YES, we are looking at plans for a ‘no fly zone’ over Libya, David Cameron told Ed Miliband in the House of Commons this afternoon. Oh well, at least he didn’t mince his words.
That doesn’t mean that this is going to happen. Other reports suggest that US defense secretary Robert Gates has gone cold on the idea.
But even the prospect of such a move will be enough to open up another argument on the British left, in a scaled down version of the debate witnessed in the run up to the invasion of Iraq that was reaching a crescendo eight years ago this month.
Gaddafi is a dictator who is killing his own people, one argument will run. A no fly zone will hinder his ability to do so, and so should therefore be supported.
No, the other side will counter. This is simply imperialist intervention, and has to be opposed. A subsection will go that one step further, and loudly declaim verbal support for Tripoli against London and Washington.
Ever since Marx rightly insisted that a nation that oppresses another can never itself be free, opposition to imperialism has been default position for all thoughtful socialists, of course. There was even a time when it was easy enough to define what such a stance entailed. Unconditional support for colonial independence - in all places and in all circumstances - was a no brainer.
Where national liberation movements utilised violence, or were led by elements of unpleasantly Stalinist or rightist authoritarian hue, that made no essential difference. Moral responsibility for their actions accrued to the account of the colonialists, who had no right to remain in dominance, our political predecessors correctly maintained.
But with the almost complete collapse of the classic 1880-1945 model, confusion set in. For instance, the demand that the US and British pull their forces of occupation out of Iraq and Afghanistan is broadly uncontroversial among Marxists.
Yet only a minority are sufficiently consistent to back calls for Russian withdrawal from Chechnya or Chinese withdrawal from Tibet. To this way of thinking, even to call Beijing on its blatant imperialism is itself to play into the hands of some abstract and disembodied ‘imperialism’.
The lines become even more blurred when discussing countries that have enjoyed independence for some decades, and are now under the control of undemocratic regimes that repress their internal populations and sometimes aspire to regional dominance.
Many of these rulers pursue policies that secure them the enmity of the US. Milosevic and Mugabe are classic examples from the recent past, and Mugabe, Ahmadinejad and – right at this moment – Gaddafi represent cases in point today.
In such situations, there are considerations other than international relations. For the left, these include the status of workers, students, peasants and the poor in these countries. Where governments deny them the opportunity to organise themselves into political parties, trade unions and social movements, and withhold from them the right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and gender and racial equality, we should not hesitate to support their ouster. (...)
’m not an absolutist on these things. Yes, there are times when it is right for one country or group of countries to use force to prevent or stem horrors in another country. There can be few ethical objections to Vietnam’s 1978 invasion of Cambodia, and with hindsight, external intervention would have been the best course in Rwanda in 1994.
If a no fly zone over Libya were strictly a short-term expedient, operated by non-aligned countries, on the basis that it would be lifted the day Gaddafi falls, there would be an arguable case for it.
But after Iraq and Afghanistan, the US and the UK are too compromised in Arab eyes credibly to undertake police actions in the Middle East. They should not do so.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 00:06