Home > General Politics, News from Abroad > Weighing in on a No Fly Zone

Weighing in on a No Fly Zone

Having been absent from the blogosphere for quite some time now (nor reading any articles, except the increasingly rare Splinty) I haven’t been party to the line-drawing and hissy fitting between the inevitable “Don’t attack / hands off the people of [insert name here]” and the interventionists. This made me happy because god knows I think 99% of you people are petty wankers with no braincells between you. However, at the march yesterday, conversation about all issues du jour was inescapable. So I gave in.

Kate Belgrave, Carl Packman and I had a sensible conversation about it and I thought now might be an opportune moment to commit thoughts to paper, or its modern equivalent. I am an interventionist, by instinct. My first thoughts upon seeing one regime after another tumbling to revolution across the Islamic crescent with Gaddafi resisting, was to hope that our government would blow the hell out of the military equipment we sold him.

On reflection, such a thought was silly. I knew nothing about the rebel movement. That they are somehow an improvement upon Gaddafi is an assumption of mine, borne on the fresh winds of democratic and revolutionary movements ‘appearing’ in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere. I bracket ‘appearing’ like that because from the point of view of the Western audience, they did just appear. Our media barely gives any time to the nuanced politics of other nations, except America.

Moreover, Western involvement will almost certainly awaken reactionary, nationalistic forces within Libya – and outwith, if Gaddafi’s appeal to all Islamists to join him against the usual Western enemy actually succeeds.

That’s not to say I don’t feel a degree of responsibility for the terror that Gaddafi is able to unleash, with the bombing computers and other sundry hardware that we’ve exported to him. That I feel this is not a commentary on the guilt of the British people – I suspect I speak for a great many people when I say that we, the people, if we controlled our state, would never have sanctioned the sales in the first place. My sentiment is a commentary on the contrary interests of Capital and the national state – and the corresponding hypocrisy of our political elite.

Hypocrisy which has calamitous results, I might add. To see this clearly one must only look at the contrast between the rhetoric of the Allies when confronting Gaddafi, versus the continued silence and inaction when it comes to Bahrain and pro-Western nations which have no objection to slaughtering malcontents.

We shouldn’t be blind, either, to the self-interest in the actions of the UK, France and their allies. Not that I would be so crass to suggest that the whole conflict is motivated by a desire for further lucrative trade negotiations, or *cough* oil *cough*. Heaven forbid. Rather it is quite believable that by offering aid to the rebel leadership “from above”, they can sever the connections that leadership had with the unquestionably genuine and mass dissent which tipped several large cities into rebellion in such a short space of time.

It is not radical nor conspiracy theorising to see this as a possibility; indeed, Western armed force backed by gung-ho free marketeers is an unassailably solid fact of the 21st century. Our modern conquistadores, Jesuits and merchants. For this reason, Western bombing in Libya must be opposed – and this is what the “No Fly Zone” quickly developed into; bombing by submarine launched cruise missiles and from aircraft.

I’m still not opposed to a No Fly Zone – but it must be just that. If Libyan military aircraft take off, they can still be shot down. The NATO allies capacity to fly combat air patrols, to enforce exclusion zones as around their aircraft carriers, is surely insuperable for the Libyans, without the need for bombing any ground targets – civilian or military. Such a lightly treading presence has less capacity to rack up a body count and to summon Islamists to Gaddafi’s side. This is the opinion of an amateur of course and on it I remain flexible.

The opportunistic attitude of our Western governments is not, however, an opinion and the bombing must stop.

As an addendum, I’ve come across the view that we shouldn’t be spending money on military interventions when we could be spending it on (insert cause here). I think this is a nonsense akin to the silly posters I saw some unions carrying yesterday – that the alternative to Osborne’s cuts is to scrap Trident. Simple mathematics tells us that’s not true, though in hinting at the reprioritisation of spending, it’s at least grasping towards something positive.

If we want to challenge the economic orthodoxy sweeping governments across the world, stopping the odd military campaign isn’t going to help us much. We need to go much further. I do agree, however, that by mobilising anti-war opinion and linking the military adventurism of capitalist governments (Labour, Tory, Lapdog, doesn’t matter) to the same worldview that sustains their pro-cuts policies, we’ll be doing the country a service.

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  1. Edgar
    March 27, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    What a muddled piece of sloppy thinking and incoherent argumentation this is.

    “Kate Belgrave, Carl Packman and I had a sensible conversation about it”

    Like hell you did!

    “As an addendum, I’ve come across the view that we shouldn’t be spending money on military interventions when we could be spending it on (insert cause here).”

    Simple maths tell me this really is true! You have £1 and oranges and apples cost 20p each. If you buy 5 apples you aint got enough for oranges. If you buy 5 oranges you aint got enough for apples.

  2. March 27, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Edgar, were you there and I didn’t notice you?

    As for the only substantive part of your reply to me, might I point out that I’m not challenging the view that if we don’t spend on x we can spend on y, merely that when discussing cutting out military interventions, the relevant amount despite the £1million per sortie figures being quoted will not make a substantial difference to Osborne’s cuts or the economic rationale behind them.

  3. Edgar
    March 27, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    “Edgar, were you there and I didn’t notice you?”

    Yes and I was trying to avoid you!

    “the relevant amount despite the £1million per sortie figures being quoted will not make a substantial difference to Osborne’s cuts or the economic rationale behind them.”

    What economic rationale? I see only political rationale. A fundamental part of neo liberalism is to create deficits through arms spending. This then gives cover for the neo liberals to attack government programmes and as David Harvey would call it allows capitalists to ‘externalise’ the cost of social reproduction.

    This Left Forum discussion raises this very issue:

    http://vimeo.com/21393752

  4. March 27, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    You’re a mouthy fuckwit aren’t you?

    From a capitalist standpoint, the economic rationale has been plastered over the media. I am not challenging that this is also a class struggle being waged by the ruling class against the working class.

    Have you actually got something substantive to argue about or do you just like mouthing off for the edification of no one in particular?

  5. paulinlancs
    March 28, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Yup, I came to broadly the same conclusion in my two parter on Libya and the New Tory state, which you won’t have read, and even start by calling my self an instinctive liberal interventionist, given my training in being just that.

    I simply can’t see why the Left is hissy-fitting with each other over whether NFZ is humanitarian/work of capitalist devils when we could be doing/analysing something more useful instead.

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