The fall of the House of Qaddafi

Juan Cole says it’s just about over.

Juan Cole says it’s about over. Tunisia and Egypt recognized the insurgent government overnight. Is the House of Assad next?

The best argument against the NATO intervention was that it wouldn’t work. Apparently it did.

That’s not to say that we should expect a smooth road ahead in Libya, any more than in Egypt or (let’s hope) Syria. Still,

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death-knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

10 thoughts on “The fall of the House of Qaddafi”

  1. It’s a great victory for the rebels, who seem to have finished the job without ever getting organised as a conventional military force. It was Toyota pickup trucks all the way from Benghazi. I doubt if this works against a more serious army like Syria’s.

    It’s also, as Mark says, a striking win for the low-key NATO intervention and in particular for Sarkozy, Cameron, and Obama. You could certainly argue that a no-holds-barred intervention, dropping the French Foreign Legion on Tripoli say, would have given the same result with fewer overall casualties. But the long-tern consequences of this could have been bad. I worked on projects in Kosovo after its liberation; and I got the impression that the Albanian Kosovars had been deprived of winning their own freedom, since it was handed to them on a plate by NATO. So they took it out on the remaining Serbs. Let’s hope this is right and the shed blood of the Libyan rebels will allow them to be magnanimous. They will certainly be more independent and less grateful clients of their foreign sponsors, but that’s no bad thing.

  2. It seems a lot of people have seen this war/intervention as a total reversal by Obama, who opposed the Iraq war, and went into Libya in a very unilateral way.

    But I have always found this to be true only in more technical ways, as there seems little comparison otherwise. At the time, it seemed there was a real danger of Qaddafi preparing for mass atrocities, and the Libyan people seemed to be at a moment where – with some outside help – they stood a good chance of overthrowing him. Had Obama not been as proactive, there was a real chance things would have gone quite differently. It was certainly not a neoconservative project, and rather much more in line with the sort of humanitarian interventions many liberals have reluctantly yet dutifully supported.

  3. I was going to compliment you on your knowledge of Christian hymnody, but looked into it and learned that that verse was written by Pete Seeger. Which I should have known. So in addition to this being a nice post, I learned something.

  4. The best argument against this is that even the “successful” interventions fill the US policymaking comminity and public with feelings of invincibility and imperialist fervor, which then greases the skids for the next Vietnam or Iraq.

    Just because imperialism sometimes “works” doesn’t make it right.

  5. Just because imperialism sometimes “works” doesn’t make it right.

    You mean like when the imperalistic French helped the American colonists?

  6. Marquis de Lafayette: “I would never have drawn my sword in the cause of America if I could have conceived that thereby I was founding a land of slavery.”

  7. DB:

    The question isn’t whether it was good for us, but whether it was good for France.

    It’s all well and good to talk about the freedom of the Libyan people, but lots of people in the world are unfree (including in many places that we would never favor a revolution in, such as Saudi Arabia). And as I said, my fear is that every time we have a successful intervention, it increases the attractiveness of US imperialism, which is actually very bad for us in terms of combat deaths, terrorism, economic costs, et cetera.

  8. Dunno who you mean by “we,” Dilan, but in my book the day the House of Saud falls will be a good day for humanity.

  9. Dunno who you mean by “we,” Dilan, but in my book the day the House of Saud falls will be a good day for humanity.

    Of course it would be. But the point is, we should have no illusion that what the US did in Libya has anything to do with some sort of opposition to dictatorships. The US supports all sorts of dictatorships when it is in our interest to do so, and the US also does not try to overthrow dictatorships with nuclear weapons.

    This was an act of imperialism, not humanitarianism. Gaddafi has been a thorn in the US’ side for years, and that’s why our government supported the rebels with air power. If a similar rebellion occurred in Saudi Arabia, our government would support the Saudi dictatorship’s repression of it.

    And every time the US asserts the right to dictate which foreign governments get overthrown, it causes all sorts of blowback AND greases the skids for the next Vietnam or Iraq.

    The point is, in the end, it SOUNDS really good to be doing all these humanitarian deeds with the United States military, but it is really bad for the American people. We end up being the target of the world, and we end up spending a bunch of money, while not ACTUALLY upholding any sort of humanitarian ideal as we continue to support dictatorships who do our bidding. And then, eventually, inevitably, we go into a Vietnam or Iraq with the liberal internationalists cheering it on, and we end up with a bloodbath.

    Yeah, it’s unpleasant to stay out of other countries and watch disasters unfold. But good foreign policy is often unpleasant, and the anti-war left understands this while liberal internationalists fail to until it leads to disaster.

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