The World

Mar 22, 2011

Libya … US move really a police intervention

It's the Libyan rebels who've shown a capacity to be reflexive, risk-taking, and radically oriented to the future and its possibilities -- including the possibility that it may go terribly wrong.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


The Libyan revolution has been restarted by the support given to it by Western powers, and Libyan rebels have started to reverse the gains made by Gaddafi’s force in the past few days.

They have already retaken Ajdabiya and Zuwaytinah, two towns to the west of the rebel capital of Benghazi, and would appear to be on the march westward.

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18 thoughts on “Libya … US move really a police intervention

  1. swany

    “It was thus pretty important that it [the revolution] survive by any means necessary. ”
    Good one Guy. I’m not sure if anyone give a pigs arse about imperialism these days. One thing I do know is that bombs kill, and big bombs kill even more people. This is something that you seem to have forgotten in your “analysis”. And if people don’t trust the US or the tories in Britain, or the Sarkozy, there’s probably a good common sense reason for that.

  2. Rena Zurawel

  3. Nicholas Houston

    Guy, who are the “concerted anti-imperialist opposition” that has an “analysis [stemming] from an archaic theory of imperialism, formed in the era of the Belgian Congo, and solidified, if not petrified during the decades of the Cold War” . Who are these people that “see power as expressed only and always in military dominance, territorial occupation, and high capitalist exploitation”.

    You make them sound quite foolish!

    Are they particular commentators or particular groups or particular websites?

    Do they ever have good ideas and sound analysis, and do you ever feed their ideas into other articles you write without referring to them, or is it only when they can be mocked that you would refer to them?

  4. Steve Painter

    Guy, this looks more like a military struggle between rival elites, rather than a revolution.

    A mass-based revolution would be throwing up recognisable leaders, political and military, on the rebel side, and there’s no sign of that.

    Where’s the Libyan Cromwell, Gandhi, Napoleon, George Washington or even Lech Walesa?

    No, the rebels are waiting for US and European support, probably afraid of mobilising the masses, and waiting to be set up as a client regime, probably led by a US-educated figurehead, as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    And don’t say Gaddafi had all the military forces. Sections of the army defected to the rebels, along with considerable materiel.

    You say it yourself, “the Libyan revolution has been restarted by the support given to it by the Western powers”.

    Whatever it is, it’s more like a UN-backed coup, or in current journo-dipolomatese, regime change. Revolution it ain’t.

  5. MLF

    Cheers Guy.

    @Steve – you raise some interesting points.

  6. Frank Birchall

    Guy, can you please address the following questions: do you know what percentage of the adult population of Libya supports the so-called revolution? If you don’t know with any degree of confidence, is it acceptable for a clear minority of the people (as might be the case) to overthrow the government of some 40 years standing? If it is, why? What about rights of the (silent)majority? We’ve all heard interviews with English-speaking Libyans who support the overthrow of Gaddafi. But what about the great body of people who can’t speak English? It was shown in the case of Iraq that some of the educated and English-speaking Iraqis (some in exile as is the case with Libya) greatly deceived the US, pre-invasion, for self-serving reasons. Might this not also be the case in Libya?

  7. Dr_Tad

    Guy seems to be creating straw men about the Left at an alarming rate now. Take these about those of us trying to point out the reasons for the striking repetition in destructive behaviour by great powers by analysing geopolitical power relationships in terms of what we call “imperialism”:

    As international military action intensified, notions of an “imperialist” takeover being spruiked became positively mystical, and increasingly conspiratorial.

    The analysis stems from an archaic theory of imperialism, formed in the era of the Belgian Congo, and solidified, if not petrified during the decades of the Cold War.

    Not only does it fail to consider the contradictions of different types of power — the rather desperate need for the US not to have further drains on its resources, for example — it also fails to consider any process by which ideological fantasies, obsessions, self-delusions might motivate action.

    The result is to cede an awesome degree of power and knowingness to great powers that showed, in the Iraq war, that they were utterly incapable of imposing a desired monolithic order.

    I could try to respond to these straw men but I actually feel that most of Guy’s interlocutors on the Left (myself included) have addressed most of them directly already. It seems that every attempt to engage in serious debate about the nature of modern great power strategy and its likely outcomes is lost on him, to be dismissed rather than considered.

    As Western missiles rain down on another Arab and Muslim country it becomes ever clearer that Guy is much more interested in talking at the Left than with us.

  8. Bob the builder

    If people would like to see some of the anti-imperialist left’s viewpoints, this is an example –

    I agree with Rundle that they are ossified and weak on analysis. I am still ambivalent about the whole thing, and deeply suspicious of the involvement of the western military. If it can be used to support a genuine revolution – if such a think is afoot – great! But the perils are many.

    A very difficult situation to understand and another thought-provoking viewpoint from Rundle is very welcome, even though he’s starting to sound strangely like Christopher Hitchens (not that I’m suggesting he has had a similar loss of sanity, it just highlights the complexity of these events).

  9. Guy Rundle

    well, a few points –

    – all due respect to the subs, i suggested that saudi arabia’s move into bahrain was a police intervention, not the libyan thing. quite quite different

    – Swany, yes, bombs kill. So do tanks and militias. The rebesl were determined to fight on, so people were going to die one way or another. You sound like a pacifist. a fair enough position, but not mine.

    – Steve, you dont identify a revolution simply by the leaders that history has selected. i very much doubt that most participants in the english revolution knew cromwell’s name until well after that long process was underway – and many were passionately opposed to him. there’s clearly a leadership in place. revolutions are often led by elites, from the aristocrat Lenin to the Xhosa prince Mandela. this onee has more of a mass character than most. It was restarted, in the sense that it was given an opportunity to start fighting back, and move forward again. military support restarted it, the west didnt.

    – Frank, there’s both a revolutionary leadership – the transition council – requesting external support, and every report, run in media of every conceivable affiiliation and politics, has featured fighting people demanding support from outside – and (implicitly) for people who call themselves revolutionaries to show solidarity by arguing for that support. In such circumstances you have to choose, and inaction is a choice. This is clearly a majority revolution against an erratic, sclerotic and vicious dictatorship, and the only rational political step is to support them, even if it goes horribly wrong.

    – Tad, i notice there’s a slippage in your assessment of the course of events from ‘certain outcome’, to ‘likely outcome’. The passage you quote is an argument, and one ive amplified at great length at ‘the stump’ and will continue to do so. You don’t reply to these arguments, you tend to simply repeat assertions about the monolothic character of imperialism. yes missiles are raining down on an arab and muslim country – cheered on by arabs and muslims rising up. A situation which reduces you to non sequitur rhetoric.

  10. Frank Birchall

    Thanks for the response, Guy. With respect, how do you know that the revolution is “clearly a majority”?

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