Saturday, March 12, 2011

Two Testicles In The Same Ballbag

I’m happy for people to make valid points, but if the only response is IRAQ IRAQ IRAQ!!! – then frankly one should join Stop the War coalition and hang out with Lyndsey German. That is about the extent of your political nous... I’m not saying Dqsquared, FR, you’re doing this. But you’re mighty close to it. - Sunny at Liberal Conspiracy, on the proposed No-Fly Zone over Libya. 

Let me put it like this, shall I?  In 2001, George W. didn't stand up and tell the world that he intended to send American troops to Afghanistan for the purposes of miring the US military in an unwinnable, decade-long bloodbath.

Nor did Tony Blair tell Parliament in 2003 that the UK was going to Iraq to destroy half of Fallujah and instigate a horrific sectarian war conducted with bombs and power drills.

Shall we find other examples?  Bill Clinton didn't, say, lay out detailed plans to bomb the Chinese embassy in Belgrade; Lyndon Johnson never announced plans for a "Dead Society" in Vietnam, and the Soviet politburo didn't cheerfully decide to accelerate the collapse of the USSR by invading Afghanistan in 1979.  The army rangers expeditionary force didn't go to Mogadishu to get into a firefight with an army of crazy Somali teenagers, and US General David Petraeus does not meet with Hamid Karzai and tell him that he plans to repeatedly murder his citizens and execute his cousins.

And similarly, David Cameron is not calling for a catastrophic, bloody and unproductive intervention in Libya that slips and slides into, say, a generalised air assault on Tripoli, or to a ten-year commitment to containing a victorious Gaddafi.

I don't hallucinate grand, over-arching Neo-Conservative schemes to rule the universe.  My argument here and elsewhere has always been that most of the western military adventures of the last few decades have been blundering, ham-fisted and incredibly destructive, not because we are evil, but because we are heedless and not a little stooopid.  We are quick to identify the wounds inflicted by tyrants and despots, yet slow to recognise the horribly violent reality of our attempts to stop the bleeding.

There's a scene at the end of Black Hawk Down where the commander of US forces walks into his base's surgery and is overwhelmed by the horrific injuries his men have sustained in their attempts to arrest a Somali warlord.  Feeling impotent and trying to do something useful to help, he grabs a handful of rags and tries to mop up a pool of blood on the floor, but only succeeds in smearing it around. 

That's us, that is.  This is why I strongly advise against intervening in Libya - our track record of ending violence and restoring order is dreadful.  In particular, I suggest that we avoid bombing any further countries until our recent ratio of wars won to wars lost rises to at least one out of two.

And now, check the discussions going on here and here.  I know I come off as a smug smartarse almost all the time - it's intentional, on occasion - but I think there are very, very serious questions to be answered about the no-fly zone proposals.  Do we have any good reasons to believe it will work?  Have we planned for contingencies, such as a swift victory for Gaddafi or the capture of NATO personnel?  How long do we intend to operate an NFZ and how likely is it that we'll be forced by unforeseen circumstances to move to aggressive actions against the Gaddafi regime?   Is this a practical plan with achievable goals?

Practical plans are one thing.  Half-arsed military wheezes designed to make westerners feel better about the awful things they're seeing on their televisions are another entirely.  Which is this?

The answer - Anyone who opposes intervention is joyfully urinating into the pleading faces of Gaddafi's victims, and is a big Commie who would probably have appeased Hitler.  The idea that we should refrain from bombing other countries is the lunatic conceit of a much despised political fringe.  That should set alarm bells ringing, I think.

Well.  If nothing else, it's a stark reminder of an unpleasant truth - that warmaking isn't an issue of left or right, and that lefties get just as hard for dubious bombing campaigns as right wingers do, depending on the issue.  The justifications are identical and the red-baiting arguments against dissenters indistinguishable.

When it comes to killing people and blowing shit up in pursuit of unclear aims, in short, wingnut lunatics and self-declared liberals are two testicles in the same ballbag.  I don't know why I find this surprising, after all these years, but I do.

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