Sunday, March 20, 2011
Humanitarian intervention? posted by Richard SeymourMe, interviewed at the New Left Project:
The professed rationale for the intervention in Libya is of course a humanitarian one, as is to be expected given the way Western powers (if not all states) portray themselves. The work of writers such as Noam Chomsky, Mark Curtis, yourself and a host of others has, however, shown that Western foreign policy tends to have as its primary concern the power and privilege of domestic elites. What, then, is the real motive of those backing the intervention in Libya? What, fundamentally, do you think they are seeking to achieve?
I think there are various motives. One is to re-establish the credibility of the US and its allies by appearing to side with an endangered population and thus partially expunge the ‘Iraq syndrome’ as well as efface decades of arming and financing dictatorships to keep the local populations under thumb and permanently endangered. But a more fundamental motive can be inferred from the context: the region is experiencing a revolutionary tumult, and the revolution in Libya is no less genuine than those in Tunisia and Egypt (and the uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen). The thrust of this revolution is not just anti-dictatorship, it’s also anti-imperialist, against the IMF and alliances with Israel. So I would hypothesise that the US and its allies have been desperate to find a way to halt this revolutionary process somehow and, where they can’t do that, shape it in a direction more favourable to continued American hegemony in the region. The former regime elements in the leadership of the Libyan rebellion have been more open to an alliance with the US than other revolutionary movements partly because of the particular history and nature of the Qadhafi regime, whose legitimacy continued to rely somewhat on his past standing as a regional opponent of imperialism. This has given the US and EU a unique opportunity to stamp their authority in the process, even if they can’t control it...