Confusion over Libya War Reflects the Decline of US Empire (Which is a Good Thing!)
–by Kevin Martin, Executive Director
The U.S./British/French-led intervention in the civil war in Libya has caused confusion on many sides – in domestic public opinion, congressional opinions about the legal, moral and strategic rationales for launching yet another war (President Obama may well be lucky he is visiting Central and South America and that Congress is out of session right now), and in the international community. Here are just a few of the many unanswered questions:
What are the objectives in Libya? Regime change? The UN didn’t authorize that but Obama and others have said Col. Muammar Qaddafi must go.
Who is leading or coordinating the “coalition” of military forces attacking Libya? Not NATO (Turkey won’t allow it, good for them). Obama said the U.S. will turn over leadership of the war to someone – he didn’t specify whom – in a matter of days. France is proposing a new “steering committee” of the various countries involved. What is this, a pick-up game of war?
Who exactly, other than the amorphous “anti-Qaddafi forces,” are we supporting in Libya?
How will this war impact other countries and peoples in a region that has seen such breathtaking change in just the last couple of months? What is going on in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Iran and Iraq (an invasion – Saudi and United Arab Emirates forces into Bahrain – and mass killings and/or crackdowns against protesters, presumably because those in power think they can get away with it while the world’s attention is focused on Libya)? Do the U.S. and U.N. have any consistent standards for invoking the “responsibility to protect” justification for “humanitarian” military interventions?
I’m sure the reader could think of many more. All of this is not surprising, and it’s not just from “the fog of war.” It’s evidence of the emergence of a multi-polar, somewhat messy world order in the winter of US Empire.
I know most people get defensive hearing the U.S. called an Empire. But look at our failed, endless wars, economic and fiscal crises at the national, state and local levels (manufactured, not “real,” by our bailout of Wall Street, refusal to justly tax the rich and corporations, and the wars and gargantuan military budget equivalent to the rest of the world’s countries combined), rapacious, reckless energy consumption and destruction of the environment. Call it something other than Empire, but call it what it is – unsustainable. We have to find a better path forward for our children, our country, and the world.
Johan Galtung, considered a founder of the field of Peace and Conflict Studies, predicts the end of the Empire by 2020, but even if he is off by a few years – and he was pretty dead-on about the demise of the Soviet Union – we need to start constructing a better society now.
So the real questions are how do we minimize the destruction likely to be caused as this decline accelerates, and most importantly, how do we build something better, both internationally and domestically, in its wake? How do we empower people to take control of their lives, communities, workplaces, schools, economies, countries, and the stewardship of finite, fragile planet we all share?
Anyone claiming to have all the answers would be a fool. The “triple evils” of our society – racism, militarism and economic exploitation – decried by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967 are still powerful today. But the beginnings of that new, more just world are seen where people come together to stand against injustice and demand a better way.
The people of Egypt captivated the world with their mostly nonviolent and secular revolution against a dictator the U.S. supported for nearly thirty years. Obama, and his successor, and his successor’s successor, would gladly have kept lavishing money, weapons and political cover on Mubarak and his son (who Mubarak had anointed to replace him) ad infinitum, but the people of Egypt stood up and said, “No More!”
In Wisconsin, the illegal, audacious union-busting move by Governor Scott Walker, ironic as Wisconsin was the first state to recognize state workers’ right to collective bargaining, sparked an awe-inspiring response from working people there (and in other state capitals as well). People peacefully occupied the Capitol Building (aided by the police!) and farmers on tractors converged on Madison to join a crowd of over 100,000 two Saturdays ago. That is what solidarity looks like! And Peace Action Wisconsin activists were there, loud and proud!
Then there was U.S. Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) congressional hearing on the “radicalization” of the American Muslim community. This racist, repugnant, new McCarthyite sham was widely denounced, deservedly so, in the media and among civil liberties activists, in a show of support for our American Muslim sisters and brothers.
Progress is being made in other places as well. Illinois recently became the 16th state to repeal the death penalty, and Maryland may also do so soon; the votes are there in the legislature and the governor has said he will sign the bill into law. Maryland and other states are making progress toward legally recognizing gay marriage, and medical marijuana and decriminalization seems to have inexorable momentum in many states and municipalities.
One needn’t agree with all these moves to see what is happening – people are standing up, standing together, and demanding better solutions to our country’s challenges. It is also happening, if slowly, on health care reform, energy and food safety and sustainability (great issues for building community), ending our disastrous wars and cutting our outrageous military budget in order to reinvest in human needs.
Just as protesters in Madison drew inspiration and support from those in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, advancement domestically is linked to progress in building better structures to replace a Pax Americana (what Pax? We’re fighting three wars!).
The Libya “humanitarian intervention” should be the last of its kind. Instead of selective, pick-up wars (with who knows what unintended consequences) against selected despots, a permanent UN peacekeeping force under the direction of the Secretary-General, not the Security Council, needs to be established. Regional economic and security alliances, based on respect for human rights and democracy, need to be strengthened. And diplomacy, sustainable economic development and disarmament, rather than coercive threats, human and resource exploitation and arms races, must be the cornerstones for a more peaceful and stable international order.
The demise of the U.S. Empire will likely not be pretty, or easy, but we can help steer it to a softer landing. And we should keep our eyes on the prize that will follow, the blossoming of the U.S. Republic (as Galtung has termed it), and a more peaceful, just, stable world.
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Great post! I learned a lot from it. As a pacifist, I’ve been struggling with my take on the Libya intervention. Just today, it was posted that Canada has contributed to the bombing, which has me feeling weird, because I feel like Canada is synonymous with “me” sometimes. I do think something needed to be done to protect civilians. But you’re absolutely right that this “selective” intervention process is grossly problematic. Thank you for such an enlightening post.
Islam = slavery Christian = anti-slavery
Islam = No free will Christian = Honor and Respect for your God Given Free Will
Islam = Conscious clearing to propagate Islam, which takes away one’s God given free will = slavery
Christian and Atheist intervention in Muslim lands is to liberate them from the International slave trade aka human trafficking.
Muslims want their sovereignty, because Americans and Europeans go into Islamic territory and murder, rape, and enslave women and children, both boys and girls.
Message received from Persian men. The oil industry is an excuse to gain access to their people for exploitation.
Muslims 4 Christ are changing their laws to abolish the international slave trade and modernize their judicial systems, to be free from exploitation.
Corporate Greed: I forgot “Military spending includes: laptops computers, cell phones, Internet svc, cell phone svc”
You’re welcome, and thanks for the attaboy! Feel free to forward the link to friends, colleagues, etc.
I would like to hear more from Kevin Martin.
What is the alternative to the Western intervention in Libya?
Aren’t the anti-government forces in favor of this intervention?
Do we know better than they do what is the best interests of Libya?
I just wonder, Martin, if we will see the day the rest of the World will ask for a regime change in the US, within our life time or not !?!?!
And I also wonder if the all the counties who entered this war theater are aware of the danger ?
Are we dealing with a popular uprising here or is this only a tribal war where we are pull into, or in other words will we be glad with the final outcome, if there is any – who will be in office in Libya after the war ?
Or is this all again a fig leaf for a control over oil, which I have the feeling is the real reason and is this why we are now entering this war theater, but we did not during the other uprisings in the Middle East. If you doubt this then please tell me why the stock market reacted so strong when the war broke out and a second time when the first cruise missiles started to hit their targets ?!?!
One final question: What is this war to NATO – Is NATO suddenly equal to an UN peace keeping force ?
Keep on the good work, Let us start to put the necessary questions !
Pro Peaceful Energy Use
Good questions and points on the last two posts. As I wrote, a standing UN peacekeeping force should be established (but the US has blocked this for years), which would be a much better tool for situations like this than a US/NATO intervention force (that’s what it is, we intervened on one side in a civil war). Also, earlier negotiations, under the auspices of the African Union (which tried to send an international delegation to Libya but was rebuffed) might have helped cool the situation off for a bit. Also, stop selling arms! The US is the world’s #1 arms dealer, to the whole world and especially the Middle East.
Pres. Obama is stuck following the same pattern as previous Presidents. He is attempting to appease the rich, evil Americans and Europeans, who own stocks and corporate bonds in companies that manufacture weapons of death, rather than manufacturing aircraft for Life, in support of the Pro-Life agenda.
Do press these same corporations to manufacture new life flight helicopters that can transport more than 1-2 patients, even our military medivac units need to be replaced. We also need new advanced aircraft and new advanced ships, designed to save and preserve life. These design engineers can consult with medical professionals and get America ready for natural disasters and homeland protection.
Real Christians are pro-life and want to see these corporations create and manufacture new helicopters, with ez financing for municipal governments, our military units, and our Coast Guard. These same corporations can still make money, by operating on a Pro-Life agenda.
Oil Corporations wanted peace there in Libya.
We need to respect foreigners’ sovereignty = Don’t buy their oil and get out of their lives.
Respect Arab sovereignty = Don’t buy Arab oil.
Respect Persian sovereignty = Don’t buy Persian oil.
Force American oil companies to buy American ethanol & biofuel.
You are absolutely right. It’s time to wind all of this military interventionism before we go broke. I believe that we have already long ago lost the moral high ground. Oh! That’s right , it’s relly about opening up new markets at gunpoint
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