Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On Libya and Liberal Interventionism

Anti-imperialism is in the fabric of the Arab political movements. We cannot separate the fight for democratic freedoms from the struggle to defeat imperialism. What the imperialists want, and there are forces among the Libyan rebels who agree, is to sustain the system with a different face.

But it’s important to see that the fall of Gaddafi might also radicalise other revolutionary struggles. It will have an impact in the Gulf states.
In Libya it’s too early to judge if all the people will welcome Nato with open arms. At the start of revolutions people unite in wide coalitions, but once the dictators fall contradictions will come to the surface.

But the decisive factor is the ­process in Egypt. It is the most powerful movement in the region and what happens there shapes all the struggles across the region. We are still just at the beginning of the revolutionary process, and these are just the first small steps

Bassem Chit, Lebanese socialist in Beirut

...The model of intervention practised in Libya harks back to NATO's 'good war' in Serbia and implies a departure from the mistakes of Afghanistan and Iraq. This will undoubtedly give a boost to further interventions elsewhere. The ‘no boots on the ground’ philosophy avoids fatalities among Western soldiers but it clearly highlights NATO's main contribution: its huge destructive power which is shamefully described as ‘surgical’. This revived interventionist model is even more barbaric than its predecessor, promoting the myth that real political change can be achieved through remote-controlled military aggression. The likes of Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy are seizing the opportunity to bolster their weak standing at home through this ‘success’, reviving in the process the notion that the West has the moral responsibility to intervene where it sees fit.

The interventionist chatter has intensified since yesterday, with arguments such as ‘this wouldn’t have been possible without NATO intervention’. While I will personally be pleased to see Gaddafi end his despicable reign, the simple answer is we will never know now. We will also never know which shape the Libyan uprising would have taken and whether it would have allowed a different leadership untainted with its association to the old regime to emerge. In short, the right to self-determination has been taken away from the Libyan people, and that is not a small matter. Anyone still convinced of the humanitarian merit of the intervention should closely examine how the events unfolded on the ground in Libya to realise the extent to which this argument has been substantiated through exaggeration and the spreading of convenient myths.

The momentum that the argument for intervention built back in March, largely due to the influence of Britain and France, was enough to overcome US reluctance even in the absence of clear Western interests. By convincing themselves that they are morally obliged to intervene, Western leaders end up acting in an irrational manner and get swept up by their own rhetoric. It is now crucial to confront the insidious logic of liberal interventionism and defend the right to self-determination. While the jubilation we might feel when Gaddafi finally departs might convince us it was ‘worth it’, the reality is it’s misguided to replace one local tyrant with the custodianship of superpowers. Let the lesson of Iraq not be forgotten.

Karl Sharro, another Lebanese socialist - see also Lenin's Tomb for updates.

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