Friday, 18 March 2011

Where the lines blur.

I do not agree with the death penalty. I think taking life is wrong, and I see no difference between someone being shot on the street by an individual or someone being hanged/electrocuted/injected with a lethal cocktail by the State. The fact that the person being hanged/electrocuted/injected with a lethal cocktail took another's life is irrelevant, your life belongs to you, and it is my belief that nobody has the right to take it unless in self defence. For me, a State execution is no different to a calculated murder, with one exception. The murderer with the gun on the street is not killing in my name or on my behalf.

So it is with this belief in mind that I struggle with the no-fly zone over Libya. Anna Raccoon has blogged on this subject herself this evening - one line in particular has given me food for thought:

Even some Libertarians are now saying it is perfectly OK to kill Libyans, so long as they are the right sort of wrong thinking Libyans.

That's a line that makes me uncomfortable.

It is all about where the lines blur between different states of mind. Does my model government follow an isolationist policy? No, it doesn't. To cut yourself off from the outside world makes no sense. What about non-interventionist? Well, history has shown us that Vietnam was a disaster, and we should be grateful that we didn't go steaming in with the Americans there. Korea was hardly a shining success either, we're still seeing the fall-out fifty years later. So from that angle, non-interventionism seems like a no brainer.

But wait, were we wrong to get involved when Germany invaded Poland? The Nazi regime did for millions of non-combatants, even when you discount the collateral damage of civilians in a theatre of war. Would it have been the right thing to stand aside and do nothing then? Even if the full horror of the Holocaust wasn't apparent in 1939, we had a good idea of what was going on. Would it have been right to have not got involved in the face of genocide?

No, I maintain that in the face of that alone, the Second World War was a justified campaign.

So where does the line blur between non-interventionist and interventionist? Iraq was obviously well over that line. Afghanistan slightly less so, but still over. Where does the no-fly zone in Libya come?

If Gaddafi chooses to probe, test or ignore the UN, are we justified in enforcing it? Make no mistake, for a no-fly zone to be enforced, people will have to die, be they pilots, ground crew, AA batteries, someone will die.

Is it our crisis to be involved in? I want everyone to be free, but we cannot give freedom. It is not a gift that can be given, it is a condition which can only be taken. We cannot simply hand it over. So from that point of view I do not agree with intervention in Libya.

OK, so, what's happening in Libya isn't a fair fight. There's no way we can make it fair, even if Tunisia or Egypt allowed the west to pour weapons over the border, it wouldn't be fair, we can't give the rebels an air force to challenge the Mad Dog. We can't give them training. And Afghanistan teaches caution, we armed the rebels against the USSR, that did not finish well. We won't train and arm an exiled force, I don't think the US is ready to revisit the Bay of Pigs fiasco. On that point I do not agree with intervention in Libya.

Following on from that, whether we arm the rebels or whether we go steaming in on their behalf, do we know what or who will replace Gaddafi? Will they be any better? One tribe will have to dominate the other, it is what happens here, it is just that our tribes are political, not ethnic. What if we preside over elections, how long will that take to bring about? Would our governments, finding themselves with significant reserves of oil under their 'protection' install anything beyond a puppet government? What happens when the population decide they don't like that and turn on us? Will we be justified in doing just what Gaddafi is doing now? We too would denounce them as terrorists and extremists, and would expect our rantings to hold credibility. What if the population, in a free election, decide they want someone we don't like? What if we have another Palestine/Hamas outcome? What then? Palestine will ride, they don't have oil, it is merely an irritant, but in Libya? On that point I do not agree with intervention.

It is clear that Gaddafi is killing his own people with impunity. Hitler did it. We intervened. Stalin, Pot, Mao and Kim (versions 1 and 2) did it, we did not intervene. It is a shocking betrayal of a people he claims to love. It comes back to the fair fight again, but also factors in abuse of power. On that point, I do agree with intervention.

However, where is the intervention in Bahrain? They have also killed their own in an unfair fight, and even called foreign armies to intervene on their behalf. What about Yemen? The same is happening there as in Libya. Zimbabwe? Sudan? Somaliland? We cannot do all of them, should we do any of them? No, can't agree on that point either. It is neither desirable nor practical to pop up everywhere there is unrest.

I can only support intervention in one of five criteria that I can think of. The sixth criteria is because we rely on Libyan oil. Unfortunately that is why we get exercised about Libya and not Yemen, as Yemen has no oil. That is why we get exercised about Libya and not Bahrain, as Bahrain has a 'friendly' leader, it is obviously less bad for him to kill his people than it is for Gaddafi.

I really, really hope that Libya will be rid of Gaddafi, but for it to mean anything, they'll have to do it for themselves. We simply cannot, and should not do it for them, for if we do, we will merely condemn them to another tyranny. At least this way, even in the face of the most difficult odds, they have a chance.

We've destroyed our own culture and country by thinking and acting for own citizens' good, whether they ask for it or not, for us to do it to another culture and country would be tragic.


Call me Infidel said...

Very thoughtful analysis. Pretty much mirrors my own views on this sordid affair. If the French are so keen to get involved then there is something going on in the background. Maybe the fear that Gaddafi's demise will lead to a flood of Africans into the EU, or it may be as simple as oil contracts for Total. Either way it is going to be ugly. No one wants to see innocent civilians being butchered but we turn a blind eye to it elsewhere so what really other than oil is the difference?

I still think that murderers should be shot in the face though.

Bucko said...

Very well put.
As a libertarian, I too believe in non intervention. There is no way we can forsee the consequenses of our actions and we shouldn't judge other countries based on our own ideals.
We only consider intervening because we are stronger than the countries we want to dictate policy to.
If countries like Iraq were more powerful than us, they may decide to invade Britain and free the population from the evils of democracy. They may fully believe that we would be better off under a puppet Islamic government and sharia law.
Just because you believe you are right, doesn't make it so.
We should live by our own ideals and leave others to do the same. The Lybians, Yemenies, Egyptians etc, are clearly tired of thier governing bodies. I happen to agree with them and say fair play to them. It's not up to us to get involved though. As you have said, freedom needs to be taken by the people, not imposed by others.
Governments fight wars, not people. Often it's in the interests of the governement to do so. You mention WW2. It was obvious at a point, that Britain was a target for invasion by the Nazis. We had to intervene. On a war of that scale, probably the Americans did too, but they were our allies.
WW2 wasn't just right because it was a particularly nasty war with a lot of civillian casulaties, it was right because everyone was put in serious danger because of it.
We have no mutual defence pact with Lybia and it's probably a good job looking at the current situation.
The Yanks did good by WW2 anyway. It pulled them out of a serious depression. It hasn't stopped either. If you count the cold war, the Americans have been at war with somebody, ever since they joined WW2.

No, however hard I try, I can't find a good reason to get involved with the internal politics of a soverign nation without a prior defence pact.

Sorry for rambling. Blame it on the Boddingtons :-)

nisakiman said...

Interventionism is a can of worms. As Bucko says, believing something is right doesn't make it right. Look as the mess that is today's Iraq. Notwithstanding the fact that Saddam was a tyrant, the people of Iraq were, generally, a lot better off before the west stuck it's nose in.

In the name of democracy.

Democracy? What is democracy? The tyranny of the majority? What's so different between a democratically elected government enacting laws that isolate and stigmatise 25% of it's population (the tobacco war), and someone like Gadaffi ruling with an iron fist on a tribal basis? The gulf between them is not so great.

I feel for the people of Libya, Zimbabwe, Bahrain, Yemen et al, but it is their affair. They must do as they see fit and as they can. If the west gets involved there will be all sorts of unforseen consequences. And if history is anything to go by, those consequences will not auger well; neither for the Libyans nor for the west.