Obama in Libya: Why Intervention is Good

Posted: March 29, 2011 by Zeddington in Libya, Middle East
Tags: , , , , , , ,

No, you won’t find many blog posts like this one from me. The US has a long history of meddling in the affairs of other nations for its own national interest, without regard to the interest of the nation in question. So it is natural that, in the US’ latest intervention in Libya, most of those on the left of the spectrum are understandably ready to criticize Obama.

I have some sympathy for the man, as it seems like he just can’t win this time around. On the left, the criticism is that the US cannot and should not intervene wherever they feel fit. Justifications on the ground of humanitarianism are scorned – America does not have a reputation for that. Liberals remember the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and are justifiably suspicious about this latest action in Libya.

On the other hand, those on the right have and will criticize Obama for “dragging America into another war” when there are domestic considerations, and budgetary concerns. America can’t afford to save these people, let them solve their own problems, they say.

So I find myself in the strange position of having to defend him. On the left they are suspicious of US imperialism: the Arab League was against this, the African Union was against this, and the UN vote wasn’t fair/representative. Well, what about the Libyans? What do they want? Everyone seems to have forgotten about them. Every single Libyan I’ve spoken to (admittedly, not many) has said that they are thankful that Obama ordered military action. If it weren’t for the airstrikes, Bengazi would have fallen, and that would have been that. There would have been a massacre.

There is value in humanitarianism, we must not forget that. The UN is too weak an organization to do it, and so it falls to the US (unfortunately). As uncomfortable as the idea is in my head, I can’t help but feel that Obama acted in the interests of the Libyan people before the US. There will be benefits to the US of a non-Gaddafi Libya, of course, but that is secondary. Regime change wasn’t a stated motive. The US is eager to hand control to NATO and other allies, rather than get stuck in. No ground troops. This is clearly not Afghanistan – a war waged in revenge, without a clear strategy, or Iraq – a very cynical war fought entirely for the greed and power. I believe this really is a reluctant intervention which the US has no intention of being involved in for very long, almost entirely for humanitarian purposes.

Further, comparisons with Bahrain and Yemen are incorrect. In Yemen, there is some negotiation going on, and while there is violence, there seems to be some progress being made internally. In Bahrain, unfortunately the Saudi and UAE armies went it, a grave turn of events, but again the level of violence was nothing like Libya. Crucially, the Bahraini and Yemeni leadership did not threaten to massacre their people, did not compare them to rats, did not urge them to take to the streets to slaughter the opposition. Those countries are not approaching civil war, and no massacres are on the brink of taking place.

Personally I found Obama’s speech to be a good one. It laid out the processes that took place and his intentions quite well. Click here to see it.

Juan Cole writes an excellent ‘Open Letter to the Left‘ on his blog. Do read it. He goes into a lot more depth than I possibly could in this hastily written, badly edited blogpost, and makes the case a lot better than I do. He’s also on Democracy Now debating the Libya issue (Part 1 and Part 2 here).

Finally, this excellent interview on The Daily Show with Dr. Mansour O. Al-Kikhia, another Libyan who supports the intervention. Watch it (and enjoy his energy!). I don’t know if he’s closely related to this Mansour Kikhia, disappeared by Gaddafi years ago, and he makes no mention of it.

Until next time.

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