.

Gaddafi can keep hiring gunmen from Chad and elsewhere but he cannot replace his tanks, his artillery, his helos or his jets. Without those he cannot continue to flood Libyan hospitals with his wounded countrymen.

laura k said...

Actually Allan, smart weapons are very effective when used properly - as strictly battlefield weapons.

You are delusional.

Our side has repeatedly used them improperly, notably in civilian areas.

Who on earth is OUR side????

On this blog, "our side" is the people who want peace and justice. Everyone who wants war, no matter what flag they fly, is the other side.

A number of times I have written about the misuse of precision guided munitions.

Oh have you now. I'm sure that is a great comfort to all the Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis and others who have been killed by such use and misuse.

MoS, if you're about to make some kind of argument for the Global War Of Terror, please do so elsewhere.

allan said...

When is some well-armed country going to say that Obama has terrorized too much of the world while neglecting the pain and poverty of a growing number of his people (many of whom die needless deaths for lack of even basic care) and finally invade the US for fuck's sake? Unleash some surgical strikes on the military bases and training camps and recruitment offices throughout the US and "free" the voiceless people in that country and allow them the opportunity to live under something that actually resembles a democracy? Sure, it might take more than an afternoon, but doing it this way will be a lot less protracted and ugly than the alternative. Obama will not be able to quickly restore the tanks and missles and he will be unable to flood Middle Eastern hospitals with both his wounded countrymen and the innocent people who have gotten in the way.

impudent strumpet said...

Anyone know on what legal basis a no-fly zone can be imposed on another country's domestic aviation, if there is a legal basis?

Sixth Estate said...

Impudent Strumpet -- Going into a country and shooting down planes or bombing airfields is just what it sounds like: an act of war. Under international law it is illegal to start a war. However, the Security Council can authorize any war as a UN action. So a Security Council resolution would be a legal grounds for a no fly zone.

I realize I'm returning to a conversation midstream, but I'm going to return to my point from this morning: it's never going to be "only" a no fly zone, "only" surgical strikes against the army, "only" supporting the opposition, "only" providing security for a transition government... see where this goes?

There are a hundred dictatorships in the world. Many of them repress their citizens on a daily basis. Many of those are our allies. Yes, what's happening now is brutal, but we're drawing a pretty convenient and arbitrary line for ourselves if we say there's one here that Gadhafi has crossed but everything else we do (and don't do) to aid dictators is okay. There is a gradually shrinking window during which Western economic clout is still great enough for this threat to be meaningful.

We need to stop allowing our companies to do business supporting dictatorial regimes (and I specifically mean Canada here). We need to refuse to sell arms to them. And when their people rise up, we need to encourage them. That's it. We would be in much less of a moral quandary now if our position was that we would not do business with dictatorial regimes, ever.

deang said...

As always, Noam Chomsky has been keeping up with developments and has an invaluable take on "what the West should do" about Libya in this BBC interview.

It's a long interview, but the relevant part starts around the 6:20 mark and ends about 11:50, with discussion of a solution beginning at about 9:05. He says that the region's people do not want the West involved at present, given our bloody history in the region, and that representatives from countries that the people of the region respect, like Brazil and Turkey, are talking about mediating in what is essentially a Libyan civil war.

laura k said...

Thanks, everybody. Excellent stuff.

Sixth Estate, I haven't seen you before, but your input is very welcome here.