April 6, 2011

Libya and the Permanent War

Filed under: Global War On Terror, Sovereignty and Constitution — Tags: — Russ @ 2:12 am


I don’t think I have much that’s new to say about the latest US war, the first which is 100% Obama’s.
It does represent a further evolution of the Permanent War, as this time there wasn’t the slightest pretense of seeking Congressional approval. Congruently, it’s another advancement of imperial presidency doctrine, with Hillary Ribbentrop actually declaring that for Congress to try to restrain the president would be a violation of the prerogative of the executive. It’s simply amazing how meaningless the Constitution has become even for those who swear to uphold it and claim to base their legitimacy upon it.
My readers will know that I consider no phenomena to be unrelated to the kleptocratic war on America, and so it is with the imperial presidency. I’ve written briefly about this before, how the emphasis on foreign policy favors the executive. US foreign policy since WWII has focused on colonial exploitation. At the same time this emphasis is meant to starve and show contempt for domestic policy. And then, when this exploitative, contemptuous government turns to domestic policy, it does so from point of view of a foreign conqueror like Attila. So it’s logical that executive would take the lead here as well, with Congress his rubber-stamp. I’ll probably have another post on this, developing the idea in the corporatist context.
I don’t care any longer in principle about matters of the “balance of powers”, since I recognize this as having been a scam in the first place. These powers, properly balanced or not, were always intended to uphold a new ruling class over the people, and so it has been throughout US history. All that’s happened since the 70s is that the development of this ruling class has required increasing imbalance and contempt for even the forms of its own Constitution.
As for the war itself, it looks like a farce and a crime. We know that Western wars are waged only for malevolent ends and have only destructive consequences for everyone but the power elites. This one will and can be no exception. (When I earlier considered the possibility of supporting a no fly zone, I stipulated that we were discussing only that by itself. Of course, one of the reasons for rejecting such a zone was that by itself it could never accomplish anything. Therefore we see how the moment the West decided to seize the opportunity for war, they took the original “no fly zone” idea and turned it into something far more vast.)
It’s hard to say who these rebels even are. From what I read, most military units on either side have melted away as the air strikes began, and we’ve been left with Gaddafi loyalists against rebel paramilitaries of uncertain provenance. Nor is it clear who’s represented by the “rebels”, including turncoat Gaddafi officials and Chalabi types who have been living in America, who requested this NATO war.
We know from history that this war will not help the Libyan* people. From our point of view, the most important thing about it is how it will further entrench the military state in our own countries.
[* I’m not an expert, but so far as I read there’s no such thing as “Libya”. Rather, it’s a conglomeration of tribes, with Gaddafi leading a tribal coalition largely from the western part of the country, which has always been at odds with the tribes from the eastern part. The rebellion, at least in the east, has arisen largely among these tribes. If anyone thinks I have that wrong, let me know.]  
The war is another act of aggression, and demonstrates yet again how the neoliberal West intends for its wars to continue permanently, flaring up ever anew at new boundaries, with zero democratic restraint and increasing contempt for even the pretense of such restraint. (Meanwhile, the US praised the violent crackdown upon the undisputed rebellious majority in Bahrain.) I’m reminded of Hitler’s planned end stage for the Nazi empire, once the Soviet Union had been pushed beyond the Urals, its main power permanently smashed, and the most intense part of the war won. At that point, he envisioned a permanent “bleeding boundary” at the periphery of the empire, as over generations chronic distant warfare was enshrined as the permanent feature of life. Something similar is intended today, although at this empire’s bleeding boundary the conflagrations are likely to be more severe. This will continue for as long as the neoliberal empire stands, although we can hope that every act of overextension, including political overextension abroad (and, dare we hope, at home? but previous wars haven’t had that effect), will bring closer the day of its fall.


  1. Russ, Alexander Cockburn maintains that the size of the rebellion is grossly overstated, and points out their possible links to everyone’s boogeyman: Al Qaeda, which is rather interesting. I would really like to know what to believe…

    Whatever the case, you’re certainly correct that this is just another chapter in the Permanent War.

    These “humanitarian interventions” follow a familiar script: demonization, hand in hand with romantic effusions about the demon’s opponents, whether the Mujahiddeen in Afghanistan reinvented as Robin Hoods of the Hindukush or the Albanian mafiosi tarted up as freedom-loving Kossovars.


    Comment by Lidia — April 6, 2011 @ 4:47 am

    • Hi Lidia, I saw Cockburn’s piece, and it’s very good. As for “al Qaeda”, by now that’s mostly just a name, not a real organization.

      The original al Qaeda, what Stratfor calls “al Qaeda prime”, has been largely destroyed. What still exists are numerous regional groups which may loosely affliate under the AQ brand name. There’s one such group in Algeria, but I haven’t read that there’s one in Libya.

      Anyway, while Libya has its jihadists like every other country there, for now they’re not a significant presence.

      Of course, Western bombing and military invasion could certainly change that.

      Comment by Russ — April 6, 2011 @ 6:26 am

  2. The pending government shutdown fiasco/game is obviously a part of the plan to bring the war home.
    I notice the Republicants want to fund the military for the rest of the year, though, while leaving the orphans and widows out in the cold.
    The fact that people aren’t smashing their congressional office windows shows us that there is little hope yet for a real rebellion even of the mind.

    Comment by Publius — April 6, 2011 @ 10:43 pm

    • That last point is going to be the subject of the post I’m about to write.

      Comment by Russ — April 7, 2011 @ 2:32 am

  3. I saw this second-hand information: “My friend that works as a congressional aide to a Republican congressman said that they were always going to shut it down. That has been the plan since the election. The freshmen congressmen (he works for one) took office with the full intention of shutting down the government. They have been preparing for it for months, and are all looking forward to their paid vacations–yes, that’s right, their checks keep on coming, regardless.”

    The war-making won’t be shut down, nor the office that hands out the legislators’ paychecks. This is just pure farce.

    Comment by Lidia — April 7, 2011 @ 5:51 am

    • At least shutting down other parts of it is a start. But I fear few will draw the right conclusions, about the character of this “leadership” (Dem as well as Rep; the Dems also objectively have been planning for this since 1/09) and how we’d be better off getting rid of this government completely.

      Comment by Russ — April 7, 2011 @ 6:08 am

  4. Russ, I wouldn’t romanticize the shutting down. What you call “a start” are the parts that are going to hurt average citizens the most, so I don’t see that as something to applaud. I certainly agree with your post—that we need to just get out from under the situation entirely— but that’s not what the teabaggers really have in mind. What they have in mind is taking the looting in a different, less-well-regulated direction that jibes perfectly with corporate interests (private prisons, gutting environmental regs).

    And since you understand the Permanent War so well, then you will understand that the military/”homeland security” will never be cut, and that is what backs up all tyranny, is it not? They are planning to literally take the food out of granny’s mouth to fuel the Permanent War, since that has been and always will be the largest budget item, not even accounting for the special-interest-vehicles of wartime that are off the books. This shutdown is just more Shock Doctrine.

    Comment by Lidia — April 7, 2011 @ 7:20 am

    • Sorry if I sounded a little glib. Everything you say is true, and I do not at all relish the suffering this will inflict. (On the other hand, I also regard this and far worse as being inevitable, as the assault progresses. So I guess I’ve been steeling myself to see worse and worse, not to mention what I’m likely to end up experiencing myself.)

      But still I feel that nothing can happen until a critical mass of people wake up to the real nature of these parties and this government, including how we’d be better off without this government.

      As you say, everything they’re doing is the exact opposite, trying to get rid of the relatively better parts while keeping the worst. (I wrote about that in today’s post.)

      But either people wake up to the fact that in the hands of these criminals the entire system is a write-off, or else we truly will be inexorably herded into slavery, which will end with the worst suffering of all.

      So I try to be philosophical about something like this, and treat it as a teaching opportunity. I’d say, See what kind of leaders these are? Do you really want to remain shackled to these two gangs? Nothing’s ever going to get better until we get rid of them, but that isn’t going to happen through trying to play their government game.

      So I think an attack like this should be taken as a spur to developing self-help, self-government, while confirming the lack of legitimacy of this central government.

      If only people’s response to the government shutting parts of itself down, the parts that actually help people, would be: “Fine, and now we’re going to respond by shutting down the rest of you. We overthrow you, as you’ve forfeit all right to exist.”

      And if people aren’t yet ready to respond that way, even as evidence like this piles up to the stars, year after year, what can I say? I’m not going to shrink from giving the same message because there’s yet more suffering being inflicted. There was already immeasurable suffering being inflicted. This is just another step in the ongoing liquidation I’ve been writing about here all along. So when I say, “Let them shut down the government”, I don’t see how I’m saying anything new in principle.

      But perhaps there’s a better way to say it, so I’ll think more about that. I guess the key is to figure out how to protest something while at the same time arguing, “We should really make a virtue of necessity here”.

      Comment by Russ — April 7, 2011 @ 8:39 am

      • Thanks for your thoughtful reply. It’s just that hearing so many people from a certain party being gleeful about the shutdown, as well as about the prospects of dismantling Social Security, Medicare, rolling back “burdensome” environmental, financial, and labor regulations has made me a little bit sensitive about these calls.

        It’s certainly true that change will not occur without there being motivation, but what I am afraid of is being left with the brutalizing effects, but no change. A lot of populaces have been convinced to engage in de-humanizing behavior against their own interests… ghastly things, far worse than cutting Social Security.

        Comment by Lidia — April 7, 2011 @ 8:59 am

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