Leftism and the Khadafi hang over, or why a no-fly zone is needed at this point?
Part 2 (in progress)
As of this writing, the Arab league has initiated the call for UN to impose a no-fly zone over Libya’s airspace. We should look at this development from two standpoints: 1) the Arab league is an important ally of the US and the West whose recent initiative will certainly create the impression that global powers, if they decided to act on it, are not acting unilaterally or without regard to the regional autonomy of the Arab region (which of course is not true: the Arab league is a crucial regional buffer of imperial powers to protect their strategic interests), and 2) the longer these powers take their time to decide, the tactical purpose of a no-fly zone earlier appealed by the rebels stands to lose its real aim. Imperial powers, and this time the Arab league are hoping to dig out solutions to quell if not render irrelevant and hopeless the wave of protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. In a nutshell, if these indications are successfully brought to conclusion—such as the dismantling of Khadafi’s military defenses at a later phase of the revolt—the US and the West, with the crucial concurrence of the Arab league are hoping that the appetite for protests will abate soon. It must be noted here that most of the individual representatives of the Arab league are the targets of massive demonstrations that call for an end to dictatorship and autocracy. In a sense they are playing the card of supporting the rebellion in Libya which was earlier ignited by the Arab spring that started in Tunisia and Egypt. These heads of states are holding their cards close to their chest but their tricks are obvious. They are hoping that by supporting the rebellion they will be excused from the protests.
It becomes obvious now why an immediate response to the appeal by the rebels for a no-fly zone was not on the immediate tactical agenda of the US and the West. If earlier they had made it public that the option was not off the table, it was clearly meant to scare Khadafi to stop the brutal offensives for which global powers have been under pressure to provide immediate solutions. The fiercer Khadafi responds to the revolts the limited the options for Western powers and the US to maneuver the Arab spring. It counts however as a strategic agenda with time delay as a critical component. The no-fly zone would therefore become a course of actions for global powers if and only if it will decisively put an end not only to Khadafi’s rule but also, and much more importantly, to the Arab spring. It can also give opportunity for imperial powers to utilize its military presence for better control of oil in the immediate future. In short, the rebellion must be the one politically dictating the terms of the no-fly zone. If global powers do not agree to the limited terms of military interference, the rebellion can elevate the struggle into a liberation movement. There is no reason for the rest of the Arab spring not to support this movement by spreading more fires of rebellion and protests. This time the reluctance of global powers to agree and settle politically with the terms of limited military intervention can be easily construed as support for Khadafi and the autocrats of the Middle East and North Africa.
The US and the West are capitalizing on a UN Security Council concurrence, which is not going to happen in the immediate time possible, with threats of veto by Russia and possibly China. The rebels’ appeal for a no-fly zone is therefore meant to provide the international community with facts on the ground, and that as this stage of their struggle it seems very unlikely that Khadafi will be defeated militarily. The appeal is also addressed to the Arab spring—that the struggle of the Libyan people has acquired a new twist.
In short, what we are seeing right now, and with this recent development, is the gradual effort to utilize Libya’s crisis to discredit the Arab revolts. Nevertheless, it is also crucial for the Arab spring to support the rebellion in Libya. If the Arab league has announced its support for a no-fly zone with sinister motives, it is time for the leaders of the Arab spring to seize the moment and promote the political terms of the no-fly zone and expose the agenda of the Arab league at the same time. In this sense let the imperial powers know that the people’s movements across the region are the ones in charge not their governments, nor their heads of states. The Arab uprising must also add to its growing political valence the assertion that any prolonged military presence of imperial powers needed only at this point is unacceptable beyond toppling Khadafi. It must be made clear that Khadafi must go. His prognosis that foreign intervention will spark a new Arab uprising with anti-colonial sentiment is obviously a useless blackmail. Khadafi would have been excused from the uprising had he not been a useful ally of Western powers in his own capacity to negotiate with these powers his family’s security and wealth in four decades of autocratic rule. The longer he stays the longer the imperial powers can negotiate with time to maneuver the direction of the Arab uprisings. Obviously, at this stage of their struggle, Libya’s rebel forces must militarily defeat Khadafi, the last crucial blow to the dictatorship. As I emphasized previously, the political merits of the rebellion have already been established—and the leaders of the rebellion, from a broad coalition of populist and leftist movements and organizations, know that these merits can be utilized to negotiate with the international community– but Khadafi himself, knowing he has no political valence to defeat the rebellion, shifted the terms of the battle into a military one where he enjoys a lot of maneuvering power that the West and the US helped him develop by lavish arms sales contracts.
To be more specific, I am referring to some left intellectuals who oppose Western interference in the Libyan crisis. Their reasons are far from reasonable though. Despite the undeniable monstrosity of Khadafi’s handling of people’s unrest in his oil-rich North African dominion, some of this so-called left intelligentsia would rather drum up support for Khadafi for one simple reason—this lunatic had fed his people well with oil money. Feeding hungry people has been the battle cry of the traditional, orthodox left that continues to draw ideological inspiration from the failed socialist models of the last 20th century. The former USSR fed the Russian population but after reneging on its promise of political democracy —instead, the revolution created a new elite class—and its utter failure in terms of self-critique that Marx admonished the revolutionaries of his time to perform on themselves unmercifully and thoroughly, the first socialist model became a historic disaster. In Asia the grotesque transformation of socialist China into the second largest capitalist economy in the world today somehow proves that in the beginning the revolution was tailored to lay down the future foundations of state capitalism.
We contend that it is tactically sound to support Western interference, but on a politically restricted basis vis-à-vis the unacceptable guilelessness of some left intellectuals advocating support for Khadafi who once endeared himself to the leftist cause worldwide. This means: to engage the West while it is mulling military intervention in ways that the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings have already taught us. Support for interference must be passionately accompanied by condemning the need for full-scale military intervention, which involves ground offensives, while Khadafi is killing his own people.
But first, we need to assess the capability of the international left to interfere in the crisis as a solid block. There is no such solid block. Within the left ‘all that is solid melts into thin air’. One molecular instance of this vaporizing act of the left is the support currently aired by oil-rich Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez for the dictator. Chavez’s statement is a sharp indictment of the motivation of Western powers, including the US to interfere in the upheaval, which is understandable for the economic and political future of socialism, that is to say, from a global perspective in terms of the impending geopolitical realignment of global economy in the wake of Khadafi’s downfall, at least, on the aspect of oil control, which by and large will influence the political valence of socialist rhetoric worldwide as Libya’s oil will certainly provide a fresh opportunity for the US and the West to stem the tide of economic crises hitting their respective homelands.
As a sympathizer of 21st century socialist paradigm I understand Chavez’s fear. Socialists may fear that imperial powers are out to steal the gains of the Arab uprisings. But Chavez also refused to see that the opposition to Khadafi has no interest so far in accommodating Western initiative for full-scale military intervention. The worst that Chavez should fear is the continuing military offensives by Khadafi against opposition forces, including civilian communities which may provoke a change of mind among the battle inexperienced and poorly equipped opposition. The fiercer Khadafi strangles the opposition with brutal military offensives the more likely Western intervention is imminent. Khadafi’s rant against Western intervention is thus self-prophesying: He is saving capitalism. The West is hoping to gain international support for an excuse to control Libya’s oil, and Khadafi is giving it in his stupidest gesture to play off the rebellion. In short, the problem is Khadafi and he should go. Forget the heartstrings, Mr. Chavez. It is not also a secret that Khadafi was once backed by the West and even by the state of Israel which according to recent reports has organized a contingent of African mercenaries to support Khadafi quell the rebellion. Before the revolts exploded in the streets of Tripoli, the Khadafi family went on a buying spree of major Western capital stocks using oil money, even opened the oil industry to Western firms. The much-vaunted nationalization of Libya’s oil industry, once spurred by the questionable socialist rhetoric of his ‘third way’ ideology, is already threatening the future of the Libyan people.
Second, we need to renounce the leftism that has pervaded the ideological and political discourse of old world socialism and is threatening to pervade the early phase of socialist discourse of the 21st century—one that Chavez so passionately advocates. This leftism is a holdover of the failed Stalinist (the former USSR) and Maoist (China) socialist regimes of the 20th century. The key to understanding this leftism and its morally contemptuous support of a dictator like Khadafi is the ubiquitous leftist fantasy of feeding the hungry and taking control of the destiny of the oppressed via the political justification of taking over their right to political democracy. The first is utterly dependent on the last: the masses have to be led first in order that they could have food on the table. And the trick goes on: the masses have to be indefinitely led, which means that political democracy can wait until the end of time. This leftist brand of looking down on the priority of political democracy is not only arguably true to Chavez—at least on personal terms (he likes to be known as a friend of Khadafi) but most accurately to various strands of the left in the world today that continues to be stymied by the vestigial influence of the political culture of 20th century leftism that Che Guevarra once decried.
Third, and the acquiescence for a guarded interference: A populist support for a limited Western intervention is all that the left can settle with at this point, given its political limitations and its global defensive tack borne of the failure of the leftism of the previous century that it has unwilling inherited. But it is not only the left that had failed in the previous century. The West is failing in many fronts, economically and politically. The option to support Western interference is not after all a political force majeure on the part of the left: the Western powers that the left can arguably support at this point are the very same powers that are slowly exhausting their combined political moral strength in terms of providing leadership and direction to humanity, all the more when they take this waning strength to the battlefields of Libya where anti-colonial sentiments can be utilized by Khadafi to maneuver a protracted stalemate and buy his time. In other words, support for limited Western intervention is supporting what the West can and ought to do at this point, that is, to impose a no-fly zone and nothing more.
The West is undeniably militarily prepared, and with US on its side to provide crucial military push to invade this North African country on the pretext of overthrowing Khadafi, it can unleash a decisive military force that will end the looming stalemate. Nevertheless, the question remains open: will US and NATO, especially US, risk being politically isolated in a region that is slowly coming of age in terms of charting its political direction beyond the traditional rhetoric, even beyond Islamism that has co-existed with dictatorship and autocracy that has stymied its political civilization for centuries? The answer depends on a lot of factors, not only on the sinister motive of the US and the West that is no longer news. But the US and the West also know that any military intervention risks strong reaction from popular movements in Egypt and Tunisia and may enliven Al Qaeda that has been recently isolated by the uprisings, which these global powers have no reason not to rejoice. In the same manner, the left has no reason not to celebrate the increasing isolation of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East.
Even so, the US is in a worst quandary: it will have to choose between its strategic alliance with Israel (which acts as a buffer against Iran) that favors the Khadafi regime over a possible democratic government to replace the 42 year old Libyan autocracy and supporting the rebellion. As of this writing, the West is divided over the urgency to recognize the Interim government set up by the opposition. All these indicate that the West and the US are seriously avoiding the decision point. High-level talks of a full-scale military intervention are meant to scare Khadafi and if he does the West and the US will save a lot of trouble, including much precious government assets. But while Khadafi is mulling his biggest military offensive to take back rebel territories, the prospect of a bloody military outcome will certainly force global powers to settle with something close to a military intervention. If the left still thinks it is morally and politically legitimate to support the people’s revolt, then it is not unreasonable to support a decisive campaign to reduce Khadafi’s strength to a mythical certitude, one that can win a war in his fictional world of kings and subjects. That means: support for a no-fly zone and nothing more.
Nevertheless, this decision may be taken up sooner, and a full-scale ground intervention is still not far-fetched, regardless of whether the left supports it or not. But it is better to support it, that is, the rebels’ appeal for a no-fly zone. The freedom fighters of Libya know where support is coming if it comes via the political wings of the global call for solidarity. The left should trust that these freedom fighters know fully well the tactical options of winning a civil war. Besides, they have known Khadafi, along with disgraced autocrats of Egypt and Tunisia, to be a shadowy ally of Western interests in the region.
But the greater aspect of the left solidarity for the people’s uprising lies in its readiness to raise a parallel voice that supports the political sentiment of the freedom fighters of Libya who earlier appealed for a no-fly zone–that a full scale military intervention which involves ground offensives is unacceptable.
It is also worth noting here that if the Arab uprisings are anything to go by, their insurrectional success in overthrowing dictators and autocrats proves that non-leftism has triumphantly redefined the structural, linguistic, and political landscapes of left praxis and discourse.
And it has redefined such in the least leftist of the earth’s landscapes—in the Middle East where for leftism to take root has to take root by artificial means. We can say that the Arab Region, extending to North Africa, is demographically apathetic to secular ideology by virtue of its ingrained Islamic disdain of modernity and its historical suspicion of the West. Marxism is very much a Western commodity but so is Maoism that is now vying for inclusion in the global community of Western capitalism. Today what the Arabs understand is simple: freedom never rests. They have understood of late that freedom is the essence of political democracy that the leftisms of the 20th century have consigned to the whims of the politburo.