This morning a young journalist on Meet The Press described Pres. Obama's choices in the tumultuous Middle East-North Africa as a "turd sandwich". This refreshing candor was greeted with nervous smiles by the select elite pundits, both because of it's linguistic crudeness, and it's profound truth. The fact is, the global order is being challenged by totally unexpected events and forces in a "perfect storm" and the resulting chaotic scramble to get out ahead is only exacerbating the chaos.
The best example of this is the decision by Europe and the US to seek UN approval of a no-fly-zone over Libya. Seeing Tunesain and Egyptian clients fall by popular protest was traumatic enough for foreign policy planners, but to see the contagion spread throughout the oil producing countries at a time of extreme global eonomic shock has thrown the entire "doctrine" out of orbit. While some leftists believe this intervention to be strategic (as in Iraq), I argue that it is anything but. Instead I see panic in a time of flux for which there is little historical reference.
And so when our own little Frankenstein, the charismatic Momar Gaddafi, began violently crushing the mostly peaceful protests advancing the Arab Spring uprising, the Western powers found themselves with yet another crisis on their hands. Turn the other way while their monster did his dirty work? Or step in and try to re-assert some control over events. Either way it was a turd sandwich.
The UN and now NATO intervention has unleased an avalanche of criticism from all quarters. Dismaying to me is the knee-jerk reaction of many on the so called left for whom imperialism is a singular lens through which all world events are viewed and all complexifying is dismissed as "naivete". This group urges the international community to not interfere in any way, to "let them fight their civil war" and to let national sovereignty be the supreme guiding motive in all decisions. Progressives argue Congress should have been consulted, suddenly showing deference and respect to a body known for it's corruptness, intellectual vacuity and over-all uselessness. Liberals mistakenly compare this to Bush's Iraq and Leftists mistakenly compare it to Clinton's Kosovo. Neither analogy holds in my opinion.
Leftists then said "you must have the Arab League and African Union on board" . Asking for elite Arab approval ( worried only about managing perception) is useless and of course they would demand zero civilian casualties AND protection. But revolution isn't always so clean. Left pacifists also dreamed of a bloodless uprising while the anti-military faction fantasized over sanctions, diplomacy and dialogue. The reality is that a besieged group of brave dissenters asked for help, knowing full well the risks associated. They had been routed by a superior force supplied by mostly-European weaponry and thought Europe was obligated to help balance the forces. I tend to agree. I don't pretend to know the outcome of this struggle or the effect of the intervention but think such "knowing" both impossible and an reasonable burden of proof. I also don't pretend the opposition are Jeffersonian Democrats who share my values or the imperialists don't have their own nefarious designs. But much more is going on here, much more.
Moving forward, the Left must highlight the inconsistency in the protection of popular movements against dictatorial regimes. Why , we should ask, Libya and not Syria, Yemen or Bahrain? Force the State to explain itself. We must spotlight the contradictions and forcibly interject ourselves into every debate to demonstrate exactly how this current chaos is the inevitable result of the global capitalist order. Economic chaos, social chaos, environmental chaos – can all be linked directly to a mode of production and that critique must be relentless and sustained. If the world wars of the last century were not enough proof, perhaps this crisis of upheaval, debt and decline are.