Yemen

by John Quiggin on March 21, 2011

Dramatic events in Libya have overshadowed the murder, by government snipers, of unarmed demonstrators in Yemen on Friday. This crime is as bad as any of those for which Gaddafi has been condemned, but has so far not produced a comparable response from the US and other Western governments. To be fair, there was a similarly cautious response to the initial reports of government repression in Libya and Egypt, so it’s a bit early to be convicting Obama and others of hypocrisy on this.

However, with government ministers resigning or being sacked, and a state of emergency announced, the familiar script seems to be playing out a bit faster. The Saleh regime clearly can’t survive without at least tacit support from the US, so it’s time for Obama to announce the withdrawal of that support, and tell Saleh to leave in the same terms as with Gaddafi.

On the face of it, there should be no problem for the US Administration here. Saleh has been a useful ally, but far less important than Mubarak, whom they dumped without too much concern. The big problem is that after Yemen comes Bahrain. With the Saudis having sent troops to suppress the revolt there, a democratic revolution in Bahrain will threaten their regime as well.

Update 22 March Leading army commanders have resigned, and the collapse of the regime appears inevitable. I’ve seen some off the record comments attributed to senior Administration officials confirming this, but so far nothing on the record beyond calls for restraint and progress towards democracy. I’d say Obama has probably missed the bus on this one, which makes it more likely that he will stick with the regime in Bahrain, where it will be much harder to avoid taking sides. End update

{ 52 comments }

1

Leinad 03.21.11 at 1:00 am

John, this is crap:

On the face of it, there should be no problem for the US Administration here. Saleh has been a useful ally, but far less important than Mubarak, whom they dumped without too much concern. The big problem is that after Yemen comes Bahrain. With the Saudis having sent troops to suppress the revolt there, a democratic revolution in Bahrain will threaten their regime as well.

The first sentence is pure crazy. ‘Should be no problem’ to ditch a useful ally? Really? What are they worried about, then? Also, you’re flat out rewriting history when you say they ditched Mubarak without too much concern. There was prolonged period of handwringing and much wrangling over dumping him as he was a pretty fucking major regional ally. Also: the big problem after Yemen is Yemen. Dumping Saleh might be neccessary but the place is a basketcase of regional and sectarian gripes with AQAP lurking in the background. It’s entirely possible the place will go right back into civil war with large scale Saudi intervention.

2

john c. halasz 03.21.11 at 1:21 am

Ya. What Leinad said. Yemen is Yemen. A deeply poor, largely illiterate, faction-ridden tribal society. Saleh hasn’t stayed in power because he’s an authoritarian strong-man completely in charge of a repressive police apparatus, but because he’s a weak leader able to manoeuvre between factions. That’s just another illustration of why “principled” criticism fails the test of complex political affairs. Which is not to say that criticism of various “unprincipled” motives and interests is unwarranted. It’s just not deducible.

3

John Quiggin 03.21.11 at 1:21 am

Leinad – I’m taking the handwringing, wrangling etc as read. That’s presumably what’s happening now. It remains true that, after all that, they dumped Mubarak, who was a much more significant ally than Saleh.

On your final point, no-one knows how any of this is going to turn out. But relying on dictatorships to provide “stability” has been a recipe for failure, here as elsewhere.

4

paul walter 03.21.11 at 1:47 am

I’d think the Bahrain thing is in on my mind, too. Despite some pretty serious black-outing of coverage, people are aware that snipers have been employed against Bahrianis while people ‘s backs have been turned, also.

5

Evan Harper 03.21.11 at 1:56 am

According to (IMO very credible) reports from al Jazeera English, the government of Bahrain has been pulling mortally wounded protesters out of hospital beds, torturing them, and then torturing the doctors who were treating them. The Fifth Fleet sits in Bahrain, placidly at anchor.

6

P O'Neill 03.21.11 at 1:59 am

Yemen is Yemen. 2 insurrections, actual al Qaeda, and qat.

How it become strategic is beyond me.

Which should make it easier for the US to walk. And the Saudis are there already.

7

Leinad 03.21.11 at 2:57 am

John @3: The ‘prop up/dump’ setup is too binary and gives the US far too much agency: fundamentally they didn’t have a choice with Egypt as Mubarak was effectively dealt out of power by the refusal of the Army to crush the protests in Tahrir Square (the crucial day appears to have been 29th Jan). They dealt themselves out for the first few weeks by failing to realise how far the situation had gone and only came into the game as a mediator between the Army (who they’d trained) and the regime, helping facilitate the stand-down.

The situation in Yemen doesn’t remotely approach this: there isn’t the unitary state, civil society or a large, professional armed forces with significant popular legitimacy – all of which were crucial in the Egyptian power transfer. In their absence the US calculus is going to be different (though it may reach the same conclusion).

8

Omega Centauri 03.21.11 at 3:15 am

Plus, as I tried to argue in the other thread, scale (of evil) matters. He hasn’t resorted to shelling whole towns and/or neighborhoods. If your gonna try to stamp out wrongdoings, its best to concentrate on the really big ones first. Not to mention finishing the one you started before jumping into yet another one. Lets open up an N front war, to free the world of all tyrants! I doubt the refuge flows from Yemen are nearly the threat to European stability that Libya is.

9

Chris Bertram 03.21.11 at 6:32 am

Juan Cole has some thoughts on the charge of hypocrisy/inconsistency and the comparative level of violence used by the Gaddafi regime

http://www.juancole.com/2011/03/how-the-no-fly-zone-can-succeed.html

10

novakant 03.21.11 at 7:11 am

The hypocrisy is that the arms exporting nations, who have been bending over backwards to do deals with Gaddafi very recently, are now claiming the moral high ground.

11

dsquared 03.21.11 at 7:39 am

Also: the big problem after Yemen is Yemen

Or, as the old Foreign Office saying has it, “North Yemen is like a dagger, pointed at the heart of South Yemen”.

12

Mitchell Porter 03.21.11 at 9:58 am

Sorry to distract from Yemen, but I have a question about Libya. I’ve always had some trouble understanding the country’s politics and its place in history. That last part may sound rather grandiose, but hear me out.

For most regimes in the world, that I know about, I feel like their ideology and actual character is not mysterious. I understand the concepts of monarchy, socialism, ethnic fascism, theocracy, etc. I also get that a society may espouse some ideology or other but actually be a corrupt oligarchy, that societies experiencing war or insurgency take on a different sensibility, and so forth.

I don’t feel this way about Libya at all. I’m not even sure whether it’s sui generis or whether there is some “reductive” account of its political character that is essentially correct. You can read Gaddafi’s Green Book to see his ideology. To me it seems very 1970s, very Third Way (in the sense of the nonaligned movement, not in the sense of Blair and Clinton). It’s sort of a Bedouin Maoism, an anarchist utopia of direct democracy by popular committees, Afrocentric (“the black race shall triumph”), with an admixture of musings on life by a guy who prefers the desert tent to urban sedentarism… As you can see, I struggle to do it justice.

So all that is part of the ideology of the “Libyan Jamahiriya”. There’s a government with ministries, there are popular committees instead of political parties, and then Gaddafi has no official government role (except possibly commander of the armed forces?) but permanent status as “guide of the revolution”. Which might bring us to political realities hiding beneath the ideology. One gets the impression that Gaddafi, his sons, and the intelligence services have been the real powers, and that the supposed government would always be required to change direction according to the advice of the “brother leader” – who also gets to tour the world as the country’s supreme representative, like any other head of state…

Then there’s the external political context. Gaddafi originally took power in the shadow of Nasser’s pan-Arabism; I tend to see him as also anticipating, just a little, the Islamism of Khomeini, but despite the Islamic content to his ideology, he was enough a man of the late 1960s to produce his own ideological manual rather than just using the Quran (and this is something that Libyan Islamists hold against him). So he was yet another 1970s Third World revolutionist, focused on the Arab scene. But I think his political destiny for several decades was then shaped by being on the US list of ‘state sponsors of terrorism’, a framing circumstance in which American geopolitical categories became part of Libya’s reality. Maybe the nature of the Libyan political experience is to be found in the intersection of Gaddafi’s indigenous populism and the American-dominated world system with its category of heterogeneous “rogue states” united only by being strategic nuisances while not being great powers. And finally, after the Bush-era moderation and opening of Libya, now we have the cataclysmic end of the regime, along with the end of many other regimes of completely different character, in the great upheaval of 2011, which is a whole new era for the Arab world.

So that’s my attempt to sum up Libya. My question is: where can I find some genuine insight into these aspects of Libya – ideology, concrete political and social character, and place in history? Preferably I would like to see these insights coming from a big-picture theory. So it’s not just Libyan history as “one damn thing after another”, but something which interprets it as the contingent local expression of universal human and political realities. Can anyone suggest what to read or who to ask?

13

LFC 03.21.11 at 10:54 am

@12
Not an answer to your main question since I am no expert on Libya but w/r/t this:
I think his political destiny for several decades was then shaped by being on the US list of ‘state sponsors of terrorism’, a framing circumstance in which American geopolitical categories became part of Libya’s reality

Don’t you also have to ask why he did in fact decide to support certain terrorist acts and groups? There may have been a sort of vicious cycle once it got started — i.e. “I’m on the list of state sponsors so the US is my enemy so I will continue to sponsor its enemies” or something like that — but clearly Gaddafi made some initial decisions about whom to support and sponsor that got him on the list in the first place, or so I would think. On another point, my impression is that the Afrocentrism of the Green Book to which you refer increasingly became a sort of megalomaniacal vision of himself as revolutionary exemplar for the continent vs. the oppressive world powers-that-be and the distribution of power in the UNSC, etc: cf. one or two of his speeches at recent UN world summits.

14

GW 03.21.11 at 11:36 am

LFC wrote:

“my impression is that the Afrocentrism of the Green Book to which you refer increasingly became a sort of megalomaniacal vision of himself as revolutionary exemplar for the continent vs. the oppressive world powers-that-be”

Precisely. Let’s not forget Gaddafi’s colonial/hegemonic ambitions for Chad.

15

Andrew 03.21.11 at 12:50 pm

Am I the only one who finds humorous the similarities between the predictions of the neocons regarding freedom and democracy in the Middle East, and the recent calls from the left for more aggressive stances in support thereof? I don’t mean to imply a complete identity – there are very stark and important differences – but the similarities are somewhat funny. And in the middle the realist is still rubbing his head in frustration.

As to this post, I agree with halasz @2 that this is where the complexity of each individual case in international relations makes it difficult to easily analogize one situation to another.

Leinad @7 pointed out some key differences, and I mostly agree with him, though Libya arguably presents an answer to Egypt’s failure as an analogy: Libya is highly tribal, and without Gadhafi will lack strong institutions practiced in governance and power.

The biggest problem in Yemen from a US perspective was mentioned (by Leinad) in the first comment. The primary US interest in Yemen is an ongoing struggle against a very active AQ group (AQAP). The effect of the fall of Saleh on that struggle might well be extremely negative, which would certainly incline the US against such an outcome.

16

chris y 03.21.11 at 1:35 pm

17

Anderson 03.21.11 at 2:06 pm

Also: the big problem after Yemen is Yemen.

This. Whether or not there’s any sort of body politic in Libya whom one could expect to exercise sovereignty post-Qaddafi, Yemen is scarcely a “state” at all, very like Afghanistan.

18

Fred 03.21.11 at 2:57 pm

“On your final point, no-one knows how any of this is going to turn out. But relying on dictatorships to provide “stability” has been a recipe for failure, here as elsewhere.”

Everybody sounds like Bush these days.

19

ed 03.21.11 at 3:05 pm

Also, too: Oil.

20

Major Alfonso 03.21.11 at 3:30 pm

“But relying on dictatorships to provide “stability” has been a recipe for failure, here as elsewhere.”

Relying on States as solutions has been a recipe for failure. The whole Middle East is riddled with the outcomes of trying to find solutions that can be easily boxed into States. Maybe its time people started looking at some of them and asking what precisely is the point of continually glueing these cracked eggs back together. What is the point of Yemen or even Bahrain? Indeed what is the point of modern Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan or even Syria. The Lebanonisation of the Middle East continues…

21

mpowell 03.21.11 at 3:47 pm

I don’t understand when it became so unpopular to endorse the concept that until there was massive popular support for regime change by any means available, attempting to achieve a change of regime in foreign countries was bad policy. Yeah, they killed a few civilians to maintain order. Historically, that usually works with minimal loss of life or hardship. When did liberals start believing that a few civilian deaths were as bad as widespread civil war? Or do we only endorse Lancet when it supports our preferred policy?

Is there some sort of hidden hope that if we can only fuck the global oil markets bad enough we can solve the problems of global warming? Otherwise I am at a loss for why so many people who have normally seemed quite reasonable think there is no distinction between watching Mubarak lose the support of the army in the face of a massive public uprising and, what, severing official ties with every dictatorship in the world?

22

Keith 03.21.11 at 4:41 pm

Andrew@15:
Am I the only one who finds humorous the similarities between the predictions of the neocons regarding freedom and democracy in the Middle East, and the recent calls from the left for more aggressive stances in support thereof?

Probably, since the similarities are all in your head. The Neocons said that if we invaded Afghanistan, this would cause a domino effect creating western-friendly secular democracies from the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli, bombs away! Meanwhile, most of the Leftish leaning commentary I’ve read on the Middle East uprisings is that they will produce a wide range of outcomes but so long as they are native born and created from the bottom up, they’ll probably be more stable than the dictators they’re replacing, even if they all turn out to be Islamic Republics who may not be as willing to become proxy states to western corporations . The two outlooks couldn’t be further apart.

But sure, let’s play the false equivalency card. I’m sure creating mildly antagonistic Islamic Republics was just the sort of Democracy PNAC had in mind when they started the Great Middle East Adventure back in 2001.

23

marcel 03.21.11 at 5:10 pm

Mitchell Porter:

Can anyone suggest what to read or who to ask?

You are apparently unfamiliar with all the internet traditions. All us traditionalists start with Wikipedia. Perhaps a bit heavy on the background (“Tens of thousands of years ago, the Sahara desert, which now covers roughly 90% of Libya, …), but, hey, when do you think the traditions got their start.

Alternatively, there is always this

(Sorry for the snark. It’s not justified, and I shouldn’t hit enter, but I’m in a pissy mood today.)

24

Myles 03.21.11 at 5:56 pm

I think we might do well to keep in mind that Yemen shares most of its border with Saudi Arabia.

Anything destabilizing in Yemen is bound to ricochet into Saudi Arabia, and then we’ll have real problems. It’s not a matter of hypocrisy, it’s the necessity of deferring to the Saudi power, the local power, in view of its security needs.

25

chris 03.21.11 at 6:29 pm

It’s not a matter of hypocrisy, it’s the necessity of deferring to the Saudi power, the local power, in view of its security needs.

But that *is* hypocrisy — Saudi Arabia is a non-constitutional monarchy, which is to say, a dictatorship. If tenure isn’t legitimacy for Mubarak or Gaddafi (or for that matter Castro or the Kims or many other examples), it can’t be for the House of Saud, either.

And that’s the question nobody wants to touch in public, so officials can only talk on the record about countries that are a safe distance away from Saudi Arabia.

IMO the best outcome for Saudi Arabia would be for the royal family to agree to hand over political power to elected officials and become a ceremonial monarchy, like England’s. But I doubt they’re interested in doing that until they believe the alternative is more like France.

26

Norwegian Guy 03.21.11 at 6:36 pm

Seems like Stephen M. Walt thinks neocons and liberal interventionists are quite similar, and that the Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars have a lot in common too.

27

an adult 03.21.11 at 6:44 pm

‘”a very active AQ group”

Bullshit.

Find an actual expert who says that.

28

PHB 03.21.11 at 7:18 pm

I don’t quite see how the decision to intervene in Libya requires the US or any other party to intervene in Yemen.

If I donate to Charity X I am not a hypocrite if I then refuse to donate to Charity Y a few days later. I would however be a hypocrite if I went round loudly condemning those who never give to charity while giving to neither.

The action in Libya is being driven by the UK and France, two countries that Gaddafi directed terrorist attacks against. The current Yemeni government has not directed terrorist attacks against any Western power that the decision makers are aware of.

So it is completely consistent for the UK and France to decide to give Gaddafi a slotting without committing to slot anyone else or intervene elsewhere.

The main consideration in this type of attack is not whether the allies can win, its what will come next. In this case there is no possibility that any imaginable government is going to be worse than Gaddafi who has directed considerably more terrorist attacks than Al Qaeda.

There is also a geographic consideration. deposing Gadaffi creates a contiguous block of three newly liberated countries, all of which are situated on the Mediterranean. The EU has already demonstrated its ability to facilitate the transition from dictatorship to democracy. It has done so in Spain, Portugal, Greece and most of the former Warsaw pact countries.

29

John Quiggin 03.21.11 at 7:30 pm

@PHB (and others), the question isn’t whether the US and other countries should intervene in Yemen (and Bahrain and Saudi Arabia) but whether they should continue to support the regimes there, as the US is currently doing.

30

Myles 03.21.11 at 7:54 pm

IMO the best outcome for Saudi Arabia would be for the royal family to agree to hand over political power to elected officials and become a ceremonial monarchy, like England’s. But I doubt they’re interested in doing that until they believe the alternative is more like France.

The fact that the country is called Saudi Arabia should tell you all one needs to know about the likelihood of their relinquishing power voluntarily.

(Although I suppose Liechtenstein did become democratic, even if the current Prince had recently achieved a power grab.)

31

Sev 03.21.11 at 8:09 pm

John #29 ” the question isn’t whether the US and other countries should intervene in Yemen (and Bahrain and Saudi Arabia) but whether they should continue to support the regimes there, as the US is currently doing.”

In the case of Yemen, I suspect that they are on the phone with him and others there, finessing that question.

32

Keith 03.21.11 at 10:42 pm

Norwegian Guy @26:

The Neocons would love to take credit for the ongoing Middle Eastern revolutions, since it would both justify their initial cause from 2001 and associate their ideology with grassroots uprisings in general. Anything to wash away the stink of a decade long quagmire they helped create. Letting them get away with this reframing is foolish and dangerous. After they’ve “reshaped the Middle East” you think they’re just going to take their bombs and tanks and go home? Some of them are already looking at North Korea and China and licking their lips.

33

Tim Wilkinson 03.21.11 at 10:55 pm

Ironically one of the purposes of cosying up to Gadaffi was to present his, er, assurances about not continuing with a non-existent nuclear programme up as proof that a new era of peace and democracy was being ushered in by the Iraq and Afghan adventures.

34

ajay 03.21.11 at 11:15 pm

But relying on dictatorships to provide “stability” has been a recipe for failure, here as elsewhere.”

Well, it doesn’t seem to be working well now but it’s worked pretty well for the last several decades, surely? And it’s not as though the region’s two democracies – Lebanon and Israel – have been terribly good at providing and exporting stability either.

35

ajay 03.21.11 at 11:18 pm

an adult: Bullshit. Find an actual expert who says that.

http://www.rusi.org/analysis/commentary/ref:C4CD94D9D647B1/
Benedict Wilkinson, the head of security and counterterrorism at RUSI? Al Qaeda’s first ever attack was in Yemen.

36

Kenny Easwaran 03.22.11 at 12:08 am

The EU has already demonstrated its ability to facilitate the transition from dictatorship to democracy. It has done so in Spain, Portugal, Greece and most of the former Warsaw pact countries.

Of course, at least part of that was with the promise of eventually joining the EU. Given that the EU has already pretty much told Turkey it’s not going to happen, I can’t imagine they’ll be telling an even more Islamic and even larger population Egypt that they’ll be able to join. (Is there some possibility Tunisia and Libya could be allowed, given that they’re so much smaller, and possibly even have some connections to current EU member Malta? Or is there connection to Malta like Turkey’s connection to Cyprus?)

37

an adult 03.22.11 at 12:08 am

Two links in one
http://www.arabist.net/blog/2011/3/19/nir-rosen-on-yemen-and-the-us.html
There is no lack of information only of curiosity

38

Andrew 03.22.11 at 12:13 am

Keith @22: I was careful to note that there are important and stark differences between the two. But it’s a bit dubious to assert, as you did, that there are NO similarities of importance, isn’t it?

Both view a surge of democracy as the answer to many foreign policy problems. The neocons believed that by using military force to remove repressive regimes, this would allow humanity’s natural instincts to liberty to express themselves, and, somehow, good democratic government would emerge. Liberals, generally, are more circumspect in their advocacy of force, but the underlying belief in democracy as the only natural and legitimate form of government towards which human beings are driven, the beneficial effect its establishment will have upon foreign policy problems, and the supportive role that the US should play, is there.

I suppose I’m simply feeling a little more cautious as to whether revolts under the banner of democracy would actually result in democracies in either Bahrain or Yemen, much less as to whether those democracies would result in less repressive policies or less suffering.

39

ed 03.22.11 at 3:03 am

The main consideration in this type of attack is not whether the allies can win, its what will come next. In this case there is no possibility that any imaginable government is going to be worse than Gaddafi who has directed considerably more terrorist attacks than Al Qaeda.

There is also a geographic consideration. deposing Gadaffi creates a contiguous block of three newly liberated countries, all of which are situated on the Mediterranean. The EU has already demonstrated its ability to facilitate the transition from dictatorship to democracy. It has done so in Spain, Portugal, Greece and most of the former Warsaw pact countries.

Other possible consideration: oil.

40

John Quiggin 03.22.11 at 3:11 am

“the underlying belief in democracy as the only natural and legitimate form of government”

More or less definitionally (except for some possible quibbles about ‘natural’), this is the characteristic belief of democrats. Since liberalism (at least in the US sense of the term) includes support for democracy, it’s unsurprising that they hold this belief.

And, while there is obvious room for difference about how the US (or anyone else) can best support democracy in any given instance, it seems similarly obvious that if you support democracy, you are likely to believe others, including the US government, should do so also.

41

novakant 03.22.11 at 9:52 am

The problem with wanting the US to support democracy is that time and again it has used this noble goal as a fig leaf to commit terrible crimes (Vietnam/Iraq just to name the most prominent ones) that cost large numbers of lives and that the US itself has degenerated into oligarchy.

42

Andrew 03.22.11 at 10:01 am

I agree John, but I find particularly interesting the aspects of similarity that go beyond legitimacy. Both come with the same essential package of beliefs as to how democracy will work (well), how it will come to exist (by natural impulse), and what the effects will be (beneficial).

I would contrast this view, held by neocons and many liberals alike, with that held – in my impression – by realists of various stripes, who are more dubious of the notion that democratic mechanisms in any given country, at any point in time, will lead to better outcomes both domestically and internationally. I don’t think this skepticism is logically implied by realism, but given the emphases of realism it’s not surprising either.

I think the package of beliefs held by neocons and liberals explains why, for many, there is a presumption in favor of revolutions or movements to overthrow authoritarian governments, even when our knowledge concerning the outcome or the opposition is minimal; neocons and liberals think that not only is democracy the right form of government, but is also the one that will lead to the most good. The presumption in favor is not just moral, but also prudential.

I believe that the Obama Administration is simply less ideological than the Bush Administration – less taken by the package of beliefs described above – and so much more cautious in lending support to any particular movement or revolution beyond the usual admonitions for governments to better behave themselves.

However, I do think the Obama Administration contains strong proponents of humanitarian interventionism, which best explains the somewhat stumbling entrance of Western military efforts in Libya.

This ideological caution, on the one hand, and this humanitarian interventionism on the other, explain in part the differences in treatment that Libya has received in comparison to Yemen, or Bahrain. And I think this in part resolves what might seem to be, from a principled vantage, inconsistent treatments of those situations – provided that one agrees that the humanitarian abuses in Libya were much worse, and had the potential to get far worse, than those in Yemen or Bahrain.

It also looks like your reading of the future of Saleh in Yemen may prove accurate, though I can’t tell whether the military is split. For your next trick, though, can you tell us the future of Yemen and General Ali Mohsin al-Amar?

43

dsquared 03.22.11 at 10:10 am

Given that the EU has already pretty much told Turkey it’s not going to happen

Just to note that the phrase “pretty much” here is doing the work of the single word “not”.

44

Anderson 03.22.11 at 12:52 pm

“Saudi Arabia is a non-constitutional monarchy, which is to say, a dictatorship. If tenure isn’t legitimacy for Mubarak or Gaddafi (or for that matter Castro or the Kims or many other examples), it can’t be for the House of Saud, either.”

This is silly. There is no law forbidding people to live under a dictatorship. If the population of Saudi Arabia is reasonably content with their form of government, then what basis would the U.S. have for opposing it?

Or pragmatically, if the oppressed population itself isn’t interested in rising up and seeking regime change, what business — or chance of success — does an outside power have in intervening?

45

Norwegian Guy 03.22.11 at 1:50 pm

Please note that the similarities that were pointed to are not between neoconservatives and liberals, but between neoconservatives and liberal interventionists. There are many liberals, ranging from Dennis Kucinich (pretty consistently) to Guido Westerwelle (at least in this case), that do not adhere to this particular subset of liberalism. I think they both support democracy, though, so that is really not the main issue here.

46

Consumatopia 03.22.11 at 3:05 pm

Does “liberal interventionists” include people who think we should avoid giving weapons and support to dictatorships because they tend to be unstable?

47

Alice de Tocqueville 03.24.11 at 6:27 pm

In case anyone’s wondering where CodePink stands on US ‘s Yemen policy;

“Western nations were selling Gaddafi the weapons his regime has been using to suppress the Libyan people. In 2009 alone, European governments — including Britain and France — sold Libya more than $470 million worth of weapons. The Obama administration was working to provide the Libyan dictator another $77 million in weapons, on top of the $17 million it provided in 2009 and the $46 million the Bush administration provided in 2008. What is the message we send by bombing Gaddafi’s forces while continuing to support brutal regimes in countries such as Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia? [oil, anyone?]

The repressive government in Yemen has received more than $300 million in military aid from the U.S. over the last five years. U.S. military sales to Bahrain since 2000 total $1.4 billion. The monarchy of Saudi Arabia is set to receive $67 billion worth of weapons – the largest weapons deal in U.S. history.

The best thing the U.S. can do to support democracy in the Middle East is: Stop arming dictators.”

48

Alice de Tocqueville 03.24.11 at 6:50 pm

One thing not often mentioned, [including here], is the fact of Libya’s resistance being armed. Could this [non-mentioning] be because the US had already intervened in Libya by providing arms and training? Wouldn’t be the first time ‘we’ have played both ends against the middle, would it?

49

John Quiggin 03.25.11 at 10:45 am

@Alice The reports I’ve read suggest that the resistance is receiving some arms from Egypt (not clear exactly who in Egypt). At least publicly, the US is keeping its distance. France has recognised the/a rebel government, but AFAIK has only provided medical assistance and similar.

50

Alice de Tocqueville 03.25.11 at 5:07 pm

John, I was thinking of a report I’d seen about previous (since the ’80’s) covert aid that obviously did not remain covert. I’ve searched and cannot find the report I saw. It IS remarkable that, in the one country with a sizable amount of o-i-l there is mounted the only armed uprising, and that it immediately captures oilfields.

There is much speculation on the far left, far libertarian,and the far right, re: who the Libyan rebels are; ( I suppose this should have been posted at the ‘humanitarian intervention’ thread. I’ve succumbed to comment creep!)
“Covert US military support most likely underway from the beginning. “
by Tony Cartalucci
It turns out, according to the Library of Congress Federal Research Division archives, that Sahad’s NFSL [National Front for the Salvation of Libya] had attempted to violently overthrow Qaddafi in 1984. The Library of Congress document goes on to explain that “according to various sources, the United States Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] trained and supported” NFSL before and after the failed coup.
http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2011/02/us-libyan-intervention.html

And:
“It remains a mystery of the uprising why the estimated 6,000 troops, whose defection led to the rebels seizing eastern Libya, have not been seen in the front line. Their commanders are not united and appear to be hedging their bets by staying out of the fighting.” –Patrick Coburn at Counterpunch: http://www.counterpunch.org/patrick03142011.html

And:
“The revolt is being led, in part, by Royalists and Islamic Fundamentalists and I don’t see them crying for ‘democracy’….
Was this revolt spontaneous? Then explain to me how, on the very first day, there were thousands of flags from the Monarchy on the streets of Benghazi?”
George Kazolias at Counterpunch:
http://www.counterpunch.org/kazolias03222011.html

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Z 03.26.11 at 4:39 am

France has recognised the/a rebel government, but AFAIK has only provided medical assistance and similar.

France has semi-officially recognized (this means: no political figures has done so but military and diplomatic spokepersons have) that it provides heavy artilleries and ammunitions to the rebels, not through the military intervention but through its secret services.

52

Tim Wilkinson 03.26.11 at 9:12 am

Interesting. Source?

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