Tuesday, August 23, 2011

War Is The New Normal

You can't help but marvel at the pictures LIVE FROM TRIPOLI! of the Libyan rebels apparently storming Gaddafi's compound - a bunch of semi-trained working geezers doing their best Bastille impression on a richly-deserving target.  Me, I still have to join in the current media vogue for backtracking and hedging.

Hands up - I thought this war would drag on far longer than it has, and kill a massively higher percentage of the populace than it did.  I have a standing bet since March with D-Notice that Gaddafi won't make it to Christmas alive, which gives you an idea of the timescale that I anticipated.  This was largely based on reporting from the ground by hacks for the New York Times, the Times, the FT, the Graun, the Telegraph and various internet sources.

As usual, it'll take a few months to shake out what actually happened, but a consensus appears to be emerging that the press were too concentrated around Benghazi to notice that the rebels in the west were made of sterner stuff, quietly advancing while our attention was elsewhere.  That may be true, but it doesn't explain to me where Gaddafi's goons went - I suspect that they decided that being paid was great fun, but that few of them fancied getting killed for a strutting, murderous tool like the Colonel.  There's only so much precision high explosives a hated dictator's army can take, after all.

Excellent news, all in all.  The difference between the Libyans' situation in March and this evening is like night and day, and they now have a great opportunity to forge a future free from self-important gangsters backed by thugs, secret policemen and torturers.

I hope they make a good fist at reconstruction and democratisation, because it's been a vicious war, filled with exactly the kind of urban bombardments and house-by-house fighting that the original UN resolution for intervention was supposed to prevent. It didn't prevent it, of course, because our leaders were lying through their teeth about protecting civilians, and that's where things get sticky.

Much as I hate to dust off Professor Norm's mea-culpa-but-fucka-youa routine and tu quoque like it's 2006, it should be pretty apparent that there are still some very large questions over Nato's hare-brained chariot-charge into the war and the vast, towering mountains of bullshit that greased the wheels.

Recall - the UK, US and France supposedly went to the UN to seek permission to create a No-Fly Zone, yet miraculously emerged with wide-ranging powers to take any measures necessary to "protect civilians".  You've just seen six months of solid, dedicated "protection", which in reality meant "Intervening on one side in a civil war".

For all the Responsibility-To-Protect rah-rah, we've just demonstrated to the world for the third time in a decade that we intentionally and brazenly lie to the entire planet about humanitarianism for months on end in pursuit of entirely political goals.  Nato has spent six months explaining that it isn't seeking regime change in Libya while straining as hard as it could to do exactly the opposite.

More alarmingly, the President of the United States spent the entire period denying his country was even involved in a fucking war at all.  Think about what precedent that sets, next time the sabres are rattling for Iran.

Whether you object to any of that depends on your opinion on the old ends justifying the means, and whether you think fucking off potential consequences in favour of  action now is a responsible way for nations to proceed.  Nothing succeeds like success, so if you're happy being propagandised and lied to in pursuit of further wars, you'll be delighted today.

Further, it remains entirely true that, for the second time in a decade, the UK has jumped into a war with its fingers crossed, entirely on the reassurances of western-educated locals who don't appear to represent the populace.  That's why western diplomats have spent the last three months quietly whispering to the papers that the Libyan rebels are a disparate group with massive internal differences.  If you've got no idea what's going to happen next in North Africa - democracy or interfactional bloodbath - then congratulations!  You and David Cameron have something in common after all.

Whether you find that worrying depends on whether you have an attention span longer than five seconds.  There's no need to reiterate the long catastrophes that are Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, but let me put it this way - were you aware that the Iraqi government is quietly supporting the Syrian government's ultraviolent crackdown on its citizens? 

These two are the leading official bullshit explosions that have bugged me most throughout, but they're not alone.  Whatever did happen to that Arab No-Fly Zone, anyway?   And whatever happened to those great floods of refugees that the war was supposed to stop, or the evil crackdowns that would be deterred in other nations?  Each of these were cited before bombing began, and panned out exactly opposite to how we were told they would.

Hell, I know none of this stuff worries many of the characters who were most enthusiastically pro-intervention in Libya.  Few gave a shit how this war was going to work in practice then, and many of them have been making machine gun noises and bellowing for days about how very awesome bombing Libya was all along...   After six months of near-total silence on anything that's happened there, and you can be sure that if Tripoli goes the way of Baghdad, you'll hear nothing out of them on the subject. There'll be newer, crazier military escapades to cheer on by then.

Well.  If you, like me, were flabbergasted that Britain stampeded to involve itself in another serious conflict, just years after presiding over one of the nastiest mass-murder sprees in recent history, then steel yourselves for sequels.  It took decades of boo-hoo propaganda and flag-waving for the Yanks to get over the disaster of Vietnam - it's taken us about a tenth of the time and none of the self-reflection to dick off one of our most inglorious warfaring episodes to dive into what could be a whole series of new ones.

Seriously, y'all.  If we were that belligerent, that eager to dive into this war after one of the most horrifying military fuck-ups in our history, imagine how can-do chaps we're going to be for the next decade.  Excellent news for Libyans means interesting times ahead for British squaddies, I think.  War is the new normal.

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