Observations and Opinions on the Libyan War
Michael S. Rozeff
by Michael S. Rozeff
by Michael S. Rozeff: The
World – American Style
are headed for the Mediterranean. Their officers say that they are
available for "flexible" action. One Colonel says the
Marine Expeditionary Unit
able to perform a wide variety of missions, from humanitarian
and relief efforts to combat missions."
The line between
humanitarian relief efforts and combat while protecting those efforts
is blurry. If these troops go into Libya, the U.S. and the marine
officers will unilaterally decide where to draw that line. It’s
obvious that they will want to protect themselves. They no doubt
have been heavily trained to do so, and so they will respond to
any provocation at all with a great deal of force. They will tend
to unleash battle. Think how our domestic police officers are over-reacting
and justifying excessive force in so many instances. Marines are
unlikely to be any less fussy if they encounter any resistance at
all, real, imagined, or concocted.
threaten Gaddafi with a two-front war if they land. Up to now, he
was able to retreat in orderly fashion and draw the rebels into
an extended position open to counter-attack. He now faces the possibility
of attack at his rear or along a long front. Obama and the marines
can make a case for an humanitarian effort (supported by marine
firepower) at any of a number of locations. This complicates Gaddafi’s
Obama and Hillary
Clinton are considering arming
the rebels. Obama has not ruled this out. Neither has William
Hague, the British foreign secretary. Presumably, they are thinking
in terms of heavier arms and vehicles. This would be a major step
since it involves logistics, training, and supplies. Some Western
forces would be required in such efforts. This is another threat
against Gaddafi and another possible escalation as this war unfolds.
There have been earlier reports that Egypt
was arming rebels with small arms.
foreign ministry warns that arming the rebels may divide the
"international community". This may occur because such
action goes beyond the U.N. mandate in its Resolution
1973. A critical part of the resolution calls for enforcing
an arms embargo on Libya.
part of that document
Member States...to protect civilians and civilian populated areas
under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including
Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form
on any part of Libyan territory..."
The war to
date makes clear that there is and has been no line drawn between
protecting civilians against attack and attacking Gaddafi’s forces.
The air attacks against Gaddafi’s forces have taken place as support
for the rebel advances, among other things. Any advance of Gaddafi’s
forces can be construed by the U.N. as a threat to civilians and
The shape of
U.N. "humanitarianism" is strange. Any and all air attacks
in support of this mission are allowable, but no force on the ground
is permissible. That is, the U.N. construes air power as defensive
in nature and as a safe means that does not itself take civilian
lives. Neither assumption is factual. It construes ground forces
as somehow either offensive or an unsatisfactory means of advancing
its objective, although ground forces might resolve the situation
expeditiously and with the least loss of lives.
Why does the
U.N. make this distinction? The U.N. is attempting to save civilian
lives in a civil war. At the same time, it doesn’t want to undermine
the principle upon which it itself is built, namely, that the nation-state
is sovereign within its territory. Its members do not want to open
the door too widely to U.N. invasions of their countries. But the
U.N. also supports the principle of self-determination and consent
of the governed to their government. This principle comes into conflict
with the notion that the State has a given territory over which
it is sovereign. The U.N. supports contradictory principles.
and consent of the governed raise questions. When a rebellion occurs
and a challenge to the government’s legitimacy, who is to decide
whether that State shall be divided? Who is to decide if the rebellious
group speaks for all the people or a part? Who is to decide if the
existing government lacks consent or is not legitimate?
often expressed, is that the only peaceful method of answering these
questions and implementing consent of the governed is to do away
with the principle that a State or government’s territorial borders
are sacrosanct. If a group of people wishes to opt out of their
government and remain living where they are, their right to do so
peacefully should be recognized. Their freedom of association gives
rise to such a right. The right to opt out of a government (or by
extension to associate and establish governing methods of one’s
own) is the right to be governed by consent. Many associations can
co-exist within what are now the borders of many States, and these
associations can provide whatever beneficial services that those
in these associations want. They can replace existing territorial
groups that use violence in order to replace one territorial government
by another do not resolve these questions. Whether or not successful
revolutions that alter governments improve the well-being of the
people is another matter entirely. They may and they may not. Even
if they improve matters, my point is that this is not the end of
the story; and it won’t be the end of the story. Groups of people
will disagree with even an improved government. They will want to
opt out or alter their relations with that government. We need to
recognize that any government that by its borders controls everyone
within those borders whether they like it or not is an illegitimate
government that lacks consent.
In the Libyan
situation, we are very far from these ideals of course. The rebels
have taken up arms. Gaddafi is determined to crush the rebellion.
There is no peaceful approach being used by anyone at present, including
U.N. cannot save lives without supporting the rebel side. In fact,
many of its members have already announced that Gaddafi is no longer
a legitimate leader. Therefore, the U.N. and its member states are
active war-making powers, no matter what their professed goal is.
They have at present limited their war-making, but there is nothing
to stop them from enlarging it. They have made themselves or are
trying to make themselves the determiner of what the shape of the
Libyan state shall be, who shall not be its ruler, and, to some
extent, what groups or persons shall have the predominant role in
establishing and shaping a new state and possibly leading it. None
of this is a peaceful approach to the question of consent. None
of it resolves the basic contradiction between the principle of
the sovereign territorial state and the freedoms of association
and consent to one’s government. If the U.N. has its way and its
chosen protagonists win, perhaps at best some vastly diluted version
of consent will come in at a later date in some sort of referendum
vote on a new constitution. A new domestic rivalry and a new politics
will then ensue. The same old problems will crop up again.
This kind of
voting outcome papers over the basic rights of freedom of association
and freedom to opt out of a government. These imply the right to
fashion one’s own government with consent on a non-territorial basis,
if one wishes. They do not imply being given a yes or no choice
on a new constitution for a new territorial state.
S. Rozeff [send him mail]
is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.
He is the author of the free e-book Essays
on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book
The U.S. Constitution
and Money: Corruption and Decline.
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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