FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Another Damned Intervention

In Albert Camus’s notebooks, one finds a confession that strikes a chord.  One is always caught in the vice of doing something and the helplessness of doing nothing at all.  In between, the human being is permanently stuck on a fence, pondering the next moral action that might negate the very thing he or she seeks to protect.  The moral is, however, to act, but to do with the most minimal of intrusions.

The intervention in Libya has the hallmarks of the military actions of 1999, when NATO intervened, without UN Security council authorization, to quell the efforts of the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic to crush the Kosovo insurgency.  There were murderous hiccups to the operation: the slaying of 70 refugees who were mistaken for being Serb paramilitaries, to name but one notable incident.  Then, there was the extreme reaction on Serbia proper itself.  Little wonder that this was deemed by various members of the left, notably such figures as Noam Chomsky, as yet another notch on the imperialist belt, another example of smug Western powers gone wild.  The age of ‘humanitarian imperialism’ was upon us.

UN Security Council Resolution 1973 did not stem from an entirely united front.  There were five abstentions, with ten members of the Council voting for the intervention.  The resolution did involve Arab support, though again, the degree of such involvement will only become apparent as the conflict takes shape.  At this point, Qatar has a presence, and is readying itself for military engagement from Italy, but that is hardly significant in the broader scheme of things.  Other Arab states, wedded to a brutality that has had backing from the oil-dependent west, have kept silence.  The Russians and the Chinese decided not to go along with the veto power, but both countries continue to insist on a cessation to hostilities.

Indeed, the attacks have already caused concerns amongst Arab states, and will continue to do so.  Criticism has been made by head of the Arab League – the Arab Secretary General Amr Moussa.  ‘What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians’ (Dawn, Mar 20).  This is somewhat disingenuous, considering that the same organisation insisted on the imposition of a no-fly zone in March 12 to deal with the regime.

To use the humanitarian line of intervention in any situation is deeply problematic.  It is deceptively consoling.  It will be particularly more so given the nature of the technology used.  Such involvements are ‘clean’ in the way they minimise human casualties.

There is much to suggest that the rhetoric of a humanitarian intervention is often that of a trick, where humanity, or the idea of humanity, is a resounding joke, or at the very least a crutch designed to support other motivations.  There is much juggling as to what this intervention might do.  Do we start talking about a ‘pragmatic interventionism’, the middle road between those who prefer to not intervene at all and those who, without much contemplation, charge head on into the quagmire?

Colonel Gaddafi will hope to mould this intervention into every conceivable image, borrowing from the richly stocked cupboard of stereotypes.  With the generous use of human shields, and the inevitably high casualties that will follow on attacking various weapons sites, he will be able to point his mocking finger back at his opponents.  He will continue to insist, as he has been for some time, that his opponents are none other than thinly clothed fundamentalists.  (On that score, sketchy knowledge about the leaders of the rebellion is troubling.) The murderous tragic may well find himself claiming that he is fighting the oppressors of the West.

The Camus dilemma remains: how does one minimise harm in making a moral decision?  Such statements as those of a British Lib Dem member are infuriatingly simple.  ‘We have taken as forward a position as the Conservatives.  We have argued the same way Paddy Ashdown did over Kosovo.  To stand aside in this sort of situation would have been unconscionable’ (Observer, Mar 20).

The result then, is to intervene – and be damned.

BINOY KAMPMARK was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

 

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
Jon Rynn
What a Green New Deal Should Look Like: Filling in the Details
David Swanson
Will the U.S. Senate Let the People of Yemen Live?
Dana E. Abizaid
On Candace Owens’s Praise of Hitler
Raouf Halaby
‘Tiz Kosher for Elected Jewish U.S. Officials to Malign
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Deceitful God-Talk at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast
W. T. Whitney
Caribbean Crosswinds: Revolutionary Turmoil and Social Change 
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Avoiding Authoritarian Socialism
Howard Lisnoff
Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Anti-immigrant Hate
Ralph Nader
The Realized Temptations of NPR and PBS
Cindy Garcia
Trump Pledged to Protect Families, Then He Deported My Husband
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail