The “we must do something in Libya” brigade too keen to launch war

They’re everywhere at the moment. Hawks and so-called doves eager to show that butcher Gaddafi a lesson. How dare you massacre your own people (er, with Western-supplied weapons, but let’s not focus on such details)?

Tonight’s ABC TV Q & A program featured five guests who all backed war against Libya. They all spoke in generalities and had absolutely no idea who the West was backing over there or the real purpose of the conflict. Putting aside the fact that the show didn’t feature even one critical perspective on the conflict, it’s a sad reflection on public debate that both conservatives and a leading Greens MP all mouth from the same song-sheet; attack now and ask questions later.

To be sure, military intervention isn’t a black and white question (Monday’s Guardian editorial outlines the issues) but the speed with which even the “liberal” press (here’s Britain’s Independent editorial) are endorsing the supposedly humanitarian reasons behind the war are revealing. This is really about Libyan civilians? Or geo-strategic posturing at a time when Western influence in the Muslim world is declining? Or securing oil reserves? Perhaps it’s really all about Bosnia. And American hypocrisy is startling (but unsurprising). And what about the lack of US Congressional approval? Is Barack Obama simply a king who issues order?

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown explains in the Independent the kind of ethical, moral and political decisions behind the new Arab war:

Arab bloggers are totally sceptical and some furious that the UN and Arab League has validated what is an oil grab by interested, over-armed nations. It is all to do with fuel security – nothing, they say, NOTHING to do with human rights and safeguarding civilians. I believe there is some honourable intent in the battle against Gaddafi but behind that only big, big greed. My ambiguity thus only multiplies.

Look also at who are the people most excited, nay delirious, as the skies over Libya turn black and orange? Worse than tabloid cowboys waving their patriotic guns are fanatical “liberal imperialists” – excitable journalists, think-tank warriors wanting action, Foreign Office wonks, horribly hubristic commentators – jumping at any chance to catch a conflict and bend it to Western will and control. The failure of Iraq, instead of chastening them, has made them frantic for one that will bring glorious victory. M. Junaid Levesque-Alam, an astute observer of the modern Muslim world, blogs: “Some Western pundits have started exercising their shoulders to once again take up the White Man’s Burden.” Read the well-honed thoughts of ex- British diplomat Robert Cooper and you understand how they long to return to a colonial world order with a modern twist.

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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