Daniel Larison’s Libya Fixation

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Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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21 Responses

  1. Avatar ktward
    Ignored
    says:

    [Larison] really, really, really hated the intervention in Libya at the time, and still hates it today.

    Which, to my mind, sums up nicely the ideologically driven, nuance-deficient position of isolationist* pundits.

    *Non-interventionist might be more accurate. ? I dunno. I’m the first to admit that I can’t keep up with the latest iterations of self-identifying ideological terminology. One thing I’m sure of is that I’m bound to offend someone from somewhere.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to ktward
      Ignored
      says:

      Yep, it’s working out great. Escalating the conflict has destabilized at least two other countries Object lesson too, for those that thought they could make a deal with the US to give up their WMDs. But, you know, it’s Walder Frey rules these days.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kolohe
        Ignored
        says:

        The region seems to me to have been a civil war waiting to happen for a good long time. Could we seriously have kept a lid on it indefinitely? Doing so would have meant sticking with “our” strongmen.

        We held a wolf by the ears. While I can appreciate the argument that we shouldn’t have let the ears go, I just as easily understand the argument that doing so was going to lead to this sooner or later.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to ktward
      Ignored
      says:

      KT,

      Does this mean you think it impossible for someone to oppose the Libya intervention without being “nuance-deficient” and “ideologically driven”?

      Also, what’s so wrong with being ideologically driven?Report

  2. Avatar Kolohe
    Ignored
    says:

    ” words that immediately struck terror into anyone who’s studied genocide, war crimes, and the key role that dehumanizing language plays in their coming about.”

    Republicans routinely say the other side are DemocRATS. Is Obama going to bomb the RNC HQ next?

    “What’s more, the Libya intervention happened only after being sanctioned by both the Arab League and the UN Security Council, ”

    but you know, not by anyone who is elected to anything in the United States except Obama himself. But not to worry, the monarchs and despots around the world think it was OK, so American liberals can sign up for bombing the living snot out of a conscript army that never did and never could do them any harm.

    In Libya, the security vacuum in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution provided more opportunities for terrorists to operate.

    Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has also taken advantage of the instability in the region, particularly in Libya and Mali.

    The deteriorating security situation in neighboring northern Mali, the proliferation of weapons smuggled out of Libya, and the emergence of the Mali-based Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which targeted Algeria on several occasions, all contributed to the terrorist threat to Algeria.

    The smuggling of weapons from Libya to and through Egypt has increased since the overthrow of the Qadhafi regime.

    http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2012/209982.htm

    Yes, clearly there are no lessons learned from the last kinetic military action to inform the next one. I guess the current Administration is just like the previous one in that it completely lack self-reflection and its supporters love that about it.Report

  3. Avatar BlaiseP
    Ignored
    says:

    Our intervention, more importantly the French intervention, was managed about as well as could be managed at the time. For all of Larison’s harrumphing, he should be bright enough to understand what’s going on: it’s not a whit different than the situation on the ground in Iraq, a pooch Bush43 and his idiot SecDef Rumsfeld screwed to the N-th degree.

    Look, both Iraq and Libya are artificial countries. Even the Romans divided it into several provinces, Cyrenaica, Aegyptus inland, then Africa. Libya-the-country has no natural internal allegiances. Look where the revolt against Gadhafi began: in Benghazi. That’s Cyrenaica, their Arabic sounds Egyptian. Almost nothing in common with Gadhafi’s allies over in Tripoli, whose Arabic sounds Tunisian. And then there’s inland Libya, which even the Romans never really controlled, Aegyptus sorta peters out in the sand where Rommel would later fight. Only the Tuareg and the Berber live there and they’re the big question mark. Gadhafi used them as mercenaries and now they’re hated.

    Why should we have expected a different outcome in Libya than in Iraq? All we did in Iraq was open Pandora’s box: those ethnic and sectarian feuds had been bottled up since WW2. Bush43 was stupid enough to stick around for it all and get everyone (but the Kurds) mad at the Americans — and, of course, turn our fine troops into moving targets in the biggest Shoot-Me-Please clusterfuck since Gallipoli. Obama wisely didn’t play that game.

    But Obama didn’t take all his tricks. He let his ambassador get killed over there, so goddamn optimistic he was about the way things were going, him and Hillary Clinton both. Living in the bubble. That’s where Obama really screwed up. And Hillary. And they know it, too.

    Obama’s moving Rice and Power into position because he needs True Believers in those slots. Word reaches my ear a big old tempest has brewed up in that teapot called the West Wing. Kerry has been telling Obama to stay the hell out of Syria and my guess is, Susan Rice has been trying to back the anti-Assad crowd. Now Kerry has a new boss and he doesn’t much like it.

    Obama’s getting tired of being seen as diffident in the face of this civil war in Syria and Susan Rice is how he’s dealing with it. I have a sneaking suspicion Susan Rice is responsible for cheezing off the Chinese about Tien An Men Day, just in time for Premier Xi Jinping’s arrival: just the sort of thing she’d do. Notice that FLOTUS is in no mood to be seen with Xi’s wife. Susan Rice is hand in glove with the POTUS and FLOTUS, Obama has sent her forth onto the chessboard to round up two pesky pawns at the Crossroads: Benghazi and the Verizon business, neither of which are going away.

    And the GOP hates Susan Rice so badly their teeth ache. As long as Obama can keep the GOP dogs slavering and barking at rearing up the end of their chains, all they’re doing is choking themselves. Keeping the GOP pissed off at this stage is important. The GOP is too stupid to know they’re being played.

    We’d better stay the hell out of the Syrian fight. The rebels are the aforementioned assholes who were shooting our troops in Iraq: arming them is exceedingly unwise. There’s only one good endgame to Syria: letting these bastards fight each other to a draw. If Susan Rice is allowed to spout off and influence military policy, we will be stuck in another Iraq-style Tar Baby.Report

  4. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    the situations are not the same.

    While I fully accept this, I’d still like to hear more from, really, all humanitarian interventionists on all sides of Syria about how the situations compare and contrast – and from those who advocated for the Libya intervention who now counsel not intervening militarily in Syria why exactly it was warranted in the former instance and not in the latter – other than just that they’re ‘different,’ and assuming that the real reasons are other than simply a sense of finally having hit the political limits of Western public tolerance for further intervention in fractious, violent Muslim countries’ internal strife.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Michael Drew
      Ignored
      says:

      The situations are vastly different because just about every European government had massive oil interests in Libya and Qaddify threatened to cut them off, tear up their contracts, seize their assets, and sell it all to China.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to George Turner
        Ignored
        says:

        Fair enough, but the point of my comment was that I want to hear what those who argue now and again for humanitarian intervention in terms of the need for humanitarian intervention in fact say about the differences, just in re: the case for humanitarian intervention. I’m interested in what the arguments would be, not so much in what the real reasons for action/inaction are. For the purpose of this comment, in any case.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
          Ignored
          says:

          … It’s a fair point, though, George, given what I wrote about the “real reasons.” I’d have been clearer about my real question if rather than “assuming that the real reasons are other than simply a sense of finally having hit the political limits…,” I’d said, “regardless of what the real concerns driving decisions in fact are.” I just listed one driver – political support – that happened to occur to me; yours is another very valid one to consider. Again, my interest is in what arguments those who actually take themselves to be motivated by a principled approach to humanitarian intervention would say are the distinguishing factors that lead them to oppose or be wary of intervention in Syria where they were strong advocates for it at a certain stage in Libya’s conflict.Report

  5. Avatar DRS
    Ignored
    says:

    Larison is a lone voice crying in the wilderness compared with the exposure perennial wrong-about-everything types like William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer and Elliott Abrams. He’s a conservative that foreigners not caught up in America’s self-infatuation with its own good intentions can relate to. He has been very consistent about his views: the intervention that so many foreign policy hawks are addicted to – always in other places halfway around the world – is nothing but war, misery, bloodshed and destruction, and putting lipstick on it and calling it “regime change” or “exporting democracy” doesn’t change matters.

    I don’t think Larison is particularly obsessed with Libya, but he does tend to wring out a lot of short blogs on particular subjects rather than 12-inch-long ones that are major essays.Report

    • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to DRS
      Ignored
      says:

      That’s my impression, too. I wouldn’t say that Larison has a “Libya fixation,” but that he has an anti-hawk fixation. I’ve actually (almost completely) stopped reading him, not because I disagree with him, but because I usually know in advance what he’s going to say.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco in reply to DRS
      Ignored
      says:

      From what I can tell, he’s got absolutely no evidence for this bit of psychoanalysis;

      He’s paid to pop off.

      Larison is a lone voice crying in the wilderness compared with the exposure perennial wrong-about-everything types like William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer and Elliott Abrams.

      Dr. Krauthammer has been producing opinion journalism for 34 years. He’s never been right about anything in that time?


      He has been very consistent about his views:

      Just out of curiosity, on what are they based? The amount of time the man has spent in the military, the intelligence services, or the foreign service sums to nil. He has never been a foreign correspondent. His graduate work was in Church history, his undergraduate work in history and comparative religion, and the undergraduate institution he attended offers perhaps eight courses on subjects remotely relevant to the subjects about which he writes. Perhaps he is a capable auto-didact, but the study of international relations does not tend to promote dogmatic adherence to rules of thumb (or it did not among the chaps I with whom I studied).Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Art Deco
        Ignored
        says:

        Dr. Krauthammer has been producing opinion journalism for 34 years. He’s never been right about anything in that time?

        I seem to recall, although I don’t have the link on hand, that Mr. Krauthammer did call waterboarding torture. I’d say he was right about that.

        Just out of curiosity, on what are they based?

        Facts (and not, for example, ad hominems).

        If you’re interested in reading more, I’d suggest going to http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/Report

        • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Pierre Corneille
          Ignored
          says:

          What facts? Which ad hominem?

          I have had some exchanges with Daniel Larison in the past. In one case he offered vehement and verbose opinions on a subject with which he was unfamiliar (the economics of immigration) and on another offered a view on public opinion formation characteristic of a man who never talks to ordinary people. Perhaps he should be in a different line of work.Report

          • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Art Deco
            Ignored
            says:

            “which facts?”

            The invasion of Iraq, the Libya intervention….

            “which ad hominem?”:

            “The amount of time the man has spent in the military, the intelligence services, or the foreign service sums to nil. He has never been a foreign correspondent. His graduate work was in Church history, his undergraduate work in history and comparative religion, and the undergraduate institution he attended offers perhaps eight courses on subjects remotely relevant to the subjects about which he writes. Perhaps he is a capable auto-didact, but the study of international relations does not tend to promote dogmatic adherence to rules of thumb (or it did not among the chaps I with whom I studied).”

            Report

      • Avatar DRS in reply to Art Deco
        Ignored
        says:

        In other words, he bested you in debate and you’ve resented him ever since. Why else would you be getting so huffy?Report

  6. Avatar DRS
    Ignored
    says:

    I think we can safely say that if Daniel Larison had had the influence on American foreign policy from 2002 to 2006 that William Kristol and his ilk had, then there’d be a lot fewer dead and handicapped American military personnel today.Report

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