Political Promise

Libyan Military Intervention? No Thank You.

In Uncategorized on March 21, 2011 at 8:00 am

As we continue our series on the crisis in Libya, John Clough says “leave Libya to the Libyans”.

You’ve probably all heard the story of the man who helped the butterfly out of its cocoon too early and as a result, that butterfly never grew into the beautiful creature it could have been, had it fought its way out on its own steam. This is what I think of when I think of the west’s habitual intervention in the Middle East. We see their strife, and we think that if we force our ‘democratic’ ways on them, it will make them better. But it does the direct opposite.

If you’re helping a young child out with their homework, the worst thing you can do is just give them all the answers. If they don’t get the chance to work it out for themselves, then they will never really learn, and will fail as an individual. More to the point, the answers you give them may in themselves be fundamentally flawed. This applies in the same way when looking at ‘underdeveloped’ countries such as Libya. If we tell them how to run their country instead of allowing them to work it out for themselves, it can never, ever work. It will just cause an even bigger problem further down the line.

Despite this, the western world is naive enough to assume that every country in the world would love to be like them. Moreover they see it as their responsibility to force westernised democracy down the throats of people who they think must be willing to take it. Our democratic and political system has taken centuries to develop, and it is still – in my opinion – in its early stages. We cannot, then, expect these countries who have never experienced a democracy, let alone a ‘free and fair’ democracy, to simply function with one straight away, and it is not our responsibility to ensure that they do.

From a purely economic perspective, military action is simply unjustifiable. Everything within the UK seems to be facing some cut or another, and yet seemingly without any consideration of the monetary implications of bombing a country for what is likely to be a prolonged period of time, we dive right into Libya before it’s even passed through the commons. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cameron was actually looking forward to the news that a few of our brave pilots have been killed by Gaddafi’s forces, to give him an excuse to send in the ground troops. The money blindly spent at war would more than pay everyone’s tuition fees indefinitely, and the pitiful amount of oil we may get in return for ‘liberating’ Libya will only be just about enough to cover the costs of the aviation fuel wasted on the long distance bombing runs that the RAF planes will be operating on.

Furthermore, there is the issue of the dozens of other oppressive autocratic nations, which our Government seem to be ignoring. Are we going to spend billions there too? At what point are we to call it a day? There is no clear answers being given, and that is very concerning news indeed. The only future I can see of this action is Tripoli and Benghazi being razed to the ground by those who fight in the name of ‘peace’, in the same way that Baghdad and Kabul have been. This is not our war, and we have no right to make it our own. When the battle is done and they are ready for democracy, then they can ask for our advice, but until then, leave Libya to Libyans.

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  1. I realise this may come as a shock, but some people, my self included, believe that the UK should show something called principles, and defend them.

    But why bother intervening to stop a massacre when it would cost us too much or deprive the libyans of a chance to learn?

    How terribly arrogant.

  2. The military intervention in Libya is not one of democracy-implementation but instead a UN mandated (article 43 of the UN charter means that the House of Commons has no say in the matter) humanitarian exercise to prevent war crimes. While I agree that intervention has not always been a successful recourse, making an ‘economic argument’ is clearly a reductively polemical stance for you to have taken.

    The argument you essentially make is that you would rather tens of thousands of Libyan rebels, who have not had democracy ‘forced down their throats’ but are rather rebelling in the name of democracy, be massacred rather than students in the UK having to enter the working world as graduates with a few thousand pounds more debt. Leaving aside the fact that readiness for military action is already included in the MoD budget, you seem to have adopted a bizarrely national-centred approach to world politics. The argument you make is one that is completely out-of-kilter with the desire to have Britain remain at the centre of international politics for the foreseeable future. One thing that has not been cut in the recent budget is aid to Africa, a commitment to human rights irrespective of nationalistic difference is the hallmark of a liberal democracy, though, as you rightly assert, evangelicalism is not. I need point no further than to the atrocities of Rwanda in 1994 to illustrate the dangers of non-intervention.

    Again you point out that there are ‘dozens of other oppressive autocratic nations’ and this is true, the UN cannot intervene in all cases. You are right to say that the West cannot simply invade a country and impose democracy, but that is not what is happening in Libya. There is no imposition, the UN is taking the role of the midwife, a dying autocratic regime is being challenged by a democratically minded uprising and so, unlike in Iraq where occupation was always planned, it is only fitting that the West involve themselves. When you write ‘this is not our war’, I worry that you truly mean that. The Obama administration recently set a price on human life of $6.1m so that it could conduct cost/benefit analyses of legislation, does distance render these Libyan lives worth less? Any place for the UK as an actor in a globalised political world calls for us to be the first to abandon national boundaries in the name of the protection of human rights, the action in Libya is a step in the right direction.

    (writer application)

  3. The Libyan democratic movement is not a child trying to do its homework, but a child being bullied by a sadistic teacher.

    I don’t thin that Libya itself is a good example of the west “forcing” democratic values on other states. The National Transitional Council of Libya is recognised by France and the Arab League as the government of Libya, and is loaded with democratic opponents of Gaddafi, but have requested Western help in…well, surviving a massacre.

    We’re not “expecting” them to want our values, they have our values – and we’re not imposing a government either, we’re preventing genocide of the eastern tribes and the political persecution of opposition movements.

    And the economic argument… we can’t do this for economic reasons. Just because your post office may shut down, doesn’t mean we should let thousands of innocent people die. Are your tuition fees really that important you’d let people die to have a cheaper uni? Seriously?

  4. Thanks for the comments guys.
    @Gus: I don’t think it’s a betrayal of principles, I think that actually it’s the opposite. As I said, this may solve the problem in the short term but in the long term it will only cause more issues for Libya. It’s all very well to think about things in the here and now, but it’s not pragmatic. There is no proof that we actually stopped a massacre, that is simply the reason that was given for the invasion. There may have been a massacre, but as you have seen, it doesn’t take long for our planes to react, and so when there was evidence of this ‘massacre’, then there could’ve been a reaction. What has happened instead is that we’ve started bombing military targets with no really sense of purpose.

    @Morgan: To follow your analogy, is it the responsibility of one school to deal with a bad teacher in another school? That may sound selfish, but I think it’s selfish in itself to think that we have a mandate to ‘give and taketh away’ wherever we please.

    What you have to remember is that things tend to progress exponentially. Iraq started with a no fly zone, and then progressed to being, as one Iraqi citizen put it, ‘worse than Hussein’. Libya may be a different situation, but there is cleary a goal with this mission of instilling in the Libyan people the west’s system of democracy, which is in itself deeply flawed and so shouldn’t be really spread.

    My point on the economy was not really that it would cost too much, but that where does it end? There are several autocratic countries and we can not afford to deal with them all. It’s not a matter of being selfish with the money we have, we already have over £4trillion of debt, we don’t actually have any money to be selfish over.

  5. Seriously?

    You would want to wait until we have more evidence of the slaughter of thousands of civilians before even thinking about intervening?

    The sense of purpose is clearly defined by the UN resolution and the governments involved. Prevent the slaughter of yet more Libyans at the hands of Gaddaffi.

  6. @ John. Fair point. But this is the local county council intervening in a failing school, and it may use other schools to this end, as opposed to one school deciding unilaterally to intervene.

    Our system may be flawed, but it is what the Libyan people want, at least a fair proportion of them (I doubt exact and reliable figures exist).

    The situation is bad in Iraq but I would say that, broadly, the Kurds and Shia populations protected by the no-fly zone did well out of the protection offered. The same is our aim in protecting the eastern cities and other rebel strongholds. I hope it doesn’t denigrate into an Iraq-like situation, but with Bush no longer on the scene, and differences between Gaddafi and Hussein, I doubt it.

    If I misread, then my apologies – I agree that it is difficult to decide where to intervene and where to not, and it can be tempting not to intervene at all. But despite our debt, we can’t put a price on a moral duty to intervene when we have been requested. And just because there are other countries that are in a similar situation, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t intervene at all – it just means we need to help where we can.

    At least, to my mind.

  7. @Gus, all I’m going to say is speculation – however educated and realistic – is what got us into the financial crisis, and so I don’t think we should speculate about things.

    @Morgan On your metaphor, if you are referring to Libya’s membership of the UN then realistically the only mandate the UN should really have over Libya is to put material sanctions on them such as a trade embargo. It seems selfish and possibly even heartless to some, but I don’t see meddling in other people’s troubles – however tragic and brutal – to be within our international mandate or national interest.

    People in Iraq have perhaps benefited but I see that as a silver lining to a very dark cloud. There cannot be any denying that the occupation was an illegal catastrophe, from the point of view of the British as much as the Americans. And just remember that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for sending more troops to Afghanistan: I wouldn’t be fooled by his ‘peaceful’ outlook.

    I agree that there shouldn’t be a price put on people’s lives but I just see it as a little hypocritical to go through with all of these cuts which were ‘absolutely necessary’ with ‘no alternative’ which will probably actually kill people in the UK (though not on the scale of Libya obviously), and then spend what has already been hundreds of thousands if not millions in Libya. It’s not about me wanting free tuition fees or anything like that, I just see this as incredibly inconsistent economic policy.

  8. @Samuel didn’t see your comment there sorry.
    I know military action does not have to be cleared by the Commons: Our archaic system of sovereignty ensures that (Even if Tony Blair had lost the vote over entering Iraq, under British Parliamentary laws he would still be allowed to). However this does not change the fact that there was absolutely no real scrutiny of the military action on a national level, other than the one-sided and somewhat out-of-touch views of Cameron and Hague. I would have no issue on this point had they at least held an emergency debate on the topic, instead they acted first and begged forgiveness later, so to speak, even though an overwhelming number of MPs voted in favour.

    And no, you have completely mis-read my ‘essential’ argument. Do you think I’m some sort of sadist? What is happening in Libya does not make me happy in the slightest, a death is just as tragic in Libya as it is anywhere else. To infer that I think otherwise is ridiculous. My point on the economy was the least important to me personally, I don’t think there should be a price on life, I was simply writing to cover a wider argument against the action. These people aren’t ‘rebelling in the name of democracy’, they are rebelling against an oppressive autocratic leader, there is a difference. Democracy may be the desired eventuality, but our involvement is forcing OUR democratic system on them, which is not a good democratic system. And if being at the centre of international politics means that we butt in and bomb every time we see something go wrong in the world, then I’d be happy to see the UK take a bow and sink into the background and leave that to the yanks.

    Your analogy of a dying autocratic system is an interesting one. If you’re likening Libyan action to childbirth, I have a feeling it is going to be a very long, drawn out Labour, and a high chance of a stillbirth at the end. And possibly, the mother will die in childbirth as well. What about Bahrain which is also facing rebellion on a massive scale. What about Yemen? These and more are all rebelling in a similar fashion to Libya, and there is a possibility that a similar war of attrition of who is stubborn enough to keep going may start in these places too. Then what, we raze their cities to the ground too? And what about when we’ve destroyed as much as we can in Libya within the UN laws, and Gaddafi still wins? I guarantee our input will not stop there.

    And maintaining human rights is one thing, continuing to heavily bomb Libya after the immediate threat of massacre is averted and the rebellion is on the forward again, is another thing entirely.

  9. Libya Lesson to the World: When you comply with the Western demands to open up, democratize/ modernize/ and most importantly give up nuclear arms,you may end up with brutal and prolonged military invasion from the same Western powers followed by execution. Gaddafi should have learned a lesson or two from Hussein.

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