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.”


No Regrets On Libya

Non-interventionists who regret the outcome of the Libyan Civil War continue to seek some type of moral consolation for their support of Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship by trying to shame the supporters of the UN-NATO intervention (on the side of the Libyan rebels) by posting editorials of complaint about the Libyan Civil War’s aftermath of political unruliness and frequent lawlessness.

My article is a response to those regrets and complaints. This article is not intended to convince anyone to change their opinion on the Libyan Civil War, since that is impossible. It merely states what I think. The article was written on October 14, and submitted for publication the same day.

No Regrets On Libya
4 November 2013


Non-intervention Versus R2P

In Jean Bricmont’s Counterpunch article of December 4th:

Beware the Anti-Anti-War Left

he makes a clear and impassioned case for his conviction that armed interventions by Western powers and NATO, justified by the principle of “responsibility to protect” (R2P,, should be uniformly opposed by leftists (and preferably everybody).

Bricmont argues that all such military interventions ultimately advance the geo-political aims of the United States, because it is the leading power in both the United Nations and NATO. In this view, “humanitarian interventions” are always excuses for advancements of US-led Western imperialism, by military force.

To uniformly oppose such military interventions is to believe that preventing the advance of US (primarily) geo-political aims by military means is always preferable to preventing the course of events from playing out in states undergoing violent social and political turmoil. The only forms of intervention acceptable to this strict non-interference point of view would be diplomacy according to international law, and real humanitarian assistance by non-governmental agencies, as possible. Bricmont writes:

“We should demand of our governments the strict respect for international law, non-interference in the internal affairs of other States and cooperation instead of confrontation. Non-interference means not only military non-intervention. It applies also to diplomatic and economic actions: no unilateral sanctions, no threats during negotiations, and equal treatment of all States.”

The other point of view on this question is the belief that in certain cases it is preferable to prevent the likely course of events from playing out, even if it means that the Western powers and NATO (led by the United States) may also gain some geo-political advantages as a result of the military intervention. This point of view would have to believe that the blood to be shed during the prosecution of a military intervention would likely be of lesser magnitude than would be the case without the intervention, and that those killed or injured by interventionists would predominantly be combatants or perpetrators of war crimes, rather than innocent civilians.

Everything depends on vague judgments in the interventionist view: “in certain cases,” which ones?; “geo-political advantages,” exactly what?; bloodshed of “likely lesser magnitude,” how to estimate?, and how to know what might have been if unhindered? There are no such uncertainties in the non-interventionist view.

A great deal of emotion is expended by the opponents in the intervention versus non-intervention debate, and historical examples are dissected, interpreted, re-interpreted and tossed back and forth, for example:

— German, Italian, Soviet and anti-fascist volunteer interventions in Spain 1936-1939,

— Western non-intervention in Hungary 1956,

— India’s intervention in the Bangladesh Liberation War 1971,

— Vietnam invades Cambodia in 1978 and removes the Khmer Rouge from power,

— Cuban interventions in Angola 1975-1991,

— non-intervention (“failed intervention”) in the Rwandan Genocide of 1994,

— British intervention in 2000 to save the UN intervention in the Sierra Leone Civil War,

— France’s intervention in the Côte d’Ivoire since 2002,

— the UN and NATO interventions in the Yugoslav Wars 1991-1999, and

— Libya 2011.

I find it interesting that Bricmont sees most leftists in Europe as being interventionist, I find just the opposite here in the United States. Certainly, among people who otherwise identify as leftists there exists a divide on the question of non-intervention a.k.a. responsibility to protect. I am not going to argue the question one way or the other here.

Obviously, it is a matter of judgment between accepting either a militarily gained geo-political advance for the interventionists (maybe) or the likely commission of a mass atrocity crime. As people are different, they will weigh the specifics and potentialities of any situation differently, so they will arrive at differing judgments.

The fact of this difference of opinion within the leftist political orientation led me to question what the definition of a leftist was, and from that I wondered how any political orientation could be accurately classified, since all the labels commonly used (e.g., “conservative,” “liberal,” “socialist,” “progressive”) often seem vague or inaccurate. As a result, I invented a system for classifying political orientations, and this helped me to understand political differences such as the (very uneven) interventionist versus non-interventionist split among leftists, along with other cloudy political formations. My article on that is:

Left Conservatives Under Right Progressives
3 December 2012

While I happen to agree with the application of the R2P principle in some cases (like Libya), my article aims to identify the general types of political orientations, not to advocate for any one in particular. In the language of my article, I see Bricmont as a democratic socialist conservative ideologue, while my own preference is democratic socialist progressive pragmatism.

Bricmont’s non-interventionist conviction is very deep, and it reflects his judgments and values. His very clear and extensive presentation of this conviction, in Counterpunch, helps those who share it to articulate their own agreement to it within their social circles, and it challenges those of different view to be clear about why they see the matter differently.

Like Bricmont, I am clear about my convictions, in my case in favor of R2P, and I did my best to present my view in articles on Libya that were rather difficult to get published in leftist Internet journals in 2011 (that story in

I find that arguments between people of opposing convictions are pointless, but that identifying the sources of those conflicting convictions can be quite enlightening.

Why They Hate Us, Or We Hate Them?

Hello Counter Punch and Mr. Atwood:

Regarding the article by Paul Atwood on “why they hate us” in Libya, published in Counter Punch on September 21,

how do you reconcile the following latest news reports (of September 21 and 22)?

(I’m sure you can find similar reports on the 22nd for other news services you may prefer.)

Isn’t it possible that the Libyan situation is as reported by the US State Department and the Libyan government (post Gaddafi), that a minority of Libyans in armed militias were responsible for the killing of the US Ambassador by taking advantage of public dissatisfaction with and demonstrations against the California-made insult-to-Islam movie, to incite riot and then attack the US consulate? A Libyan “black bloc” using the cover of the otherwise spirited but not violent initial public protest?

Naturally, I agree some fraction of the Libyan public will resent the NATO intervention (and certainly many Western anti-imperialists remain extremely angry about it), but do you really think most of the Libyan people feel that way? The very fact of the widespread demonstrations before the NATO intervention — the Libyan outbreak of the Arab Spring — would seem to cast doubt on the popularity of Gaddafi. For every person who puts their body on the line in a demonstration — and that was always extremely more dangerous in Libya than in the USA — there are at least two or three more (usually many more) who agree with the protest sentiment.

Dictatorship is superb at eliminating the appearance of protest, but it has never been successful at winning without coercion the love of the majority of its subjects. Isn’t it possible that the Gaddafi dictatorship was just another of the same old pattern, with a megalomaniac at the apex of a pyramid of corruption, living lushly off the work of the people and the resources of the nation? And, isn’t it equally possible that the revolution that overthrew Gaddafi succeeded precisely because it was a popular revolution with a naturally large pool of resentment all sourced from the hatred of the dictator, and that under the press of difficult and immediate circumstances this popular revolution sought and used the muscle of friendly-for-the-moment world powers always playing for their own gains (like the US colonists did with France in the 1770’s and 1780s), and after ousting the dictator (with 40,000 of their revolutionary fighters killed) they really did install a government with popular and democratic freedoms? And, just like the successful US revolutionists of the 1780’s, the new Libyan government is weak and not fully in control of all the men with guns who were probably of very good use a year or two earlier, when they all were united by the single goal of removing Gaddafi.

Now the new Libyan government, which enjoys the support of the majority of Libya’s people, has to develop its truly federal security forces and consolidate its power (the Libyans who demonstrated today/yesterday are demanding this from the streets), at least to the extent of controlling militias (to the same degree that the 1st US president, G. Washington, was able to federalize state militias in 1791 to respond to the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania, and demonstrate a popularly accepted degree of authority by the federal government as regards controlling armed insurrections).

What always emerges in the stories from Libya, since the beginning of its Arab Spring, is the persistence, breadth and depth of the popular support for the elimination of Gaddafi, and in favor of the new government. The government of Libya today is the people’s government: weak, imperfect, sure but it’s really theirs and they are very happy to have it. Is it so hard to see this as the real thread holding all the stories of Libya together? The Libyans will be grateful to the NATO countries for their help, but to simply make the “dumb natives” assumption about Libyans, who will childishly fall under the sway of US nannies directing the reconstruction of their state, is a complete mistake. Simply consider how useless the Americans were to the French from the 1790’s on, and who soon became their “natural ally” (even after 1812).

All the players of the international game are well aware of the apocryphal saying: “Nations do not have friends, only interests,” of which a modern version is Henry Kissinger’s “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” The Obama Administration was not enthused about being roped in by Sarkozy to flex some muscle for the Libyan public, but it played along in a conservative way to build up some credits for the future. What other “interest” could any other power have? But, that impure superpower motivation did not obviate the good outcome of a national population (of happy and imperfect people for sure) released from dictatorship and now really their own masters politically. Political freedom is a human right. Let’s see what they do with it, and we can criticize them for misusing that opportunity if it comes to that. But no external population has the right to demand that another national public be denied the opportunity to seize its political freedom (in our case because we hate US imperialism so much some of us would have preferred Gaddafi continued as Libya’s dictator and pretender of opposition to that imperialism).

The argument I make here — which is really quite obvious — would apply in Syria, and it would apply in Palestine. It would also apply in North Korea and China and many other countries. So, as “interests” will always trump feelings of sympathy or moral ideals, the application of “foreign help” to the liberation of populations trapped under dictatorships (and oligarchies) will be rare. All governments are more frightened about showing their own public examples of assisted liberation than they care about who runs another country or how, so long as their “interests” remains stably satisfied. This is certainly why Russia and China and Iran so stoutly defend the sanctity of the Assad dictatorship to massacre its own people to remain dominant over them. And, no one else has expressed a “vital interest” in the human right of the Syrians to have a government representative of their (once again imperfect) interests and which also refrains from murdering them in response to public expressions for leadership changes.

Anti-imperialism is a wonderful and hopeful idea, deserving of much more acceptance in the now capitalist Washington-consensus bloc. However, no idea can be considered so sacrosanct that one accepts the massacre of defenseless populations in order to hew inflexibly to it. This is too extreme a reductio ad absurdum that one would hope any awake mind would realize and reject. One can understand the simple human nature behind an external nation’s acceptance of the facts of a bloody dictatorial repression, condemning it forthrightly, and then honestly stating its selfish preference to stay out of the fray, with a parting “good luck” to the outgunned. After all, nations have “interests,” or as they say in the Mafia: “nothing personal, it’s just business.” But to contort thinking in ways that blame the victims, to provide one with a moral justification for accepting and even supporting the dictators, in the defense of some supposedly higher principle, is beyond the pale of humanistic Enlightenment thought. It is basically Stalinist.

Fundamentally, my question to you about political matters in the world is this, which is more important to you: what you are for, or what you are against? If your highest political preferences are of a positive nature, does the political freedom of other national populations rank at the top or near the top of your list?

To be fair, I will state my preference: it is for political freedom because I think it is the best method of accommodating the entire spectrum of human personality, and because it creates the best environment in which to realize economic equity.

I would be happy to receive your response by e-mail or as your comments in my blog, where this letter will appear.

Political Freedom, the Social Contract, and Occupy Wall Street

On November 4, 2011, I put some thoughts about democracy into a short comment, which I posted at the web-site of Louis Proyect, a writer I respect.

The Unrepentant Marxist

The thread into which I placed my comment was a heated discussion between Marxists about the pros and cons of one Marxist academic and media hound called Zizek, and his recent article “Is Democracy the Enemy?”

My first reaction was: democracy is only the enemy if the people are your enemy.

Later, I was reminded of some important history (noted below), and from this, and also reflecting on my own biases that show up in my writing, arrived at a conclusion about what “democracy” really means, or at least what it really should mean.


November 6 is the 20th anniversary of the end of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, which itself was declared dissolved on December 26, 1991.

Here is a discussion about this at RT TV:

Two quotes from the show that I particularly liked:

“There are more communists in Berkeley than in Poland” — by a Communist Party official in Poland in the 1980s.

“The social contract was broken…” hence the people lost faith in the Communist Party (from the 1970s) and finally the state (the USSR).

I view Occupy Wall Street (OWS) as a popular reaction to “the social contract was broken” (from 1981 on) in the USA (as with the similar popular protests in the Euro-zone these days).

The Communist Party had ceased to be the exclusive holder of power in the USSR after 1989; Gorbachev had introduced/allowed multiparty parliamentary politics, though the CP retained much control. So, the USSR was a multiparty democracy between 1989-1991.

An interesting conclusion of the panel in this show was that the end/”collapse” of the CP/USSR was a contingent event, not an inevitable one. Had Gorbachev acted differently, there might still be a multiparty democratic USSR.

I think the social contract, and political freedom are the two essentials for any ideology to enjoy enduring popular support. Democracy is a political form that can facilitate the operation of the first and the experience of the second. But a hollow democracy, as we are increasingly experiencing here in the USA, is a form without substance if “the social contract is broken” (government fails as the steward of popular social goals and benefits), and if popular (as opposed to elite/insider or corporate) “political freedom” is disconnected from political power, so the “general will” (Rousseau) does not affect the course of government. Democracy alone, as an empty formalism, is not the real issue, but “democracy” spoken of as a label for an integrated procedural complex that expresses the social contract and mediates real political freedom.


I am pleased to announce the Internet publication of two articles, which connect history to current events (OWS) and also probe the connection of our interpretations of current events with our own self images (OWS and Libya). I took my time to include a good amount of historical data in these articles, and to write them so they unreel smoothly. Also, I aimed for informative works instead of polemical ones.

Political Belief and Self Image: Aron, OWS, And Libya
7 November 2011

From Social Contract to Occupy Wall Street
7 November 2011

The article on political belief was inspired by my experiences arguing my case for support of the Libyan Revolution. I was led to do a great deal of reading, from early this year, and the incubated pondering on this topic was applied to describe how a personal self conception could express itself publicly as “political belief”, and how such subconscious extensions of personality can clash emotionally in what should be even-tempered discussions of political facts. I illustrate the general ideas with three examples: 1950s Cold War political argumentation among French intellectuals, the thinking of people in Occupy Wall Street (OWS), and the arguments pro and con over the Libyan Revolution.

What is Occupy Wall Street (OWS)? In order to know that, one has to understand where OWS comes from, that is to say what is it about conditions today that have led so many people to manifest as OWS? Part of my research to answer these questions was to review the history that led to the economic conditions of today. My views on OWS are presented in both articles, the second article being an effort to show the details of the shift from the 1945 international consensus for social contracts, to the post 1970s dissension of neo-liberalism and widening income inequality.

My own article on OWS is an attempt to provide a “complete package” in the sense of including discussion of: “where did OWS come from?” and “what are OWS individuals thinking?” with “how is OWS affecting mainstream/corporate political opinion?” plus “what public policies would answer OWS grievances?”, with a listing of some Internet resources presenting pertinent economic data.