|February 25, 2011
In a modern political sphere that has its fair share of narcissists and ignoramuses, no one is quite as narcissistic or as ignorant as the liberal interventionist. From the comfort of his Home Counties home, possibly to the sound of birds tweeting on the windowsill, the liberal interventionist will write furious, spittle-stained articles about the need to invade faraway countries in order to topple their dictators. As casually and thoughtlessly as the rest of us write shopping lists, he will pen a 10-point plan for the bombing of Yugoslavia or Afghanistan or Iraq and not give a second thought to the potentially disastrous consequences.
Now, having learned nothing from the horrors that they cheer-led like excitable teenage girls over the past 15 years, these bohemian bombers, these latte-sipping lieutenants, these iPad imperialists are back. This time they’re demanding the invasion of Libya. In the Guardian Ian Birrell brushes aside the eight-year nightmare of Iraq in one sentence – we shouldn’t be “scarred by the foolishness of the Iraq invasion”, he says – as he calls on the international community to spearhead a “rapid intervention” to save the people of Libya. It’s like an “apocalyptic Hollywood film” and there are even “rumours of systematic male rape”, he says, proving once again that there is no situation so bad that it cannot be made to sound even worse by hacks seeking to emotionally blackmail NATO into dropping a couple of tonnes of bombs.
Over at Slate, a headline sums up the outlook of Libya-concerned liberals: “It’s time to intervene.” Apparently world leaders can send a message to the broader Arab world by getting a grip on the Libyan crisis now. “Before the region descends into protracted civil conflict, the international community has the opportunity, in Libya, to set an important precedent and save thousands of lives in the process.” Meanwhile, a gaggle of human rights groups is calling on the UN and the EU to intervene to “protect Libyan civilians from government killings”. The White Man’s Burden is alive and well, it seems, though it has been thoroughly de-Kiplingised and turned into a super-liberal, PC endeavour.
The ignorance of liberal interventionists is captured in the fact that they seem to have wilfully forgotten the disastrous interventions of the past 15 years, all of which, from Yugoslavia to Afghanistan to Iraq, exacerbated local tensions and led to more, not less, bloodshed. It takes a special kind of arrogance to be able to demand yet another international military venture when the terrible consequences of your last one are still plain to see. And their narcissism is contained in the fact that the real reason they are making these demands for war is to make themselves feel good, to demonstrate that they care with a capital C. They know nothing of the countries that they want to see invaded, and care little about the potential of such invasions to destabilise things further. No, all that matters is that in saying “Forget Iraq, let’s now attack Gaddafi!”, they can publicly demonstrate their own moral indefatigability.
Yes, what is happening in Libya is of great cause for concern. But it is also exciting. A people is liberating itself, city by city, and in the process is creating the foundations for a new kind of society and even a potential democracy. To invade now in order to satisfy Western politicians’ and hacks’ lust for a bit of purpose in their humdrum lives would be to turn this fledgling democracy into a moral protectorate of the West – and store up more war for the future.