Friday, October 21, 2011

Now, the hard part

So today is the first day of post-Gaddafi Libya.Good on them.

Now for the really hard part.

As the columnist for Al Jazeera reminds us:
"...the NTC has been unable to secure a country awash with armed men. Libya is also a country shot through with rivalries, jealousies and blood debts, among individuals and groups. Some of these divisions are of historic vintage, many arise from Gaddafi's rule, and the war will have added a new crop. Like Iraq, Libya was assembled through histories of empire and its aftermath. It has been torn apart by war. Now it has lost the one thing that united much of the country: hatred of Colonel Gaddafi and his regime. Libyans are left to face the legacy of his mastery of the art of divide and rule. The involvement of Western air forces meant that the rebels never had to form a unified force. Only to a limited extent did they learn the habits of cooperation under fire.

That is why they now lack an army with which to bring the country under control."
The thing that drove and still drives me crazy is the calm assumption that has dominated much of U.S. foreign policy "debate" that the bomb-y, kill-y part is the "hard part". I have no idea where this springs from - watching war films, I suspect - but it's in complete opposition to the actual conduct of damn near every war the U.S. has ever fought, where the worst fuckups always seem to spring from political gaffes made either in hope of winning the war or in post-war inattention to detail.

Thus with Libya. I honestly have very little hope for anything good. The "country" has never been well-ruled, its people have little or no experience in or proven skill at self-government, and its economy and polity are not far above the tribal level. Post-colonial experience suggests that whatever emerges will not be pretty.

But...and this is my point; I cannot see how U.S. fiddling will be helpful. It is up to the Libyans to do what they can for themselves. A "solution" imposed from outside is no real solution at all, and for all that there appear to be significant portions of the U.S. "leadership" congratulating themselves on how much we had to do with the current outcome I hope that we all recall that.


  1. Best of luck to them, but I'm not very hopeful.

  2. I wish I could be MORE hopeful. But, as I said, the track record for "nations" with a similar history and under similar conditions isn't good.

    And I also wish that OUR country would get that. Bushies or no Bushies we now seem to have this notion stuck in our collective leader-heads that the ability to bitchslap small nations = solving their problems.

    I can see they're not the same thing, you can see they're not the same thing...why does this seem like such a difficult concept to absorb inside the Beltway?

  3. Atrios:

    I've actually been looking for this over the past couple of months without much, uh, luck. How many people died? Does anybody care?

    WASHINGTON — The final end to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s rule is the latest victory for a new American approach to war: few if any troops on the ground, the heavy use of air power, including drones, and, at least in the case of Libya, a reliance on allies.


  4. I've been irritated by the very common (in the anglophone world) concerns about what comes next. I understand that part of it is abut partisan politics, about downplaying Obama's "success".

    Still, it strikes me as incredibly conservative, counter-experiment thinking that people are so much uneasy with not knowing where this Libyan story will go.

    I wonder if it describes the (published) psyche of a country, this extreme uneasiness with change.
    That would de facto spell doom on a country that has herculean jobs to do in terms of domestic reforms.

  5. Sven: the "concern" is because the political trope in the U.S. is "Bombs = ? = democracy, freedom, and happiness!".

    So it's not "part" of partisan politics, it's central to the question of "what is the proper role for the United States in the wider world.

    Right now pretty much the entire governing class here in the U.S. is committed in one way or another to the notion that more bombs equals more freedom, more rubble, less trouble.

    If you, or me, or anyone else, wants the U.S. to quit farkling around in the Third World rather than do a "herculean job in terms of domestic reforms" you first have to break out of that paradigm.

    And to do that, you need to hammer away on the nonsensical notion that you can invade an impoverished ex-Ottoman dictatorship...or a chaotic semi-tribal anarchracy...or bomb a poorly-assembled mess left behind by late Victorian Italian colonialism...and the result will be peace, democracy, and magical ponies for all.

    The prospect of "change" doesn't really come in to it, because the U.S. public in general and the governing classes in particular, seem to have no idea what really happens after we through U.S. ordnance at these postcolonial goatropes. As basil quoted: "...the latest victory for a new American approach to war: few if any troops on the ground, the heavy use of air power, including drones, and, at least in the case of Libya, a reliance on allies."

    Victory, get it?

    But it's plain to me that "victory" - in the post-WW2 sense - ain't gonna happen in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, or any-other-damn-where the U.S. is swanning around in Africa and Asia. We ain't gonna get an Iraqi Bundeswehr helping us out in West Buttfuckistan in thirty years, or a Libyan Bundesbank lending money to Royal Dutch Shell.

    But that's the accepted wisdom inside the Beltway.

    And until the movers and shakers there are able to "get" that sending GIs - or warplanes - doesn't mean that the recipients of that explosive largesse are going to become Western democrats it will continue to be so. And we'll continue to see more of this until the credit card is overdrawn...

  6. I really do see a set-up here, and for what?

    For months prior to the "rebels' success", our media was featuring stories about how enfeebled Qadhafi had become, how mad with vanity and plastic surgery. Nu? Like we in the U.S. do not revere such "holding back the years" procedures? Like that has anything to do with anything?

    The U.S. spent so much energy into grooming Qadhafi into a semblance of a world citizen. Libya enjoyed female enfranchisement to a degree that many of our M.E. "partners" do not.
    Why weren't our energies spent in facilitating an accommodation, vs. bombing the heck out of a sitting power?

    Was he nutters? Sure, and you can bet your bippy the ascendent group will be, too.

    Doesn't Mean That Much to Me.

  7. Still, it strikes me as incredibly conservative, counter-experiment thinking that people are so much uneasy with not knowing where this Libyan story will go.

    When a nation risks it's soldier's blood and spends national treasure then the people of that nation are naturally interested in the outcome, specially since this war was sold as a humanitarian effort aimed at protecting Libyan civilians.

  8. And to amplify Andy's comment, traditionally such risks and expenditures came with explicit agreements with the peoples or nations so indebted. While I'm not sure if anyone other than a handful of rubes really believed the whole "we're bombing to protect the children!" nonsense, the lesson of "Mission to Moscow" is that a nation should be cold-eyed where committing its blood, treasure, and good name are concerned.

    And, as I've said, I see no real reason to believe for a moment that this TNC will turn out to be any better a successor to Gaddafi - who at the time of this uprising was "tamed", at least where the West was concerned - than the current rulers of Somalia are to the Islamic Courts and they to the warlords and THEY to Barre. Or that Maliki's successor will be sure to be better than Saddam, Stalin than Lenin, Castro than Batista...

    My country need to learn that merely killing bad guys doesn't solve anything, unless you want to take the time, trouble, and expense to help the "good guys" BE good guys...and that ain't happening here.

  9. chief,
    when the mob sodomized MQ that moment showed the truth of the arab spring.
    there was not light at the end of mq's tunnel.

  10. Chief,
    look at your pic at the head of this essay.
    Do all the covered heads have any significance?