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principles of interventionism

Reader comment on item: Libyan Blues

Submitted by lucretius (Poland), Aug 23, 2011 at 03:57

There are some positive elements in the way this intervention was carried out and also much to worry about. On the positive side: the overthrow (assuming that it really turns out to be so) of the Gaddafi regime has been achieved without the use of Western ground troops, which clearly is much more palatable to the Arabs and to the Western public opinion. Essentially the same was true about the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where the ground fighting was done almost exclusively by the forces of the Northern Alliance (because the US rather than NATO was involved in the campaign, the original victory in Afghanistan was achieved with much less destruction and loss of life than in Libya.)

The biggest problem will begin only from now on. If Western powers and public understood that there is absolutely no point in helping to bring about a regime change if it is going to mean a change for the worse both for the West and for the Libyan people, than there would be reasons for hope, for there is no doubt that, with sufficient determination, the West is capable of doing to any regime in Libya that it finds unacceptable the same what it has done to the Gaddafi one. Logic and common sense imply that if you commit yourself to interventionism you have to be ready to stay committed to achieve a outcome that is, at least in some respects better than the situation before the intervention. The West must ensure that the following two fundamental conditions are satisfied (in strict order of priorities):

1. The new regime must be less hostile to Western interests than the previous one

2. The new regime should be at least somewhat better for its people (in terms of human rights etc) than the one it replaced

These are the minimum requirements that should be non-negotiable but one should be very weary of trying to achieve much more than that. Building Western style democracy in a decade or two in semi-medieval societies is far too ambitions and almost certain to end in overreach, disillusionment and possibly Iranian-like outcome - where an unsatisfactory regime was replaced by a far worse one. (However, one should not forget that the Shah was not overthrown by a direct Western intervention, though Carter certainly made a disastrous contribution to what happened).

Had the successful interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq been followed by policies aimed at achieving only the above two points, there are good reasons to believe that the final result would have been better than the one that is going to result from many years of "nation building" in both countries. In fact even at this stage conditions 1 and 2 are both satisfied in both Iraq and Afghanistan and it is still worth doing everything possible that it remains so.

Unfortunately, it is very doubtful that NATO without a strong US involvement has the staying power to ensure even these modest conditions. The US, even in its present sorry condition, certainly has the power, but, right now, not the will. The main reason for staying hopeful is the general unpredictability of the world and the fact that history rarely repeats itself; this means that Egypt is unlikely to become another Iran, as so many expect, and the final outcome in Libya is probably not going to be different from both the most optimistic and most pessimistic scenarios that are now being discussed.

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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