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Thread: Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

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    Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

    Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

    This gives me huge second thoughts over my support for interceding in Libya. I generally support it, but wonder what's the plan now? Where is this supposed to lead? Hell, it is a lot like Iraq, where there are contentious tribes/ethnicities/religions (George makes this point), but at least we fully committed to do Iraq. We have hardly any commitment to doing Libya. And frankly we DO NOT want to do another Iraq. It is their responsibility to overthrown these regimes - we'll help as we can. I just wish we didn't arm the governments against their own people, with heavy weapons and air power.

    Rather, the goal of the intervention is explicitly to stop Gadhafi’s threat to slaughter his enemies, support his enemies but leave the responsibility for the outcome in the hands of the eastern coalition. In other words — and this requires a lot of words to explain — they want to intervene to protect Gadhafi’s enemies, they are prepared to support those enemies (though it is not clear how far they are willing to go in providing that support), but they will not be responsible for the outcome of the civil war.

    The Regional Context

    To understand this logic, it is essential to begin by considering recent events in North Africa and the Arab world and the manner in which Western governments interpreted them. Beginning with Tunisia, spreading to Egypt and then to the Arabian Peninsula, the last two months have seen widespread unrest in the Arab world. Three assumptions have been made about this unrest. The first was that it represented broad-based popular opposition to existing governments, rather than representing the discontent of fragmented minorities — in other words, that they were popular revolutions. Second, it assumed that these revolutions had as a common goal the creation of a democratic society. Third, it assumed that the kind of democratic society they wanted was similar to European-American democracy, in other words, a constitutional system supporting Western democratic values.

    Each of the countries experiencing unrest was very different. For example, in Egypt, while the cameras focused on demonstrators, they spent little time filming the vast majority of the country that did not rise up. Unlike 1979 in Iran, the shopkeepers and workers did not protest en masse. Whether they supported the demonstrators in Tahrir Square is a matter of conjecture. They might have, but the demonstrators were a tiny fraction of Egyptian society, and while they clearly wanted a democracy, it is less than clear that they wanted a liberal democracy. Recall that the Iranian Revolution created an Islamic Republic more democratic than its critics would like to admit, but radically illiberal and oppressive. In Egypt, it is clear that Mubarak was generally loathed but not clear that the regime in general was being rejected. It is not clear from the outcome what will happen now. Egypt may stay as it is, it may become an illiberal democracy or it may become a liberal democracy.
    Last edited by Redress; 03-23-11 at 08:32 PM. Reason: Fair Use

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    Re: Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

    The quoted analysis highlights the concerns I had last week about the dynamics in Libya. Then, I noted that the picture that has emerged shows even greater risks associated with a post-Gadhafi transition. Major sections of the population still support the dictator. The magnitude of such support makes it unlikely that coercion alone is the basis of that support. As the revolution is not broad-based, the Gadhafi dictatorship's prospects of survival are greater. That means that if Gadhafi fell--and he still might fall--the risk of internal conflict as various rival groups vied to exploit the resulting power vacuum would be dangerously high.

    In addition, I noted that the anti-Gadhafi revolutionaries have shown much less organizational skill (political and military) than what should have reasonably been possible. In part, I believe that lack of organizational skill is due to a lack of broad-based support. Indeed, their command-and-control structure remains weak and somewhat ambiguous. Hence, even if a temporary lull followed the fall of the Gadhafi dictatorship, there are real questions about whether a coherent and effective transitional government could be forged before the risks related to the power vacuum began to manifest themselves.

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    Re: Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

    Yes, there are risks, even if he falls. That's why these things are seldom clear cut.

    AUSTAN GOOLSBEE: I think the world vests too much power, certainly in the president, probably in Washington in general for its influence on the economy, because most all of the economy has nothing to do with the government.

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    Re: Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

    Ay what you will about the way the CIA used to support the overthrow of some that were seen as the enemy but it worked several times and it gave us a way out if the scatology hit the over head.

    I said early on we should have armed the Rebels with some of the tons of weapons our troops have collected in the past 9 years. It would also be helpful to put some advisers on the ground to help the Rebels get it right.

    If the Muslim Brotherhood shows up in Libya it will all have been for naught.

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    Re: Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

    Quote Originally Posted by Councilman View Post
    Ay what you will about the way the CIA used to support the overthrow of some that were seen as the enemy but it worked several times and it gave us a way out if the scatology hit the over head.

    I said early on we should have armed the Rebels with some of the tons of weapons our troops have collected in the past 9 years. It would also be helpful to put some advisers on the ground to help the Rebels get it right.

    If the Muslim Brotherhood shows up in Libya it will all have been for naught.
    What evidence do you have the rebels are any better? Remember, change doesn't automatically mean change for the better for all.

    AUSTAN GOOLSBEE: I think the world vests too much power, certainly in the president, probably in Washington in general for its influence on the economy, because most all of the economy has nothing to do with the government.

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    Re: Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

    Quote Originally Posted by Boo Radley View Post
    What evidence do you have the rebels are any better? Remember, change doesn't automatically mean change for the better for all.
    You got that right....hope and change.
    "He who does not think himself worth saving from poverty and ignorance by his own efforts, will hardly be thought worth the efforts of anybody else." -- Frederick Douglass, Self-Made Men (1872)
    "Fly-over" country voted, and The Donald is now POTUS.

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    Re: Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

    In numerous threads, I noted that major sections of the population still support the dictator. In other words, the anti-Gadhafi revolution is not broad-based. Now, there is a news report that raises questions as to whether the anti-Gadhafi revolution even comes close to representing a majority of Libyans. Tonight, The New York Times reveals:

    After the uprising, the rebels stumbled as they tried to organize. They did a poor job of defining themselves when Libyans and the outside world tried to figure out what they stood for. And now, as they try to defeat Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s armed forces and militias, they will have to rely on allied airstrikes and young men with guns because the army that rebel military leaders bragged about consists of only about 1,000 trained men.

    If the anti-Gadhafi elements truly represented a majority of Libyans, the number of trained armed members would be perhaps 10-20 times the current size given how many Libyans have actually had training with firearms. If this data is accurate, then military defections have also been rare and very limited.

    IMO, this snippet of information raises grave questions about the nature of the revolution and how much support it actually commands. It also increases the risk that the Western coalition could increasingly engage in tactical air strikes to compensate for the anti-Gadhafi forces' lack of manpower--a development that seems to have begun on 3/23--as emotions continue to trump interests. Furthermore, even if the dictatorship is toppled, a revolution representing possibly only a minority of Libyans could further elevate the risks of post-dictatorship civil war, especially if the revolution succeeded largely due to foreign military intervention.
    Last edited by donsutherland1; 03-24-11 at 12:48 AM.

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    Re: Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

    Quote Originally Posted by American View Post
    You got that right....hope and change.
    Well, in ths case, Obama over Bush, the change has been better. Clearly. Perhaps not as much as many hoped for, but better all the same.

    AUSTAN GOOLSBEE: I think the world vests too much power, certainly in the president, probably in Washington in general for its influence on the economy, because most all of the economy has nothing to do with the government.

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    Re: Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

    Quote Originally Posted by Boo Radley View Post
    Well, in ths case, Obama over Bush, the change has been better. Clearly. Perhaps not as much as many hoped for, but better all the same.
    yes... unemployment is down, the debt and deficit are down, no soldiers in wars in other countries.... all is right in the USA, thanks to Obama.

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    Re: Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy

    Quote Originally Posted by Whovian View Post
    yes... unemployment is down, the debt and deficit are down, no soldiers in wars in other countries.... all is right in the USA, thanks to Obama.
    Now, do you really think that makes any real point?

    AUSTAN GOOLSBEE: I think the world vests too much power, certainly in the president, probably in Washington in general for its influence on the economy, because most all of the economy has nothing to do with the government.

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