AMONG BELIEVERS - the Libyan debate
the Libyan debate
I wrote a comment to an article of Michael Albert on this subject. I didn't do a good job, so that created some misunderstanding between him and me.
Well, no misunderstanding about that: there's a lot of misunderstanding between me and Michael Albert. When I spoke about hopeless ideals and me being a bit more practical I referred to another discussion I've had with him (on striving for a better world).
First of all: my comment seemed to repeat what MA was saying.
Is that true? Well, at least, it has the appearance. Of course I didn't mean to rewrite his comment on the discussions.
Having carefully read his article again, I do not think that I solely did repeat his argument. At least, there's a difference in tone. I will come to that after some other remarks.
[This time I hope to do a better job, but to me writing English is still like moving in a wheelchair.]
Second, and before returning to the thinking of MA, I did, as a consequence of the misunderstanding with MA, some rethinking myself: what is my position.
Well, it is clearly very consistent with my other views on such matters.
And as instinctive as you can get.
I am an anarchist.
I do not like authorities, in the very broad sense of the word. So I do not like the position, and I do not accept that position, of USA, England and France, neither other countries in the world, who assume they have the right to intervene in such conflicts. And that has nothing to do with a moral judgment of the position or the deeds in the past of these countries. I just deny them the right: the statesmen representing these countries, and the voters of these statesmen.
I am a pacifist.
So I am opposed to any bloodshed, let it be the starting bloodshed, or the bloodshed to prevent more bloodshed.
As I said: very instinctive.
Okay, I have some practical points.
I do not know of bloodsheds that were started to correct and prevent further bloodshed that were already happening, and resulted in what they meant to achieve.
And, as an anarchist, I am a practical one, because I do believe in my anarchism, but not in worldwide anarchism. So we need some practical blueprint of a society - driving on the left side or on the right side of the road etc. - and we need some cops to make the blueprint working. And we need desperately some cops on the world stage. It is here where we meet the biggest problem. There is no legitimate blueprint how to arrange global matters. If one thinks of the rules of some big shots of the UNSC as such a blueprint, I would say: that's more like the feudal system.
Of course, as any individual, I like to feel a bit certain about my choices, so I have done some reading. Chomsky (I mention him first because to me he is the most sober and non-moralizing thinker), Cole and Swanson, Achcar and Falk. And many others, among them Street (I mention the latter because I do not like the way he argues, and most of the time I cannot appreciate the outcome of his arguing, so it's always good to read him in order to check my prejudices).
It didn't confuse me, as you might expect, reading so many opinions, from such intellectual giants, although full of right arguments, as diverging as they can get. No, it didn't confuse me at all. If anything, it made me feel more certain about my own position. And I repeat what I wrote in my comment to MA:
- the present situation, which is a threefold one: the powers that be in USA, the powers that be in Europe, and the powers that be in Libya - a lot of things [as you state yourself] being unknown
- the future situation in Libya without intervention, and with intervention, both completely uncertain.
This is mirrored in all those articles I could lay hand on.
So, in the end the only thing I can say about my own position is: as instinctive as you can get.
To recall two of the most poignant arguments among those
Chomsky: Preventing a likely massacre in Benghazi is no small matter, whatever one thinks of the motives.
I like the man, and I love the way he puts it.
Achcar: One can safely bet that the present intervention in Libya will prove most embarrassing for imperialist powers in the future. As those members of the US establishment who opposed their country's intervention rightly warned, the next time Israel's air force bombs one of its neighbors, whether Gaza or Lebanon, people will demand a no-fly zone. I, for one, definitely will. Pickets should be organized at the UN in New York demanding it. We should all be prepared to do so, with now a powerful argument.
I didn't find a more naive argument. This is top naivety.
So, back to my comments on MA.
Not without lauding the man for creating, with his ideals, a platform, Z-communications, that brings together such great thinkers, which makes it possible to read and recognize different views on this and other matters. Please, no misunderstanding on this point: there is nothing but appreciation on my part of the fine job MA did realize here.
But there's something very wrong with his article on the Libyan debate. Those are the words of a preacher. It's the text of a convincer.
Some of his arguments: flinging verbal daggers at one another / find a way in a shared agenda / maximum gain in many countries as possible / we on the left (the good guys - he confirmed this way of thinking in his reply!)) / his first conclusion being a hodgepodge of agreeing to disagree but agreeing on limited protection and universal bottom lines and so on.
I think this is a very confusing mixture of having ideals, trying to be practical and trying to unite the ununitable. (Of course I have also in mind now our "flinging of verbal diggers" when I discussed with MA some time ago what makes him so sure that a better world is possible.)
And the case of Sam, Sarah and Steven has nothing to do with a debate on principles, and is completely misplaced here. If Steven acts as MA suggests, he does a lousy job, and if Sarah not is able to correct that behavior she is a lousy defense attorney.
Okay, it has something in common, in the sense that we can raise Steven to state-level, recognizing that Steven as the prosecutor is doing a great job in serving both Bush and Obama as a role model for the politics of his country.
And these arguments are recalled in his interview with Chomsky: Can an anti-interventionist who believes in self determination of nations and people ever legitimately support an intervention? and Can a person concerned that a country's dissidents not be massacred so they remain able to seek self determination ever legitimately oppose an intervention that is intended, whatever else it intends, to avert such a massacre?
It is utterly unclear on what basis MA questions the legitimacy of some of the different views. And, if someone has an opinion to support something or to oppose something, if I want to support or to oppose of what I think is good to support or to oppose, why the hell should Chomsky be the one to have a moral judgment on these matters?
It is here that I strongly oppose the approach of MA's article. There is no possible judgment of the rights or wrongs on any position, certainly not in the case of Libya.
Neither do I like his argument of agreeing to disagree as a starting point for marching together in order to limit the action to a certain point ("if we can now agree on that much") or to mitigate the consequences.
Barack Obama has now his war too. Let him be happy with it.
And let me be happy with my little wars, for example my little, very little war, especially harmless war, with MA.
About a better world, for instance. I do not know where to find a better world. MA does. I do not know how MA knows. He couldn't explain it to me.
Improving the conditions in my daily environment, among my acquaintances - yes, I can work that out.
Improving the world? Not my piece of cake.
To return to Chomsky: We can have hopes about the directions they [the Libyan people] should pursue, but their future should be in their hands.
To put it, slightly different, my way: I am sure the Libyan people will go the way they think is a possible way to their future - as the American people did, and the French and the English: some enlightened moments, besides their continuous killing fields, now hidden from their own cities. One can only hope that the western world leaves Libya with its own destiny.