FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 20, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Unipolar Governance of the Multipolar World
Rob Urie
Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!
Miguel Gutierrez
El Desmadre: The Colonial Roots of Anti-Mexican Violence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pompeo and Circumstance
Andrew Levine
Why Democrats Really Should Not All Get Along But Sometimes Must Anyway
Louis Proyect
A Rebellion for the Wild West
T.J. Coles
A Taste of Their Own Medicine: the Politicians Who Robbed Iranians and Libyans Fear the Same for Brexit Britain
H. Bruce Franklin
How We Launched Our Forever War in the Middle East
Lee Hall
Mayor Obedience Training, From the Pet Products Industry
Louis Yako
Working in America: Paychecks for Silence
Michael D. Yates
Radical Education
Jonathan Cook
Israelis Have Shown Netanyahu the Door. Can He Inflict More Damage Before He Exits?
Valerie Reynoso
The Rising Monopoly of Monsanto-Bayer
John Steppling
American Psychopathy
Ralph Nader
25 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare for the 2020 Elections
Ramzy Baroud
Apartheid Made Official: Deal of the Century is a Ploy and Annexation is the New Reality
Vincent Emanuele
Small Town Values
John Feffer
The Threat of Bolton Has Retreated, But Not the Threat of War
David Rosen
Evangelicals, Abstinence, Abortion and the Mainstreaming of Sex
Judy Rohrer
“Make ‘America’ White Again”: White Resentment Under the Obama & Trump Presidencies
John W. Whitehead
The Police State’s Language of Force
Kathleen Wallace
Noblesse the Sleaze
Farzana Versey
Why Should Kashmiris be Indian?
Nyla Ali Khan
Why Are Modi and His Cohort Paranoid About Diversity?
Shawn Fremstad
The Official U.S. Poverty Rate is Based on a Hopelessly Out-of-Date Metric
Mel Gurtov
No War for Saudi Oil!
Robert Koehler
‘I’m Afraid You Have Humans’
David Swanson
Every Peace Group and Activist Should Join Strike DC for the Earth’s Climate
Scott Owen
In Defense of Non-violent Actions in Revolutionary Times
Jesse Jackson
Can America Break Its Gun Addiction?
Priti Gulati Cox
Sidewalk Museum of Congress: Who Says Kansas is Flat?
Mohamad Shaaf
The Current Political Crisis: Its Roots in Concentrated Capital with the Resulting Concentrated Political Power
Max Moran
Revolving Door Project Probes Thiel’s White House Connection
Arshad Khan
Unhappy India
Nick Pemberton
Norman Fucking Rockwell! and 24 Other Favorite Albums
Nicky Reid
The Bigotry of ‘Hate Speech’ and Facebook Fascism
Paul Armentano
To Make Vaping Safer, Legalize Cannabis
Jill Richardson
Punching Through Bad Headlines
Jessicah Pierre
What the Felicity Huffman Scandal Says About America
Tracey Aikman
President Trump, I’m One of the Workers You Lied To
John Kendall Hawkins
Draining the Swamp, From the Beginning of Time
Julian Rose
Four Funerals and a Wedding: A Brief History of the War on Humanity
Victor Grossman
Film, Music and Elections in Germany
David Yearsley
Jazz is Activism
Elliot Sperber
Captains of Industry 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail