Monday, 14 March 2011

Libya and military intervention

The Arab League has called upon the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. The British and French governments have made the same call previously, only to be opposed by the US and EU. All of which plays into a fractious debate over military intervention in the region.

The Libyan rebels have made it clear that they want a no-fly zone imposed, and that alone should be reason enough to support the proposal. At the same time, their capture and expulsion of SAS troops marks an explicit rejection of intervention on the ground. Having no air power, they seek help to curtail Gaddafi's advantage over them, but at the same time want to win the war for themselves rather than play second fiddle to foreign interests. Straightforward, you might think, and fair enough.

Moreover, on the latter point, I'll draw people's attention once again to Adam Ford's thorough analysis of the relationship between Gaddafi and oil interests.

As he concludes;
If some combination of western forces are unleashed on Libya, it will be to guarantee that the oil keeps flowing to Europe. Though it would no doubt be dressed up as a humanitarian intervention, humanitarian concerns would be irrelevance compared to the dollar, and attempts to maintain US hegemony in the area.
This is the simple truth masked by the common narrative of "our efforts to spread democracy." It tells us exactly why we will never see intervention "at the beck and call of the rebels," as Carl Packman hopes for.

Instead, what we will see is the West take its usual pragmatic attitude. There are no good guys or bad guys, only the "national interest," which dictates when it becomes necessary to switch allegiances. Whether democracy or dictatorship is preferable goes on which best serves the interest of the ruling class.

The other point in this debate, of course, is that those of us musing on blogs or in newspaper articles are not discussing what "we" should do. We are discussing what the state should do. As we are discussing it whilst in no position to influence government policy and (in my case) from the understanding that said policy has to reflect the rough consensus of the elites rather than popular will anyway, it is something of a moot point.

States will always act as they need to in order to serve the power behind them. The masses will combine when they wish to break free of that power and act for themselves. Rather than speculating on the power plays of the ruling classes and presuming benevolent motives that aren't there, we should be taking the side and agitating in the interest of ordinary people. Everywhere. Always.