The Manichean anti-imperialist left and the Libya bombings

Harry’s Place dissects the arguments of the UK Stop the War Coalition (which basically is a front for UK-SWP) on why to oppose intervention in Libya. But they make it too complicated. Groups like SWP believe anything US /UK does is always Bad therefore any opponent of them must always and without question be a Fighter Against Imperialism and thus to be supported.

A ranking member of PSL here in the States once told me that Mugabe of Zimbabwe must be supported because he stands against imperialism. I am not making this up. To call this Manichean would be an understatement (as well as deranged.) Such groups invariably try to make the facts fit their predetermined ideology and agenda and thus cannot respond to current world events in any meaningful way. They’re living in a Marxist fantasy land that has little relation to reality. This is a primary reason the Marxist left has become so irrelevant and ineffectual. The world has left them behind.

However, the attacks from Harry’s Place against SWP are also Manichean, as in SWP is never capable of a rational thought. Bahrain is not an absurd comparison and indeed, inquiring minds want to know why the US is bombing Libya yet actively supporting the thuggish government in Bahrain. Yes, it almost certainly is at least partly about the oil in Libya and the 5th Naval base in Bahrain.

Marc Cooper says This is not Iraq in a reasoned and nuanced post on why he supports the bombing.

This action comes at a time when not only Libyans, but also tens of other millions of Arabs have invested their hopes in regional renaissance. I am proud, I am happy that the U.S. — for once and for whatever calculation– finds itself on the side of those fighting against oppression. In some sense, then, I see this action by the Obama administration to be somewhat redemptive. After decades of supporting one Arab dictatorship after another and, precisely, after watching the Iraqi debacle of the last decade, I feel we sort of OWE the Arab world the surprise of showing up, albeit erratically, on the right side of things.

Me, I can’t help recall the South Park Underpants Gnomes whose business plan was 1) Collect underpants, 2) ????, 3) Make profits. Then one of the South Park kids asked, what’s 2) and they had no answer.

Wars can’t be won from the air, even though the US keeps wrongly assuming they can. And there’s no exit strategy. Obama’s statement that it will be over is days is, well, laughable.



  1. No matter what argument that is put forward to justify the bombing of Libya, the REALITY is that it will be ordinary Libyan people that will die, young, old and innocent. Our wonderful cruise missiles do not just hit bad guys. Of course their lives are a price worth paying!! The world is peppered with dictators that repress “their” people with a vicious voilence and most of them are armed by the same benevolent West and we do business with them. So we have Libyans cheering and Libyans dieing and the result will be a divide country potholed by cruise missiles and pockmark with graves. I object very strongly to being labelled as a Gaddafi supporter because I oppose the bombing. Is brute force the only answer that the so called moralistic and civilised West has to these problems? It is surely naive to think that the West is doing this out of compassion for the Libyan people. We have proved in the past the the West doesn’t give a shit about the people of the Middle East and North Africa. The ordinary people of the West might care, but the Western state apparatus? Don’t make me laugh, it’s not funny.

    • A no-fly zone sounds antiseptic but the only way it can be achieved is through massive bombing. That impacts all of Libya. Air fields are rubble, etc. Plus, it’s a certainty that civilians will be killed in this. Plus this won’t stop Qadiffi or his supporters in the East.,


      • Also, on NBC news (my dad watches it, don’t blame me!) they were saying that the goal isn’t to take out Qadaffi/Khadaffy/Qhadafi (have you seen all the different spellings?). So what is the goal? Well, Libya’s got oil and we don’t seem to be bombing countries like Saudi Arabia or Bahrain when they kill protesters.

  2. As much as saying supporting Mugabe is a good thing is ridiculous, and as much as the enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend strategy can fail, there always NEED to be a lot of good old fashioned pacifists calling “bullshit” every time the government wants to go to war. We’ve got a government here in the US that uses any excuse to go to war wherever it can, so we need as much of a push against that as we can have.

  3. There are kids here in the UK who are in their twenties and they have never know this country to be at peace. But we still spout the myth that we are a peaceful nation. Don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.

    • Indeed, that is the key to understanding almost any conflict. What they say is nearly irrelevant. What they do tells all. And the next question is, who benefits from what’s being done?

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