The Guardian is known as “the world’s leading liberal voice”. That voice, via Simon Jenkin’s latest column, is speaking loudly in opposition to the West’s intervention in Libya:
Welcome to 21st-century war, liberal style. You do not fix an objective and use main force to get it. You nuance words, bomb a little, half assassinate, scare, twist, spin and make it up as you go along. Nato’s Libyan campaign is proving a field day for the new interventionism. Seemingly desperate to scratch another Muslim itch, Britain’s laptop bombardiers and their tame lawyers go into a daily huddle to choreograph the latest visitation of death on some wretched foreigners.
Each day the tacticians tot up a gruesome calculus of wins and losses. Wednesday’s defection of Libya’s foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, somehow cancelled out two days of retreat by the rebels towards Benghazi. That retreat cancelled out a weekend of victory over Gaddafi’s army along the northern highway. Nato bombing cancelled out rebel ineffectiveness. Everything is stalemate punctuated by surprise.
Meanwhile the legal niceties border on the absurd. We cannot kill Gaddafi, unless we describe killing as “all necessary measures”. We observe an arms embargo, except apparently if the arms are going to our side and are thus “protecting innocent civilians”. Guilty civilians are unprotected. We are forbidden from injecting “a foreign occupying force of any form” into Libya, except if it is a “special force” and aiding the bombing with targeting intelligence. The bombing of Gaddafi’s compound and the witnessed killing of civilians in Sirte clearly breached UN resolution 1973. But who cares? As George Bush and Tony Blair found, you can drum up an international lawyer to defend anything.
Gaddafi’s survival is ostensibly insane. He is the tinpot dictator of a tiny country that Nato could topple in a day. It could bomb his palace, take out his tanks, land paratroops on his airport and ship in reinforcements. Libya is not Iraq or Afghanistan. Nato could set up a client regime, as in Bosnia, secure the oil and give two fingers to the Arab world, as the west always does when its interest so requires.
Instead we have the ludicrous position that Nato can save Benghazi by taking out a tank column and then laying a bombed strip to the west. But all this does is encourage reckless rebels to drive towards Tripoli and die. The maxim is old as the hills. No war can be won from the air. A temporary balance of advantage can be awarded to one side, but pilots can only destroy. Bombs are inherently crude tools of war. They cannot seize and hold land.
At present Nato strategy appears to be to prolong civil war by bolstering the weaker side. It is the equivalent of refereeing a bare-knuckle fight so as to keep the contestants on their feet and still punching.
The trouble with liberal interventionism is that it lacks the courage of its neo-imperialist conviction. It claims to know what is best for the world and glories in bombing to get its way. But when push comes to shove it backs off. So we have just a few bombs on the road to Benghazi, one Tomahawk on Gaddafi’s compound, a few shells to terrorise Sirte, a handful of RPGs to keep the rebels from despair. It makes us feel good. If this is liberalism, you can keep it.
It is indeed liberalism… and most of us don’t want a damned thing to do with it.
Read the entire piece and be warmed by the fact that some are seeing liberalism for what it truly is… if only temporarily.