Libya: was it worth it?

by Chris Bertram on January 26, 2012

I’m asking the question, because I don’t know, but the signs are extremely worrying. When NATO intervention was first mooted, I wrote a piece here expressing concern that, if the successor government came about thanks to NATO intervention it would lack legitimacy in the eyes of the Libyan people. I’m not sure that I was right about the reasons for that, but the conclusion about the lack of legitimacy itself (much mocked in some quarters) looks to be increasingly vindicated by events. One reason to intervene was to prevent severe human rights violations, including the possibility of massacre in Benghazi. Well a cruel and vicious regime with a dreadful human-rights record has gone, but seems to have been replaced by a squabbling coalition of militias, little inclined to submit to the authority of a central government, with Ghaddafi-loyalists making a comeback. Moreover, said militias seem to be engaged in serious human rights violations themselves, abuses that have been going on pretty much since “victory”. Those who were most enthusiastic for intervention don’t seem to be saying much about these worrying recent developments. An intervention predicated on defending human rights certainly won’t have been justified if the successor regime ends up presiding over similar persecutings, detainings, torturings and killings itself.

A few years ago, I wrote a post explaining that I was no longer going to referee for, or publish in journals published by Elsevier (and that I was likely only to cite Elsevier published articles with an explicit health warning). This was relatively cheap for me, as I work in a field where Elsevier has little presence (I’ve only had one occasion to turn down refereeing in the intervening period), but I did suggest that other readers might do the same. Now, “Tim Gowers”: has independently had the same idea. Unsurprisingly, famous mathematicians are rather better able to rally support than political scientists of middling repute. So far, nearly 400 academics have publicly committed not to cooperate with Elsevier (I suspect this is an undercount, as they are verifying the credentials of signatories before posting their names). I warmly recommend that CT readers, especially readers in the hard sciences sign up. This is a plausibly effective form of collective action, since these journals, published by a notably rapacious and demonstrably dishonest commercial enterprise, rely on a lot of volunteer work to keep going. If academics stop working for Elsevier journals for free, either because they sign up to these commitments, or because they get the broad feeling that Elsevier is bad news, then the company’s business model collapses.

Via “Michael Nielsen”: