Tripoli, Libya: What’s not Discussed in the Media; Augmented: Looting.

The Libyan revolutionaries are taking too long to catch Gadhafi. Already, they have been upstaged by a hurricane; there will be other events and non-events occupying our screens before they wrap up this business. They should care more for the 24-hour news cycle!

Here is what the conservative media are avoiding saying: In this particular case narrowly defined, the Libyan Spring, the Obama doctrine paid off. There were no American boots on the ground or very few. The President did succeed in talking allies, especially the UK and France, into doing most of the heavy lifting, what with Libya being in their backyard and what not! The NATO allies did most or much of the bombing. The US supplied intelligence, and the initials strikes. The Libyans did all of the dying, so far. There would have been less dying if we had intervened earlier or more vigorously. Don’t expect the liberal media to take the administration to task for this. It will never happen. There is subtle undercurrent of racism or xenophobia in liberal foreign policies: Let the natives die; it’s their job or isn’t it?

The major military role the NATO allies played may induce good consequences beyond the liberation of Libya. Reading the French press, and a little of the British press, I am forming the impression that the political classes of both countries are shocked to discover how thin their national defense establishments really are. They find that they are straining to complete this very limited mission against a half-disarmed enemy that is nearby.

There is a group that’s been keeping its mouth tightly shut. That’s the Libertarians with a capital “L” (as opposed to libertarian members of the conservative branch of the Republican party like me). They have become rigid pacifists. They don’t like it when a war ends well without major expenditure of American treasure and with no American casualties. They don’t have the graciousness to say: OK, this one worked out although we were against it. This rigor mortis, and this principled but ultimately unthinking pacifism is why Ron Paul will never be President. I will vote against him, I will not vote for him. So will millions of conservatives who have much in common with him but who recognize that the US historically does what needs to be done, including militarily. (Allow me for once to speak as a European who grew up during the Cold War, two days-march from Soviet tanks.)

Here is what the liberal media have trouble thinking about and commenting on: Educated and media-connected young Arabs everywhere know and knew that Iraqis were voting. The Libyans who are holding guns now in the streets of Tripoli were ten and twelve and fourteen when Iraq’s own Gadhafi was hung by the Justice of his country. Of course, they must have asked themselves at some point: Why not us?

And, as usual, the media are not asking the obvious questions about what did not happen: Did the Libyan insurgents ask for Russia’s help, for China’s help? Were they not simply saying to us six months ago: If you removed Saddam Hussein, why not help us? The Libyan freedom fighters are obviously the children or the grandchildren of Georges W. Bush. What rank-and-file Arab ever contemplated the possibility that representative government was also for the Arab world until Bush’s neo-conservatives showed it to be the case?

And here is what no one wants to say aloud: Overweight Libyan shopkeepers, elementary-school teachers, and accounting undergraduates, all without military training, have restored Arab military honor. That’s the same honor that had been dragged in the mud of fratricidal wars and sacrificed in vain and vainglorious attacks on Israel. It ‘s not the first time a citizens’ army acquits itself better on the battlefield than gladiators in red berets and impeccably ironed camouflage uniforms. Ask the Israeli. We keep forgetting this simple truth.

For me, the most striking political observation of the past week is how the American media organs fell on one another lamenting in advance the post-Gadhafi era. Pundits, with the notable exception of my guru Fouad Ajami, an Arab, were pushing each other out of the way to be first to point out how many divisions existed in Libya, suggesting that the aftermath would possibly, probably, be horrible None wanted to be the last to make pessimistic predictions. Either this is more underlying racism or it’s one more proof that we have become a nation of old ladies (and that’s not fair to many old ladies).

I can just imagine, in late 1944, the American press worrying aloud about the possible horrors of post-Hitler Germany. Crazy, man!

The horrors of post-Saddam Iraq, you say? Yes, it was done badly. Yet, if there were no way to do it better, if it were my decision, I would do it all over again. It’s not difficult decision: Just count the numbers of mass graves that were not added.

8/25/11 Two afterthoughts:

I often worry about what should be there but isn’t. In the context of the Arab Spring, I worry about Algeria, next door to Libya. It’s a large country of 36 million. It has oil wealth but also a great deal of corruption and inequality. The existing regime is a unique mixture of democracy through elections with stewardship by a large military. It has an honest  President who rules largely bey decrees pretty much at the pleasure of the military. Military  stewardship there is tolerated and even encouraged by Western countries, including the US and France, the former colonial power. The reason is that in the nineties, that same military prevented an electorally  victorious Islamist coalition from taking power. This does not make Algeria a happy country. I suspect that most Algerians, who all learn French, want to move to Europe, to France, to Belgium, anywhere in Europe. There is not much of a reason to believe that Algeria will not explode too.

Much of the media, including the press  I read regularly  is looking for evidence of looting in liberated areas of Libya and making tsu,tsu noises when it finds it. It seems that unimaginative journalists are trying to will upon Libya a repeat of the liberation of Iraq. This is silly and unwarranted. First, of course, “looting” guns and ammunition is a rational act of self-defense. Beyond this obvious fact, I  think looting the dictator’ personal belongings is a healthy thing to do after forty years of dictatorship.  Parading in the street wearing one of the tyrants many headgears and wrapped in his bedspsread signifies to others, and especially, to yourself, that you have begun to not fear him. Long live looting!

About Jacques Delacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
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16 Responses to Tripoli, Libya: What’s not Discussed in the Media; Augmented: Looting.

  1. Gary Kimes says:

    Jacques said

    “they have been upstaged by a hurricane; there will be other events and non-events occupying our screens ”

    The only way to keep a keen sense of right and wrong and to rid yourself of the political distraction that allows the constitution to be overruled daily, shoot your “screen”. It is what is NOT shown is what is making us irrelevant. GaryK

  2. thecrackshotcrackpot says:

    “Long live looting”.

    Just when I think you run out of words of wisdom…I’ve got a full plate these days, so I’ll keep this short and sloppy (my specialty!). Dr. J’s arguments deserve better treatment than I could give him here, and I promise I’ll give him a good licking when things simmer down on my end:

    Oooo! Good catch. I am sloppy today. Libya was not created by the Ottoman Empire. Libya was in fact created by the Italians less than one hundred years ago after several centuries of being roughly divided into three self-governing polities within the larger Ottoman Empire.

    I read your recent blog post and, as usual, it is very thought-provoking. I still think the connection between Bush’s foreign policy and the unrest in the Arab world is tenuous at best. Why have Indians suddenly discovered that their government is corrupt? Why is Britain burning? Why are far Right nationalist parties enjoying prominence in wealthy European states? Do you think that the Arab Spring is unconnected to larger global forces?

    On artificial states: was France or Switzerland created by the British or the Russians (or the Italians!!) with the stroke of a pen?

    I still think we’ll see bloodbaths because most naive factions see centralized power as THE way to achieve stability. The not-so-naive factions also see centralized power as an attractive option. As long as everyone is competing for power at the center of these states, we’ll continue to see bloodshed and instability. I have yet to see anything, unfortunately, to suggest otherwise. The mass graves may stop for a time, but without a game plan that involves smaller states and more trade/less aid, they’ll be back. No matter how many times we bomb a dictator from his palace.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      A bit at a time: France was created jointly by Russia, Austria and England at the Congress of Vienna. Shortly before that, it extended from Hamburg to about 50 miles north of Rome. Check it out; you will be astonished.

      Switzerland did arise spontaneously from the neglect of the states bordering it aided by high mountains and the fact that it had (has) no appreciable resources.

      • thecrackshotcrackpot says:

        Yes of course but France, as it is today, didn’t simply start out as such a massive state, right? I mean, France and Iraq are about the same size, but French statecraft and governance have been around for a loooong time. The Parisian fiefdoms (or whatever you want to call them) didn’t just start out governing the territory now known as France. It was, as you say, created a bit a time, right?

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        France came into being through accretions, inheritances, alliances and wars. There was an armed secessionist movement that lasted until about 1805.
        Seems to me Iraq is not dojng worse than France in becoming a unitary state, or worse than the US in becoming a federal state. Underlying your comments, I sense, without being able to demonstrate it a kind of superciliousness toward Arabs. They haven’t been good at creating representative institutions. Others were not either, until they were.

  3. thecrackshotcrackpot says:

    Ah! I am glad you brought the concept of superciliousness.

    Let’s take your readers through a walk, shall we?

    On one side of the great libertarian foreign policy debate, we have those who would bomb, invade, and occupy a foreign country in the name of setting up a functioning democracy. I have no reason to believe that the neoconservatives had any ulterior motives for pushing Bush to invade Iraq. What you wanted was democracy in the Middle East, and you believed that our military was the only thing that could provide it.

    So to reiterate: on the neoconservative side of the debate, the advocates for promoting democracy through the barrel of a gun claim that foreigners are certainly capable of democracy, and they just need a “nudge” to get there…courtesy of our soldiers’ M-16s.

    On the other side of the debate – the libertarian side that promotes peace over war, friendship over politics, and commerce over sanctions – it is argued that other peoples have their own concepts of democracy. It is argued that the West has no right to bomb, invade, occupy, and force others to abide by a certain set of democratic principles. It is recognized that the Rule of Law is more easily observed and enforced through local (and geographically smaller) political institutions.

    Furthermore, it is recognized that devolutionary tendencies, wars, and alliances are all part of the political process, and that such events are best left to the people taking part in them, rather than to powerful and well-financed militaries hailing from far-flung parts of the world.

    This camp believes that the post-colonial world – far from needing any more “help” from the West – is more than capable of handling its own political affairs, and that our meddling in the domestic affairs of others often produces results that are anathema to individualism, republican government, free trade, the Rule of Law, and peace.

    This camp is under no illusions about the ruthlessness of dictators. Far from it, which is precisely why a foreign policy of neutrality is promoted. For far too long our government, under the guise of promoting democracy and capitalism, has been using tax dollars to fund the very tyrants that neoconservatives so vociferously denounce. Yet instead of striking the root, they cry for others to hack at bothersome branches!

    Which side, I beseech your readers, is more supercilious?

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Dear Crackpot: You set up the sides conveniently. I am a libertarian who prefers military intervention to destroy Hussein, Stalin, Hitler, to ideological purity.

      Neo-cons were not impelled only or mostly by a desire to install democracy in the Arab world. If they had been, they would have chosen an easier nut to crack than Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Tunisia comes to mind. They wanted to repair the mistakes of the first Gulf War when a chance to rid the world and Iraqis of a bloody monster was squandered.

      I am sorry to say this because I am sue that’s not what was or is in your heart but libertarians like you were pro Hussein. pro -massacres, and pro-mass graves, and pro giant brutalization.

      • thecrackshotcrackpot says:

        Well of course we are pro-brutalization. If only the world had more Saddam Husseins in it!!!

        You are beginning to confuse me. First, you laud the Bush administration for setting up representative government in Iraq. You even credit his administration for the Arab Spring. Then you claim all his team wanted to do was remove Hussein from power?

        One question leads to another: by the way, how DID Saddam Hussein rise to power? And how DID he get all of those chemical and biological weapons that he used on Iranians and Iraqis in the first place?

      • jacquesdelacroix says:

        You are not confused but playing the fool. Of course, I know and everyone who reads me knows that I am not stating that you and your ilk enjoy the brutalization of innocent people far away. Rather, I am affirming that you have become callous out of ideological rigidity. It’s the psychological model that applied to many generous-hearted leftists of the thirties and forties who ended up excusing and, finally, even supporting massive Stalinist atrocities.

        I don’t think I said that Pres. BUsh invaded Iraq only to remove Saddam Hussein. The idea of creating a precedent in the Arab world was certainly on neo-conservatives’ minds. If this does not come through in my writing, it’s only because of incompetence or lack of attention. I opine further that the Iraqi precedent the Bush administration created does seem to have acted as a precedent. Of course, I cannot be absolutely sure. One cannot ever be sure of the causes of historical events. Paris might have been liberated in August 1944 if tens of thousands of American soldiers had stayed in Britain, or in the US.

  4. Thomas H. says:

    Many thanks for your column on this. It helps me to comprehend the nature of the Middle East and Africa situation today a little better. I am of the opinion the freedom fighting and so forth, among rebels and opressors, etc., could eventually become focused on Israel, especially with respect to Iran and how those issues have taken a media back – burner lately. Personally as well, I do not know a Libyan, not one, and the news about the war there has very little impact overall on my life, and I suspect I am like many onlookers standing by, cheering the rebels; and with respect to my own approach to it, they need to purge the country of the old, oppressive and repressive regime leaders, and lay down arms. At some time in the future of this ‘Arab Spring,’ arms need to be silenced and the issue of Palestine addressed in order to avoid more problems, and some organisation needs be given the task of taking this on, somewhat like the “Institut du Monde Arabe” tried to address when it was founded years ago (Paris, France, ca. 1980.)

  5. thecrackshotcrackpot says:

    Dr. J, you are starting to sound more and more like a pretentious Leftist who is too proud to admit he has been wrong. Here is what you said on neoconservatives and Saddam Hussein:
    “I am a libertarian who prefers military intervention to destroy Hussein, Stalin, Hitler, to ideological purity.
    Neo-cons were not impelled only or mostly by a desire to install democracy in the Arab world. If they had been, they would have chosen an easier nut to crack than Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Tunisia comes to mind. They wanted to repair the mistakes of the first Gulf War when a chance to rid the world and Iraqis of a bloody monster was squandered.”
    This sounds an awful lot like you are saying that Bush only invaded Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. I look forward to the amusing way in which you will try to wiggle out of this. You are an intelligent man, so I am sure it will be good. Incompetence on this point is out of the question, though I think a lack of attention does indeed play a part in it. In fact, I think that lack of attention on the part of the neoconservative movement in general with regards to foreign policy plays a big part in our current quagmires in the Muslim world.
    Speaking of a lack of attention (I hope your more intelligent readers are not as inattentive as you have been on the subject of foreign policy), the libertarian case for neutrality and commerce abroad does NOT stem from “ideological purity”. Rather, it stems from the readily-verifiable fact that our interventions abroad have created more monsters and more problems for the world than would otherwise have occurred. Again, I ask you how Saddam Hussein came to power, and how he acquired chemical and biological weapons to butcher his own people with. It also stems from the age-old wisdom of knowing that war abroad limits freedom at home.
    The United States did not install or embolden Hitler or Stalin. It has, however, installed and emboldened plenty of dictators since the end of World War 2. I am willing to grant a number of concessions on this point. The Soviet Union was a murderous and imperialistic megastate bent on world domination. Socialism would have impoverished the last quarter of the globe that the United States had influence over if we had not made a stand with a powerful military.
    With that being said, the Soviet Union collapsed under its own murderous weight two decades ago.

    I beseech both you and your readers to consider the following: is the libertarian Right really akin to the soft-hearted Leftists (and Stalinist apologists) of the 30’s and 40’s (you were what, in your forties then?) when it advocates a foreign policy of neutrality and commerce, or is it more akin – like our economic and civil prescriptions – to tough love?
    Just think about it for a minute: the neoconservative narrative on foreign policy calls for the U.S. to wage war on genocidal dictators (most of whom we have inadvertently or otherwise created) in the name of liberating – nay saving! – oppressed peoples everywhere. Does this not sound like the socialists of the 30’s and 40’s calling for drastic and extreme measures to save their societies from imminent exploitation and destruction? Think about how both camps view the Rule of Law in this regard.
    On the other side of the argument, you have calls for peoples to fight their own fights, if need be. Not because of a perceived barbarity on their part, but due to the respect for a stranger that one should have simply on the merits of being a man alone. What is so ideologically pure about letting people fight for their own freedom? About respecting the decisions that they come to? And about setting a good example to those who yearn for a free and prosperous society? That sounds like tough love to me, and it would also avoid taking a side that may end up being far worse than the oppressive force overthrown in the first place.

  6. Pingback: Notes From Libya | Notes On Liberty

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      Yes, and I, Jacques Delacroix, predicted that Libya would become the next Switzerland in six months flat! Let’s avoid silliness, please: Libya is doing rather better than did the American Revolution at the same age.

      Mr Crackpot, please take the trouble to look at Bruce’s reminder, this issue, about the Gingrich ethics problem you threw in my face a few days ago. You are often dealing in non-facts non events, I think.

  7. Pingback: Notes From Libya « Notes On Liberty

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      My belated comment returning from a trip. I just found out that Editor Brandon had a debate with me about foreign policy in my absence. How inventive!

      The western intervention in Libya was the right thing to do both morally and geopolitically. Fear of Islamism, I mean justified fear, is no excuse for trampling on our defining values. If the choice were really between the certainty of Islamist governments in the Arab world and continued impoverishing fascist rule, we should choose the former, I believe.

      Perhaps, here stops the discussion, with issues of values.

  8. Pingback: Ron Paul and the American Right « Notes On Liberty

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