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Broken Records Lead to Broken Crystal Balls When NATO launched airstrikes in Libya, the anti-interventionists heard the same pretexts about human rights and freedom used to justify wars for empire and oil in Afghanistan and Iraq.
This identical stimulus triggered an identical reaction – they used the contradictions and hypocritical flaws in the official rationales for intervention as the basis for opposing NATO’s action – just as Pavlov’s dogs reacted as if they were being fed when they heard a bell ring, regardless of whether any food was actually served.
Instead of substantiating this claim with that NATO successfully pushed the Libyans aside and seized control of their war against Ghadafi, the Western left instead 1) focused on the alleged misdeeds of the National Transitional Council (NTC) and 2) hid behind phrases such as “Libyan Winter” and “civil war,” implying that the Arab Spring in Libya froze the instant NATO jumped in and that neither the rebels nor Ghadafi deserved anyone’s support.
Both evasions of the central issue – that NATO’s air campaign had mass support among revolutionary Libyans which was faithfully reflected by the NTC’s stand against foreign invasion and for foreign airstrikes – were very serious methodological mistakes that only a handful of commentators managed to avoid, Clay Claiborne of Occupy LA being the most prominent.
The anti-interventionists did their best to substitute weak suppositions, NATO’s bald hypocrisy, and guilt by association for the evidence they lacked to support their hijacking story.
For them, the Libyan revolution’s constituent elements lost their political independence, initiative, and lifeblood the instant NATO fired its first cruise missile.
This conditioned reaction to the broken record of justifications led anti-interventionists to conclude that NATO’s end of the Libyan war would resemble the Afghan and Iraq wars and so their case against intervention was built around the following predictions: 1) Mass civilian casualties due to Iraq or Viet Nam-style aerial bombardment; 2) Foreign invasion/occupation due to imperialist “mission creep”; 3) Future interventions would be easier and more likely elsewhere; 4) A neocolonial regime would be installed in Tripoli as the result of NATO-led “regime change,” the logical conclusion of the “revolution was hijacked” conspiracy theory.1) There was no massive NATO bombardment of civilian targets, there was no Libyan highway of death, no Black Hawk Down, no Wikileaks-style helicopter gunship atrocities.
The absence of wanton slaughter of civilians by NATO compelled Ghadafi to collateral damage incidents and civilian funerals and arbitrarily exaggerate the number of civilians killed.
In both cases, the Western left mistakenly prioritized its anti-imperialist principles over its internationalist duty to aid these revolutions by When the going got tough and the F-16s got going over Libya, the revolution’s fairweather friends in the West disowned it, claiming it had been hijacked by NATO.Far from freezing over, the struggle in Libya became a long hot summer of multifaceted conflict with international, conventional military, tribal, and underground dimensions that eventually culminated in Ghadafi’s grisly execution, raising and personalizing the stakes for Assad.Anti-imperialists were so focused on the NTC’s cooperation with NATO, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and repressive Arab governments that they were as blindsided as Ghadafi was when forces independent of NTC control – Berber militias in Western Libya and underground networks in Tripoli – overthrew his regime in a surprise move on August 20.Nothing else mattered except that NATO chose to act; what Libyans said, did, thought, and organized was simply not a factor for them.These anti-imperialists airbrushed the Libyans out of their own revolution.