Archive for March 30th, 2011


I was reading this exchange between Glenn Greenwald and Juan Cole and it struck me that Greenwald is probably posing the wrong question, although, given it was in reference to a previous statement made by Cole, the fact that he asked the question he did is fair enough.

So Cole ends up saying that he is willing to bleed in Libya -as he says, ‘if NATO needs me, I’m there’- and that if the ‘intervention’ succeeds in allowing Libyans to have a normal life, it will be worth the ‘sacrifices in life and treasure’. His response, I think, is a good illustration of how the prospect and excitement of the event of war can warp people’s thoughts in all sorts of unexpected directions. War is the health of the state, but it is not the health of people’s minds.

In reality, the fact you are prepared to risk your life for something does not make your cause or your actions any more or less just, cf Berlin 1945, September 11, 2011. So Cole saying that he would be prepared to die himself doesn’t strengthen the case he was making for supporting the ‘intervention’ in any shape or form.

But if there is some sort of test to be put so as to gauge whether you are making your argument in good faith, I think it would be better formulated thus: would you be prepared to run the risk a NATO bomb getting dropped on your house, wherever it is you might live -Dublin, New York, wherever- killing your children, so that the Libyan people might shake off Gaddafi’s rule? If you’re satisfied that no NATO air strikes are ever likely to kill civilians, and that even if they did, and a child got killed, then that child’s death would be ‘worth it’, then, if you’re prepared to back NATO’s ‘intervention’, you should be at least prepared to say that your own child’s death from a NATO air strike would be worth it too in order to emancipate the Libyan population.

Besides that, there is another problem with Cole’s answer, and that’s the word ‘if’: ‘if it succeeds’ – it may not succeed, but he’s happy to support the sacrifice of the lives of others anyway.

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March 2011