Sunday, April 10, 2011

Are you seriously going to tell me you didn't see this coming?

If you didn't, then you haven't been paying attention for the past few decades.
The U.S. may consider sending troops into Libya with a possible international ground force that could aid the rebels, the former U.S. commander of the military mission said Thursday, describing the ongoing operation as a stalemate that is more likely to go on now that America has handed control to NATO.

But Army Gen. Carter Ham also told lawmakers that American participation in a ground force would not be ideal, since it could erode the international coalition attacking Moammar Gadhafi's forces and make it more difficult to get Arab support for operations in Libya.
So what was explicitly ruled out before is now merely "not ideal." And if the "stalemate" continues, how long will it be before "not ideal" becomes "under consideration?" How long after that before there are orchestrated leaks by anonymous "official sources" of "on-going planning" for sending in the Marines "just in case" it proves "unavoidable" even as "the debate continues within the White House?" And then how long before there are "last chances to avoid direct military action?"

On April 30, 1970, Richard Nixon announced a US "incursion" (his word) into Cambodia, a significant expansion of the already-unpopular Vietnam War (and part of what turned it into the Indochina War). His administration was stunned by the reaction: Mass protest almost literally exploded on campuses across the country, leading as many as 500 colleges to close down at least temporarily due to student strikes. More than 1,000 demonstrations took place. About a quarter-million people (100,000 in DC and 150,000 in San Francisco) turned out on just a week's notice to protest the invasion. Within days, Nixon had to declare a quick end to the "incursion."

Ever since then, the operatives of the national security state have worked on ways to enable them to act without causing the shock that produces massive protest. The result has been that as a general rule, the bigger the commitment or the more opposition that is expected, the more gradual the roll-out so by the time it actually happens, the public has come to expect it and be resigned to it. Sort of like the classic "frog in a pot of boiling water" story.*

Part of the inuring process here has been the talk of "humanitarian" actions, the only goal being, we were told, to "protect civilians." But what such "protection" entails has already advanced from a "no-fly zone" to what I said over a week ago
bears less the marks of humanitarian protection of non-combatants and more the marks of choosing sides in a civil war.
Those marks have only become deeper in the time since: In his testimony on Thursday, General Ham openly referred to A-10 fighters being used for close air support for ground forces and on Sunday the rebels said NATO airstrikes helped them drive Qaddafi's forces out of Ajdabiya.

The war in Libya, for us, is not about protecting civilians. It's about overthrowing Qaddafi. The insurrection merely provides a convenient cover.

The reason for the step-by-step buildup to the ground troops which the general run of opinion says will be needed to do that is easy to come by: People don't want another war.
An AP-GFK poll found that 48 percent approved or leaned toward approving US involvement [in a Libyan air campaign] while 50 disapproved or leaned toward disapproving. Similarly, a Quinnipiac poll found 47 percent opposed, with only 41 percent in support. [Both polls were from the end of March.] ...

The same AP poll found the American people have little stomach for mission creep in Libya, with 78 percent opposed to sending in American ground troops.
So if you're going to escalate, you have to turn what could be an angry 78% into a passive 78% by getting them so used to the idea that when it finally happens, the reaction will be "Oh, really? Well, we've been expecting it."

The use of "protecting civilians" as a meme is, admittedly, an effective one because it allows supporters of the war to present themselves not only as pragmatists and "clear-eyed" people who "understand the real world" but as morally superior to war opponents who would "stand by while people get slaughtered."

For example, over at Daisy's place, when the war first started she expressed some skepticism over it. Someone responded that they couldn't "really agree or disagree" and "I don't have a horse in the race." However, he wanted to point out that not acting could also have consequences.

In response, I made what I thought was a very gentle observation.
While it's easy to understand [his] underlying frustration (both doing something and doing nothing have consequences) and thus the desire to "care less," the fact is when faced with that choice you don't get to opt out. You have to accept that, as he says, either way has consequences and then make the choice you think is best.

Disapproving of death by creating more of it rarely if ever seems a good course to me. The fact that "their" side always "kills civilians" while "our" side "inflicts collateral damage" with the accompanying impression that those killed on "our" side are somehow deader than those killed on "their" side only, at least to me, emphasizes that rarity.

There is already too much death in the world. I don't want to see us add to it.
Upon which, that very commenter, who previously said he "could care less" about the issue, not only endorsed the "mission" but hauled out the hackneyed "armed robber attacking the little old lady in the house next door" argument, where, as I put it in a further comment, "tackling, arresting, or otherwise restraining someone" but without killing them is equated with "cruise missiles, bombs, and strafing runs as if the difference was merely a matter of scale."

Which, I think quite bizarrely, he insisted it is, thus making arresting one individual morally the same as killing hundreds if not many more (Are we supposed to forget that there were people inside those tanks? Apparently that depends on who was in them.) and making objection to the war identical with reciting "a dissertation on Ghandi [sic]" while a "violent predator ... dismembers granny."

Thus does killing become the same as not killing, a billy club come to have the same effect as a bomb, and ground troops "that could aid the rebels" come to be the same as impartially and humanely "protecting civilians."

Seriously: You really didn't see this coming?

Footnote: As I write this comes news that the African Union has supposedly worked out with Qaddafi an agreement "in principle" for a ceasefire, delivery of humanitarian assistance, and the opening of talks toward "political reforms necessary for the elimination of the causes of the current crisis."

I don't know how seriously to regard this; Qaddafi has previously declared and immediately violated ceasefires. Since latest reports indicate his forces have (again) been pushed out of Ajdabiya - thanks for NATO "just protecting civilians" airstrikes - he could use the momentary lack of street fighting as an opportunity show his sincerity by ordering a unilateral stand-still ceasefire, where his forces hold their positions but don't try to advance. I certainly hope for that but my advice is, don't hold your breath.

In any event, there is little hope for such a settlement since the rebels, whose bottom line demand is Qaddafi's ouster, will likely regard this, quite possibly correctly, as just stalling for time and refuse to accept it. So the war, which has largely become a stalemate with neither side able to advance very far, will go on and references to "boots on the ground" will likely increase.

I wonder how many grannies (and sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters) have been "dismembered" so far?

*Actually, the "frog in the pot of boiling water" thing is a myth: Beyond a certain point, the warmer the water, the more energetically the frog will try to jump out even if the water is heated very slowly. Still, the myth serves as a good illustration of the political process being used.

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