Samurai Rx for Libya

After WW2 (1945) the Allies occupied Germany till 1949, when both the Federal Republic (West Germany) and the Democratic Republic (East Germany) were set up as a result of the breakdown of cooperation between the NATO powers and the Soviet Union (Stalin). The Allied occupiers oversaw the running of Germany (in four major sectors: British, French, Russian, US), and the de-nazification programs, and war crimes trials. Allied troops remained in West Germany until 1955, their numbers being reduced over time, and after that mainly US troops remained in US (a.k.a. NATO) bases (till today).

The US (Allied) occupation of Japan after WW2 lasted from 1945 to 1952. The U.S. governance of occupied Japan transformed the entire form of government (to a parliamentary democracy), and in conjunction with other Allies (British, Indian, French, Australian, Nationalist Chinese, Philippine) war crimes tribunals (of Japanese militarists) were held in Manila. The U.S. kept bases in Japan (to this day), and as the Korean War had started in 1950, the U.S. pumped huge amounts of money into Japan as its platform from which to launch attacks on the Korean peninsula, which US spending kick-started the rapid growth of the Japanese economy.

Germany (West, until 1990 when it reunified with East) and Japan were thus tied economically and militarily to the US-led world capitalist system (the “First World”). There was never a post 1945 Nazi insurgency, nor a post 1945 Imperialist Japanese insurgency, nor a spawning of such international “terrorist” groups.

The NATO (“Allied”) occupation of Libya lasted only 11 days, occurring between Gaddafi’s death on 20 October 2011, and 31 October 2011. During the Libyan Civil War, the Gaddafi regime relied mainly on mercenary troops (largely Sahelian Africans, but also Western mercenaries and technicians), and Gaddafi was bent on mass murder of the pro-democracy Arab Spring inspired activists who opposed his regime, which opposition was favored by most of the Libyan population. [This paragraph has been revised, as prompted by Robert Pearsall in a comment, below.]

The new Libyan government had asked the NATO-UN forces to stay till the end of 2011 (two months), to help it stabilize the country. But, the NATO powers did not wish to invest the time, money and troops/people-power (with the possibilities of some casualties) for that purpose. The broken Libya of today, with mass trafficking of African refugees (by today’s “Barbary Pirates”) towards Mediterranean Europe; and Islamist militia-terrorist bases and training camps, is the result.

What the NATO powers did regarding Libya is equivalent to an unwise patient with an infection who stops taking his full course of prescribed antibiotics after three days, when he’s feeling “good,” instead of the full week or two, and the infection is not eradicated but comes back and is worse because it has mutated to become resistant to the original antibiotics it was suppressed with.

The idea of R2P, “responsibility to protect,” is correct; those with the power (military might) to prevent a dictator from enacting a mass atrocity crime should do so as an act of solidarity with all of humanity, otherwise they share in the guilt of the atrocity as a sin of omission. But, in committing to such action one should do it right, completely, not on the cheap. The goal is not simply the downfall of a dictator and mass murderer, but the transformation of and unity with a whole population. Selfishness is not a good long-term defense. As “Kambei Shimada” said in Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai”: “This is the nature of war: by protecting others, you save yourself.”

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Two Samurai Duel

Two samurai, Isao and Kyuzo, each seeking saki and shelter during a night of heavy rain, became aware of each other seated separately on the tatami mats around the same low table in the bar of a country inn. The weather discouraged both travel (retreat) and outdoor swordplay, while samurai nature required evaluation of a rival’s skill (and all samurai regarded each other as potential rivals).

Talk being largely unnecessary among samurai, Isao picked up a cherry from a fruit bowl on the table, tossed it up into the darkness hiding the ceiling, then in a flash unsheathed his katana, twisted it blade up and sliced, and two halves of cherry, one pitted and one with pit, fell to the table on either side of the blade.

Kyuzo chuckled, picked up a cherry and tossed it up into the darkness above them, then all in a flash unsheathed his katana, twisted it blade up slicing, then twisted it blade down slicing, finishing with the sword held level and its blade horizontal. Two halves of cherry, pitted, fell on the table on either side of the sword, and the pit rested on the flat of Kyuzo’s blade.

Isao was impressed but not put off. There were a number of flies buzzing overhead, attracted by food that was still out, and the leftovers and scraps that had not yet been cleared away. One bluebottle fly was circling them annoyingly with a heavy buzz:

Zuzuzuzuzuzuzuzuzuzu…

Isao pointed to it and said “watch.” He stood in a calm stillness like a tree in a forest, while the fly circled him.

Zuzuzuzuzuzuzuzuzuzu…

In a flash he unsheathed his katana, slicing in an arc to his right —

Zuzu-uuP! —

then rested for a moment at the end of his stroke, and carefully sheathed his sword. He pointed with his outstretched palm to a part of the floor, and when a lantern was brought up close the two neatly sliced halves of the fly could be seen.

“Not bad,” said Kyuzo, and pointing to another big bluebottle fly, said “watch that big boy.”

Zuzuzuzuzuzuzuzuzuzu…

He stood in a calm stillness like a tree in a forest, while the fly circled him.

Zuzuzuzuzuzuzuzuzuzu…

In a flash he unsheathed his katana, slicing in a tightening arc to his right twisting into an upward cut —

Zuzu-uuP!-Zeeeeeeeeee!!…

Kyuzo sheathed his katana, as the fly raced around erratically, issuing its excited high-pitched buzz,

Zeeeeeeeeee!!…

Isao conceded.

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The above is my elaboration of a story I learned from Tom FitzPatrick, an avid rugby player, in 1978. This story is part of the vast, earthy oral tradition among rugby players. While presenting it here as text helps to preserve it in cyberspace, the audio effects which are intrinsic to an oral presentation are missing. The following “sound” definitions of letter-strings used above may help:

zuzuzuzuzu… = low-pitched, buzzing sound,

zeeeeeeeeee… = high-pitched buzzing sound,

uuP! = the sudden cessation of a low-pitched buzz.

A photo of Tom FitzPatrick’s chalkboard in February 1978 (Ah, boy talk in student days):