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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Good Drama

Photo: B-52 over Afghanistan, Uncyclopedia


















With our imaginations, we who experience world events over the internet, almost as if by magic, make our projections real. As with all dramas, they take on a life of their own, once conceived.

Take the Western intervention in Libya, for example . . .

It's not a big war, though you might think it huge by the amount media attention, and military hardware we've brought to bear on the project, and the amount of fuel being used, not to mention missiles expended at nearly three quarters of a million dollars a shot. It's a good war to get re-elected by.

What about lives saved? Initially it was again believed the precision of Western led air technology would actually prevent bloodshed; certainly it was not believed that the totals would mount, as the imbroglio became more and more complex.

President Obama cooled on the project since Hillary Clinton's initial enthusiasm. Nicholas Sarkozy, the French President, and David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, each have their own reasons for wanting the involvement. For Cameron, it may be a distraction from deepening economic troubles at home.

The French president meanwhile is trying to galvanize support with an election coming, an impending takeover by the far right. Sarkozy's early actions in the Ivory Coast, (French attacks on Laurent Gbagbo's compound) apparently solidified his political self-esteem, and may account for early hawkish actions by the French in Libya.

"Saving lives', to use the sound-byte, by employing our Air Force above Libya, seemed the right thing to do. The rebels asked us and the Arab League seconded any actions that could save civilians.

The rebel leadership seemed well organized at the onset of the crisis, but as of early April is wildly disorganized, and now blames NATO , claiming the West is not utilizing its firepower effectively. Allied forces, anxious not to cause civilian damage, or repeat deaths caused by friendly fire, are taking too long to respond to harried calls for air support from commanders on the ground.

By April 7th five more accidental deaths, and ten rebels wounded by NATO strikes have provoked outright hostility towards the West from the very people we're trying to help. "NATO fired two rockets at us," claimed one rebel. "NATO are liars. They are siding with Gaddafi."

The West will never know who it helps, and who it hinders, since this is not an experiment with a controlled experiment set off to one side. There is no parallel planet with a Libya left to its own devices to compare with the Libya we're creating with our heavy handed intervention. Powerful jet fighters, cruise missiles, and off-shore carrier strike forces that rely on satellite gathered intelligence will never be able to sort the biting ants, from the non-biting.

Wikipedia has a page tallying deaths from the Libyan Civil War. On April 3rd, the total spiked considerably. Bodies of Sub-Saharan migrants were found, apparently killed fleeing the country. They were dead in the water and on the beaches not far from Tripoli. As of early April total dead reached the thousands, comparable to the slaughter of citizens in the Ivory Coast for example, or the heinous and willful machine gunning and execution of protestors in Yemen, both places which are far more dangerous to intervene.

Every action bears and equal and opposite reaction.. Yet our leaders' initial points are well taken. A slaughter of some kind may have been averted in Bengazi. Qadaffi's troups would have taken prisoners, and killed many of the rebels as spies or traitors, not to mention the deadly effects of heavy shelling within or upon a populated city.

By April 4th that slaughter merely moved to a different place. In an angry plea for more co-ordinated NATO strikes, the rebel commander on April 4th displayed frustration about Qadaffi forces destroying Misurata, causing starvation and deaths of innocent citizens and children, caught in a war-ravaged city without water.

Most glaringly apparent throughout this conflict, is that the West has no end-game plan at all. We do not know what we want from this war, (except for oil) or how we'd like things to end up. Consider these realities: a) we're not on the ground except for our spies - who trusts spies?  b) we don't speak any of the languages fluently enough, or understand the tribal discords well enough to interpret local leaders, c) our weaponry is so vastly oversized in scale to the conflict we're attempting to influence, these factors combine to make the Libyan crisis, more a Libyan disaster.

At most our motivations seem to flow from economic necessity, a kind of periodic hostile bloodletting that  we've grown addicted to.

Reasons for war are always abundant. Appeals for intervention will always sound louder than peaceful silence. Yet as the West follows the course charted long ago by Spengler, we seem less and less able to keep our powder dry. As always, the badge of truly powerful is inaction. Mountains that move tend to crumble. Clearly the superpowers have lost the strength to sit this war out.

Should we let ants fight one another, or do we try to eliminate the anthills? We certainly will be bitten for our efforts and there won't be a whole lot of ants left when we're done.

This little war that is making big headlines, is ideal for economically hungry arms businesses and Western governments. High visibility makes it easy to report, seemingly low-risk makes it a perfect op. Media attention keeps our noses out of more incendiary places, that are more dangerous to Western interests. Palestine, Syria, Yemen.

Paradoxically 1973 is the year that Congress put an end to US bombing over Cambodia. Some of you may remember Henry Kissinger's not-so-secret war, in which, to quote Wikipedia: "2,756,941 tons of ordnance were dropped in 230,516 sorties on 113,716 sites." A tally of lives lost is not presented in that page of 'history' [one wonders why Wiki omitted this statistic], but I leave you to imagine a suitable figure.

I'll digress by noting that not one of those items dropped contained any first aid, food, doctors, or nurses, or burn bandages. We carpet bombed a country almost for the fun of it. Dr. Kissinger, who unbelievably received the Nobel Peace prize (money from dynamite), will in the end enter the annals of history as one of the great butchers of all mankind. In the end, North Vietnam defeated us soundly, and we beat it out of the region. I say all this only to note that any fools who believe that bombs save lives, should have their heads examined. It's an oxymoron, yet indulged by some of the best educated people in the world. I have far more admiration for those that want war simply to get restocking orders, which is a much more general truth about human combat. 

War's a wealth transfer.


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