It’s pretty disappointing to learn that, after witnessing the protests and clear desperation of the Libyan people to be free of Gaddafi, the rest of the world is apparently content to just sit back and look the other way while he bombs them back into submission. It’s 2011, and that’s apparently the best we can do.
Is this the ultimate result of destructive and poorly-planned invasions like Afghanistan and Iraq – that we can no longer act even when the people themselves have taken the first massive step to break free? Where are those who previously said the West had an obligation to stand up for democracy? Where are those who previously said the West had an obligation to stand up for human rights?
That includes people on my own side of politics, by the way. Guy Rundle, writing in Crikey on Friday, was quite right:
The anti-imperialist left is in a major jam over Libya. They’re falling back on a firm anti-imperialist line: to quote the UK Socialist Worker, reprinted in Australia’s Socialist Alternative — “We have to let the Libyan people make their own revolution.”
The trouble is, in making that revolution the Libyan people are, as free revolutionary subjects, asking for material support. In which case, the refusal to even consider arguing for such amounts not to non-intervention, but to a refusal of solidarity.
To “let them make their own revolution …” in such condition is not a guarantee of autonomy, but to treat a people like children. It is to go beyond respect for national self-determination, to a rigid respect for national boundaries more characteristic of realpolitik conservatives than internationalist radicals.
I think that’s very true. Preventing Gaddafi from using his power to slaughter his own people is not “imperialism” – it’s preventing the undemocratic, murderous application of state power against the Libyan people themselves. Gaddafi and his regime don’t “represent” the Libyan people – that’s why they’re bombing them!
If we’re happy to sit back and not care, our governments will be more than happy to do likewise. They’ll probably do that even if we do raise our voices, but at least we’ll be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
And while we’re on the subject – it was a surreal experience watching Insiders this morning. The panel did debate the issue of a no-fly zone in Libya – if by “debate” you mean “they talked about what it meant in terms of the supposed conflict between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard”. Rudd’s supposedly been pushing for a no-fly zone, and the only reason the panel could come up with for why that might be is that he’s trying to get himself a seat in the UN or something. Self-interest. Not, you know, because we all recognise Gaddafi is a murderous thug and stopping him slaughtering his own people might be, you know, the right thing to do.
Unbelievable. The tragedy in Japan was discussed through a similarly myopic prism.
UPDATE: The debate on Larvatus Prodeo.