Thursday, March 17, 2011

Won't be fooled again.....

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, David Kopel, staunch and valiant defender of freedom, is celebrating the decision by the United Nations to authorize limited intervention in Libya. In an updated to one of his posts (click here to read the post in its entirety), Mr. Kopel says:

Wall Street Journal reports that Egyptian army is shipping arms to the Libyan “rebels.” Which is to say, to the legitimate government of Libya. As the Declaration of Independence affirms, the only legitimate governments are those founded on the consent of the governed. Accordingly, the Gaddafi gang was never a legitimate government, merely a large gang of criminals who controlled a big territory. The French government’s diplomatic recognition of the legitimate Libyan government reflects this fact. @liamstack reports that France says it will be ready within hours to fly over Libya. @lilianwagdy says that Libyans in France are chanting “Zanga Zanga, Dar Dar, We will get you Muamar!” Vive la France! Vive Sarkozy! Vive les droits de l’homme!
Now, I'll admit that Qadaffi probably doesn't have the consent of the governed, or at least a significant portion of the governed, to claim legitimacy, and maybe he never did. Maybe the rebels are part of a grand humanitarian plan a la "droits de l'homme" (an unfortunate allusion....look at how that revolution turned out), but surely we--by which I mean myself and Mr. Kopel, although not necessarily someone with a deeper knowledge of North Africa--don't know that the rebels have the consent of enough of the governed, or that they will not fall apart in factions, or that they will not go on murderous rampages.

Who knows where this will lead. If I've learned anything from studying history, it's that it's almost impossible to learn from history: the guns of August were not Munich was not Vietnam was not Gulf War I was not Gulf War II is not Libya. And who knows, maybe if the American empire should last for another 30 years, people will look back and still say "this was one of its better hours."

For some reason, I keep thinking of a passage from the novel Catch-22 (and I quote almost verbatim):
Colonel Cathcart had courage. He was never afraid to volunteer his men for any assignment.
For what it's worth, I am not a pacifist--I'm not even a "functional pacifist"--but before we start polishing off our dusty copies of the Declaration of Independence and Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, maybe we should realize that war, even if it's for the best and engaged in to prevent even greater evils than may already be happening, comes at the cost of suffering and the cost of being the ones to inflict suffering.

There are none righteous, no, not one. There's only us, and we're all too human.

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