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All necessary measures

March 18th, 2011

The surprisingly successful counterattack by the Gaddafi forces in Libya has produced an even more surprising response. Whereas a day or so ago it seemed unlikely that the US, let alone the UNSC, would support a no-fly zone, the UNSC has now passed (10-0 with China among the abstentions) a resolution authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians from Gaddafi’s forces. At least according to the NYTimes, that includes airstrikes directed at ground forces.

The only question now is who will supply the necessary force, and this is primarily a diplomatic issue – the military requirements are well within the capacity of France, the US, the UK, the Arab League and probably quite a few others. But whoever supplies the planes, it seems clear that Gaddafi’s regime is doomed. It is striking that, having been regarded as a member in good standing of the international community only a couple of months ago, he is now unable to secure a single vote in the UNSC.

The vote has big implications for the UN and also for the remaining Middle Eastern dictatorships/monarchies, most notably Bahrein and “Saudi” Arabia

As regards the UN, the speed and determination of the response to the Libyan revolution, first referring Gaddafi to the ICC and now authorising intervention marks a dramatic break with the past. Clearly, the idea of non-intervention in internal affairs of sovereign states is dead. Moreover, it’s now clear that dictatorships are effectively second-class members of the international community, open to overthrow with international support when the opportunity arises. That’s a big break with traditional Westphalian ideas.

On the other hand, the very fact that the UNSC can authorise effective intervention, will make it more difficult for the US and others to justify bypassing the UNSC and undertaking interventions on their own. I don’t imagine that will necessarily prevent US governments from trying, but they will find it harder to assemble informal coalitions or use NATO as a UN substitute.

The other big implications are for the kings of Bahrein and “Saudi” Arabia, whose decisions in the last few days to murder protestors and arrest opposition leaders, apparently emboldened by Gaddafi’s successes and the distracting effects of the Japanese disaster, now look spectacularly ill-timed. While the US and UK response so far has been limited to calls for “restraint”, these rulers have now put themselves in the same category as Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gaddafi.

Of course, that poses some big choices for the US Administration. Its traditional policy in the region is symbolised by the big naval base in Bahrein, and long-standing support for friendly dictators. The hope was to manage a smooth transition to a pro-democracy position, with the absolute monarchs becoming constitutional enough to pass muster. It’s hard to see that happening now.

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  1. jakerman
    March 18th, 2011 at 11:10 | #1

    Interesting title, is it intertube slang for something?

  2. gerard
    March 18th, 2011 at 11:22 | #2

    Bahrain is the location of the US fifth fleet. It has just been basically invaded by Saudi troops to crush the uprising there with US backing. Hungary ’56 style.

    Rumors have it that the US gave the green light to Saudi Arabia to do this in exchange for Saudi Arabia giving the green light for Arab League backing of a no-fly zone.

    Basically the US would be moving military forces from one country where a democratic uprising is currently being crushed in order to protect a democratic uprising in a different country.

  3. Chris Warren
    March 18th, 2011 at 11:23 | #3

    The turn-around is not surprising as, presumably the rebels have strong links to Western powers, that can be used to influence matters.

    These ‘rebels’ (plus MI6 advisors) appear to have remarkably good English.

    So are they devising a similar stance over Bahrain? Yemen? Tibet?

  4. Ikonoclast
    March 18th, 2011 at 11:29 | #4

    With the benefit of hindsight, the success of Gaddafi’s forces is not surprising. Note that I say “with the benefit of hindsight”. I made no predictions at the start of the Libya uprising. I considered that there were too many unknowns.

    First unknown: Would Gaddafi take a hard line?
    Second unknown: How would the population split?
    Third unknown: How would the army and security apparatus split?
    Fourth unknown: How effective would irregular elements be?

    In retrospect, I guess most of us are saying to ourselves we should have known Gaddafi would take a hard line. The more prescient among us probably predicted from the start that Gaddafi would take an extremely hard line.

    Without detailed knowledge of Libya and its network of loyalties, nobody could predict how the population might split. The same is true of the military and special forces. It now seems that Gaddafi commanded the loyalty of a sufficient population base for his immediate purposes. The armed forces split in a minor way but clearly the much greater proportion, especially of high value assets like the air force, armoured units and artillery, remained under Gaddafi’s command and control structure.

    Irregular forces have proven to be (so far) relatively ineffective. My guess is that most irregular forces in Libya are neophytes to insurgency; inexperienced, untrained and unhardened. Not enough elements of the official military joined them to create effective command and coordination, nor to harden them up.

    The terrain (flat, open desert) and one single ribbon of significant towns along a long coast, suits conventional military operations backed or even spearheaded by armour, artillery, air and naval elements. Insurgency and guerilla operations are difficult to prosecute in such open terrain. The only place and situation where the insurgents could fight conventional ground troops on terms of approximate equality would be block to block in urban warfare.

    Gaddafi will not engage his forces in such a manner. As Gaddafi has no qualms about civilian casualties, his forces can stand off and pound towns and cities from ground, air and sea. Then tanks (and possibly gunships) can spearhead infantry sweeps into the flattened urban landscape.

    What will happen now with intervention is still an open question.

  5. Ikonoclast
    March 18th, 2011 at 12:33 | #5

    Who armed Gaddafi?

    - Arms exports to Libya totaled about 340 million Euros a year.
    - The 4 biggest exporters were Italy, Germany, France and the UK.
    - The same 4 lobbied in 2004 to have the Libyan arms embargo lifted.

    The hypocrisy is staggering. The claim to be concerned about saving the Libyan people from oppression is spurious. The geopolitics is about preserving oil and energy supplies to the permanent members of the UN Security council and their middle rank allies.

  6. Doug
    March 18th, 2011 at 14:14 | #6

    Arms sales are a major undiscussed issue that is for sure and yes major powers are hypocritical but that doesn’t mean the concern for the Libyan people is not genuine.

    The Libyan oil will still get to the market one way or another no matter who is in power in Libya. can’t see why that is an argument against the intervention.

  7. Ken Lovell
    March 18th, 2011 at 15:12 | #7

    I would not be too quick to say that Gaddafi is doomed. Civil wars are not won by planes blowing things up. The effect of the air assaults may simply be to prevent a clear-cut outcome and thus prolong the ground fighting.

  8. Freelander
    March 18th, 2011 at 16:33 | #8

    About time on the no flight zone and bombing. Let’s hope they go all out against Gaddafi. And let’s hope they are not too late. They are already too late for many.

    They can wipe out any of Gaddafi’s tanks and equipment quite easily from the air, if they are in the open, as they did in Iraq. Wiping out tanks with helicopter gunships is like shooting fish in a barrel. As for the rest they should be able to degradate the rest of his equipment and installations to the extent that remaining supports will defect or the opposition with its weapons ought to be able to win. Western help need not set foot on the ground.

    Unfortunately, Gaddafi’s progress against the opposition was all too predictable and what has unfolded would have been well understood and predicted by those in the US, Britian, France, or any other country with a decent military. The only unknown that would have stopped Gaddafi from progressing to an easy win against the opposition was the possibility of massive defection, or insurrection within his ranks. That seemed less and less likely as time went on.

    Let’s also hope that the do unleash the full effort on Gaddafi and that once they do that they don’t accept any cease fires, and they accept nothing less than unconditional surrender.

    What a contrast: all the establishment voices against doing something about Gaddafi as he is engaged in mass murder and the absence of establishment voices against going into Iraq, even when, eventually, Hussein was willing to step down and go peacefully into exile.

  9. Freelander
    March 18th, 2011 at 16:37 | #9

    And where is the serious response to Bahrain? Surely a stronger response from the West is required?

  10. March 18th, 2011 at 16:41 | #10

    Pr Q said:

    Clearly, the idea of non-intervention in internal affairs of sovereign states is dead. Moreover, it’s now clear that dictatorships are effectively second-class members of the international community, open to overthrow with international support when the opportunity arises. That’s a big break with traditional Westphalian ideas.

    So when there is a peasant uprising, tax-payer revolt or secessionist movement in the (dictatorial) PRC the UN will get together to authorise military strikes against the PLA (a wholly owned subsidiary of the CCP).

    [irony] I’d like to see that.[/irony]

    I daresay the Wesphalian settlement still has some legs.

    PS Serbia (former Yugoslavia) was a democratic state when the US bombed it into abandoning its sovereign claim over Kosovo.

  11. Ikonoclast
    March 18th, 2011 at 16:52 | #11

    If I were a Brit, Frenchman and US citizen, one of the 101 reasons why I would never join the military would be:

    No matter where I was sent I would quite likely be killed by military hardware sold to my opponent by my own country.

  12. jquiggin
    March 18th, 2011 at 18:06 | #12

    @Jack Strocchi
    This is silly, Jack. I’m sure if you think a bit about it you can work out the fallacy

    @Freelander
    So far, the UN is taking a consistent line, condemning Bahrain in much the same terms as in the previous cases at the same stage. I agree though, it’s hard to see the US being keen on airstrikes
    http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2011/s3167675.htm

  13. Alice
    March 18th, 2011 at 18:10 | #13

    @Doug
    Says “arms sales” are a major undiscussed issue for obvious reasons. Already David Cameron was cauht out attempting to fly into the trouble zones with a coterie of arms dealing executives in tow. The advanced Western nations are truly some of the biggest hypocrites. They have one face for the media and another doing dirty business deals on the side to sell arms into the mess.
    You cant trust a thing you read – except Wikileaks.

  14. gerard
    March 18th, 2011 at 18:40 | #14

    So far, the UN is taking a consistent line, condemning Bahrain in much the same terms as in the previous cases at the same stage. I agree though, it’s hard to see the US being keen on airstrikes

    Wow, “hard to see the US being keen on airstrikes”?? Holy smokes, talk about an understatement! America might as well be directing their own airstrikes at the democrats in Bahrain.

    Do you think Saudi Arabia would ever even think of moving its troops into a neighboring country which happens to be one of the USA’s most important military bases in the world, in order to put down a democratic uprising in that country (using US weapons), if they hadn’t received permission from the United States first? NO WAY. The massacres in Manama are pure stars-and-stripes.

    America (which owns a good part of Saudi Arabia), and the Saudis (which own a good part of America) both need the Bahraini democracy movement disposed of. They’ve seen the domino effect in action in Northern Africa. They know that if the Shiite community in Saudi Arabia (which happens to live in the most oil-rich part of the country) starts to revolt then the whole global economic system will be turned upside down. The 70s shocks would be literally nothing in comparison.

    Even if the Bahraini royal family wanted to cede power the Saudis wouldn’t let them.

    The other big implications are for the kings of Bahrein and “Saudi” Arabia, whose decisions in the last few days to murder protestors and arrest opposition leaders, apparently emboldened by Gaddafi’s successes and the distracting effects of the Japanese disaster, now look spectacularly ill-timed.

    More like perfectly timed. The Libyan thing takes the attention away, and the Saudis would not have agreed to go along with it without this quid-pro-quo.

    Meanwhile, I’m sure that the people of Gaza are looking forward to the international community protecting them with a no-fly-zone next time they’re getting pulverized like fish in a barrel. With white-phosphorous.

  15. Freelander
    March 18th, 2011 at 22:51 | #15

    Gaddafi has apparently announced an immediate cease fire.

    Good. Sitting targets are easier to hit. Apparently his tanks are about a third to half way on a road to Benghazi. If they are quick they should be able to clean them up.

  16. Jill Rush
    March 19th, 2011 at 00:10 | #16

    Gaddafi is cunning – and crazy but even he can see that he needs to stop murdering vast numbers of civilians if he is not to become a pariah or worse once more. t is a huge shift because it did look like the UN was just going to wring its hands but do nothing. That the Security Council managed to find a common position was extraordinary.

  17. Donald Oats
    March 19th, 2011 at 08:58 | #17

    Many years ago the US killed Gaddafi’s son, in an ill-fated missile strike on Gaddafi’s tent in the desert; the objective had been to get Gaddafi himself but he was somewhere else at the time. These tents are biiggg – think Spiegeltent rather than cubscouts type. Anyway, since then Gaddafi and the USA have hardly considered all sins of the other to be forgiven.

    I doubt that Gaddafi was ever just going to turn over the keys to his opponents when his next son in line was ready to take over the family business. Still, one thing that Saddam Hussein’s demise has shown is that it isn’t difficult, just extremely expensive, to kick out a dictatorship. What this gets replaced with is where the new difficulties begin. It still isn’t clear to me that the front runners for replacing the regime are even known to the rest of the world, let alone being suitable material for establishing a democracy.

    I don’t think I’ll venture a prediction as to whether democracy will flourish, or instead some nasty brutish thug of a dictator takes the reins, and that includes Gaddafi’s clan. I wonder if Gaddafi’s son Saif is being accommodated in a blast-proof bunker or whether the Gaddafi family still like their tents – somehow I doubt it.

  18. March 19th, 2011 at 10:42 | #18

    Pr Q @ #12 said:

    This is silly, Jack. I’m sure if you think a bit about it you can work out the fallacy.

    Well it would take a sharper man than me to spot it, but I shall have a crack in the interests of good sportsmanship.

    To recapitulate as syllogism the Quiggin take on the UNSC’s revision of international law, in the aftermath of the Libyan “pariah state” exception to Westphalian sovereignty:

    Unconditional national sovereignty is partially voided when a state:

    Major Premise 1. Engages in military attacks against civil uprisings (“the idea of non-intervention in internal affairs of sovereign states is dead”)

    Major Premise 2. Prohibits or prevents democratic modes of civil expression and representation (“dictatorships are effectively second-class members of the international community”)

    I argue that the PRC has, does and will satisfy these two conditions in that it is:

    Minor Premise 1. Engages in military repression of civil uprisings (eg Tianamen Square, Tibet, etc)

    Minor Premise 2. Maintains an undemocratic government and authoritarian censorship (Politburo, internet censorship)

    Conclusion: The PRC does and will satisfy the condition of “pariah state”, and should, on this supposed revision of international law, be subject to UNSC military intervention. Good luck with that!

    Nope, my logic is flawless.

    There must be something wrong with your principle if it implies that we must go to war with the PRC everytime it uses the PLA to break a few heads. The Chinese have a curse prepared for such course of action: “may you live in interesting times”.

    PS It would be nice for a change if people responded with rational argument rather than point-and-splutter dismissals of the kind “shameful”, “pseudo-scientific” or out-right bans. Still “silly” represents an improvement of sorts. I suppose my abrasive style gets on some peoples nerves. I should try harder to be more convivial but old blogging habits die hard.

  19. Peter T
    March 19th, 2011 at 10:59 | #19

    The principle of non-interference has always been honoured as much in the breach as the observance. Intervention over religious issues was common in Europe the 17th and early 18th centuries, against radicalism in the late 18th and 19th centuries (cannonade of Valmy anyone? Holy Alliance? 1848), over left/right issues in the 20th. And common against non-Europeans at all times. One should not mistake rhetoric for practice.

  20. March 19th, 2011 at 11:04 | #20

    Of course its always possible to water down the “pariah state” policy of UN military intervention from a general principle to an opportunistic practice. That is, we play favourites with our no fly zones, depending on the potential strength of adversaries and what is in our interest at the time.

    This would have the merit of being sane and reducing the probability of a nuclear war with the PRC.

    But this form of opportunistic interventionism would not be some grand revision of international law. Its just boring old national interest policies dressed up in high-falutin’ Wilsonian rhetoric.

    Its possible that the UN’s “pariah state” exception for Libya is a form of opportunism rather than a New World Order. After all, Libya has a lot of oil which UNSC states would be licking their chops to get at with mining concessions, if they can get Gaddaffi & Sons out of the oil monopoly way. And it has annoyed a lot of people with its terrorist excursions.

    But I am having trouble seeing what national interest we have in empowering the Shiites across the Middle East. Its not as if they have any enduring affection for the Occidental world.

    Basically George Bush started this Middle East democratic uprising by empowering the Shiites through democracy promotion in Iraq. Now all the other Shiite-majority/Suuni-minority dictatorships in the region are catching the democratic fever.

    The Suunis are not to happy with this political turn of events, since they are what Amy Chua would call a market (and state)-dominant minority. They have a lower birth rate and hence don’t have the numbers to win democratic contests.

    I would not be surprised if the Iranian’s were pulling a few strings behind the scenes. Their finger prints were all over the Iraq WMD hoax.

    Canny buggers, they got their major global enemy (US) to get rid of their major regional enemy (Iraq), under the guise of “democracy promotion”. Now playing the same trick with all the other Shiite nations in the Middle East. Machiavelli rules in the country which invented chess.

    Next installment: A nuclear-armed Iran leading a revival of the Persian empire, Shiite version.

  21. gerard
    March 19th, 2011 at 12:22 | #21

    Of course its always possible to water down the “pariah state” policy of UN military intervention from a general principle to an opportunistic practice. That is, we play favourites with our no fly zones, depending on the potential strength of adversaries and what is in our interest at the time.

    You got it Jack! But miss the bonus points for picking up that any UN military intervention against China would require that China vote for it as a permanent security council member.

    Basically George Bush started this Middle East democratic uprising by empowering the Shiites through democracy promotion in Iraq. Now all the other Shiite-majority/Suuni-minority dictatorships in the region are catching the democratic fever. Which would be silly.

    “All”? There is only one Shiite majority/Sunni minority dictatorship in the region: Bahrain. Two with Yemen if you count Zaydism as being Shiism. And it would seem that they caught the democratic fever from Tunisia, just like all the other Sunni majority countries in Middle East and Northern Africa. Sorry but it’s drawing a ridiculously long bow to give Bush any sort of credit for this, but that isn’t stopping those embarrassed by their support of the Iraq War from trying.

  22. jquiggin
    March 19th, 2011 at 13:08 | #22

    Obviously, you need a hint, Jack, so here it is. The phrase “whatever is not prohibited is compulsory” is intended as a black joke, not as a policy rule. I’m sure you’ll get the point this time, but tell me if not.

  23. March 19th, 2011 at 17:02 | #23

    gerard @ #21 said:

    You got it Jack! But miss the bonus points for picking up that any UN military intervention against China would require that China vote for it as a permanent security council member.

    Yes, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” is going to be a problem when considering the prospects for international Rule of Law. Pr Q’s Brave New post-Westphalian World Order of UN military intervention against repressive dictatorships (“pariah states”) requires a certain permanent member of the UNSC to vote for military action against itself. I am not going to hold my breath waiting for the PRC to tell the PLA to attack itself next time it puts down an uprising.

    gerard said:

    “All”? There is only one Shiite majority/Sunni minority dictatorship in the region: Bahrain….Sorry but it’s drawing a ridiculously long bow to give Bush any sort of credit for this, but that isn’t stopping those embarrassed by their support of the Iraq War from trying.

    Actually I am inclined to give even more credit to the Iranian Shiites, with GWB acting as a somewhat unwitting mid-wife to the birth of Shiite democracy in the most powerful Arab nation. Its clear that they have a strategic game plan (building nukes, regime change in Iraq, arming Hezbollah). Funding and co-ordinating a Shiite uprising in the region nicely suits their purposes.

    But Dubyah should certainly get his fair share of any laurels being handed out for democracy-promotion in the Arab Middle-East. He got the Shiite democratic ball rolling, both in Iraq with results that speak for themselves, and Lebanon which is always up for some sectarian fun-and-games.

    Even more significantly the Shiites form a majority or growing plurality in some of the Gulf oil states/provinces such as Bahrain, Kuwait and eastern Saudi Arabia. It will not have escaped the notice of these people that local control of oil is a nice little earner for those who the Iraqi Shiia who have the numbers at the ballot box.

    To be sure democracy exercises an ideological pull for the long oppressed peoples of the Middle East that transcends sectarian lines, evident in the largely secular democratic uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. But there is also an underlying ethnological push for democracy that is being driven by the Shiite resurgence, very probably orchestrated by the fiendish Iranian intelligence service.

    More generally you miss the point that the Shia have substantial and growing minorities in most Middle Eastern states, owing to their much higher birth rate. That gives them populist momentum. Demography is, as always, destiny, especially amongst the nations which boast a restive “Arab Street”.

  24. Alice
    March 19th, 2011 at 17:25 | #24

    @Jack Strocchi
    says “But Dubyah should certainly get his fair share of any laurels being handed out for democracy-promotion in the Arab Middle-East.”

    Oh come on – all Dubya did in Iraq was create chaos and enrich his private sector corporate mates like Hallibburton on the back of the US taxpayers who funded it (and the US wonders why it has the unspeakable deficit??)…as for his grand rebuilding plan…is Iraq rebuilt?

    No.

    It didnt happen and if you call that democracy at work Jack Strocchi – there is something wrong with you.
    Thats not democracy – that is destruction.

    Ive told Jack time and time again he has a view through rose coloured glasses for the conservatives in the US (at least we know Jack is predictable). They dont deserve it. The US is a mess. Foreign policy is a mess. Unemployment is a mess. Economic policy is a mess. Their entire economy is a mess – but you think its all hunky dory as long as the conservatives rule.

    They have been ruling Jack and they have stuffed up big time and they have their fingers on so many control levers even when the democrats get control its almost not worth arguing. Lets just let them keep going with bad policies until they crash the economy and themselves iirevocably and lets then stand up, wipe ourselves clean of the false ideologies of indvidual greed and really move forward.

  25. March 19th, 2011 at 18:15 | #25

    Alice @ #24 said:

    Oh come on – all Dubya did in Iraq was create chaos and enrich his private sector corporate mates like Hallibburton on the back of the US taxpayers who funded it (and the US wonders why it has the unspeakable deficit??)…as for his grand rebuilding plan…is Iraq rebuilt? No

    GWB certainly did all of that and worse, unleashing a sectarian civil war. But he did institute democracy in Iraq. This is obviously important directly in itself and indirectly by example.

    The example of Shiite democracy in Iraq has percolated into the political consciousness of the region. This would not have happened, or at least not so rapidly, without Bush’s regime change.

    More importantly it will have established and cemented regional Shiite political associations. Undoubtedly the Iranians are stirring that pot.

    Shiite “illiberal democracy” in the Middle East is a mixed blessing for liberals. Already the Iraqi Shiites are pulling up the democratic ladder on which they clambered up to power. The NYT (JAN 2011) reports on the way the Shiites are tightening the screws on the Suunis:

    Last Thursday, Iraq’s Independent High Election Commission upheld a ban on nearly 500 Sunni politicians handed down (possibly illegally) some days earlier by the Accountability and Justice Commission.

    If the ban is allowed to stand, it will do more than just throw a wrench in the works. It will persuade a great many Iraqis that the prime minister or other Shiites, like Mr. Chalabi, are using their control over the electoral mechanics to kneecap their rivals. It may also convince many Sunnis that they will never be allowed to win if they play by the rules, and that violence is their only option.

    Nice timing, huh?

    Whether Shiite democracy is a good thing or a bad thing depends largely on which side of the sectarian divide you stand on. But it is a thing.

  26. gerard
    March 19th, 2011 at 18:37 | #26

    But Dubyah should certainly get his fair share of any laurels being handed out for democracy-promotion in the Arab Middle-East. He got the Shiite democratic ball rolling, both in Iraq with results that speak for themselves, and Lebanon which is always up for some sectarian fun-and-games.

    No, the grand narrative gets stuck in the details.

    The Shiite democratic ball got rolling in Iraq when the Shiites under the leadership of al-Sistani and al-Sadr rose up against the Coalition Provisional Authority. It was never part of Bush’s plan, in fact, it was just one more example of how none of the Iraq War went according to plan, except for the bit where Halliburton and Friends get billions in no-bid contracts.

    As for Lebanon, the “Cedar Revolution” of 2005 that led to Syrian forces withdrawing was actually opposed quite strongly by Hezbollah and the Lebanese Shias. So it doesn’t really fit in either.

    The Cedar Revolution was followed a year later by a bloody Israeli invasion, which Hezbollah surprisingly managed to defeat – does Dubya get credit for that bit of Shiite assertiveness as well?

    Bush did also press for elections in the Palestinian territories, only to support a Bay of Pigs style coup attempt when they resulted in the wrong side winning power.

  27. gerard
    March 19th, 2011 at 18:40 | #27
  28. March 19th, 2011 at 19:03 | #28

    Pr Q @ #22 said:

    Obviously, you need a hint, Jack, so here it is. The phrase “whatever is not prohibited is compulsory” is intended as a black joke, not as a policy rule. I’m sure you’ll get the point this time, but tell me if not.

    No doubt the “what is not prohibited is compulsory” line raised a few mordant laughs behind the despotic Iron Curtain. But this cynicism hardly seems applicable to the heralds of a democratic Brave New World Order.

    The analogy you seem to be groping for is something along the lines of “international law is now a real possibility. But what is possible is not inevitable”. Which is true, if trivial.

    The major revision of post-Westphalian notions of unimpeachable national sovereignty that you are heralding implies a broadening (inter-state) and deepening (inter-state) of the international Rule of Law. That is the rule makers (and -enforcers) should be subject to the same rules as the purported rule-breakers.

    International law is obligatory to all parties. What is obligatory should not be discretionary.

    Allowing my PRC reductio ad absurdum, this is not going to happen. It follows that no world-historic revision in national sovereignty “policy rule” is in the offing. You might want to check your logic validator as it seems badly in need of a valve job.

    In any case Great Power humanitarian interventions are not exactly a “man bites dog” story. Even, or perhaps especially, in Libya. Remember “the shores of Tripoli”?

    The Great Powers are just ganging up on a loser who is past his use-by date. With some squabbles over the spoils being on the cards.

  29. Freelander
    March 19th, 2011 at 19:31 | #29

    I think this Dubya brought democracy to the Islamic world is just nonsense. I don’t think in the Middle East or elsewhere, they needed to Dubya, or ya Dumb, to prefer living in less horrible circumstances. Stopping them expressing what is most people’s innate preference has been ugly people with powerful weapons, and we have a good idea where they got the weapons and the training to use them from. What they want is good and fair government. Whether that government is democratic or not, as long as it is good and fair I think they would be happy.
    In HK there is no great demand for democracy. There certainly wasn’t when the British were renting it. Good and fair government is a universal desire. That they are and have been ruled by brutal kleptocracies is primarily what they have been objecting to.

  30. March 20th, 2011 at 09:34 | #30

    Basically the whole no-fly zone is a misnomer, deliberately designed to assuage fears about the West getting bogged down in yet another Middle Eastern quagmire.

    The UNSC “all necessary measures” resolution authorises the use of air-strikes to regime change Gadaffi in Libya in much the same way (and for much the same reason) as the US used air-strikes to regime change Milosevic in Serbia more than a decade ago.

    If these strikes disable the Libyan military then Gadaffi will have no choice but to scarper. I guess the US is hoping that a Libyan army military strong man will step forward and oust Gadaffi & Sons and then “guide” the fledging democracy.

    But the Libyan army does not look all that capable. Didn’t they get beaten by a bunch of technical-riding militia from Chad?

    I don’t know what will happen if and when the Gadaffi regime topples. Maybe a group of Libya’s equivalent to “the Federalists” will get together and write a bright shiny new liberal democratic constitution so that Libya will become a light unto all other nations.

    Or maybe the whole place will just descend into sectarian civil war and banditry anarchy.

    Which outcome is more likely given the track record of the Middle East?

  31. gerard
    March 20th, 2011 at 10:10 | #31

  32. March 20th, 2011 at 20:19 | #32

    gerard @ #26 said:

    No, the grand narrative gets stuck in the details.

    I remain skeptical about grand ideological narratives, although “the end of history” does have some legs, at least for states that are on a stable path to modernity. Evolution has some broad highways but it also has plenty of by-ways and cul-de-sacs for those states who don’t make the modernity cut.

    gerard said:

    The Shiite democratic ball got rolling in Iraq when the Shiites under the leadership of al-Sistani and al-Sadr rose up against the Coalition Provisional Authority. It was never part of Bush’s plan, in fact, it was just one more example of how none of the Iraq War went according to plan, except for the bit where Halliburton and Friends get billions in no-bid contracts.

    I call b**s***. The historical record is clearly at odds with gerard’s tendentious re-write. Democracy promotion was always “part of” Bush’s “plan” for Iraq. Its probably the only part of his “plan” that worked.

    Before he went in Bush said he would bring democracy in Iraq, when he got in he installed democracy in Iraq and since he has gone democracy has more or less been established in Iraq, albeit the illiberal kind.

    In a speech to the AEI made in the lead up to the war, Bush clearly stated that promoting democracy was part of his strategy for curbing Islamist terrorism and predicted the spread of democracy through the Middle East:

    The nation of Iraq–with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people–is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom.

    …And there are hopeful signs of a desire for freedom in the Middle East. Arab intellectuals have called on Arab governments to address the “freedom gap” so their peoples can fully share in the progress of our times.

    In NOV 2003, whilst Iraq was in the throes of a bloody civil war, Bush ploughed on with his goal of promoting democracy in Iraq:

    “the establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.” But he also made it clear that the United States cannot afford to let the democratization of the country blow off course, as some officials in his administration fear.

    Shiite uprisings in Iraq do not disprove the US’s democratic intentions. Shiite uprisings in the Middle East are a dime-a-dozen. Its what they do.

    The Shiites opposed the CPA effort to shove democratic institutions down the throats of Iraq, peacefully by Sistani, violently by Sadr. The Shiite opposition was more about improving the Shiite position in the new parliamentary assembly and cutting out the Suunis, rather than any principled resistance to US meddling. Standard sectarian jostling for power.

    Now the Shiites are trying to squeeze the Suunis right out of the political process. Thats after the Suuni Anbar Awakening thrashed Al Quaeda. Thats gratitude for ya!

    So please don’t lecture us on what Jeffersonian democrats the Shiites are.

    And thats pretty much where we are now, a Shiite-dominated democratic Iraq. Iraq was the modern Middle East’s first democratic domino, pushed by the US and exerting a powerful demonstration example. But the others have no doubt generated some of their own momentum internally or gained a helpful shove from Iran.

  33. March 20th, 2011 at 20:20 | #33

    gerard @ #26 said:

    No, the grand narrative gets stuck in the details.

    I remain skeptical about grand ideological narratives, although “the end of history” does have some legs, at least for states that are on a stable path to modernity. Evolution has some broad highways but it also has plenty of by-ways and cul-de-sacs for those states who don’t make the modernity cut.

    gerard said:

    The Shiite democratic ball got rolling in Iraq when the Shiites under the leadership of al-Sistani and al-Sadr rose up against the Coalition Provisional Authority. It was never part of Bush’s plan, in fact, it was just one more example of how none of the Iraq War went according to plan, except for the bit where Halliburton and Friends get billions in no-bid contracts.

    I call b**s***. The historical record is clearly at odds with gerard’s tendentious re-write. Democracy promotion was always “part of” Bush’s “plan” for Iraq. Its probably the only part of his “plan” that worked.

    Before he went in Bush said he would bring democracy in Iraq, when he got in he installed democracy in Iraq and since he has gone democracy has more or less been established in Iraq, albeit the illiberal kind.

    In a speech to the AEI made in the lead up to the war, Bush clearly stated that promoting democracy was part of his strategy for curbing Islamist terrorism and predicted the spread of democracy through the Middle East:

    The nation of Iraq–with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people–is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom.

    …And there are hopeful signs of a desire for freedom in the Middle East. Arab intellectuals have called on Arab governments to address the “freedom gap” so their peoples can fully share in the progress of our times.

    In NOV 2003, whilst Iraq was in the throes of a bloody civil war, Bush ploughed on with his goal of promoting democracy in Iraq:

    “the establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.” But he also made it clear that the United States cannot afford to let the democratization of the country blow off course, as some officials in his administration fear.

    Shiite uprisings in Iraq do not disprove the US’s democratic intentions. Shiite uprisings in the Middle East are a dime-a-dozen. Its what they do.

    The Shiites opposed the CPA effort to shove democratic institutions down the throats of Iraq, peacefully by Sistani, violently by Sadr. The Shiite opposition was more about improving the Shiite position in the new parliamentary assembly and cutting out the Suunis, rather than any principled resistance to US meddling. Standard sectarian jostling for power.

    Now the Shiites are trying to squeeze the Suunis right out of the political process. Thats after the Suuni Anbar Awakening thrashed Al Quaeda. Thats gratitude for ya!

    So please don’t lecture us on what Jeffersonian democrats the Shiites are.

    And thats pretty much where we are now, a Shiite-dominated democratic Iraq. Iraq was the modern Middle East’s first democratic domino, pushed by the US and exerting a powerful demonstration example. But the others have no doubt generated some of their own momentum internally or gained a helpful shove from Iran.

  34. Freelander
    March 20th, 2011 at 20:36 | #34

    If Bush believed in democracy he would never have accepted his election by the Supreme Court. That is, he would never have been President.

  35. gerard
    March 21st, 2011 at 15:22 | #35

    The CPA’s plan was not for a democratically elected government but a complex system of caucuses designed specifically to limit the power of the Shiite majority (and designed to limit democratic control of the country in general while they privatized everything in sight).

    Sistani’s uprising in late 2003 forced them to abandon the caucus system and hold the direct elections that brought the Shiites to power.

    What followed was several years of the most destructive sectarian carnage and ruin. I don’t think that many people in the region were suddenly inspired into a love of democracy on account of this particular “demonstration example”. In spite of it, perhaps.

  36. gerard
    March 21st, 2011 at 15:44 | #36

    Interesting post by Professor Quiggin from the archives

    A few days ago, I argued that of the (generally unattractive) outcomes that could arise in Iraq, the one with the best chance was a two-state solution, in which a Shiite majority ruled Iraq as a whole, while the Kurds maintained the effective autonomy they have now.

    Now that Ayatollah Sistani has spoken, I think the probability of this outcome is very high. The announcement that power will be handed to an Iraqi government on a set date (July next year) has created a dynamic over which they have no control, and which naturally leads in the direction of a majority vote rather than the convoluted system of caucuses proposed by the occupying authorities. The latter is typical of what an absolute ruler comes up with when seeking to provide a democratic facade while maintaining control over the outcome, and has rarely worked. Either the process is carried through, but has zero credibility, or it leads to genuine democratisation and the overthrow of the ruler (the French revolution provides the template).

    In the case of Iraq, it’s clear that all Sistani has to do from now is hold his ground. The caucuses can’t go ahead with substantial Shiite opposition and the occupiers can’t sustain for long a position in which they are arguing for rigged elections and against democracy. Hence, I foresee an outcome in which Shiite parties win something close to an outright majority and in which Islam is enshrined as the official religion.

    http://www.johnquiggin.com/archives/001196.html

  37. March 21st, 2011 at 20:56 | #37

    gerard @ #35 said:

    The CPA’s plan was not for a democratically elected government but a complex system of caucuses designed specifically to limit the power of the Shiite majority (and designed to limit democratic control of the country in general while they privatized everything in sight). Sistani’s uprising in late 2003 forced them to abandon the caucus system and hold the direct elections that brought the Shiites to power.

    gerard’s abroad, better lock up all your facts, none of them are safe from his slippery interpretations. gerard’s theory that the Shiite uprising causing a back-down on the US’s plan’s for a puppet government doesnt stand up to scrutiny.

    Sadr’s efforts had counter-productive effects on the CPA. The guy’s a punk on the make and lucky to be alive, no doubt thanks to being a connected guy with Iranian intelligence. Anything the US does to rid that pebble from Iraq’s shoes would be an undisguised blessing.

    Its true that Sistani pushed for direct elections Shiite representation and was successful after a UN report concluded the early transition to direct democracy was feasible. The Federation of American Scientists (credible source) competently summarises the facts:

    The [caucus plan] encountered opposition from the revered Shiite Muslim leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who called for early direct elections; his views prompted the CPA to ask the United Nations to assess the feasibility of holding elections for an interim government. A U.N. team led by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi concluded in February 2004 that national elections could not be held earlier than late 2004 or early 2005. Sistani accepted that time frame.

    Whoa, pressure politics in Iraq. I’m shocked, shocked.

    The CPA’s caucus plan was for a Transitional Government, a fact that gerard conveniently overlooks. It planned to give full sovereignty and greater direct popular representation once the insurgency died down and the sectarian Iraqi political factions finally got around to talking turkey. Admittedly a rubbery time frame given Iraq’s malignant political culture.

    This plan to initially water down Shiite representation was reasonable enough in the circumstances, given that the civil war would have gone on forever without some guaranteed Suuni representation. At least in the transitional period when the Suuni’s needed some reassurance that they would not be totally squeezed out in the “winner-take-all” game of Iraqi politics. Especially after the CPA had purged all Suuni Baathists from the state and Army – or is this also evidence of the US’s dreadful oppression of Shiites and sinister desire to pull the strings behind the scenes?

    As Feldman [NYT SEP 2004] observed, a headlong rush to full democracy could have disastrous consequence in the context of incipient civil war (remember Russian 1917?):

    Nobody expects perfection, but trying to rush ahead to democracy will increase the chances that we will never get there at all. The Iraqis never asked for us to invade. We owe it to them to create the conditions in which democracy can emerge, and each voter can finally have his day.

    You’ve got to crawl before you can walk. Its madness to make the perfect the enemy of the good enough in a place like Iraq.

    And of course subsequent Iraq political history has sadly vindicated these concerns. The Shiites are still trying to squeeze the Suunis out of the political arena. Pollack [NYT JAN 2010] reports on the Shiite attempt to ban former Baathist officials from parliament:

    If the ban is allowed to stand, it will do more than just throw a wrench in the works. It will persuade a great many Iraqis that the prime minister or other Shiites, like Mr. Chalabi, are using their control over the electoral mechanics to kneecap their rivals. It may also convince many Sunnis that they will never be allowed to win if they play by the rules, and that violence is their only option.

    In Iraq everyday is pay-back day.

  38. paul walter
    March 21st, 2011 at 21:04 | #38

    Sorry Jack. This time I have Gerard ahead by a short nose.

  39. March 21st, 2011 at 21:27 | #39

    gerard @ #35 said:

    What followed was several years of the most destructive sectarian carnage and ruin. I don’t think that many people in the region were suddenly inspired into a love of democracy on account of this particular “demonstration example”. In spite of it, perhaps.

    Don’t be so naive. I don’t know whether “the people in the region…love of democracy” but movers-and-shakers certainly love power (and the oil monopoly money that goes with it), which will accrue to those willing and able to assemble the numbers once the old guard is pushed out to pasture, or into the slaughterhouse.

    Although its always wise to remember that in the ME, you count balls, not votes. The prospect of filthy oil lucre is one that entices all Alpha-males and wannabes right through out the ME and is a bane of its political existence.

    There are incipient sectarian civil wars breaking out all over the ME. So obviously the fate of Iraq’s still-born democracy has not deterred regional political players one little bit.

    The success the Shiite majority are having in shimmying up the greasy pole of ME political power has a profound “demonstration effect” to all the marginalised political groups (both Shiite and secular) in the ME. I don’t blame them, the sight of rivers of gold flowing into the coffers of decrepit and depraved ruling families is distressing even to me.

    Once Saddam & Sons got it in the neck it was only a matter of time before Mubarak & Sons, Gadaffi & Sons and probably Assad & Sons were pushed towards the collapse-board. Interesting dynastic pattern, be prepared for repeats in contenders.

    The Suuni-Shiite sectarian conflict does not need any assistance from US forces for it to rear its ugly head. Its been around for 1500 years and its still the dominant political dynamic all around the ME right now, for anyone willing to believe their own lyin’ eyes.

    The minute Iraqi sectarians got their freedom they were at each others throats. Its not as if internecine slaughter is grossly out of national character or anything, remember 1991?

  40. gerard
    March 22nd, 2011 at 14:31 | #40

    gerard’s theory that the Shiite uprising causing a back-down on the US’s plan’s for a puppet government doesnt stand up to scrutiny.

    Okay then, the Shiite uprising causing a back-down on the US’s plan’s for a “transitional” puppet government, which was going to write Iraq’s new constitution, and then supposedly (at some slippery point in Iraq’s peaceful, pro-American, non-sectarian future) move toward democracy.

    Although its always wise to remember that in the ME, you count balls, not votes.

    I don’t even…

  41. March 22nd, 2011 at 17:42 | #41

    gerard @ #40 said:

    Okay then, the Shiite uprising causing a back-down on the US’s plan’s for a “transitional” puppet government, which was going to write Iraq’s new constitution, and then supposedly (at some slippery point in Iraq’s peaceful, pro-American, non-sectarian future) move toward democracy.

    …and then Ayatollah Sistani asked the CPA nicely to bring forward direct elections, which they were only too happy to oblige. Such a yoke of oppression hung over the Shiites by Yankee imperialists.

    The “Shiite Uprising” that so gets gerard’s juices running, led by Sadr and his rag-tag Mahdi Army, was an obvious attempt by the Iranians to install their stooge. It never had broad popular support amongst the general Shiite population, let alone the Suunis.

    It was quite properly put put down by the US military, initially using kid globes and ultimately ruthlessly. I believe that Sadr has now returned to his former occupation a part-time preacher.

    But I appreciate the tardy and half-baked concession, which represents an improvement on gerard’s reflexive anti-US diatribe.

  42. gerard
    March 22nd, 2011 at 19:50 | #42

    I don’t know how happy the US were to oblige actually, they didn’t really have much choice in the matter… which was my original point.

    And I dont know if you can call Sadr a Iranian “stooge” just on account of him being a radical Shiite. He is probably more of an Iraqi nationalist and less close to Iran than the more moderate Shiite leadership, most of whom fled to Iran and were hosted there during Saddam’s rule, unlike Sadr, who stayed in the country, building indigenous support in the slums. After Sistani forced the CPA (then in the middle of their mass-privatisation and multi-billion dollar graft bonanza) to agree to elections, they probably got worried about Sadr’s support, which is why they promptly banned his newspaper in early 2004 and started arresting his supporters, thereby provoking the Mahdi uprising. Iran would have had an interest in assisting the Mahdi Army as a means of keeping the US sufficiently bogged down that they wouldn’t be able to move on to the next Axis of Evil target.

  43. gerard
    March 22nd, 2011 at 21:02 | #43

    I believe that Sadr has now returned to his former occupation a part-time preacher.

    He’s apparently been in Qom studying to become an Ayatollah, so that he will be authorized to issue fatwas. He clearly has ambitions.

  44. March 27th, 2011 at 15:17 | #44

    gerard said:

    As for Lebanon, the “Cedar Revolution” of 2005 that led to Syrian forces withdrawing was actually opposed quite strongly by Hezbollah and the Lebanese Shias. So it doesn’t really fit in either.

    Hezbollah opposed the Syrian withdrawal because it had an adverse effect on the internal balance of sectarian power, not because they oppose “democracy” as such. The Lebanese electorate is a “confessional gerrymander” designed to keep the Shiite radical influence in check. But over time the Shiites will prevail in electoral contests, in the “war of the cradle” the baby-makers always trump the makeable babes.

    gerard said:

    So it doesn’t really fit in either.

    The Cedar Revolution conforms exactly to the “narrative” I am pushing:

    1. since the mid-eighties the US in general, and Bush in particular, has enthusiastically promoted democracy, in Phillipines, Eastern Europe, South America and of course the Middle East

    2. the democracies that have emerged in this so-called “Third Wave” have tended towards authoritarianism, reflecting ethnological under-tows rather than ideological super-structures.

    In 2005 the Bush admin, particularly Rice, pushed strongly for elections in Lebanon. “Rice says US won’t tolerate dictators”; ABC 21/06/2005


    In Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the US Secretary of State delivered a message that Washington will no longer silently tolerate dictators – even in friendly countries. America says the time has come for democracy in the Middle East and in one country where that change is happening, there’s been another assassination. Just two days after anti-Syrian parties secured victory in Lebanon’s elections, a prominent anti-Syrian politician has been killed in a bomb blast.

    CONDOLEEZZA RICE: For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region. Now we are taking a different course.

    I am not saying the US’s policy of democracy-promotion is good or bad thing, it depends on how who they are doing it to and how they are doing it. But it is a thing.

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