Thursday, March 17, 2011

UN votes for Libya air strikes

As if I didn't see this coming a mile off:

10 in favour, zero against, five abstentions. So the vote went exactly as predicted. "The resolution 1973/2011 is adopted.," says the chairman.

This could get very ugly. The resolution authorises a whole series of military measures short of ground invasion, including air strikes. The worst case scenarios? Not that air strikes will kill civilians - that is absolutely guaranteed, and thus constitutes an aspect of even the best case. Not that the war will escalate - that is not a dead cert, but a strong probability. However, it's also unlikely to involve a ground invasion, which I need hardly say would be catastrophic. The worst case scenario seems to be that this will fuel the centrifugal forces tending toward partition between a 'Western' allied statelet in the east, and a rump dictatorship in the west. Qadhafi has spent years deliberately 'underdeveloping' the east to punish these regions and tribal federations for their tendency toward rebelliousness, leaving towns and cities that should be as rich as those in the Gulf states desperately poor, surrounded by shantytowns and slums - and so he has laid the material basis for such divisions. Imperialism creates divisions where none existed before (look at Iraq). This is how it always operates. So it's implausible that where there already are such divisions, and where such divisions have a direct bearing on the conflict underway, that imperialist intervention would not exacerbate them. This may be the worst thing that could possibly have happened to the Libyan revolution. That's a worst-case scenario.

The best-case scenario is that people are killed to little avail, and the former regime elements in the transitional leadership have just diverted energies and initiative down a blind alley. I suppose you might object that the best-case scenario is that the air strikes exclusively kill the bad guys, turning the initiative in favour of the revolutionaries, allowing them to sieze power, build a liberal democratic state, and the cavalry heads home. And the band played, 'Believe it if you like'. Look, I'd like to believe it. I'd also like to believe that Obama is a socialist, Hillary Clinton a feminist, and David Cameron a salesman for unsecured personal loans. But the occasions in which imperialism has directly assisted a revolutionary process are rather infrequent, wouldn't you say? In fact, I suspect you'd be struggling if I asked you to name one.

I'm also afraid that all the talk about the inaction, delaying, dilly-dallying and procrastination of the 'international community', not to mention the demonology about Russia and China obstructing the good guys once again, has played straight into a very familiar war narrative. Just when you've uttered your last "but why won't they DO something?", just when you're about to give up and lapse into foul depression, the good guys come to the rescue. It's like 1941 all over again. There was never any doubt, as far as I'm concerned, that the US would support a no-fly zone if it could be suitably internationalized and involve support from the miserable dictatorships of the Arab League. And no one will be tasteless enough to point out that those very same states are currently butchering their populations with the arms and financial assistance of the imperial powers commanding this coalition of the willing. Because that would just be sour grapes.