A Response to Juan Cole

juan cole

Juan Cole

hanks for your frank defense of the intervention, but I think you may be going too far, making your case harder to convey. A few quick responses here:

I think most progressives are divided or confused on the Libya situation, given the dangerous consequences of “humanitarian intervention” turning into quagmires or civil wars. Only a few are so flatly anti-imperialist that they oppose anything the U.S. [or “the West”] does in Libya.

Since we are ambiguous over whether the initial intervention was justified, and since it’s more than a week old, I think it’s best to focus on these urgent questions:

  • Will the intervention keep Qaddafi from massacring thousands in Benghazi?

The answer is yes.

  • Will the intervention protect the insurgents on the road west?

The answer is yes, to an extent.

  • Should the military intervention target Qaddafi and his troops in areas like Tripoli?

Here I think the danger of civilian casualties is significant, and air power should be avoided.

  • Does that mean Quaddafi will stay in power and Libya will be partitioned for a time, with international supervision?

Yes, it could happen.

  • Or is the wisest path to allow the contradictions within Tripoli and Quaddafi’s own power base to manifest in some sort of abdication or removal from below and within?

In other words, the use of U.S. military force to protect civilians in eastern Libya doesn’t mean U.S. military force should be used in cities like Tripoli.

You of all people have taught us to much about the intricacies of the Middle East and the follies of past interventions. But you seem to be letting your trusted objectivity go out the window when talking about your “unabashed” support of military power against Libya.

tom haydenIt changes as it goes along, but I think that the peace movement should be in a position of questioning always. The big question for me is to prevent our troops and tax dollars becoming buried in another quagmire; Libya has cost hundreds of millions of dollars already. The second question is whether the popular movement can be supported more effectively by political and diplomatic means as an endgame nears. The third question is how the U.S. should respond to the brutal use of force in Bahrain, Yemen and Syria. And perhaps the most important, should there be an immediate rethinking by our establishment and media of the Long War, now that nearly all our allies in the “war on terror” are going down the drain?

Looking forward to more dialogue.

Tom Hayden

Peace Exchange Bulletin


  1. says

    Well Tom and Juan,

    Here is what I would say. The “coalition” and the President have said that we are bombing Libya to save Libyans from their government that seeks to kill them since they have picked up arms in an effort to overthrow the government. In essance we are killing Libyans to stop the killing of Libyans, but we are bombing only one side. Now, in Mexico the government has killed 20 to 30,000 of its citizens in the last three years or so — shouldn’t we bomb the Mexican military, police, judicales, militias and the government to stop Mexicans killing Mexicans? Or is it okay for the Mexicans to kill Mexicans as long as they are doing to for a reason that the US likes, the suppression of the drug trade. Heck, in Mexico we have been arming both the narcotraficantes as well as the government forces. Now we are using drones to spy on Mexicans, when do we start “targeting Mexicans” and using our smart missles to kill them (Or give the smart missles to the Mexican government to do the same.)? It is interesting that the Mexican government forces wear face masks to hide the perfidy of their actions.

    Obviously, I don’t want the US to start bombing Mexico and I do want the US to stop bombing Libya. Do I think much of Gaddafi, NO, but as recently as two or three years ago he was feted as an ally by John McCain and the Republicans. Oh, if we were really consistent we would bomb Yemen, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, …., too, to stop those governments from killing their own people.

    A dead Libyan doesn’t know if he was killed by an insurgent, an American missle, a “coalition” bombing, or a mad dog in the street. Dead is dead. So Juan, I think it would be advisable to think about this a bit more and then advocate the bombing of targets necessary or move toward a position that brings peace and negotiation.

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