All necessary measures

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.

44 thoughts on “All necessary measures

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

  12. 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…

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s