Is intervention a necessary evil?

April 5, 2011

I ENJOYED reading the recent article "Nothing humanitarian about U.S. intervention." I will praise the article for noting concerns about mission creep, exposing long-term European interests in Libya's oil sector, the harm seemingly "well-intentioned" interventions have done in the past, and the possible harm and expanded difficulties that will occur in Libya in the coming months and weeks.

However, I think on the principal matter at hand, the authors intentionally avoided taking a stand on whether or not they as socialists and as well meaning human beings in general support or oppose the air strikes of the past 30 hours or not. Not directly taking a stand on this issue is a cop-out.

They wrote, "Most people facing the bombs of the Qaddafi government will have been happy to see that bombardment stopped or slowed, no matter how."

This comes as close as the authors get to acknowledging that the rebels and broader citizenry of Benghazi, who until recently were preparing themselves for certain death, are today alive and not being overrun by Qaddafi's tanks and infantry for one reason only: the combined Air Forces of the United States, France, and the UK took out Qaddafi's air defense, command and control, and bombed his ground forces that were approaching the city.

Yes, what I am drawing attention to is a short-term situation. But that is where we are. Historical analysis and well-written articles tend to be of very little use if you are dead. The only reason the revolution in Libya is still alive at all, and that several thousand people in Benghazi are not dead, is because of Western military intervention.

Will the lives saved now, in the short term, be overtaken in number by lives lost, in the long term, if intervention prolongs the conflict, or allows Qaddafi to rally some supporters by resurrecting an "anti-imperialist" legitimacy? Perhaps. But long-term considerations were not on the minds of the Libyan rebels when they asked for help, and were saved by it.

You have to come out and say it, and take a stand one way or the other. You can't throw down a bunch of historical analysis, and list legitimate concerns for the future, but in all of that avoid saying whether or not it was a good thing that Qaddafi's forces were stopped by our air campaign, and that that should or should not have happened.

You have either come out and say, "Yes, the air campaign saved Benghazi. That is was good. Now the revolution has a chance to survive, and even win, and it would not have had this chance at all were it not for Western military intervention."

Or else you have to have the courage to come out and oppose the air strikes directly. You have to be able to say: "I think that less people will die now if we allow Qaddafi to massacre his people and then stay in power than will die later if we support the rebels with our airpower, which runs the risk of dragging the revolution out into a protracted civil war. Therefore, I propose we order our air forces to do nothing, and we send a message to the people of Benghazi and Misrata and everywhere else that for the sake our analysis of their country's long-term future, we have decided to do nothing and go to sleep tonight to read about their deaths in the paper tomorrow."

I personally am not prepared to make such a statement. I don't think that anyone at SocialistWorker.org is either. Yes, it is urgently necessary to recount the disastrous history of past interventions, and to point out the hypocrisy of the countries involved in this one. But you can't write an article on Libya and not say whether or not the air strikes of March 20-21 were right or not. That's sitting on the sidelines and opting out. You have to take a stand for one thing or the other.

I, for one, have been opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since before they started. My anti-imperialist credentials are as fine as anyone's. But I'll come out and say that I think the air strikes were worth doing, and that they are giving the Libyan revolution the only chance they have.

Maybe I'll be proved wrong as this intervention continues. Possibly I will. But tonight, I'm glad a lot of people in Benghazi are alive that last night I thought were going to die while I slept. I'm glad that the revolution is still alive. And I'm glad that I'm willing to step out and actually say this publicly.
Christian Wright, from the Internet

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