One Life, Many Lives

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One Life, Many Lives

Democracy is how human dignity is preserved institutionally. Socialism can only be brought about by individual commitment and effort, not by top-down political mandate. Capitalism is the economic face of fascism, and the sociological face of settler-colonialism and its imposition of slavery — and of genocide.

The most important struggle in the world today is that between Democracy and Fascism. This is more important than the struggle between Socialism and Capitalism because until the world is democratic it cannot achieve socialism, and without World Socialism no effective counteraction and adaptation to Climate Change can be implemented. A human civilization that would perish by Climate Change would necessarily have to be fascist, and a human civilization that would prevail against the existential threats of Climate Change would necessarily have to be democratic and socialist.

Fascism has many varieties but all are easy to recognize: wherever human dignity and democracy are suppressed, that is where fascism rules. While it is easy to see that potentates and the wealthy are fascist because that is the ideology that sustains their privileged positions and schemes of self-aggrandizing and exploitative inequality, it can seem paradoxical that working-class people would willingly choose to act as functionaries in the enforcement and bureaucratic mechanisms of fascism’s machinery, until you realize that human weakness and lack of moral character and a lack of a sense of honor are common.

Patriotism is a hoax, the only values worth fighting and dying for are: family and honor. And World Socialism means including all peoples and their communities within your allegiances to “family” and “honor” — just as those people would, in that ideal, include your family and your right to dignified living, within their allegiances to “family” and “honor.”

We humans are only as good as our willingness to take care of each other. It is very easy to see our deficiencies in this regard, but it is better to try overcoming them. That effort will be as eternal as the continuation of our species, and the mark of its success will not be the eventual achievement of some perfected societal advancement, but that at any moment a serious effort continues in that direction.

It is not possible to achieve that success for the world if the preservation of your uninterrupted comfort is paramount. There is no blame in being annoyed if such interruptions must happen, but there is no honor, and there is great shame, in seeking to avoid such annoying inconveniences by making excuses justifying the sacrifices of the lives and liberties, cultures and independence of other peoples, just to preserve your material comforts and ego.

So: am I an idealist and a romantic?
Yes.

Have I judged people harshly based on their responses, or lack of them, to the Russian-Ukrainian War?
Yes.

Do I worry this might reduce the number of my friendships, and perhaps significantly?
No.

Most friendships are quite superficial, and I have learned not to expect too much from “friends,” because most people just want you to play a supporting role in their own dramas of receiving attention, and for that they often want you to compromise your ideas and principles so as to harmonize with theirs.

For everybody, the first step toward World Socialism is the development of a well-integrated and principled moral character. The chasm, between the sordid reality of “now” and the projected idealization of the desired “then,” is never a justification for surrendering to defeatism. We are only as good as we do.

I seek to be truthful, not popular. I aspire to be worthy, not acclaimed nor egotistical, even knowing how socially challenging and personally difficult achieving that can be. I cannot think of a better way to make an anonymous life significant, and fulfilling.

The Ukrainians are fighting for their lives, families, culture, personal honor and national independence, and we support them because their struggle is one of the sharpest points of conflict in the world today that is also for the defense of democracy, and of our own morally humane honor.

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Dear Russian Widows

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Dear Russian Widows

I grieve with you. And I grieve with you, Ukrainian widows and widowers and orphans and heartbroken lovers dropping your tears in the cold dusty blackened ruins of your invaded cities, towns and villages.

It is reported here, in the United States of America, that at least 7,000 to as many as 14,000 Russian soldiers have been killed during this first month (24 February – 24 March, 2022) of Russia’s — Vladimir Putin’s — invasion of Ukraine. So, sadly, there are now up to 14,000 more Russian families with new widows and newly heartbroken lovers grieving for their young men sacrificed in a war as the blood lubrication for the gears of the ponderous and plodding machinery tracking your would-be emperor’s ambitions of conquest and power into the fields and streets of Ukraine. And now all your young newly widowed Russian women, and newly bereft Russian mothers, are reliving the anguish and grief suffered by an older generation of Russian women whose young men were taken by the tragically disastrous Russian war in Afghanistan forty years ago, and many of those women may have been robbed of their chances to become happy grandmothers.

Who can doubt that on 24 February 2022, many Poles instantly thought of 1 September 1939, and 17 September 1939; and that many Danes, Norwegians, Belgians, Dutch and French instantly thought of April and May 1940; and that many Russians, along with Belarusians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, and Ukrainians instantly thought of 22 June 1941?

The trauma of a heartless dictator’s destructive invasion of your country to subjugate it as an exploitable colony and then carry out a campaign of continuous mass murder, is not soon dissipated from the historical memory of succeeding generations of those previously conquered nations, and the hollow feeling of seeing this happen again, two to three generations later during their young and modern 21st century lives, quickly steels the youth of those countries today into a resolve to fight off the invader and preserve their national independence, and national honor, and national pride. And such resolve can make them fight to the death because they feel sanctified by history and by the truest morality that every human of any age instinctively understands.

So your poor Russian soldiers are here at a great disadvantage, because as they awaken to any degree of the truth of their situation, they will know that they can not be justified and ennobled by any moral principles, they are just being used as expendable tools to perpetrate war crimes at the service of your Caesar, Putin’s imperial ambitions.

And I grieve with you because all the foreigners sympathetic to the plight of the Ukrainians, either because of resonant echoes of painful memories from their own national histories, or from simple emotional reactions against the outrageous injustices being inflicted on Ukraine, will contribute to efforts to resupply, rearm, fortify and accept refugees from Ukraine so it can continue, and hopefully win, its defensive war against the Russian military, and against Vladimir Putin’s inhuman ideology.

And I, too, am sympathetic to the Ukrainian cause. But this then means that my sympathy, along with many others whose sympathy is expressed as military assistance, will necessarily kill more Russian soldiers and create more Russian widows, and more bereft Russian mothers, fathers, and lovers. And I grieve that such increased pain to the Russian people is impossible to avoid with any effort to relieve the massive injustice and massive pain being inflicted on the Ukrainian people. I grieve that in being sympathetic to a people afflicted with a cruel and unjust invasive war, I am inextricably guilty of adding to the increasing grief of the Russian people whose young men are being consumed in that war.

During my youthful adult years, the United States was prosecuting its own massively unjust imperialistic war — against “communism” — in Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia. The Vietnamese simply wanted to unify their country, which was briefly liberated from both the French colonizers and Japanese imperialists during 1945, and continue as an independent nation free to use its natural resources and peasant agricultural economy for the well-being of its own people, and to be free to have their own Vietnamese rulers, both the honest ones and the pocket-lining corrupt ones as exist in every government, and to fashion their nation as a “communist” one, that is to say with some degree of beneficial collectivization, and some degree of insulated hierarchical power, which power and patronage pyramids are blemishes (or gaping sores) of every government everywhere, whether it calls itself “capitalist,” “democratic,” “socialist,” or “communist.”

My country, the United States, sent a Marine invasion in 1965 to prosecute a massive land war, and helicopter war, and aerial bombardment war in Vietnam till late 1972, which was continued by the Vietnamese troops of the South Vietnamese puppet government till it collapsed in April 1975. During the 13 years or so of direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam (1962-1975, previously the U.S. had funded the French war to recolonize Vietnam, 1946-1954, after its liberation with the defeat of Japan in August 1945), the U.S. military sent in about 1 million soldiers, sailors, airmen, and women nurses, whose collective work resulted in perhaps 2.5-3 million Vietnamese killed, and perhaps up to 3.5-4 million people killed in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, as sections of the latter two nations were also heavily bombarded and chemically defoliated).

Of those approximately 1 million U.S. military personnel that passed through Southeast Asia during the American war there, just over 58,000 of them were killed, and many thousands more suffered debilitating physical and psychological wounds that lasted, and are lasting, till their deaths.

The Vietnamese Communist Party, which was conducting its war of national liberation, and defensive war against American aggression against their unified communist national aspirations, was desperate to receive whatever foreign assistance it could get in the way of arms and humanitarian supplies to combat such an awesome enemy. It was “communist” Russia and “communist” China that supplied the better arms the Communist Party of Vietnam acquired to fight the Americans. The governments of Russia and China did this in part because of “communist solidarity,” but also in large part out of “superpower” — that is to say, imperialist — rivalry with the alternative capitalist empire of the Americans and their associated Western Allies.

I say “alternative capitalist empire” because both Russia and China were also basically capitalist but in the form of state-monopolized top-down command capitalism, instead of the American form of lightly regulated largely disorganized privatized capitalism that bought self-aggrandizing government influence and insulation from public responsibility and popular democracy. America’s “colonies” are foreign zones of extractive economic exploitation. The colonies of Russia’s empire — its zones of extractive economic exploitation by Kremlin leaders — were the captive nations within the U.S.S.R. (like Ukraine) as well as the captive nations within the East Bloc, behind what Winston Churchill called the “Iron Curtain.”

The Communist Party of China (its exclusive power and patronage pyramid and nomenklatura), like Russia, envisioned itself as an insular empire with internal colonies, stretching in the west from Xinjiang (with the oppressed Uyghurs, a Turkic and Islamic people) and Tibet (annexed by China in 1951, and Tibetans are a different ethnicity than the dominant Han Chinese) in Central Asia, east to the Pacific Ocean, north from what used to be called Manchuria (north of the Korean peninsula) to south with Hainan island in the South China Sea, and out to the still independent and very western-style capitalist Chinese island nation of Taiwan.

In the extremity of their situation during their thirty years of wars of national independence (1945-1975), the Communist Party of Vietnam could not concern itself with the multipolar superpower rivalries between the Chinese (whom they traditionally hated from previous centuries of conquests and oppression), the Russians who were using them as proxies to bleed the Americans in their Russian-American “Cold War,” and their own very immediate and massively destructive American invaders trying to force them to be “capitalists.” They took what arms and supplies and money they could get from sympathetic foreigners to keep their struggle for independence alive.

And such is the situation of the Ukrainians today, as it was for the Afghans during the 1980s when the United States supplied the Afghan Mujahideen with shoulder-fired anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile weapons, as the Americans sought revenge against the Russians for the very useful help (as with anti-aircraft missile systems) the Russians had rendered the Vietnamese Communists during the 1960s and early 1970s.

That United States policy for Afghanistan was initiated as a covert action by a Polish-American government official, Zbigniew Brzezinski (1928-2017), who was born in Warsaw and left Poland in 1938 as a 10 year old boy with his family when his Polish diplomat father was posted to Montreal, Canada. Brzezinski was obviously motivated by his memory of Stalin’s ravaging of his homeland, and not just by a desire to be of foreign policy service to the 1978 American government he had become a part of.

So from Stalin’s Red Army and NKVD in Poland in 1939, to Lyndon Johnson’s and Richard Nixon’s (and Henry Kissinger’s) U.S. military in Vietnam in 1962-1975, to Leonid Brezhnev’s and the Kremlin’s Russian military in Afghanistan during its war there from 1979 to 1989 (when the Berlin Wall fell), to now with the Russian-Ukrainian War, it has been tit-for-tat bleeding of each other by rival superpowers (that is to say, nuclear armed empires) using the wars of small nations struggling desperately to gain their freedom and independence. And it is the freedom and independence of those small nations that are the only morally justifiable aspects of this chained cycle of superpower vengeance by proxy, through wars of independence so cruelly destructive of and callously inflicted on the small nations that have to wage them.

While eventually the small nations, invaded and crushed by the murderous onslaughts of the huge wars prosecuted by the major world powers during the 20th century, gained varying degrees of freedom, independence, stability and prosperity, the one universal outcome of all those wars was the creation of many millions of dead, many millions of physically and mentally traumatized, and many millions of surviving widows, orphans, widowers, and bereft lovers.

That truth has been captured in many mournful songs of lament, and one that especially affects me is “High Germany” as sung by my younger daughter. Of course, it is the personal effect of hearing her lovely voice, besides just the sentiment of that Celtic ballad, that makes for such an emotional effect on me. Over a century ago, young men from Scotland, a Celtic nation conquered and absorbed by England in 1651 (and formally incorporated into the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707) were drafted into the English Army to go fight Germany during World War I. Young men from other Celtic territories earlier captured by the English (Wales, Cornwall, the Northern Counties of Ireland) were also sent a-soldiering for the British Crown. And 895,000 of those, mostly young men, from the United Kingdom died in WWI. As we know, there were also many wounded and traumatized veterans, and many grieving families and lovers of those lost, in fact a “Lost Generation.” It is the lingering heartbreak of such grief by the survivors of the powerless people sent to fight those wars by their imperial masters, that is the essence of that song.

High Germany
25 February 2018
https://youtu.be/2QybAQVv6jE

And today those powerless pawns sent to bleed and die for their national Caesar’s ambition to reconstitute a rump insular neo-Stalinist empire by recapturing Ukraine (independent from 1991), are Russian soldiers, who like their American counterparts today are most likely in the military because of a paucity of decent good-paying civilian jobs.

The command structure of your Russian military is more attuned to Putin’s imperialistic ambitions, because like the American military command structure during the 1960s, they are careerists and have a triumphalist attitude gained by their facility at massively bombing unarmed and barely-armed civilian populations: Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian for the Americans, while Chechen and Syrian for the Russians.

Stopping these predatory wars by superpowers is so difficult because the perpetrating governments are largely immune from civilian humanitarian sentiments and popular democracy (naturally, they are empires), and only military mutinies and revolutionary changes of government can really stop their nation’s wars. Was this not so with the Russian Revolution in 1917?, and with the escalating military mutinies by U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen between about 1969 through 1972? Thoughtful Americans today are proud of their war resistors and protestors of the 1960s and 1970s, just as your thoughtful Russians will be proud in years to come of your brave war resistors and protestors today. If only such civilian resistance to their nation’s wars of choice were more effective at preventing and stopping them; and if only a greater portion of the militaries of our nations would revolt against prosecuting such wars of choice, and thus render the greatest service soldiers can render their nations’s people — the actual people.

But as with you in Russia, we here in the United States also have our thoughtless and inhuman people who define their allegiances not with humanity and its sufferings anywhere, but with their own selfish careerist ambitions couched as principled concerns for supra-human and exclusionary ideological political abstractions, which they like to imagine elevate their intellectual pretensions and ennoble their moral characters.

So among your Russians you have those who follow Vladimir Putin canard of seeking to “de-nazify” Ukraine, despite “the Putin regime’s own record of collaboration with far-right extremists. Even as Russian diplomats condemned ‘fascists’ in the Baltic states and Kremlin propagandists railed against imaginary ‘Ukronazis’ in power in Kyiv, the Russian state was cultivating its own homegrown Nazis” —

Putin’s fascists: the Russian state’s long history of cultivating homegrown neo-Nazis
Robert Horvath
(Senior Lecturer, La Trobe University)
https://theconversation.com/putins-fascists-the-russian-states-long-history-of-cultivating-homegrown-neo-nazis-178535

And we here in the United States have allies of that oligarchic-authoritarian anti-feminist, homophobic, White Supremacist ideology, and who have no sincere sympathy for Ukraine under attack, such as Donald Trump — our sociopathic narcissistic previous president who lauds Vladimir Putin whom he sees as mirroring his own ambitions — and the entirety of our Republic Party (and Abraham Lincoln would weep to see what has become of the party he was the first US president of).

But we here in the United States also have “leftists”and declared “socialists” who have no sincere sympathy with the Ukrainian people, because they are wrapped up in their self-delusions of themselves as highly enlightened anti-nazis, and “anti-imperialists,” by which they mean anti-US imperialism only, and that includes in their minds their idea of “NATO expansionism.” For them any “enemy of US imperialism and NATO expansion,” however despicable and murderously dictatorial they may be to their own people, such as Muammar Gaddafi was and Bashar al-Assad is, are worthy of their consideration and defense, because for them thwarting US imperialism (both actual and imagined) is always more important than forthrightly helping to relieve actual terrorized people of their murderous oppression by their tyrannical rulers.

Such ideological and thus effectively inhuman leftists myopically, and really narcissistically, see themselves as having a “higher purpose” like the journalist “Frank Pitcairn” who was a propaganda agent for Stalin during the Spanish Civil War and wrote dispatches for the Irish press that were pure lies intended to further Stalin’s campaign to betray the Socialist Revolution in Spain during 1937 in his effort to have his Communist cadres gain complete control of the Spanish Republican government. That cynical campaign by Stalin resulted in the tortures and murders by the NKVD of socialists and anarchists in Spain not controlled by Stalin, and thus sapped the strongest moral force fighting against Francisco Franco’s fascist revolt against the democratically elected Spanish Republican government.

Franco was backed militarily by Hitler and Mussolini, and economically by Great Britain. The Spanish proletarians who manned the most effective and motivated anti-fascist forces were organized as the Socialist and Anarchist militias fighting for proletarian dignity and economic independence within a projected Socialist Spain. Once the socialist national dream for Spain was violently quashed in May 1937 by the combined forces of Stalin’s organs of repression and Spanish Communist troops directed from the Kremlin, and the military forces of the anti-Francoist Spanish bourgeoisie, the spirit animating the defense of the Spanish Republic dissipated and the war ended in a terrible defeat in 1939, followed by almost four decades of Francoist dictatorship during which more Spanish anarchists, socialists, communists and republicans were executed than had been killed during the Civil War itself.

I had a grand-uncle who was a violinist with a pre-war Spanish symphony orchestra, who was jailed for a time by Franco after 1939 for being an opponent of the regime — a classical violinist! So, I have an animus to the “Frank Pitcairn” types, the self-declared and comfortable Western leftists who defend rather than decry tyrants who oppress, torture, disappear, gas and bomb their unarmed civilian populations seeking reforms against their government’s oligarchic corruption, and for their own democratic participation in charting their nation’s course, because those Frank Pitcairn types are consumed with approval-seeking (from Stalin in the 1930s and 1940s, and from like-minded internet audiences today) and burnishing their own self-delusions of having superior worthiness as politically advanced and thus presumably morally elevated “US-only anti-imperialists.” Their lovingly satisfying gazing into their own self-referential mirrors are not to be interrupted by any concerns for the sufferings of actual people being killed by dictators and regimes nominally opposed to “US imperialism,” and so those oppressed populations, by “anti-imperialist” ideologically necessary definition, “deserve it” because they are Nazis in Ukraine, and al-Qaeda in Libya and Syria.

All the arguments by these “anti-imperialists” boil down to a defense of how they wish to think of themselves, regardless of how many foreign civilians have to be murdered (by approved of foreign “anti-imperialist” potentates) to preserve that self-image. And Vladimir Putin’s organs of disinformation and propaganda gleefully use these Western “anti-imperialist” poseurs to help perpetrate his many war crimes since 2000, when he gained power, and most recently in Syria and Ukraine.

So I now find that I am more isolated politically than I used to believe was possible, because the “leftist community” that I identified with and once imagined was at least unified by some wonderful human-centered principles of solidarity by class — the “working class,” “the proletariate,” “the voters,” “the people,” as opposed to the wealth and power classes of oligarchs and “capitalists” and corporations and “nomenklatura type” politicians — a human-centered solidarity that cut across national boundaries and ethnic differences, has been vividly exposed by the war in Ukraine to be irredeemably fractured between Frank Pitcairn type rigid ideologues of very selective anti-imperialism and of inconsistent sympathy with oppressed populations, and George Orwell type inconsistent ideologues for anti-imperialism, with consistent sympathy for oppressed populations. The essence here is whether one identifies with one or another of the power pyramids engaged in the “multipolar” (one of Putin’s favorite words in his apologetics of his imperialism) rivalry between the major power pyramids, or “superpowers,” vying for greater control of world populations and their economics, or whether one identifies indiscriminately with “the workers” and the actual “ordinary” people of the world, who universally want safe, secure, decently prosperous and not exploited lives for themselves and their families in stable democratic non-contending nation-states.

What we really need in the world today is for NATO to expand globally to encompass EVERY country on Earth: every nation pledged to come to the immediate aid and defense of any nation that happens to experience a crisis or catastrophe, be it of political origins like a military invasion or a civil war brought on my dictatorial megalomania, or a catastrophe of natural origins like a tsunami, an earthquake, floods, crop failures and famine, or Climate Change.

Global Warming Climate Change (GWCC) is a pernicious geophysical positive feedback loop of negative consequences for planetary habitability, being a human caused and accelerated effect driven by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (primarily methane) exhausted from the burning of fossil fuels used to generate the heat-energy that powers so much of “our” capitalist and militarist and imperialist ambitions. The only way GWCC can be slowed and eventually stopped before it makes organized human life — human civilization — impossible because of the heat-induced onslaught of many irreversible and catastrophic environmental changes, is for an internationally cooperative and unified and permanently sustained maximum effort to quickly abandon the use of fossil fuels everywhere, and to power all human activities from naturally sustainable sources such as by solar, wind, hydrological and geothermal power.

Such an internationally integrated worldwide anti-GWCC effort would necessarily define a new reality of World Socialism: “all for one and one for all.” The transformation of one’s own country for a Post-Carbon World, along with its assistance offered to and cooperation given with other countries engaged in their own self-transformations to the post-carbon paradigm, would necessarily be leveling socialist economic revolutions nationally and globally. Both the “communist” labeled command-capitalist oligarchies and the “capitalist” labeled corporate “free market” oligarchies would have had to fall away in favor of a broad socialism centered on meeting the human needs of Earth’s people, for a planetary anti-GWCC effort to be able to be mounted and to succeed.

And it is because I now see the emergence of such a planetary anti-GWCC world socialism as impossible that I also grieve. That “impossibility” solely exists because of the obduracy and pettiness of a vast portion of humanity’s minds, even among minds in our communities of supposedly most politically enlightened people (according to themselves): our socialists, and safely comfortable Western recreational “leftists,” people who cannot bring themselves to support the assistance — from whatever quarter possible even NATO — to small national populations struggling desperately against murderous onslaughts from their dictatorial rulers like Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and from invasive imperialistic foreign juggernauts like Vladimir Putin in Syria and in Ukraine.

If we cannot all see the moral universality of human struggles against anti-democratic oppression and against the losing of personal freedoms, of national independence, and of life itself for so many, then we will never be able to prevent our fractious selves from destroying our planet’s habitability through our competitively myopic escalation of Anthropogenic Climate Change.

So I grieve for the human pawns being sacrificed to advance tyrannical and imperial ambitions, for the many widows, orphans, widowers and bereft lovers who survive, for a while, those human pawns sacrificed on the chess boards of ambitious narcissistic potentates, and I grieve for my lost illusions about leftist communities and socialist potentialities, and I grieve for a world I think is hopelessly beyond salvation — by choice.

Believe me, I fervently wish history would prove me wrong, and soon.

And I hope Ukraine wins its defensive war, soon.

And ideology be damned: human solidarity is everything.

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An Anti-imperialist and an Atlanticist Argue about Ukraine

TWO PEOPLE ARGUE: PRO-PUTIN vs. PRO-UKRAINE
or
CONSISTENT ANTI-IMPERIALIST vs. INCONSISTENT ATLANTICIST

After numerous previous escalating exchanges (with faint echoes of Jean-Paul Sartre versus Albert Camus), we came to this:

ADR:
What you said a while ago was that bombings/war/invasion are bad and therefore you take this as an evidence that Putin/Russia is the primary responsible for this. While you cite Chomsky as a probable author to read when it comes to politics, you carefully ignore what he said during Maidan in 2014 because you claim without any ambiguity that NATO has nothing to do with this. While bombing is bad, you seem to agree that it is legitimate to bomb Irak and Lybia. There is only one logical conclusion for this: bombing is legitimate under certain circumstances. Circumstances which you accept for Lybia, but you don’t accept for Ukraine if Zelensky/Poroschenko/Yatsenuk are viewed by Russia as their Gaddafi/Saddam. You also claim that Russia has more neo-nazis then Ukraine and said that Putin himself is a neo-nazi (+dictator+…). How does that fit with the fact that the communist party of the Russian Federation comes 2nd in parliamentary elections and that communist organisations are banned in Ukraine? That’s the inconsistence from your side!

MG,Jr.:
You are absolutely right, I am inconsistent on all the points you raised. “Inconsistent” means that I do not hew to an inflexible ideological standard — the making of equivalences between the situations you point out, and which you clearly think should be treated as equivalent (Ukraine=Libya: revolutions, interventions, bombings; Zelensky=tyrant and Nazi coddler; Russia=communist not fascist, but parliamentary).

I make judgments on the basis of what I see as “right” and “wrong” in each situation, and that means that at times I think “bombing is legitimate under certain circumstances.” I make those judgements on the basis of what I think will most help the people being brutally victimized at the moment (Libya in 2011, Syria 2011-now, Ukraine 2022). I don’t care about ideological (political) consistency, or which ideological “side” is “winning.” I care about the actual people those ideological “sides” are playing with — and oppressing, torturing, disappearing, gassing, and bombing.

In all your arguments you never reference those people nor give them a voice: what is it they want? You don’t really care, do you?, they don’t matter; what is important for you is that “your” ideological “side” not be disadvantaged as compared to the Great Satan’s (=US/NATO/EU) side: if the “US” can do it then “the other side” should be allowed to do it. Hence Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad, Putin are all “anti-imperialists” and the populations they eradicate deserve it by the principle of the consistency of equivalence between ideological justifications for the application of power.

I am definitely politically-ideologically inconsistent. I see you as continuing to argue with me because deep down you know I am right both politically and morally, and that you don’t want to face that fact because all your arguments about “consistency” are about you trying to hide that you accept being inhuman by being willing to sacrifice populations being victimized by tyrants, in order to argue “consistently” against an ideological abstraction, “anti- US/NATO/EU imperialism” that you have absorbed into your self-image, as a supremely ennobling characteristic. Your arguments boil down to a defense of how you wish to think of yourself regardless of how many foreign civilians have to be murdered (by “your side”) to preserve that self-image.

Here is a little abstraction of the argument (by Zubêr Hatia) with regard to Ukraine:

Ukrainians: Putin has amassed a huge army on our borders.
Fools: He won’t invade – he’s just securing his own country!

Ukrainians: Putin has started the invasion from the East, from the South and from the North.
Fools: Its not an invasion – more of a temporary incursion; and he’s kindly left the West of the country open to allow those who want to leave!

Ukrainians: Putin is realising heavy losses – of soldiers lives and military equipment.
Fools: Lies! A few casualties at most… and he’s posthumously awarded medals to dead peacekeepers!

Ukrainians: Putin is shelling hospitals and clinics!
Fools: No! A popular vlogger who is pregnant and is spreading lies. Anyway, it wasn’t a hospital!

Ukrainians: Putin is committing war crimes against civilians.
Fools: They’re not civilians – they are neo Nazis!

Ukrainians: Please protect our skies (NFZ).
Fools: Warmongers!!

Syrians: We told you so about Putin.
Fools: Long live anti-imperialism! Long live whataboutery!!!

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People who read any of this will take from it what they prefer to believe.

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Some Notes on Ukraine, mostly, (21Feb-16Mar’22)

Photograph by Oleksii Kyrychenko, 10 March 2022. Portrait of his 12 year old daughter in Kyiv. The beauty of childhood and the tragedy of war, and admirable resoluteness in the midst of great injustice, all in one photo.

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Some Notes on Ukraine, mostly, (21Feb-16Mar’22)

Over the last 24 days, I have had many thoughts about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, or colored by that criminal tragedy. A number of these thoughts are in response to the questions, or accusations, I have received about the opinions I have so far expressed publicly about “Ukraine.” I offer this chronological string of some of my selected “notes on Ukraine” as a snapshot of this man’s state of mind at this time, primarily to share with people like my questioners. This is not a polemic (“a verbal war”) aimed at the many who disagree with my perspectives on “Ukraine,” “leftists,” “anti-imperialism,” and all that; it is just a fragmentary personal testimony, a series of reflections during a dark time.

It is my impression that for most Americans — and perhaps for most people everywhere — that their political awareness boils down to confirmation bias and witch burning.

“The lands of today’s Ukraine were the center of both Stalinist and Nazi killing policies throughout the era of mass killings. Some 3.5 million people fell victim to Stalinist killing policies between 1933 and 1938, and then another 3.5 million to German killing policies between 1941 and 1944. Perhaps three million more inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine died in combat or as an indirect consequence of the war.” —
[Timothy Snyder, ‘Bloodlands’, p404]

The 1939 population of the Ukraine was 32,425,000. So, a loss of 10 million people between 1933 and 1944 represents 30.8% (nearly 1 in 3) of the 1939 population (used here for comparative purposes). For just the 6.5 million people lost between 1941 and 1944, because of the WWII German invasion, then 20% (1 in 5) of “1939” Ukrainians were killed. If we reference the 3.5 million Ukrainians killed between 1933 and 1938 (pre WWII), by the combination of Stalin’s enforced Terror Famine (1932-1933) and Great Purge (many gunshot executions, 1937-1938) to the 1939 population, that mortality ratio is 10.8% (about 1 in 9). Ukrainians remain very conscious of their 20th century history, especially those Ukrainian people in their 80s and 90s, who lived through that history.

There is no justification for Putin’s Russian invasion of Ukraine whatsoever. None of Putin’s accusations and characterizations of Ukraine are true. All Russian military operations in Ukraine are by definition war crimes. All apologetics of Putin’s invasion are complicity by ideological denial of truth. (See: “Vladimir Putin’s Hall of Mirrors, the Russian president sees the world through the lens of maskirovka and provokatsiia,” Timothy Snyder, 21 February 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/02/putin-ukraine-invasion-maskirovka-provokatsiia/622874/)

Why is Volodymyr Zelensky the President of Ukraine today (since 20 May 2019)? Given the history of Ukraine, and Russian actions in that country, it is not hard to imagine why an arbitrary “Russian speaker” as a presidential candidate who “looks East” (as Viktor Yanukovych did in 2004-2005) would not get elected to lead Ukraine’s government and formulate its foreign policy. Additionally, Ukrainian voters were disgusted by political corruption in the 2010s, and Zelensky was seen as a reform candidate as well as an Atlanticist — politically and economically oriented toward Europe. It is Ukrainian history, and not US lobbying, that is the driving factor in the Ukrainian public mind setting its direction “toward the Atlantic.” Putin’s invasion only reinforces this point, and also adds to the argument in favor of Ukraine becoming a part of NATO, as an elementary matter of national self-defense.

I think that the fundamental issue has always been one of trust, not economics or energy supplies, and the lesson I am sure Ukrainians have arrived at from their history (and especially today) is that they can never trust the Russians ever, and that they should always try to acquire protective alliances to shield them from Russia — when their country can act as an independent nation. Despite the imbalance of military forces today, and perhaps a temporary ‘win’ for Putin’s military this week or next, over the long term Ukraine is lost to Russia forever as a willing subject (slave) or borderland ally. Russia can act out, and invade and destroy (as in Syrian and now Ukraine), but it has lost all moral authority and welcoming agreement from others, to expand territorially, and also enlarge its influence in defining political ideas internationally.

About “Nazis in Ukraine”: There are more neo-Nazis in Russia than Ukraine, and Putin is basically one of them. The totality of neo-Nazi ultra-right parties in Ukraine only garnered 2.5% in the last parliamentary elections, and failing to break 5% gained zero seats in the parliament. The “Ukrainian neo-Nazi” trope is Russian/Putin disinformation.

“Putin absurdly claims that he must invade Ukraine to denazify it. Zelens’kyi unlike Putin is a democratically-elected president. Zelenskyi unlike Putin does not support racists and white supremacists [and homophobes — MG,Jr.] around the world. He interprets the Second World War from a Ukrainian perspective… ‘How can you call us Nazis when we gave millions of lives in the Second World War?’ It is a fair point. Ukrainian soldiers died in terrible numbers in the Red Army: more than Americans, British, and Frenchmen combined during the Second World War. He adds: ‘Tell it to my grandfather, who fought in the Soviet infantry and died as a colonel in independent Ukraine.’ President Zelensky does not mention that his grandfather’s father and much of his family were murdered in the Holocaust.” — Timothy Snyder (24 February 2022, https://snyder.substack.com/p/do-russians-want-war).

What about Climate Change? Can the nations of the world ever stop generating an endless sequence of wars — which are always wasteful fossil fuel intensive and high CO2 emission disasters — and instead unite to cooperate on an effective socio-economic response to slow the acceleration of global warming? Today, it certainly seems not.

I think Global Warming Climate Change (GWCC) will cause many societal and political problems, and that we all will never arrive at one “perfect” solution to it all, we will always have to dance with a wide variety of interrelated and conflicting situations, and much of our dances will have to be ever-changing improvisations — forever. So, it is good for us each to keep doing the good we can do, because regardless of what Nature imposes on us, the better our personal, local and global human societies are, the better equipped they will be to face those challenges from Nature. And, really, this is true even without GWCC — but GWCC does make it more pressing.

On 1 March 2022, U.S. President Joseph Biden gave the televised “State of the Union Address” to a joint session of Congress. My abstraction of the Republican Response is as follows (and was written without any need to actually listen to the televised Republican Response): ‘Look folks, if Biden gets everything he’s asked for, the billionaires and corporations we work for will make less profit that they can stash overseas, and we will have a harder time getting elected, so we can keep our high paying government jobs working for those billionaires and corporations to keep making those tax-free profits. So don’t back any of it!, and don’t vote for anyone who will! Don’t listen to Biden when he tells you that passing his bills would lower your taxes, medical costs, daycare and grocery bills, raise your wages, and make it easier for you to vote! NONE OF THAT MATTERS! We know, because WE are the ones doing what really is important!, which is preventing all of that waste!, and keeping America PURE!” Who could doubt that there are more neo-Nazis in the U.S.A. than in Ukraine?

Ukraine in 2022 is a “great revealer” of people’s political biases and orientations, in the same way that Spain was during 1936-1939. May Ukraine’s fate be much, much happier (and that happiness occur much, much sooner) than Spain’s was from 1939 to 1975-1982 (Franco’s dictatorship). The Spanish Civil War was the prelude to WWII in Europe; would that the present Russian war in Ukraine could be the final coda of that cacophony of bloody dictatorial ambition, never to be seen or heard from again anywhere in the world, because the people have united and their oppressive regimes have been burned away.

How does it feel to be propelled through the portal of eternity into the full might and fury of God exploding into you? Feierlich, misterioso, bewegt lebhaft, schnell, langsam, feierlich. I listen once again to Bruckner’s 9th Symphony, and I think of Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Warsaw, Spain, Wounded Knee, Gettysburg, Fort Pillow, Boudica, Spartacus, Melos, Troy, Cassandra, and so many more — too many more. And I am reminded not to live superficially, self-absorbed and uncaring, for that would be ingratitude for so far having been spared their fate, by the capricious currents of history. — BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 in D minor / Haitink · Concertgebouw Orchestra (https://youtu.be/K5QZrxe54gU).

“He has gone where savage indignation can lacerate his heart no more.” — Jonathan Swift (1666-1747), his epitaph for himself.

A PRIVATE WAR (2018), a very powerful movie about MARIE COLVIN, a journalist (for The Sunday Times) who covered wars in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, among them: Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria. She focused on the real story: the effect of war on people: civilians, families, children. She was well aware of the “politics” behind the wars, which are pushed by the egos and ambitions of dictators and “empires,” and she went to record the truths about the desperate resistance to those murderous governmental ambitions, resistance by the people massively outgunned and fighting for their independence, dignity, and survival while living constantly with unimaginable fear because of the extreme likelihood that they would soon be visited by a very violent death. The segments on Libya and Syria were particularly good at showing the reality of what Gaddafi and Assad (later with massive help from Putin) had done and were doing to their own people to merit the revolts that rose up against them. I think back to LOUIS PROYECT in 2011, when our separate anti-dictator rage converged sympathetically, over Libya, and of his massive output of writings over the next ten years in support of the Libyans and then Syrians, despite the continuous flack he received from the idiotic “anti-imperialist” Tankies and Campists who could care less how many brown bodies were shredded by hot metal bits to be dumped and hurriedly buried in mass grave pits by their favored dictators. These comfortable Western “anti-imperialists” were merciless in their criticisms of the failings of the Western democracies but were ready to tolerate the worst crimes by their favored perpetrators as long as they are committed in the name of the “proper doctrines” (a.k.a. “anti-imperialism”). And now we have Ukraine. I wish, for our benefit, that Louis was still here to breath his righteous fire in defense of a just cause, as he was so good at doing; the only consolation I can think of to his departure last August is that maybe his generous soul can no longer be wounded by the aggravating pain of seeing another unnecessary and murderous societal catastrophe perpetrated by Vladimir Putin. What you would see in A PRIVATE WAR is not exactly like Ukraine in 2022 — but then again it really is — for the people. “A Private War Trailer #1 (2018)” (https://youtu.be/TTf0Lc5YAcc), and “Telling legendary journalist Marie Colvin’s story in ‘A Private War’” (https://youtu.be/vdOPRLykvFA).

I just started reading LIFE AND FATE, an 841+ page Russian-Jewish novel, and Vasily Grossman’s masterpiece, the 20th century’s ‘War and Peace.’ Grossman was a journalist who accompanied the Red Army (at the front) from Stalingrad (1942-1943) to Berlin (1945), was the very first to write a ‘discovery’ report about the Nazi death camps (Treblinka), and survived as a Soviet dissident author through Stalin’s antisemitic campaign (proto-purge, ~1943-1953) and Khrushchev’s spiking of too embarrassingly truthful Russian literature (1953-1964). After he submitted his typescript of L&F for publication in 1959, the KGB raided Grossman’s flat to confiscate all copies and even the carbon papers and typewriter ribbons used: “his book was arrested.” He had made copies stashed secretly with friends who did not know each other. It was eventually smuggled out (by dissidents including Andrei Sakharov — ‘Father of the Russian Nuclear Bomb’) and published in the West in 1980, after Grossman’s death (stomach cancer) in 1964; it was first published in Russia in 1988. Vasily Grossman was a Ukrainian whose mother was killed by the German Nazis there. ‘Life and Fate’ is an epic meditation on the origins and consequences of totalitarianism, Nazi and Soviet equally (an equation the Soviet authorities wanted suppressed), and told from a human experiences point of view (as was the reporting by Marie Colvin between 1985-2012, but she was writing newspaper war correspondent reports whereas Grossman’s L&F is a novel summing up all his war correspondent and postwar anti-Stalinist dissidence experiences). Through the many characters in this novel, Grossman is able to describe many types of hellish experiences people between Berlin and Moscow, the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea, and in the Gulags, were subjected to between ~1930 to ~1945.

KANAL (1957) (https://youtu.be/e0P66M4bVkI)
A company of the Polish Home Army soldiers with civilian stragglers, in September 1944, is relentlessly being decimated by the Wehrmacht during the Warsaw Uprising on the west side of the Vistula River, while the Red Army was halted on the east side waiting for it to be all over before continuing west toward Berlin — shades of the formally defunct Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. For this “free” version of this amazing classic gem of world cinema, knowing Polish or Portuguese (subtitles) would help, but neither is really needed as the story virtually tells all of itself visually. Scenes like some in this movie are becoming (and have become) more familiar again in places like Syria and Ukraine.

THE BOMBARDMENT (‘The Shadow In My Eye,’ 2022, https://youtu.be/h4jVysnRisI)
This is a deeply felt, and I would say deeply philosophical, Danish movie about the human costs of Operation Carthage, the March 1945 Royal Air Force (RAF) mission to bomb Gestapo HQ in the center of Copenhagen. The movie is entirely accurate about how that mission turned out: Gestapo HQ was destroyed, but a Catholic girls school was mistakenly destroyed as well, with 125 fatalities. In terms of the visuals, sound and pacing, the movie is top notch; the acting is all “natural” and entirely believable; and the interwoven plots of the children and their young funny and existentially anguished teacher, Sister Teresa, are how this story infuses the viewer with a feeling of what war does to the human spirit (and to bodies, as well). That dispiriting effect of anguish and dread in the adults during warfare: Danish parents and RAF pilots, is also shown quite effectively. While there is certainly a good bit of tense action in this movie (with beautiful deadly airplanes), that action is at the service of the human/psychological story, and for that reason I see this as a “philosophical” movie. Maybe Danish film-makers are all imbued with Kierkegaard and steeped in Bergman movies, so a film like this has the clarity and deep perspective of slant angle sunlight in far northern slate-gray skies. In the chaos of war even goodness and self-sacrifice are tragic. What is most important at all times, theirs and ours, is to remember the human connection. This film shows that, masterfully.

Benjamin Ferencz (age 102) on Ukraine, 2022:
“Two of the 22 Nazis he prosecuted then, high-ranking members of the Einsatzgruppen, Nazi extermination squads responsible for the deaths of around two million, were architects of the massacre of Babyn Yar in Kyiv in September 1941. When he learnt Putin’s forces had blasted the mass grave of its 33,771 largely Jewish victims on Tuesday, he was crushed. However, hearing the International Criminal Court (ICC) announce this week it was already sending war crimes investigators into Ukraine, that it would hold Russian perpetrators at the highest level to account for any war crimes committed, has given him cause for renewed hope. His voice raised, shouting at times, he said: ‘The crimes now being committed against Ukraine by Russia are a disgrace to human society, those responsible should be held accountable for aggression, crimes against humanity and plain murder. As soon as they start dragging the criminals before a court the happier we will be.’ For Putin and his circle to be tried, proven war crimes would need to be linked directly to them. To enable their arrests, potentially a whole new government would need to be in place. Russia has previously quit the ICC. But Mr Ferencz is certain Putin can be jailed – maybe here, [UK] like Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic.” — [“Last surviving Nuremberg Trials prosecutor says Vladimir Putin should be ‘behind bars’” 4 March 2022, https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/last-surviving-nuremberg-trials-prosecutor-26389664]

“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

UK Polish Leftists on Ukraine (14 March 2022, https://manuelgarciajr.com/2022/03/14/uk-polish-leftists-on-ukraine/) note:
Q: Why did Putin attack Ukraine?
A: To finish what he started when he took Crimea, and incorporate the “fake nation” of Ukraine into Russia, duh. For centuries, Russia suppressed the Ukrainian language and culture, and it’s what they are planning now. Putin’s talk about Russians and Ukrainians being ”one nation”, or about Ukraine “not being a real country” is just preparing ground for russification of Ukraine. Do you know that Ukraine used to be called Malorossiya? (Little Russia)? During Putin’s rule, he and his supporters have long peddled the idea of “ruski mir” – “Russian world” – an ideology that says Russian civilisation extends to anywhere Russians live. Do you see where this is going? Get it now??? If not, read this article that the Russian “news” outlet RIA Novosti published by mistake, that was supposed to run AFTER Russia’s “obvious” victory over Ukraine. They promptly removed it, but not quickly enough. It had already been screencapped by multiple readers, and translated into English by a Pakistani newspaper: “The new world order,” Petr Akopov (https://thefrontierpost.com/the-new-world-order/).

I FIND IT AMAZING TO HAVE TO SAY THIS, BUT:
I don’t play the “my war criminal is better than your war criminal” game. And I don’t defend any dictator, even if his purported “principles” are right (i.e., “left”). “We” (actual people) stop “them” (regimes) if we can and as we can. The inability so far to bring 20th-21st century U.S. war criminals to justice is not an excuse to allow for Putin, Assad, Gaddafi (till 2011), et. al., to continue with their crimes, if it seems possible to stop them. Lack of universal perfect justice in the world is not an excuse to accept and approve of ideologically sympathetic injustices (by ‘your’ war criminals) to compensate for the existence of ideologically antipathetic injustices (by ‘their’ war criminals). Churchill and Roosevelt (“capitalists”, “imperialists”) had no problem accepting Stalin’s Red Army (“communists”, imperialist-within-one-soviet-‘union’) fighting the larger fraction of the WWII land war in Europe against Hitler (real Nazis). And I don’t have a problem with NATO taking down dictators (like Gaddafi, Assad, Putin) who are prosecuting murderous wars today, if it is possible to take them down. Blunt weapons are far better than no weapons in catastrophic emergencies for targeted victim populations: ideology • does • not • matter — people do! “In politics, the choice is never between good and evil, but between the preferable and the detestable.”

Let me say that one main inspiration for me to express myself on politics/international relations in the way I do was historian Tony Judt’s comment in one of his later books that it was important to bring morality into political discussions, and not just let them proceed as essentially soulless exercises in gamesmanship and “realpolitik.” And that is my point of departure. My chain of logic is: people (human solidarity) –> defines morality –> thus, bend ideology (ideally leftism/socialism, though alas so far always sectarian) to fit the human-centered morality (not “interests” centered politics) –> from there construct the “politics” (the mechanics of socio-economic relations and operations). With such a “moral” outlook, it is then easy to see through ideological obfuscation (like the “my war criminal is better than your war criminal” silliness of so much self-righteous victim-ignoring virtue-signalling in the propaganda wars over “Ukraine”), and know that dictators of any stripe are bad, unprovoked military invasions are bad, bombing civilians and civilian areas is wrong and bad, and that trying to conquer, subjugate and re-colonize, and destroy the culture of, a foreign people and nation is wrong and bad. I always reference back to “the people” who are getting hammered, and so I always think the “right politics” is whatever gives them relief from that as soon as possible, and then sets them onto a safe secure national independence of a form they select by a fair and transparent process of self-determination. For me human freedom trumps (sic) ideological purity and consistency.

Political ideology is based on abstractions about national regimes, both actual and as idealized projections, without regard to human individuality. Political morality is based entirely on the realities of relations between national populations, all seen as human individuals and not as politically abstracted masses (“regimes”), and all deserving the same degree of personal experience of political freedom and human rights as described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, published by the United Nations.

National policy guided by a consistency of political ideology will often require sacrifices of the political freedoms and human rights of individuals, domestic and foreign. National policy guided by political morality will require a continuing shifting, “dance,” and sacrifice of the preferred political ideology, in order to seek for the moral center action is to be aimed at in order to preserve a materially effective international human solidarity, in the midst of the ever changing external political conditions of human civilization.

It is more work with less profit to do what is morally right than what is politically-ideologically consistent. But unless the world’s nations can collectively learn “to do what is morally right,” we will never solve the global problems of nuclear disarmament and mounting real and permanent responses and adaptations that slow the acceleration of global warming and blunt the worst effects of climate change on biodiversity and on the habitability of Planet Earth.

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Libya, then Syria, now Ukraine

“The Arab Spring was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across much of the Arab world in the early 2010s. It began in response to corruption and economic stagnation and was first started in Tunisia. From Tunisia, the protests then spread to five other countries: Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Spring)

The First Libyan Civil War erupted on 15 February 2011 as a revolutionary insurrection against the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi. Protests against various injustices had occurred since August 2009, but in Benghazi on 15 February the security forces fired at the unarmed crowd, and this sparked what became known as the 17 February Revolution. Over the forty-two years of Muammar Gaddafi’s murderous reign many people had built up deep resentments against him, and these deep wounds propelled the determination of the revolutionary forces until the ending of the regime with capture and killing of Gaddafi on 20 October 2011. On 19 March 2011 UN-directed NATO forces intervened militarily, at the most perilous moment of the revolt, when Gaddafi’s motorized columns and artillery were about to overwhelm the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to implement the goal he had uttered on Libyan State Television: “those who do not love me do not deserve to live.”

There were many heated arguments that year “on the left” about the Libyan Civil War, and all their shades have reappeared eleven years later, in 2022, in the many heated arguments about the Russian War in Ukraine. The concerns behind the arguments are all as they were then:

— Isolationist: we should not spill our blood and spend our treasure to intervene in a foreign war, which would explode beyond our imaginations if we entered it, and lead to a catastrophic world war,

— Anti-imperialists, type #1: Gaddafi’s regime is an important bulwark against U.S. and NATO imperialism in Africa, and the protests against the government there were undoubtedly instigated by CIA covert operations, and are being used as a pretext for a US-NATO imperialistic invasion disguised as a “humanitarian intervention,”

— R2P interventionist: Gaddafi is a proven mass murderer, and stopping him from committing a “mass atrocity crime” in Benghazi, as defined in the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine developed in the U.N. after the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, is fully justified, and the means for doing so exist in the form of NATO military forces,

— Anti-imperialists, type #2: People who would revolt against such a bulwark against Western (U.S.) imperialism, and who has done so much to modernize his country and elevated the status of women, and liberally fund the Pan-African movement, do not deserve any sympathy, they are terrorists, criminals, Al Qaeda and foreign militants, so however Gaddafi suppresses them to defend his regime is acceptable.

As it was with the arguments for coming or not to the aid of the Libyan Revolution, those same arguments have continued to this day about coming or not to the aid of the civil society of the crushed Syrian Revolution, a civil society being relentlessly attacked, bombarded, and gassed by the Al-Assad regime with the assistance of Iran, and since 2015 with massive air-power military assistance by the Putin regime of Russia.

And now all those same arguments are applied to the war in Ukraine:

— Isolationists: if “we” go in it will explode into World War III (with nuclear weapons for sure);

— Anti-imperialists, type #1 (“campists”): The present Ukrainian government brought the Russian invasion of February 2022 onto themselves by seeking to allow NATO to expand eastward by making Ukraine a member and thus threatening the security of the Russian state, and by having been the people who in 2014 acceded to CIA and US State Department (Victoria Nuland’s) instigation to rise up against the pro-Russian Yanukovych regime and depose it in a “coup,” so the present war in Ukraine is entirely the fault of U.S. imperialism, NATO expansionism, and Russia’s invasion is a regrettable though understandable defensive reaction against encirclement by NATO;

— R2P Interventionists: “We” have a responsibility to aid the self-defense of civilian populations invaded by murderous dictators bent on conquest, as we failed to do so many times in the past (e.g., Ethiopia 1935, Spain 1936, Czechoslovakia 1938, Poland 1939, Finland 1940, Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, and many others), and if we evade that responsibility and let Ukraine fall to Putin’s imperialism then our World Order will have collapsed to “the law of the jungle” where no lesser state can ever be assured it is safe from conquest by a stronger military power, because the concept of international mutual assistance will have been abandoned;

— Anti-imperialists, type #2 (“tankies”): Ukraine continues to harbor masses of neo-nazi militias that clashed with ethnic Russian militias in the Donbass and Crimea, and that prevent the reintegration of Ukraine into the Russian state that many ethnic Russians want and as was historically the case, Russia’s invasion is a regrettable though understandable defensive reaction against this Ukrainian nazi threat.

In 2011 I declared myself of the R2P persuasion regarding Libya, and I have remained of that persuasion since. Nothing is perfect or pure in world affairs and especially in the chaos of war, so any R2P intervention would necessarily have some faults and failures in its execution, but pursuing it intelligently would be the morally right thing to do.

In that year of 2011, Louis Proyect and I converged on this point, both being motivated by the same moral conviction. Louis then spent the last ten years of his life writing volumes in favor of the Libyan Revolution, the Syrian Revolution, the Syrian volunteer emergency workers and medics organized as the White Helmets, and against the Assad regime’s bombardments of civilian neighborhoods, hospitals, White Helmets, and journalists (e.g., Marie Colvin), and its chemical warfare against the Syrian people, which after 2014 was carried out with massive assistance by Russian air-power; and Louis wrote to expose the corruption, imperialism, homophobia and basically fascistic (or Stalinist without the socialism, if you prefer) character of the Putin oligarchy in Russia.

Louis Proyect (26 January 1945 – 25 August 2021, https://louisproyect.org) did not live long enough to see today’s war in Ukraine, but I can so easily imagine how he would be writing about it in deep detail, based on his last articles on Ukraine in 2018 (https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/29/ukraine-behind-the-curtain/, https://louisproyect.org/2018/06/29/two-new-books-on-ukraine/) and 2019 (https://louisproyect.org/2019/01/11/gauging-the-power-of-ukraines-neo-nazis/).

All the above prompted me to look back at my two 2011 articles on the Libyan Revolution, which were aimed at countering the comfortable Western “anti-imperialist” leftists opposed to assisting the Libyan Revolution fighting against Gaddafi: the “campists” and the “tankies.” Louis sent me a one word e-mail about my second article: “Bravo!” Given that this was from Louis, it is the greatest compliment I ever received for any of my political writings. Those two article now follow, and I leave it to you to mentally transpose them from “Libya” (2011) to “Syria” (2011-2022) to “Ukraine” (2022), to arrive at my responses to the objections by today’s isolationists, Type 1 left anti-imperialists and Type 2 left anti-imperialists to my R2P sympathies regarding Ukraine.

‘Rules Of Rebellion’ is an exercise in irony that was swallowed at face value (astonishing me), while ‘Libya 2011: The Human Right to Political Freedom’ is a direct appeal to conscience. Both articles were first drafted in February-March 2011, before 19 March (the start of the NATO intervention), and were finally published in April and May 2011 in the only “leftist” journal that would even consider them, and only after great resistance and hesitancy by that journal’s editor at the time.

Rules Of Rebellion

To the oppressed people of the world: if you want freedom, you will have to achieve it yourself. If you need help, you don’t deserve it. When you fully understand this, you will realize it is the most enlightened political principle that should govern international relations. This is humanitarian nonintervention.

If you live under a repressive government, a dictatorship, a kingship, or any form of unrepresentative and arbitrary authority, and you would like to overthrow it and punish your oppressors, and establish a government that is widely representative, that safeguards your political freedom and provides easy access to meaningful participation, then be aware that you must do this entirely on your own. There is no possibility of help from foreigners.

The reason for this is that your freedom is inconvenient to the rest of the world. The world has made its accommodations with your present regime, and any disruption of those arrangements will inconvenience the plans of your international neighbors, by disrupting their expectations. It does not matter whether your oppressive government is seen as “good” or “bad” by other states, it is simply that they are accustomed to their present protocols of interactions, and any interruption of business-as-usual costs money and time, and creates anxiety about the future.

So, if you intend to overthrow your oppressive regime you must do so quickly to minimize the period of dislocation of your foreign relations. Clearly, a quick and complete turn-over of government can only occur if your rebellion has the overwhelming support of all sectors of your society with any amount of credible power or wealth. Accumulating and consolidating overwhelming revolutionary power, stealthily, is a problem you must solve entirely on your own if you wish to successfully overthrow your tyrants, and be accepted internationally as a legitimate successor government.

Some populations believe that their oppression is so onerous that they can no longer remain passive, and so they revolt without having made the necessary preparations for a quick and decisive take-over. If they are unfortunate, their tyrants quickly isolate and eliminate them, extinguishing the revolt. If they are somewhat fortunate, they are able to carry on as guerrilla movements that shelter underground and in the hinterlands. Such guerrilla movements can be assured that the regimes they oppose will use all the powers of the state to eradicate them, and in all likelihood other nations will support their suppression as terrorist movements because their activities will inevitably cause anxiety and even collateral damage to the business-as-usual of foreign nations. The club of nations does not look favorably on unruly aspirant movements, especially if they are armed and have demonstrated violent behavior. You are not evaluated on the basis of your cause, but on the basis of your effect.

Should an unprepared population break its discipline of submission with an open revolt that draws the heavy wrath of its regime down on them, and they seek rescue by foreign intervention, then they have lost any possibility of ever being seen as having political legitimacy. They will henceforth be taken as dupes and stooges, or agents and proxies of the foreign power that aids them; and if they actually succeed at forming a successor government it would always be seen as a client state of the intervening power. The idea of a population rising up solely on the basis of its own desire for political freedom, accepting material assistance from whoever delivers it during their time of crisis, and then after a successful revolution cordially thanking and dismissing its foreign helpers, and forming a fully independent and representative national government, is taken as impossible by general agreement. Regardless of what you may think of your own particular revolution, its factual circumstances cannot be accepted as a counterargument or disproof of the impossibility of assisted untainted revolution (the AURI principle).

The AURI principle immediately identifies legitimate revolutions from attempts to disguise, as “humanitarian interventions,” imperialist plots for undermining and secretly controlling foreign states. The application is simple: if foreigners are involved, they are invaders, and the degree of their imperialist intent is easily assessed by their position in the hierarchy of world power, relative to that of the host country. So, for example, one African nation sending its troops as “peacekeepers” into another would be doing so to seek greater regional power; while the United States sending any part of its military and espionage complex into an African country under any pretext would be blatant all-out imperialism.

Any revolutions that want to retain the respect of the world will guide themselves by the AURI principle; they will overcome their regimes entirely on their own (and thus gain the right to characterize the regimes they overthrow as tyrannical, dictatorial and oppressive, for future history). Any premature revolution that includes foreign interveners is instantly unmasked by the AURI principle, and the world need not concern itself with the individuals involved in it, because they are necessarily agents of imperialism and de facto traitors. If, for whatever reason, an immature population were to have a tantrum and unwisely revolt without long and careful planning and preparation, and then find itself hard pressed by its vengeful regime, it would be well advised to quickly recognize the world view on these matters and refrain from seeking any foreign help. So long as these failed revolutionaries retain their untainted status, they can be assured that their survivors will not be disqualified from consideration as legitimate politicians in any equally untainted successor government of their country. Also, any losing revolutions that remain untainted will have performed a valuable service to humanity: they will have successfully resisted imperialism in their corner of the globe during their lifetimes.

This last point is important because the single most important political goal in the world is to prevent the capitalist imperialism spearheaded by the United States and Western Europe, enabled by the United Nations, enforced by the NATO military complex, and acceded to by the industrialized nations. Preventing the reoccurrence of “humanitarian interventions” and “color revolutions,” which undermine the national independence of target states and brings them under the shadow control of the imperial center, is too important to allow any local popular disenchantment with the nature of its government to interfere with. Thus, any population that decides, out of its own irritation, that its rulers should be deposed must realize that more important things are at stake.

First, they have to determine if their revolution would weaken a stalwart opponent of imperialism, and distract him (the usual dictator gender) from current efforts in their country and region to thwart “Washington consensus” imperialism. If their regime is a champion of anti-imperialism, then it is their humanitarian duty to set aside their selfish motives to revolt. They should be consoled for the occasional heavy-handedness with which they may be ruled, by the pride they will have of sharing solidarity with anti-imperialists worldwide. What would be the point of overthrowing an anti-imperialist leader, in the name of gaining greater political freedom, perhaps even the right to a meaningful vote, if it weakens the barrier their former leader had maintained against imperialism’s subjugating influences in their nation?

So, in order to retain their legitimacy in the eyes of the world they must not try to deny the AURI principle, and in addition, to gain the respect and comradeship of the enlightened progressive communities of the world they must also demonstrate that all their revolutionary decisions are guided by an acute awareness of the need to maximize the anti-imperialist effect of their efforts. A revolution that fails to recognize the primacy of the anti-imperialist outcome, by either undermining an authoritarian anti-imperialist stalwart or failing to replace him with an untainted government of equal or greater anti-imperialist vigor, within a matter of days, does not deserve the support and respect of the enlightened and progressive world community. Such a revolution would be a destructive self-centered tantrum that contradicts the world political prime directive.

Therefore, if you intend to have a revolution because you want relief from oppression, to gain political freedom and to introduce democracy into your country, you would be wise to learn what is required to make your freedom convenient to the world’s contented spectators.

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Originally appeared as:

Rules Of Rebellion
6 April 2011
http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/04/rules-of-rebellion/

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Libya 2011: The Human Right to Political Freedom

“You canʼt separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” — Malcolm X (1925-1965)

“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,…” — Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

“In politics the choice is never between good and evil but between the preferable and the detestable.” — Raymond Aron (1905-1983)

Freedom from dictatorship is a human right. A global recognition of this right in modern times is Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.


Dictatorship is the captivity of a people’s political rights, and is thus an analog of slavery, which is the captivity of their personal freedom. Assisting popular rebellions against dictatorship is always a defense of human rights. Dictatorships, being inherently unjustifiable, can never claim self-defense in their efforts to cling to power; the only act they can justify is self dissolution.

Dictators hold unwilling supporters through intimidation, and willing supporters through promises of material gain and social elevation. Supporters of a dictatorship facing a popular uprising can never claim equal consideration in world opinion to the rebels opposing them, because such supporters are complicit in violating human rights by helping impose a dictatorship.

Doing what is right is not always convenient, and tolerating what is wrong is often temporally advantageous. So, despite the intrinsic illegitimacy of dictatorships, democratic nations may accept normal relations with certain of them because it is convenient politically and profitable commercially. Maintaining a foreign policy of such amoral practicality is never an honorable argument against assisting a foreign rebellion against dictatorship that has won public sympathy. Let us celebrate the few times international actions are taken because they are the humanly decent thing to do.

Later, our propagandists will easily recall the imperfections of motive and execution by our governments, and that data will then fuel the competition to define and exploit the historical record of the events. Though annoying, this is of minor importance compared to the immediate and most worthy goal: defending human lives and human rights.

The likelihood in late March of 2011 that a significant loss of life would be inflicted by Muammar Gaddafi’s jet bombers, artillery, armored troops and security forces in Benghazi was too real a prospect to ignore without then becoming complicit in the outcome, by omission. Gaddafi had vowed to “bury” the rebels, and we can be sure that after a Gaddafi victory a thorough purge of Libyan society would have occurred to ensure no embers of dissent remained to ignite another popular outburst of lèse majesté. Clearly, without outside assistance — minimally, a large infusion of heavier weapons — the lightly armed militias defending the western approaches to Benghazi would have been rolled back, and the anti-Gaddafi revolt crushed.

Opposition to intervention on behalf of the Libyan rebellion has been voiced from three perspectives:

Isolationism: it is an unnecessary national burden in possible blood and certainly treasure, with a risk of escalating into a political military quagmire;

Pan Africanism: it would undermine Pan Africanism if Muammar Gaddafi were to lose control of Libya’s wealth (which funds mercenaries from Sahelian countries, and foreign Black political groups) and political power (to compel adherence to Pan African ideals by the largely Berber and Arab native Libyan population);

Anti-imperialism: NATO action in Libya is just an excuse to mount a Washington-consensus imperialist assault on an oil-rich nation that for over forty years has opposed such imperialism.

Beyond doubt, there is some truth to each of these. Isolationism is convenient selfishness and very often wise policy. In this case it is also a vote in favor of Muammar Gaddafi. The other two objections arise from doctrinal thinking on world affairs. Despite their merits, no worthy international goals can justify the sacrifice of a nation’s freedom to a dictatorship. One has to wonder about the coldness of certain opponents of support for the Libyan revolt, who are “merciless toward the failings of the democracies but ready to tolerate the worst crimes as long as they are committed in the name of the proper doctrines,” as Raymond Aron wrote in 1955 about the French intelligentsia’s bewitchment by Stalinism.

Every individual has their particular formative experiences, which set their adult “natural reactions” to subsequent rhetorical arguments. Let me relate some of mine, to invite your imagination to “feel” my point of view.

I recall visiting my grandparents in the city of Havana during a summer vacation in 1959. The colors, warmth, sounds and odors of Cuba were all rich, pungent and sensuous. Equally impressive to a boy growing up in New York City was the flagrant poverty of many Cuban people: adults with naked rented children huddled at street intersections begging from the passing tourists.

Fulgencio Batista was Cuba’s dictator, whose regime Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. characterized this way: “The corruption of the Government, the brutality of the police, the regime’s indifference to the needs of the people for education, medical care, housing, for social justice and economic justice … is an open invitation to revolution.” Bohemia magazine — the equivalent in Cuba of Life magazine in the U.S. at that time — would print pictures of revolutionaries shot dead during gunfights with Batista’s police, lying rumpled in pools of blood on the street. I only heard the adults talk Cuban politics back in New York, when I was taken to the upper west side of Manhattan, our old barrio, for haircuts at the Cuban barbershop below the elevated train along Broadway, and in the brownstone apartments of relatives and family friends during Sunday visits. Everybody was anxious, everybody wanted a free Cuba, everybody was thinking of Fidel.

Then, on the first of January 1959, Batista fled the island and Castro’s victorious army rolled into an ecstatically jubilant Havana on the 8th. We returned again in June 1960 for a long summer vacation. Even in the Cubana de Aviación four-engine turboprop one could sense the uplift, the exhilaration of the Cuban Revolution. But the full impact hit me when I exited the airplane and walked into the lush aromatic heat of a tropical country whose people were rapt with joy. The beggar “families” were gone and barbudos — the bearded ones — were everywhere. The barbudos were revolutionaries in pristine khakis, with gunbelts holstering highly polished and uniquely detailed pistols, some silver-colored, some gold-colored, some gun-metal blue, some with very long barrels, some with artistically engraved handles. Only the beards were shaggy, all other items from boot soles to cap crests were neat, shiny and crisp. At first I was a little nervous when a barbudo would climb onto a streetcar or bus and sit near me. But I soon got used to sitting next to gold-plated long-barrel Lugers, gleaming mirror-finish silvery Colt 45s, and robust Smith & Wesson 44 caliber six-shot revolvers. Sidearms were definitely the display items of identity.

During that summer of 1960, we travelled all over the island and saw many remnants of revolutionary struggle, one being a bullet-pocked hospital in the countryside, once the scene of a battle, now happily back in service. I even met Fidel at Isla de Pinos (now Isla de la Juventud). However materially poor some Cubans could be, especially campesinos, peasants in the hinterlands, they were all just so happy: believing themselves free, life despite its burdens was now a joy. Every person, every place, every moment exuded the same sense of uplift. I was immersed in a national sense of freedom, and it soaked into my psyche and bones. This experience permanently magnetized my political compass, so that regardless of verbal arguments and logical constructs in later years, my compass always points my sympathies toward freedom for any people.

Today, I see the people of Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen as similar to the Cubans I lived among when at my grandparents’ house in Batista’s Cuba. They want freedom from their dictators, and I am incapable of being unsympathetic to their desires. Perhaps if I studied their cultures and histories, I’d find good reasons to overcome my emotional impulses in their favor. I might learn that “countries don’t have friends, they have interests.” If so, I would want to make sure that I did not compromise anything I had an interest in by thoughtless support of foreign revolts.

However, I find it impossible to conceive of the individuals I see and hear on the streets of North Africa and the Middle East as being that remote from my experience, especially the “wireless” younger generation. [1] They look like my kids. Do I really prefer to make logical arguments in favor of Muammar Gaddafi because it accords with my interest to oppose Western imperialism disguised as “humanitarian intervention”? I do not. Can I really put aside any consideration of the specificity of this particular revolution at this particular time (so inconveniently timed for us), and see a greater good in opposing any help to the anti-Gaddafi rebels because their freedom is not as important in the overall scheme of things as the effort to maintain strict nonintervention by Western powers? I cannot. I am unable to forget the people.

So let me ask you, is it possible to have a bias for freedom, an opposition to dictatorship anywhere, and also oppose the capitalist-imperialist consensus that dominates U.S. and European foreign policymaking? Is it possible to support popular revolutions against tyrants and dictators — no matter how doctrinally appealing certain of them might be for some of us — even to the point of arming popular revolts so they can credibly match the firepower of their oppressors? In short, can anti-imperialists elevate freedom to a guiding principle?

For me, solidarity with basic positive human aspirations throughout the globe supersedes strict adherence to any political doctrine.

Those who agree believe it is possible to identify situations worthy of support, where a people are visibly demonstrating their desire to throw off tyranny and govern themselves democratically, and their dictatorial regime is demonstrating its utter lack of legitimacy. In popular fiction, the character of Rick Blane, played by Humphrey Bogart in the 1942 movie Casablanca, could identify and support such revolutions. The French prefect of police in the film accuses Rick Blane of being a “sentimentalist,” because “In 1935 you ran guns to Ethiopia. In 1936, you fought in Spain on the Loyalist side.” Blane replies sardonically “And got well paid for it on both occasions.” The prefect rests his case with “The winning side would have paid you much better.” [2]

So, can we be sentimentalists? Was the French fleet at Yorktown in 1781 under the command of the Comte de Grasse entirely a matter of interests and not friends, or was there some sentimentalism involved? I leave it to you to decide if this French intervention was a good thing or a failure for history. Can the Cuban-led defeat of the South African Defense Forces at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1988 during the Angolan Civil War, with the liberation of Namibia and the initiation of the subsequent fall of apartheid in South Africa, be seriously regretted? The 2289 Cubans who died during Cuba’s intervention in southwest Africa, and the 450,000 Cuban soldiers and development workers who spent time in this effort, were probably sentimentalists even if many were too young to remember Havana in 1959.

The French, British and Americans, under the guise of NATO, have chosen to intervene in Libya, initially to halt Gaddafi’s assault on Benghazi in early April. The motive for intervening was some admixture of “sentimentalism” and “humanitarian imperialism,” but the exact proportions of each is a matter of heated debate. The pace of the war against Gaddafi will be set by the level and consistency of military assistance to the anti-Gaddafi population.

If the Libyan revolt leads to a stable democratic government, then the cause of freedom will have been very well served, especially if the post-Gaddafi government is clearly independent. If the NATO nations are unable to accept the possibility of an independent post-Gaddafi Libyan government, they won’t supply the revolutionaries with sufficient arms for a quick and decisive victory. Instead, they will dribble in just enough resources to keep Gaddafi confined to his corner while they try micromanaging the gestation of the eventual post-Gaddafi government so that it emerges as a client regime. This would be like Stalin’s policy in Spain during 1936 to 1939. This attitude was captured succinctly in the film Lawrence Of Arabia, where General Allenby is asked if he intends to keep his earlier promise to T.E. Lawrence, to arm the Arab troops with artillery in addition to small arms, so their revolt against Turkish rule can advance significantly: “If you give them artillery you’ve made them independent.” But, Allenby knowing what London wants, replies: “Then I can’t give them artillery, can I?” [3]

Sentimentalists hope the Libyan revolutionaries get the “artillery” they need, and enjoy their version of 1959 Cuban euphoria, however inconvenient their freedom turns out to be, later, for the humanitarian imperialists. Sentimentalists prefer to have friends rather than just interests, and you can’t tolerate others being oppressed or enslaved if you want them as friends.

We should not let our opposition to the misdeeds, mistakes and misapplications of our governments throttle our willingness to take advantage of spontaneous events that can lead to the overthrow of tyrants, and the release of political freedom for more people.

  1. Emad Balnour (“We are clearing our country from Muammar and his gang.”), https://youtu.be/5kSs7uQ15wA, at 0:25-0:51.
  2. Casablanca 04 (“sentimentalist”), https://youtu.be/D_nzR-GPLEo, at 1:48-2:18.
  3. Lawrence of Arabia, “If you give them artillery you’ve made them independent,” https://youtu.be/sppPQogIhxs

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Originally appeared as:

Libya 2011: The Human Right To Political Freedom
3 May 2011
http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/05/libya-2011-the-human-right-to-political-freedom/

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Snyder versus the Campists

When forming one’s political orientation, a consistency of human solidarity and to fundamental morality is more important than any inflexible scheme of ideological consistency, purity and rigidity.

Albert Camus urged us (in Howard Zinn’s words):

“In such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.”

This last quote is an abstraction by Howard Zinn of Albert Camus’s following concluding statement from his 1940s article ‘Toward Dialogue: Neither Victims nor Executioners’:

“Now I can end. What I think needs to be done at the present time is simply this: in the midst of a murderous world, we must decide to reflect on murder and choose. If we can do this, then we will divide ourselves into two groups: those who, if need be, would be willing to commit murder or become accomplices to murder, and those who would refuse to do so with every fiber of their being. Since this awful division exists, we would be making some progress, at least, if we were clear about it. Across five continents, an endless struggle between violence and preaching will rage in the years to come. And it is true that the former is a thousand times more likely to succeed than the latter. But I have always believed that if people who placed their hope in the human condition were mad, those who despaired of events were cowards. Henceforth there will be only one honorable choice: to wager everything on the belief that in the end words will prove stronger than bullets.”
— [Albert Camus, an English translation, as shown at the end in https://adamgomez.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/camus-neither-victims-nor-executioners.pdf]

Writing in the postwar France of 1955, on the theme of ‘the responsibility of the intellectuals’ as regards Stalinism, Raymond Aron wrote:

“I had had occasion… to write a number of articles directed not so much against the Communists [like the French Resistance, who shed blood in WWII to liberate people from fascist tyranny, — MG,Jr.] as against the communisants, those who do not belong to the party but whose sympathies are with the Soviet world… Seeking to explain the attitude of intellectuals, merciless toward the failings of the democracies but ready to tolerate the worst crimes as long as they are committed in the name of the proper doctrines, I soon came across the sacred words, Left, Revolution, Proletariat.”
— [Raymond Aron, ’The Opium of the Intellectuals,’ 1955]

In the 1966, Noam Chomsky wrote his own famous essay ’The Responsibility of Intellectuals,’ which was about the complicity of the American intelligentsia with pro Vietnam War propaganda. Chomsky keyed his 1966 article off the late 1940s writings of Dwight Macdonald, who was “concerned with the question of war guilt”:

“He asks… to what extent were the German or Japanese people responsible for the atrocities committed by their governments? And, quite properly, he turns the question back to us: to what extent are the British and American people responsible for the vicious terror bombings of civilians, perfected as a technique of warfare by the western democracies [in the 1940s, though pioneered by the Nazis at Guernica in 1937 and Warsaw in 1939, — MG,Jr.] and reaching their culmination in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, surely among the most unspeakable crimes in history? To an undergraduate in 1945-1946 — to anyone whose political and moral consciousness had been formed by the horrors of the 1930s, by the war in Ethiopia, the Russian purge, the ‘China Incident,’ the Spanish Civil War, the Nazi atrocities, the Western reaction to these events and, in part, complicity in them — these questions had particular significance and poignancy.”
— [Noam Chomsky, ’The Responsibility of Intellectuals,’ 1966]

The forerunner to Albert Camus, Dwight Macdonald, Raymond Aron and Noam Chomsky on the subject of ‘the responsibility of intellectuals’ was Julien Benda, whose 1927 book ‘La Trahison des clercs’ (The Treason of the Intellectuals or The Betrayal by the Intellectuals) “argued that European intellectuals in the 19th and 20th centuries had often lost the ability to reason dispassionately about political and military matters, instead becoming apologists for crass nationalism, warmongering, and racism.”
— [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julien_Benda]

This brings me to current heated polemics about the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 21 February 2022 (or for that matter in 2014).

I have learned a new label, “campists,” for a peculiar subset of polemicists who insist that all the current war troubles (and accumulating war crimes) in Ukraine are entirely the fault of a relentless NATO (and thus U.S.) campaign of eastward expansion for the express purpose of forming an “encirclement” of Russia. What they refuse to accept about Ukraine in 2022 is this:

“[Timothy] Snyder says the focus on NATO ignores the agency of leaders in Ukraine and elsewhere who have the right to seek their own arrangements. ‘It’s very important to remember that the world isn’t just about Washington and Moscow. It’s also about other sovereign states and other peoples who can express their desires and have their own foreign policies,’ says Snyder.” — from:

Journalist Andrew Cockburn & Historian Timothy Snyder on Ukraine, Russia, NATO Expansion & Sanctions
1 March 2022
https://youtu.be/-Y8ny69uU3g

In this ‘Democracy Now’ video, Snyder has all the facts, states the reality about “Ukraine” and the international situation clearly, and has the real and useful (and morally correct) insights.

The reason the countries between Berlin and Moscow (Baltic States and the former East Bloc) have clambered to become members of NATO since 1989, despite a lack of enthusiasm by the original Anglo-American and Western European NATO members (the WWII democratic “Allies”) for such inclusion, is that those Eastern European states all too painfully remember the hell they went through under Nazi and USSR occupations, between 1933 and 1945, and their Iron Curtain experiences from 1946 to 1989-1991.

In the 1980s I learned about the “govnoed,” by reading Western-published books by dissident Soviet authors writing about the Nomenklatura: the USSR’s Communist Party power elite and patronage pyramid. The “govnoed” of the 20th century are now in an expanded category call “campists.”

I see the ~100 year genealogy of this hypocritical ideological tendency this way:

Stalinists
(Comintern aligned Communists >1924):

  • Stalinists labeled leftist anti-Stalinists like: Trotsky, Orwell, Louis Proyect(!), as “Trotskyists” —>

Communisants
(French “anti Atlanticists” like J.P.Sartre >1945):

  • Communisants labeled anti-Stalinists like: Camus, Koestler, Arendt, Aron as “Atlanticists” —>

Govnoed
(>1953):

  • “shit eaters,” the Soviet label for uncritically loyal Western Stalinists during the Soviet era after Stalin’s death —>

Tankies
(>1956) —>

  • Western Stalinists cheering Soviet tanks crushing popular revolutions, 1953, 1956, 1968, etc. —>

New Leftists/Maoists
(>1966):

  • Western only-anti-Western-imperialism leftists —>

Campists
(>1991)

  • “Campists” = Leftists who claim that all popular insurgencies against leaders who pretend to be “socialist” (and are faux anti-capitalist) and seem to oppose U.S. imperialism (e.g., Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, etc.), are incited, manipulated, or controlled by Washington. Basically, campists inflexibly favor the presumably socialist and anti-capitalist “Red Camp” of international politics in any contentious situation, without regard to the factual data about it.

“The Democratic Socialists of America’s International Committee has issued a statement on Ukraine that fails to adhere to basic socialist principles. [that statement is ‘DSA IC opposes US militarization and interventionism in Ukraine and Eastern Europe and calls for an end to NATO expansionism’, January 31, 2022, https://international.dsausa.org/statements/no-war-with-russia/]…

“The DSA-IC dismisses the Maidan Protest of 2014 as the ‘U.S. backed Maidan coup.’ It thus associates itself with others on the left – we call them ‘campists’ – who claim that all popular insurgencies against leaders who seem to oppose U.S. imperialism are incited, manipulated, or controlled by Washington. There is a degree of condescension and even racism in the notion that movements from below of ordinary Ukrainian, Chinese, Iranian, or Nicaraguan working people are U.S. puppets.

“These people are perfectly capable of standing up for themselves and fighting back, even if they do so against overwhelming odds. Do the U.S. State Department and the CIA and NATO attempt to influence and, when they can, direct such movements? Of course. It is clear, however, that the Orange Revolution of 2004 and the Maidan uprising were fundamentally expressions of the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people – fed up with the brutality of their government’s treatment of protesters – and their wish for self-determination, and not because they were being directed by Washington or by neo-Nazis. The Ukrainian people seek their independence, and we should stand with them against both the United States and NATO and against the immediate threat from Russia.”
— [above 3 paragraphs from]:

What the DSA International Committee’s Ukraine Statement Gets Wrong
By: Stephen R. Shalom, Dan La Botz, Thomas Harrison
February 9, 2022
https://newpol.org/what-the-dsa-international-committees-ukraine-statement-gets-wrong/

And this all brings me back to my fundamental point: form your political orientation on a basis of consistency in human solidarity and to fundamental morality, regardless of whatever ideological inconsistencies, impurities and pragmatic flexibility you must accept during the specific applications of your political attitudes, and in your actions, in the real world. The well-being of human beings anywhere is always more important than maintaining the rigidity of your abstract general ideas about society and its politics. Routinely reevaluate your political biases by applying indiscriminate compassion focused by intellectual rigor based on factual data.

I recommend you listen to all of Timothy Snyder’s comments in the ‘Democracy Now’ video cited above.

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The Power Pentagon

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The Power Pentagon

Yesterday (21 February 2022), Vladimir Putin, the Russian Premier, recognized the separatist Donbas regions of Ukraine as independent states, and ordered Russian troops into them to forestall a Ukrainian invasion to reassert its sovereignty there.

Why? Putin’s action is a defensive threat display to resist the steady encroachment by the US-dominated NATO political alliance into, and diminution of, Russia’s western sphere of influence in the external borderlands and historically sought-after buffer zones against German invasions (and now “German” equates to Western European and Anglo-American); and it is a reaction driven by the fear of ultimate inaccessibility to the Baltic Sea for Russian naval forces, in the north, and the Azov Sea and Black Sea (and from there to the Mediterranean and the Levant) in the south.

The Donbas is comprised of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine and is the very easternmost tip of that country, lying just above the Azov Sea, which sea is to the northeast of the Crimean Peninsula that juts south into the Black Sea. The Donbas has a rich coal basin that has supported the development of heavy industry such as coal mining and metallurgy since the 19th century (the word Donbas is a portmanteau formed from Donets Basin, an abbreviation of Donets Coal Basin).

Crimea was taken from the Ottoman Empire in 1783 and annexed to the Russian Empire, later being attached to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic during the existence of the U.S.S.R (1917-1991), and continuing as a region of independent Ukraine from 1991 to 2014, until Russia occupied and then annexed Crimea during the Ukrainian Revolution of 2014.

Both the Donbas and Crimea have large ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking populations, and those people favor annexation with the Russian state. Donbas has 57% ethnic Ukrainian and 38% ethnic Russian people, but with ~72% of them identifying as Russian-speaking. The proportion of native Russian-speakers is higher than ethnic Russians in Donbas because some ethnic Ukrainians and other nationalities also indicate Russian as their mother tongue. Crimea had 77% Russian native speakers according to a 2001 Ukrainian census, and 84% Russian native speakers according to a 2014 Russian census.

The Donbas and Crimea were major targets of sought-for permanent conquest by Hitler’s invasion of Russia (launched on 22 June 1941) precisely for their fossil fuel mineral wealth and heavy industrial infrastructure, and their maritime avenues of accessibility southwest to the Mediterranean and the Levant, and land avenues of accessibility east and southeast to the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Persian Gulf.

What I see in Putin’s action of 21 February is another example of the geo-politics (or imperialism) that I call the Power Pentagon. A Power Pentagon is the following closed cycle of ego-driven ambition for personal power:

fossil fuel —> economic power —> military power —> political power —> war power —> fossil fuel.

The continuing existence of Power Pentagons as the foundation of our international relations is the reason that we are not making, nor will make, the socio-economic alterations to our civilization needed to effectively slow the advance of Global Warming Climate Change (GWCC), and to arrive at a stable balance between the workings of our industrialized civilization with the cycles of Nature.

Fossil fuels enable combustion-based energy-intensive industrialization that creates economic power (“prosperity,” convenience, things, “wealth”) that in turn can build up military technology and military forces, whose threat potential creates political power and thus foreign political influence, which in its sharpest form is formidable war-making capability that can be used to acquire more energy resources for its own cyclic enlargement as well as to deny access to fossil fuel and mineral resources to rival Power Pentagons, which are thus diminished and dominated.

This is the story of the rise and fall of empires old and new, and of the inflation and bursting collapse of the egos of potentates and ruling classes.

Because GWCC is a planetary complex of geo-physical phenomena it will require a globally cooperative, integrated and permanently sustained response from humanity, if it is actually to be slowed and eventually stabilized. The obvious image for this desired future state of human affairs would be World Eco-Socialism: a world socialism powered with “green” energy (infrastructure not emitting greenhouse gases, toxic wastes, and pollutants), and with both poverty and extreme wealth made history.

For any such green utopian reformulation of human civilization to occur, it will be necessary for us humans to remove the limitations we place on our own species’s societal development by remaining mired in the fractious international politics of the clashes of Power Pentagons — “the Great Game” — which has been the case since long before the days of Lawrence of Arabia.

I have no idea how the grand consensus needed for joining together globally to make that civilizational advancement can be achieved contemporaneously in the minds of “all” people worldwide. But without it I see no effective action being taken in response to GWCC, and hence a steady decay of planetary habitability and environmental purity, of international political stability, and of personal quality of life.

A first tiny step in the direction of that grand consensus would be not seeing yourself as a partisan for “our good” Power Pentagon at war with “their bad” ones, however you define “us” and “them.” All these cycles of ambition for personal power and for exclusionary economic domination are bad because they are exploitative political machinations that multiply and destructively divide human society while unavoidably merging into that one vast thermodynamic catastrophe we call Global Warming Climate Change.

It is easy to see the problem as I have stated it here to be so infinitely multi-faceted with human concerns and conflicts and obduracy, that it is insurmountable and our human species is “doomed.” But that is no excuse for stopping any of the myriad of individual efforts people are making for improving human society. Calling things by their proper names — our tiny first step — may lead to some justifiable pessimism, but more importantly it anchors the mind in realistic critical thinking, which is essential for any worthwhile human endeavor to proceed with the best chance of success.

Today it is the Donbas, perhaps next time it will be the South China Sea, or back again to the Middle East, or regions of Africa or South America, but in any case all our conflicts are rooted in our contentious joint tenancy of this single beautiful planet. We have to overcome always forgetting about the long-term essential that unites us, by continuously being distracted by the serial immediate that divides us. Willful unforced unity as our best selves, however impossible and ridiculously utopian that idea may seem, is the world paradigm we need to ensure our enduring and fulfilling survival.

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Freedom versus Slave Mind

Mejor morir a pie que vivir en rodillas

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Freedom versus Slave Mind

White Supremacy will end with human extinction. The angry rage of conservatives and fundamentalists, in the face of godless skepticism, is really an anguished cry of: “don’t make us question our bigotry!” For working class people who can’t think better, White Supremacy is a psychological compensation for an inferiority complex. That complex is learned from infected parents, and indoctrinated into one by a capitalist class society intent to exploit and enslave people by controlling their minds with a programming for obedience to higher authority, a sense of inadequacy and neediness, and with race- and ethnicity-based prejudice, to cause disunity among the great mass of the working class. Working class white supremacists are simply abused children passing on their abuse to younger generations and lower seniority workers and employees: ignorant slaves seeking to compensate for their hidden lack of self-respect by trying to depreciate and enslave others “below them”. The capitalist upper class propagates this mass psychology illness of low self-esteem, neediness and bigotry, because it is the method by which the union of the rich few control the disunion of the poor many. “Divide and conquer” was how the Roman Empire was ruled, and so with America today. Ending White Supremacy before human extinction occurs would require a Marxist Revolution to full Communism. A first step to that political goal is Labor Union organizing so the Labor Union Movement expands to the point of controlling the national economy. Then a Social Revolution can occur, which ends all interpersonal prejudices. Such a political-social progression is the only way militarism-imperialism can be overcome, and Climate Change finally seriously confronted. Such a Paradigm Shift is deemed “impossible” by capitalist indoctrination in the Slave Mind. And it may be unlikely in your lifetime, but that does not prevent you from working toward that Paradigm Shift — The Revolution — beginning with your own transformation out of Slave Mind, and then with the activism and organizing you may choose to do. The Revolution is not merely a desired socio-political event at some time in the future during the course of human history, it is a living process carried within the individual lives of people who have freed themselves from Slave Mind, and by their living examples push back against the oppressors’s imposition of Slave Mind and its White Supremacy illness, even onto the last day of human existence if that is to be our collective fate. Be joyful in your freedom.

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José Mujica, Leadership by Example

What kind of World Leader do we need today? Prominent examples offered by a variety of nations include: Joe Biden (U.S. president, 2021-), Angela Merkel (chancellor of Germany, 2005-present), Emmanuel Macron (French president since 2017), Fumio Kishida (Prime Minister of Japan, 2021-), Boris Johnson (UK Prime Minister since 2019), Xi Jingping (President of the People’s Republic of China since 2013), Vladimir Putin (Russian president from 1999-2008 and 2012-present), and Bahsar al-Assad (Syrian president since 2000 and until human extinction).

Each of these leaders personifies a particular kind of socio-political regime, which variously you might be favorably disposed to or disapprove of depending on your own political and moral values. To my tastes, the absolute best national and world leader we could possibly have would be José Alberto “Pepe” Mujica Cordano, who was president of Uruguay during 2010 to 2015, or an individual just like him.

I was brought to this thought by recently seeing a number of movies and documentaries about Mujica, and the Tupamaros urban guerrilla group in which he got his start.

Tupamaros (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupamaros), also known as the MLN-T (Movimiento de Liberación Nacional – Tupamaros, or Tupamaros – National Liberation Movement), was a left-wing urban guerrilla group in Uruguay in the 1960s and early 1970s. The Tupamaros started as a youthful group of students and professionals, and attracted trade union members and people of poor socio-economic status from rural areas. They formed in the 1960s during a time of instability in Uruguay caused by low food prices in Europe and Asia decreasing the value of exports from Uruguay and resulting in lower wages for unionized workers, fewer social services, and increased national tension accompanied by a diminishment of constitutional guarantees by an increasingly authoritarian government. In their low-level insurgency against the Uruguayan government, the Tupamaros killed 50 soldiers, policemen and also civilians. 300 Tupamaros died either in action or in prisons (mostly in 1972), and about 3,000 Tupamaros were also imprisoned.

In their early years, the Tupamaros avoided political violence, but increasingly violent pressure by the government’s military forces pushed them into low intensity guerrilla warfare in 1970, which continued until they were forcefully neutralized in 1972 by the Uruguayan army. ‘State of Siege’ (Etat de Siege) (https://youtu.be/rjv36b99JXk) is a 1972 film by Costa-Gavras about the 1970 kidnap-capture by the Tupamaros of Dan Mitrione, the American torture instructor to the militarized police forces of Uruguay. The Tupamaros’s aim in kidnapping Mitrione was to ransom him in exchange for imprisoned Tupamaros. Such a prisoner exchange was denied by Uruguay and the U.S. (during the Nixon-Kissinger regime), and Mitrione was later executed. [1]

The 2018 film ‘A Twelve Year Night’ (La Noche de 12 Años) (https://youtu.be/y97o1phiyRY) is about the capture, along with with murders, of Tupamaros urban socialist-communist guerrillas in 1972, with subsequent tortures and long brutal imprisonment in solitary confinement of nine specially selected and still surviving Tupamaros leaders, from 1973 to 1985. The last vestiges of Uruguayan democracy were removed in 1973 when the right-wing authoritarian government became a pure dictatorship. For more about this excellent movie, see [2].

What struck me as I watched ‘A Twelve Year Night’ was that it was more than just a searing Uruguayan story of personal struggles for survival by prisoners of conscience (between 1972 and 1985) within the larger context of the national struggle for political liberation and social transformation in Uruguay between 1967 and 1985, but by analogy it is also the more general story of the struggles for personal survival by prisoners of conscience worldwide, and of the many heartbreaking struggles of oppressed national-identity populations to gain their political liberation and decent and secure socio-economic lives. I also thought that if ever accurate movies were made about the US prisons at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, and at Guantanamo, Cuba, they would look much like ‘A Twelve Year Night’.

‘A Twelve-Year Night’ focussed on three of the nine ’special’ Tupamaros held and abused by the Uruguayan military for 13 years, with José Mujica being one of them. Mujica is an amazing individual. After his release from prison in 1985 and with the restoration of Uruguayan democracy and a new amnesty law, Mujica went on to reenter politics in 1989, become an deputy in the general elections of 1994, a senator in the elections of 1999, appointed Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries in 2005, and was elected the 40th president of Uruguay in 2009, occupying that office from 2010 until 2015.

In his first speech as president-elect before a crowd of supporters, Mujica acknowledged his political adversaries and called for unity, stating that there would be no winners nor losers (“Ni vencidos, ni vencedores”). He added that “it is a mistake to think that power comes from above, when it comes from within the hearts of the masses… it has taken me a lifetime to learn this”. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Mujica)

During Mujica’s term as president: state-controlled sales of marijuana were legalized in order to fight drug-related crimes and address related health issues; laws were passed for same-sex marriage and legalized abortion; in a speech to the UN General Assembly in 2013, he “called on the international community to strengthen efforts to preserve the planet for future generations and highlighted the power of the financial systems and the impact of economic fallout on ordinary people. He urged a return to simplicity, with lives founded on human relationships, love, friendship, adventure, solidarity and family, instead of lives shackled to the economy and the markets.”

Between 2004 and 2014: the share of public expenditures in Uruguay for social needs rose from 60.9% to 75.5%, the national poverty rate was reduced from 18% to 9.7%, the minimum wage was raised from UYU$4,800 to UYU$10,000, and Uruguay became the most advanced country in the Americas in terms of respect for “fundamental labor rights, in particular freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike.” According to BBC correspondent Wyre Davies, “Mujica left office with a relatively healthy economy and with social stability those bigger neighbors could only dream of.”

As president, Mujica chose not to live in the presidential palace (as a waste of money) but on his wife’s farm outside Montevideo, and the presidential limousine during his term was his own blue 1987 Volkswagen Beetle, which he drives himself. That VW was valued at $1,800 in 2010 and was listed as the entirety of his personal wealth in the mandatory annual personal wealth declaration he filed that year. Because of his great popularity and admiration for him, in 2014 he was offered $1M for that car. He said that if he did get that $1M in exchange for his car that the money would be donated to house the homeless through a program that he supports. Mujica donated around 90% of his $12,000 monthly salary to charities that benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs. Mujica and his wife (since 2005, longtime partner Lucía Topolansky, a fellow former Tupamaros member, senator and former vice-president) have no children, live simply (with a three-legged dog), and continue making significant charitable donations to this day.

‘El Pepe, Una Vida Suprema’ is a wonderful documentary about and with Mujica, made in 2018 by Emir Kusturica (https://youtu.be/BsKVKgKuzHY). One of the most delightful scenes in this documentary is of Mujica driving himself from his farm to the transfer-of-presidential-power ceremony in Montevideo in 2015, with the entire route lined by cheering people, and the ceremony itself taking place before a massive throng of jubilant people celebrating him, and with a huge parade float in the shape of his blue VW on display. One point of access to this documentary is given at [3].

One of the most endearing portrayals of Mujica is that which he gives himself by speaking directly to the viewer, in a 10 minute excerpt from documentary ‘Human’ made by Yann Arthus-Bertrand in 2015 (https://youtu.be/4GX6a2WEA1Q). Of all the web-linked videos I have given in this article, at a minimum see this one. It should make it obvious why I would wish Mujica and people like him to be our political leaders.

NOTES

[1] ’State of Siege’ (trailer, en Français)

[2] ‘A Twelve Year Night’ (more about this movie)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Twelve-Year_Night

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6792282/

https://www.netflix.com/title/80185375

[3] El Pepe, A Supreme Life (documentary)

https://www.netflix.com/title/81094074

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Political Belief And Self Image: Aron, OWS, And Libya

What are your political beliefs, and why do you hold them? Is it because by objective analysis you see them as most beneficial to the public good, and you are motivated by solidarity and patriotism to promote them? Is it because they help preserve a traditional way of life or culture, perhaps of a minority population, which you were born into or to which you have become devoted? Or, is it because your stated political views are part of a facade, which shields your actual motives and agenda from public view?


What we say we believe emanates from who we think we are. Dialog on political issues can often degenerate into ritual displays in defense of egos, and detached from the realities of the nominal issues. The more conscious we are about the roots of stated political beliefs, the easier we will find political debate arriving at a clear understanding of reality, and functional consensus for action on matters of mutual concern.
 
Raymond Aron and the Paris Intellectuals of the 1950s
 
The Opium of the Intellectuals, by Raymond Aron, was published in France in 1955. This book is a sociological study of the mid 20th century intelligentsia, and a polemic against ideological fanaticism. Aron opposed the pro-Soviet views of the French intelligentsia, as exhibited by prominent personalities like Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The crux of Aron’s argument was that Soviet-style communism was not in the interests of the French public because as a 19th century conception of the organization of an industrial society it was outmoded for 20th century France, and as a political system it was devoid of the personal liberties, especially of political free speech, prized by the fractious French.


Aron advocated “politics” in place of “revolution” as the means of changing French society, arguing that a modern industrialized state would progress toward a more just political economy, more swiftly and with far fewer personal tragedies, through reformism rather than violent revolution. Aron illustrated this by comparing the lag in socioeconomic development and the achievement of political stability in France in comparison to that of England during the century from 1789 (the French Revolution to the Third Republic).


Aron’s criticism of the legitimacy of the pro-communist belief of his contemporaries was not aimed at members of the Communist Parties in Europe (the true believers), but at the “communisants,” the French fellow-travelers who did not join the Communist Party in France, nor relocate to Communist countries, but condemned post-war American influence in Europe (“Atlanticism”), praised Marxist ideology, and never criticized the Soviet Union nor its actions in Eastern Europe.


“Seeking to explain the attitude of the intellectuals, merciless toward the failings of the democracies but ready to tolerate the worst crimes as long as they were committed in the name of the proper doctrines, I soon came across the sacred words Left, Revolution, Proletariat.” (The Opium of the Intellectuals)


It is possible to interpret the communisant attitude, which Aron criticized, as a defense of wounded pride. The Fall of France (1940) was not just a national catastrophe along the material dimensions of military and economic power, political independence, and social cohesion, but a psychological catastrophe as well. The humiliation imposed on the German people by the Treaty of Versailles (1919) was avenged twenty-one years later when France was placed under the control of a German Occupation and a collaborationist Vichy Government for over four years, a period we can bracket from the occupation of Paris to its liberation: June 14, 1940, to August 25, 1944.


The liberation of France began with the invasion of Europe by Allied forces, landing on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, and was completed by the end of World War II in Europe on May 8, 1945. Resistance organizations had formed themselves in every occupied country, and many of these irregular anti-Nazi fighters and agents were Communists. Immediately after WWII, the Communist parties of Western Europe had a well-deserved prestige because of the many risks taken and sacrifices made by Communist members of the Resistance.


Anyone from a country that had been occupied by the Germans, seeking some source of national pride to counter the humiliation of the occupation years, could at least look back and point to his country’s partisans.


The physical and economic ruin of Europe after WWII left the United States as the leading world power, and it applied its wealth to the rebuilding of Western Europe out of a mixture of motives: sympathy and goodwill, commercial self-interest, and a competition with the Soviet Union for political power: anti-communism. A major effort combining all these motivations was the Marshall Plan, which cycled $13B though Europe during the four years beginning in April 1948 (the U.S. had already contributed $12B in aid to Europe between the end of WWII and 1948).


Anyone who has suffered a calamity and then receives charity (which often has strings attached) can feel grateful up to the point where relief becomes overshadowed by resentment because of a growing sense of humiliation over one’s dependency. So it was with some Europeans in the early 1950s, when the United States and the Soviet Union locked horns in their Cold War and used Europe, Germany in particular, as their field of contention.


The Greek Civil War between the US-backed government and the Greek Communist Party lasted from March 1946 to October 1949. This was the beginning of US military assistance applied against the anti-Nazi partisans of the Occupation years. The Berlin Blockade, which was relieved by a NATO airlift, occurred between June 24, 1948, and May 12, 1949. Stalin died on March 5, 1953, and thwarted proletarian expectations erupted as the Uprising in East Germany on June 17, 1953. The Western European Union was founded on October 23, 1954, with the first inclusion of an independent West German state (the Federal Republic of Germany) into an economic and defense association of Atlantic Alliance (NATO) European nations, and which allowed the FRG to industrialize without restriction, and rearm. The Hungarian Uprising occurred during October 23 to November 10, 1956. Both the East German and Hungarian uprisings were ruthlessly suppressed by the Red Army and local paramilitary police troops.


In societies where there is wide public appreciation of their men and women of letters, the intellectuals belong to the elite class that interprets the nation to itself. The French intellectuals of the immediate postwar period were sensitive to the popular desire for a recovery of national pride, and also very sensitive to their own loss of importance in shaping the political narrative of their time. The centers of power affecting daily life throughout Europe were no longer Paris, London, and Berlin, but Moscow and Washington, D.C.


That the relatively unsophisticated Americans should have such wealth that they could act like a Salvation Army for derelict Western European nations; that they should have such military power that they could align their propped-up European charity cases like pawns in a geostrategic chess game with the Soviet Union; that America would gleefully spin the gears and pull the levers of politics in Western Europe and around the globe without the least thought to the wounded self-regard of France, or to the interpretations of history-in-the-making from one of the most brilliant sources of such narration in Western Civilization since the Enlightenment — the French intelligentsia — was galling to distraction, and shaped the pro-Soviet anti-Atlanticist orientation of a French intelligentsia seeking redemption and relevance.
 
Occupy Wall Street: The Face of American Deindustrialization
 
In the first decade or two after WWII, the Europeans could still easily recall many instances of the pre-war exploitation of working people, along with the more recent memories of the many hardships of the war years and the early postwar years (the latter with many high-casualty refugee movements). In his book about his flight from France in June 1940, Strictly Personal, W. Somerset Maugham describes the changed attitude of non-collaborationist French industrialists and military leaders regarding the French working class. Since the eventual liberation of France would be a painful labor largely carried out by working people, that future free France would necessarily be a nation whose industrially-generated wealth would be extensively socialized, as a simple matter of gratitude and justice. There would be no going back to the class relationships of the Third Republic. With this background in mind, the political builders of postwar Western Europe fashioned states that generally aimed at meeting Aron’s ideal: “An economy, liberal in its functioning, social in its goals, holds the most promise.” (Politics and History)


With the growing prosperity of Western Europe, working life was transformed from a proletarian to a bourgeois experience: “Wherever democratic socialism has been successful, the factory workers, having become petty bourgeois, no longer interest the intellectuals and are themselves no longer interested in ideologies. The improvement of their lot has both deprived them of the prestige of misfortune and withdrawn them from the temptation of violence.” (The Opium of the Intellectuals)


So, the heated existentialist-political debate between Atlanticism and Marxism in early 1950s France faded with the rising prosperity of the nation, driven by technological development. “The major fact of our age is neither socialism, nor capitalism, nor the intervention of the state, nor free enterprise: it is the monstrous development of technology and industry, of which the massive concentrations of workers in Detroit, Billancourt, Moscow, and Coventry are the consequence and symbol. Industrial society is the genus of which Soviet and Western societies are the species.” (Fanaticism, Prudence, and Faith)


Half a century later, we are witnessing a deindustrialization of the United States, slight deindustrialization in parts of Europe, and an accompanying industrialization of China, India, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, South Africa, Turkey, Brazil, and Mexico. Once again, technology (electronics, robotics, telecommunications) facilitates the geographic shift of production to lower cost and more easily exploited labor pools, and the resulting changes to national prosperity produce public reactions that are controlled or distorted by local political factors.


The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest that has been in progress since September 17 in New York City, along with the many allied Occupy protests throughout the United States, have arisen in large part because of deindustrialization. Increasing redundancies in the American petty bourgeois workforce, at all levels of occupational skill, have forced many people to abandon previous career assumptions, and to question their own self images, because they are confronted by economic conditions that will not support making their original expectations real. Casting off an outmoded self image and then fashioning a new one can be a difficult and depressing task, to lose a dream is to lose a child of your mind. After that grief is finished, it can be liberating to successfully re-imagine yourself.


We can be sure that today millions of Americans are in a volatile psychological state, somewhere between realizing their original self image has become outmoded, and completing a robust reintegration of their psyche. They are awakening to new or reinforced political beliefs that will focus their subsequent social interactions in response to the changed economic realities in which they find themselves. The diversity and number of human beings that have been so callously shunted aside by the expatriation of the financialization-bewitched US economy is so great that no single mode of thought nor technically specific political demand can be expected to characterize the conclusions arrived at by Occupy Wall Street protesters and pilgrims and their sympathizers.


The appearance of the OWS movement in 2011 is obviously a direct result of the economic collapse of 2007-2008, but both the collapse and OWS are the fruits of Reaganomics: the divergence of the US economy from Aron’s economic ideal, since the Reagan Administration (1981-1988). We can anticipate that the many minds drawn into OWS will gravitate toward a thematic center-of-interest that we can label “economic fairness,” and which probably subdivides into five categories:


(1) personal debt relief,

(2) banking reform and financial market taxes,

(3) wide availability of diverse skilled employment,

(4) universal health and social security, a 35-hour work week,

(5) clean government: end corporate “personhood,” close tax loopholes, schedule equitable income and corporate taxes.


Marxism is an ideology originally developed to raise the expectations of a proletarian workforce in 19th century industrializing states. The growth of productivity during the 20th century, driven by “the monstrous development of technology and industry,” has elevated proletarian expectations by transforming the proletarians into petty bourgeois: they now have wealth beyond just their potential for manual labor, and their children. Ardor for revolution and enthusiasm for ideology have largely been lost during this transformation of the conditions of wage-earning life.


After thirty years of Reaganomics and “outsourcing,” or deindustrialization, and four years after the collapse of the financial bubble, the American workforce is suddenly confronted by economic conditions that undermine their now naturally petty bourgeois expectations. The prospect of having to downsize their dreams back to proletarian minimalism is clearly understood to be the foisting on them of the costs of the mismanagement of the US economy. Certainly, a wealthy class of politically well-connected speculators profited from the financial spectacle of the last decade, but their gains will cost the wider society far more than it could ever recover as a benefit because these speculators are richer.


The OWS movement is the face of petty bourgeois protest at the prospect of being pushed back into proletarian austerity. I do not anticipate a resurgence of Marxism in the near future because I cannot imagine American petty bourgeois people, however economically restricted, allowing themselves to assume a proletarian self image. It will be interesting to see how the OWS awakening expresses itself politically.
 
The Libyan Revolution and Progressivist Self Image
 
I began my investigation into the relationship between political belief and self image because of the forceful and emotional rejection of my views in support of the Libyan Revolution by progressive-minded correspondents in the left-wing Internet forums I frequented.
 
A Sketch of the Libyan Revolution


The Libyan Revolution broke out on February 15, 2011, and deposed Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s dictator during the previous 42 years, who fled his compound in Tripoli and went into hiding on August 22, 2011, as National Transition Council (NTC, rebel) forces gained control of most of the capitol, and the country. Aside from scattered remnants of Gaddafi’s forces in Tripoli, the remaining loyalists still fighting were penned into five cities: Tarhuna, Sirte, Sabha, Bani Walid, and Hun. By late September, only Sirte and Bani Walid remained occupied by loyalists. Bani Walid fell to the NTC on October 17; and the loyalists in Sirte, Gaddafi’s birthplace, were concentrated into a narrow two-block area, with their arsenal reduced to machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.


NTC fighters overran the last loyalist stronghold in Sirte on October 20, capturing a wounded Muammar Gaddafi who was apparently hiding in a storm drain, hustling him through the streets of a ruined Sirte amid a throng of ecstatic NTC fighters, and later delivering his body to a local hospital. It had two bullet wounds, in the head and chest. As I write on the 20th, fighting has ceased and the NTC is expected to declare Libya liberated, which then sets the date for democratic elections eight months later, to constitute the permanent successor government.


From its outbreak in the eastern city of Benghazi, the Libyan Revolution spread quickly through the country so that by the 25th of February most of Libya was under rebel control. Gaddafi controlled the cities of Tripoli, on the Mediterranean coast near the western border, as well as Sirte and Sabha. The revolution was a popular uprising; its fighters were civilians who had taken up arms and were joined by government troops who deserted. Gaddafi commanded the majority of the nation’s military forces, and thousands of mercenaries, primarily from African nations.


Because Libyan troops were reluctant to kill their own people, Gaddafi continually recruited mercenaries. Hundreds of Europeans were hired for specialized technical roles, such as pilots and military tacticians. Most of these fled by August. Thousands of black Africans were hired, like Tuaregs from Mali. The inducement of high pay to often impoverished men, and their lack of identification with the Arab and Berber culture of Libya, made the African mercenaries from the nations of the Sahel (the bio-geographic and climatic zone between the Sahara to the north and the savannas to the south) the most reliable killers at Gaddafi’s command.


In a televised address on the 23rd of February, Gaddafi stated that “Those who do not love me do not deserve to live.” During the 20 days between February 23 and March 15, Gaddafi’s forces recaptured most of the rebellious territory in the west and south, a particular exception being the coastal city of Misrata, east of Tripoli and west of Sirte.


On March 15, Gaddafi’s forces captured Brega and advanced east, beginning their assault on Ajdabiya, the last city along the road before Benghazi. In another public address, Gaddafi vowed to “bury” the rebels. Ajdabiya had been subjected to bombardment by Gaddafi’s air force since March 12, and on the 15th land and naval artillery barrages were added as well.


On March 17, Gaddafi’s forces captured Ajdabiya, about 120 km from Benghazi, and the United Nations Security Council adopted UN Resolution 1973 (2011), which authorized member states “to take all necessary measures… to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamhariya, including Benghazi, while excluding an occupation force.” NATO military forces were set to intervene.


On March 18, Gaddafi’s forces captured Zuwetina, about 100 km from Benghazi, and continued their drive until within 50 km of Benghazi.


On March 19, Gaddafi’s troops and tanks entered the suburbs of Benghazi, while Gaddafi’s artillery and mortars shelled the city from about 20 km away. The first shots of the NATO military intervention were fired by French aircraft, and destroyed a convoy of 14 of Gaddafi’s tanks accompanied by several ammunition trucks.


With the NATO intervention now underway, and with increasing diplomatic recognition of, financial assistance for, and military equipment supplied to the three-week-old political organization of the revolution, the NTC, the rebel forces advanced from Benghazi toward Ajdabiya on the 20th of March, and this new rebel offensive began the five month push west to Tripoli.
 
The Human Right to Political Freedom


My support for the Libyan Revolution was a reflex based on the belief that freedom from dictatorship is a human right. I explained how I came to this belief in an article called “Libya 2011: The Human Right to Political Freedom,” which grew out of the despairing notes I wrote during Gaddafi’s offensive toward Benghazi. I anticipated a bloody purge of revolutionary sentiment in Libya after Gaddafi’s forces captured Benghazi. I recalled how Franco cemented his dictatorship and suppressed Republicans in Spain after the Civil War, between 1939 and 1942. I distributed a first draft of this article as an e-mail broadcast on March 30, and its final form was eventually posted on the Internet by Dissident Voice on May 3, 2011, accompanied by an editorial criticizing it.


In 1978, Raymond Aron explained his guiding political compass this way: “Of the two values invoked by our times, equality and freedom, I give first place to the second — not for intellectual comfort but as a result of historical experience.” (Politics and History)


I feel the same alignment, and in my article put the question to the left-wing world this way:


“So let me ask you, is it possible to have a bias for freedom, an opposition to dictatorship anywhere, and also oppose the capitalistimperialist consensus that dominates US and European foreign policymaking? Is it possible to support popular revolutions against tyrants and dictators — no matter how doctrinally appealing certain of them might be for some of us — even to the point of arming popular revolts so they can credibly match the firepower of their oppressors? In short, can anti-imperialists elevate freedom to a guiding principle?”


“Rules of Rebellion” is my second article about the Libyan Revolution, and was provoked by the largely negative reception to my first one (i.e., e-mailed criticisms, and publication rejections). “Rules of Rebellion” was written in the spirit of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” and, because irony is unknown today, it was taken at face value and published on the Internet on April 6, 2011. “Rules of Rebellion” is presented as advice from the progressive “contented spectators” of the West, to would-be revolutionaries contemplating overthrowing their dictators:


“A revolution that fails to recognize the primacy of the anti-imperialist outcome, by either undermining an authoritarian anti-imperialist stalwart or failing to replace him with an untainted government of equal or greater anti-imperialist vigor, within a matter of days, does not deserve the support and respect of the enlightened and progressive world community.”


Revolutionaries around the world are urged, in the article, to realize that having their governments oppose US imperialism is an ideological mandate that outweighs the political freedom of their nation’s people, and even the lives of the revolutionaries. After the article appeared, I received letters asserting its overt argument as sincere belief.


On the day Gaddafi’s regime fell, I reflected on the doctrinairism that could be blind to the purges necessary to maintain its view of the world. Louis Proyect published my letter of August 22, 2011, “The Libyan Revolution and the Opium of the Intellectuals,” at his Web site, The Unrepentant Marxist. I recollected my clash with doctrine this way:


As I mentioned in my articles on Libya, the first priority was gaining the political freedom of the Libyan people, and preventing them from being massacred by their vengeful dictator. The blunt and inelegant instrument of a NATO intervention was the only means at hand capable of preventing a detestable outcome; capable of saving the lives of people who did not deserve to die. Whether or not the European and American governments, and corporations, were gaining economic and political advantages (the “humanitarian intervention” complex of modern left orthodoxy…) were unimportant considerations in comparison. Now that Libya is entering its liberated postwar period of political reconstruction, these considerations can be addressed, and by those who would be most affected by them, the Libyans themselves. It is so sad that so many leftists are so wrapped up in their politicized heads that they could obsess about “saving Libya from its Western saviors” to the complete disregard of the life-and-death struggle for political freedom by the Libyan people, the defeat of dictatorship. These political theorists must be relieved that the Syrian government has been untrammeled by Western interference in its rejection of its people’s rejection.
 
Anti-Imperialist Doctrinairism: Libya as Bosnia


“By doctrinairism I mean the attribution of universal value to a particular doctrine.” (Fanaticism, Prudence, and Faith)


A popular leftist doctrine today is opposition to “humanitarian interventions,” the use of Western military forces to control political outcomes in Third World (undeveloped and developing) and Second World (moderately developed) nations that are in distress, often with a civil conflict compounded by a humanitarian crisis. The doctrine congealed out of the many arguments over Western involvement (“interference,” interventions) in the wars that erupted during the breakup of Yugoslavia (1991-1995, 1998-1999), and in particular from the outcry against the NATO bombardment of Serbia (1999) during the UN military intervention in the Kosovo War (1998-1999).


From the leftist perspective, “humanitarian intervention” is a disingenuous label for imperialism carried out militarily for Washington-consensus capitalism by the United States leading its mainly Western European NATO allies.


This analysis justifies skepticism about the officially expressed motives for the use of US and NATO military power in any foreign conflict, as a third party. Proponents of an intervention can always find some iota of humanitarian need in the host nation to justify their case, and opponents can always find some suspicion of interventionist self-interest to justify non-intervention. The morally correct course of action for third parties should be indicated by which of these two poles lies closer to the public interest in the host nation, given its current specific conditions.


Interventionist self-interest actually has two classes: the leading economic and political class that directs foreign policy (or imperialism), and the general public whose labor, consumerism, taxes, and soldiering support the domestic basis of their nation’s foreign policy (or empire). Non-intervention is usually in the interest of the general public in the interventionist nation, from considerations of cost.


A third-party intervention is morally justified when conditions in the host nation indicate that it would be in their public interest, and when the public in the intervening nations willingly support the costs of the action. It is recognized that making such a determination is a matter of degree, there can never be a guarantee that a morally justified intervention will be completely free of any self-interest on the part of those intervening, nor be carried out without some errors and casualties. The need must be sufficiently dire, and the hazards sufficiently clear, that the responsible actors in both the host and third-party nations can see the potential benefits — to the host public — of the proposed intervention as far outweighing the unavoidable negative side effects.


From the above, it is evident that clear cases for morally justified interventions are rare. I believe Libya was one of those cases. Every case must be judged on its merits, on the specifics of the situation. We can be constant in our application of the principles outlined above to help us judge, but we should not close our minds to the plight of others because we have blinkered our thinking and walled off our empathy behind an absolutist doctrine that always equates third-party interventions to imperialism, and by a moralistic associative rule rejects all third-party interventions because of a self image as an anti-imperialist.


Libya is not Bosnia, Libya is not Kosovo; Libya is Libya.
 
Identify: Friend of Foe?


Are you a Democrat or a Republican?
I must know if you are friend or foe.

Are you a Marxist or bourgeois?
I must find if you’re my kind.

Are you populist or an elitist?
I must feel if you are real.

Are you a worker or are you an owner?
I must determine if you are vermin.

Are you a capitalist or anti-imperialist?
I must decide what you should abide.

Are you a militarist or are you a pacifist?
I must tell if you are well.

Are you a patriot or are you a dissident?
I must judge if you should trudge.

Are you progressive or are you conservative?
I must infer if you can concur.

Are you a believer or are you a skeptic?
I must learn if you should burn.

Are you right or are you left?
I must know if you are friend or foe.

I am right and I am left,
I am friend and you are foe.


One of the sadder realizations I gained from the negative responses to my articles in support of the Libyan Revolution was that some people with progressive political attitudes, being against war, racism, and violence, and believing in the entire complex of humanistic “peace and justice” values, examples of which easily come to mind with the use of that phrase, could express angry disapproval of me approaching hate in some instances, for essentially blaspheming against their doctrinal code. It was this that made me understand how deeply rooted in self image our political beliefs are.


We are emotionally invested in what we think of ourselves. For example, an anti-imperialist political belief can be rooted in a self image as a “good” person who is morally opposed to war, exploitative capitalism and the many forms of intolerance (e.g., racism). Perhaps these beliefs are applied in a rigid or fanatical manner because this person is uneducated, or irredeemably indoctrinated, or intellectually lazy, and so interprets and labels reality on the basis of a doctrinal code.


The doctrinal set is sacrosanct because it is rooted deep in the ego or self image of the person. The doctrinal set is expressed as a list of commandments; rules to be applied in the external world and that are actually extensions of the inner core of a person’s being. These doctrines are expressed as simplified ideas and phrases, code words that are, if you will, linguistic objects of depersonalized aspect for safe use in the world exterior to our persons (the exosomatic realm), but which actually encase tender parts of our spirit, emotionally charged aspects of our self definition.


For such a person, the defense of a doctrinally-held political belief is in reality a defense of their ego. To dispute another’s doctrinally-held belief is to attack the religion of a true believer.


The defense of the ego knows no barriers of courtesy, or logic, or truth. So, when I asked doctrinaire anti-interventionists how they could stand by and let Gaddafi’s forces take Benghazi, and then “bury” those who didn’t love him and so “deserved to die,” taking Gaddafi at his word as seemed reasonable given his history, I was told:


The rebels were Islamicists and Al Qaida (ergo, they deserved to die);

The rebels were against Pan-Africanism, and massacred blacks whenever possible (deserved to die);

The rebels were Libyan agents of Western-directed destabilization groups exploiting the mood of Arab Spring (deserved to die),

There really weren’t many rebels (too few to worry about dying),

Most of the Libyan people supported Gaddafi (then why was there a rebellion?).
The ego defense against sympathy for the rebels was quite simple: they don’t deserve to live, and there aren’t many of them. Even the most skeptical viewing of televised reporting from Libya put the lie to these assertions.


Other ego defenses were aimed at interventionist motives: the intervention was an oil grab, it was to depose a defender of Africa from US and European imperialism. Clearly, NATO countries that participated in the intervention will hope the successor government in Libya will remember them favorably when considering future business partners.


But the Europeans and Americans were already doing great business with Gaddafi’s Libya, that being the quid pro quo for his cooperation on nuclear disarmament, suppressing al Qaeda and withdrawing support from terrorist and/or insurgent organizations, restricting black African migration to Europe, and producing oil for the world market. The NATO countries did not need to incur the expense of their Libyan intervention in order to create commercial opportunities for themselves in Libya.


The final defense of doctrinally-held belief was an attack on the character of the blasphemer. How could I possibly agree to the NATO intervention when it was responsible for the slaughter of innocent men, women, and children? This made me equally guilty of the killing of babies in Tripoli. Did I want to personally plunge a knife into Aisha Gaddafi to stop her from rallying the people of Tripoli to her father’s cause?, because that was equivalent to my accepting a NATO intervention that rained bombs down on Tripoli.


It is pointless to respond to character attacks like this — they really have nothing to do with the person being attacked but instead show the desperation of an ego defending its doctrinally-held beliefs against the sense that they are unsupported by reality.


Muammar Gaddafi’s opposition to the Arab Spring-inspired popular protest movement in Libya degenerated into a war between a ruthless dictator with command of most of the nation’s military, and the lightly armed civilian population of the country. Given this balance of power and the history of Libya’s dictator, the world at large was faced with the choice of: acquiescing to a bloody suppression of the revolt, and probable purge of thousands of Libyans, by not intervening; or making a purge impossible by helping the revolt succeed, by intervening with decisive military force.


I think the second choice was by far the right one, as a matter of human decency for the greatest number of people, and because of that I accept that its implementation could never be “perfect” from every ethical and political perspective. It was the best course of action that circumstances allowed.


“In politics the choice is never between good and evil, but between the preferable and the detestable.” — Raymond Aron
 
Bibliography

Raymond Aron: The Opium of the Intellectuals, Transaction Publishers, 2001, (reprint of 1957 English language edition),

Raymond Aron: Politics and History, Transaction Publishers, 1984, (reprint of 1978 edition),

Raymond Aron: Fanaticism, Prudence, and Faith, (1956 essay revised, now an appendix in the reprinted The Opium of the Intellectuals).

W. Somerset Maugham: Strictly Personal, 1941.

Tony Judt: Postwar, A History of Europe Since 1945, Penguin Books, 2005.

Articles:

“Rules of Rebellion”
6 April 2011
http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/04/rules-of-rebellion/

“Libya 2011: The Human Right to Political Freedom”
3 May 2011
http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/05/libya-2011-the-human-right-to-political-freedom/

“The Libyan Revolution and the Opium of the Intellectuals”
22 August 2011
http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/the-libyan-revolution-and-the-opium-of-the-intellectuals/

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Political Belief And Self Image: Aron, OWS, And Libya
7 November 2011
http://www.swans.com/library/art17/mgarci31.html

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