Libya: Beware of Humanitarians with bombs

As an anarchist, I find myself more than a little conflicted about recent events in Libya. It seems entirely plausible to me that, had the United States not intervened, there would have been a large-scale massacre in Benghazi. States — and their armed forces — exist, and some of their actions are worse than others. And sometimes state actions have beneficial side-effects. In this case, the people of Libya might be said to have benefited from the conflict between states, which weakened the control of their own organized crime lord over the turf in which they lived without a corresponding increase in the rival state’s power over them.

I certainly can’t begrudge the people of Benghazi who are now alive and quite plausibly would not have been absent the U.S. intervention. But I hope that, no matter how understandable it may be that they accepted help from the Devil, they look over the fine print very closely. They may find that, having accepted the Devil’s help, they won’t be done paying till the Devil says so.

The Obama administration portrays the intervention in Libya as a purely humanitarian act. But as Noam Chomsky says, “‘good intentions’ are not properties of states … and the United States, like every other state past and present, pursues policies that reflect the interests of those who control the state by virtue of their domestic power …”

Since the rise of a mass press and popular opinion as a force to be reckoned with in the developed countries, a little over a century ago, governments rarely admit they’ve undertaken foreign wars for simple territorial aggrandizement. Naked self-interest comes clothed in the guise either of humanitarian intervention or of self-defense against some “foreign threat.”


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