Wednesday, March 9, 2011

NATO's "concern for human rights" should never be taken seriously.

    Right now we are starting to hear calls for an air war against Libya to "prevent human rights abuses". NATO is basically the United States, and it has one of the worst records for human rights abuses in the 20th century, including supporting military dictatorships which kill thousands of dissenters, aiding and abetting genocide and massacring civilians. Whenever a great power starts expressing "concern about human rights", should we really take them seriously? Ever?

Libya is the latest ugly incarnation of the
(invoking the doctrine of "Responsibility to Protect", 
or R2P), essentially a pretext to justify imperial
adventures, such as the Kosovo war in 1999
    Make no mistake: whenever you hear the U.S. clamoring for military intervention, you must always ask what the real geo-political reasons underlying it are. Wars are expensive and risky (particularly, public opposition to the war back home, or loss of prestige if defeated). A human-rights abusing power like the United States will not enter a conflict for such flimsy reasons as "protecting human rights". These are always excuses, pretexts for the real reasons underlying war.
    The Obama administration's reaction to the uprisings in Egypt and Libya have been the same, and what you'd expect from an imperial power. The U.S. wants to support the dictator but does so quietly and hopes things blow over. When things become agitated, Obama expressed some meaningless words expressing concern over the situation but remaining noncommittal, taking a "wait and see" approach. If it becomes clear the leader has lost, America's leader will pretend they supported the revolution all along. It is important for the U.S. to make sure that whoever is in power, they work as a client of the United States. For this reason, it would be unwise to take sides before you know will end up on top.
    I do not know exactly what U.S planners are thinking about Libya right now, but I suspect they believe Gaddafi's days are numbered and they want to make sure that when he falls, the right person will take over his position. U.S. interests in the Middle East fear independent, democratic and secular Arab states. The existence of one might inspire Arab populations in other countries living under oppressive U.S.-backed regimes to agitate for change--a real threat to U.S. dominance in the region. This is especially true for Saudi Arabia, America's #1 ally, and a completely undemocratic, theocratic dictatorship. Popular Arab democracies might undermine America's strategy of controlling the world's oil supplies.
In Libya, activist movements called
for no intervention (Mar. 2011)
    We should definitely oppose any military action in Libya without United Nations approval. We must make it clear to our leaders we oppose unilateral military action and that we won't fall their appeals to emotion when they say they just want to defend human rights.

Edit: This article discusses western dependence on oil from the region and how Libya's oil disruption can affect our economy. This may underlie our real reasons for intervening, getting the oil flowing again.

Update: The UN has since authorized military force in Libya, with Russia and China abstaining on the motion in the Security Council. While minimal adherence to international law is favorable, the structure of the UN as it stands is admittedly imperfect and endorsement of intervention should not necessarily be taken to mean that the cause is just. The matters at hand are the fact that the Obama administration wants "regime change" in Libya, first and foremost, and is not looking at other solutions; neither are the Eastern rebels' provisional government, who rejected outright the possibility of a diplomatic solution (which may or may not have been serious, but that's beside the point) with Qadaffi (who suggested he was willing to entertain the possibility of leaving the country). While one can be sympathetic with notions the Qadaffi should be "brought to justice", as it is claimed by some in the East, it is worth remembering that the stated reason for intervention of intervention was to save lives. It is rather ironic to pursue a war that will end up with many more deaths, when another potential solution existed. Needless deaths seem a high price to pay just to bring one man, criminal though he may be, to justice. How essential is this "justice" when a country would be better off ending a conflict and move forward in relative peace? How many deaths is this kind of honor worth?

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