‘an open letter to the left on libya’

Juan Cole: As I expected, now that Qaddafi’s advantage in armor and heavy weapons is being neutralized by the UN allies’ air campaign, the liberation movement is regaining lost territory….

I am unabashedly cheering the liberation movement on, and glad that the UNSC-authorized intervention has saved them from being crushed …

…On the surface, the situation in Libya a week and a half ago posed a contradiction between two key principles of Left politics: supporting the ordinary people and opposing foreign domination of them. Libya’s workers and townspeople had risen up to overthrow the dictator in city after city … even in the capital of Tripoli, working-class neighborhoods such as Suq al-Jumah and Tajoura had chased out the secret police….

…The United Nations Security Council authorization for UN member states to intervene to forestall this massacre thus pitched the question. If the Left opposed intervention, it de facto acquiesced in Qaddafi’s destruction of a movement embodying the aspirations of most of Libya’s workers and poor, along with large numbers of white collar middle class people. Qaddafi would have reestablished himself, with the liberation movement squashed like a bug and the country put back under secret police rule…

The arguments against international intervention are not trivial, but they all did have the implication that it was all right with the world community if Qaddafi deployed tanks against innocent civilian crowds just exercising their right to peaceful assembly and to petition their government…

Some have charged that the Libya action has a Neoconservative political odor. But the Neoconservatives hate the United Nations and wanted to destroy it. They went to war on Iraq despite the lack of UNSC authorization, in a way that clearly contravened the UN Charter…. …The Libya action, in contrast, observes all the norms of international law and multilateral consultation that the Neoconservatives despise.

The intervention in Libya was done in a legal way. It was provoked by a vote of the Arab League, including the newly liberated Egyptian and Tunisian governments. It was urged by a United Nations Security Council resolution, the gold standard for military intervention.

….To make ‘anti-imperialism’ trump all other values in a mindless way leads to frankly absurd positions…. ..in Libya intervention was demanded by the people being massacred as well as by the regional powers, was authorized by the UNSC, and could practically attain its humanitarian aim of forestalling a massacre through aerial bombardment of murderous armored brigades.

…I would like to urge the Left to learn to chew gum and walk at the same time. It is possible to reason our way through, on a case-by-case basis, to an ethical progressive position that supports the ordinary folk in their travails in places like Libya. If we just don’t care if the people of Benghazi are subjected to murder and repression on a vast scale, we aren’t people of the Left. We should avoid making ‘foreign intervention’ an absolute taboo the way the Right makes abortion an absolute taboo if doing so makes us heartless….

Read the full letter here


Thank you so much for the link Suzanne, this is just brilliant …. although I suspect it will make Juan Cole an even bigger hate figure for the Professional Left than he already is. Their rage at the international community (especially President Obama, of course) for stepping in to stop the slaughter of the innocent is a sight to behold.

28 Responses to “‘an open letter to the left on libya’”

  1. 1 Tulips
    March 27, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    This was posted at dkos i have’nt been there in a long time. being noisy i clicked to read the comment at the start it was’nt many. They hate when you call them out for being wrong.

  2. 3 Fred
    March 27, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    this is indeed B.R.I.L.L.I.A.N.T 😀

    and the PL needs to sthu about President Obama

    • 4 Sue in Minnesota
      March 27, 2011 at 5:23 pm

      The PL needs to defend their positions in light of the inhumanity of non-intervention. They have been exposed as both hypocritical and opportunistic. Anti-Obama sentiment seems to be the sole driver of the PL bus. Their intellect and principle have been short changed by their emotional immaturity, and their estrangement from reality.

  3. 5 Dorothy Rissman
    March 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Chips, I loved the article. I also read all of the comments. It was pretty much what I expected. Half were Obama is just like George Bush. Libya equals Iraq. There were many comments that supported the actions taken by the UN and AEU. The following comment was the last comment, and I was particularly taken by it.

    03/27/2011 at 12:14 pm

    Superbly well said, sir. You have caught the dilemma faced by many on the Left, argued down those who are simply incapable of seeing the differences between this intervention and Iraq, and exposed a good deal of the whining on the Left as either groundless or hypocritical. The reason I no longer comment on or associate with sites like e.g. Balloon-Juice is that they refuse to think through their arguments, and have no plan for the future beyond deploying snark and clutching their pearls when Obama acts for the greater good of the global community. I have been and remain proudly of the Left, but I can no longer abide those who want the Left to be eternal victims of their own self-righteousness.


    • 6 Suzanne
      March 27, 2011 at 3:42 pm

      Excellent comment, Dorothy. Thanks! I’ve gotten so I don’t even read them anymore, let alone leave one. Comments like these are particularly powerful to me — succinct and to the point.

      • 7 Dorothy Rissman
        March 27, 2011 at 4:30 pm

        thanks suzanne. Believe me it was nothing like DK comments. I am so glad I finally woke up to the the left. They operate within a tiny little space where if you break with left idioms, you are dirt.

  4. March 27, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    wash Juan Cole hated before his comments on Libya? I noticed that some critics of the intervention said they took pause once they learned Juan Cole was for the military action. As if to say, ‘well if Juan Cole is for it then maybe its not so bad.’

    This issue with Libya should be a teachable moment for the Left. This issue more than any other really exposed their hypocrisy. It really shows that their ideology is more important than the people.

    • 9 Dorothy Rissman
      March 27, 2011 at 4:37 pm

      gobrooklyn, The left operates with their own set of old saws to explain everything ie., war is bad.

      Professor Cole is respected by many. He is a lefty scholar, but he is also sane and know when the left has lost their collective mind. I fear they are not adult enough to break out of their limited ability to expand their ideology. They have no flexibility.

    • 10 Eleroy
      March 28, 2011 at 1:50 am

      It’s not “ideologyy”!!! For many of them, it’s now about destroying President Obama’s presidency and they are seriously obsessed with the idea!!! They are idle and petty and they are racists!!!

      Nothing President Obama does will ever be enough or right for them!!! They are on the same page with the right wingers and that is all anyone needs to know about them and what they are about

  5. 11 Suzanne
    March 27, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    To me, one part of the polarization we are seeing in this country is due to people seeing the world in black and white terms. And to them, it’s either their way or you’re wrong. We don’t live in a black and white world and we are lucky enough to have a president who looks at situations as they are and looks for the most powerful way to find solutions. Thank you, Mr. President!

    And on another note — even though I have liked Mother Jones since the 60’s, I don’t usually go their site. I did a week or two ago and noticed a donate button. I donated a small amount to them. Juan Cole has a donate button, too and I donated when I read his Letter to the Left. I started looking whenever I go to site. I usually like Steve Benen and there is a donate button there, too. I’m sure Washington Monthly tracks where that donation originates. It just seems like a very positive way to encourage good, honest reporting. If this is a trend, then I like it. It supports views that corporations might not want heard and it doesn’t take that much per person to make a big impact.

    I certainly appreciated Cole’s well-thought out view.

    • 12 Sue in Minnesota
      March 27, 2011 at 5:50 pm

      Suzanne, I agree that black and white thinking is completely unrealistic in a fluid, dynamic and complicated world. Ideals and reality are not the same…….ideals are not of the real world, and with out reality no approach is going to resolve a problem.
      Not only do you have to grasp reality you have to accept that it is what it is.

    • 13 Theo67
      March 27, 2011 at 8:07 pm

      Yes, I’ve started to do that, too. I’m sure it makes a difference. A little bit every so often, to keep the honest and fair voices out there.

  6. March 27, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    It is, indeed, a sight to behold. Obama-Hate is a very powerful drug, i guess.


  7. 15 Dorothy Rissman
    March 27, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Here is a recent article explaining the situation in Libya. The rebels are gaining tons of ground.


    • 16 majii
      March 27, 2011 at 4:57 pm

      I read this article this morning, Dorothy, and I am really impressed with the tenacity of the rebels. All they needed was a chance to fight for their freedom, and just the fact that many on the left opposed any type of intervention on their behalf has caused me to question whether they are true liberals or not. A true liberal doesn’t sit and watch a leader kill his own citizens and do nothing about it. This tells me alot about the PL, the firebaggers, and the frustrati crew, and none of it good. They seem to be as authoritarian in nature as the tea partiers and the conservatives with their “my way or the highway mentality.” Juan Cole did a great job of explaining in plain language why they are wrong about PBO’s actions on the situation in Libya. Now it’s time for them to take a chill pill. Every action of the president is NOT a cause for throwing a tantrum.

  8. 18 Asher in Boston
    March 27, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    I have pretty much given up on the Left whiners.

    • 19 majii
      March 27, 2011 at 5:00 pm

      And so have I, Asher. I became so disgusted with them last year, that I stopped listening to anything they have to say. All I saw in them was an endless stream of emotional outrage, and it almost got on my last nerve. That may work for some, but it’s not for me.

  9. 20 Dorothy Rissman
    March 27, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Speaking of people not supporting our PBO–I saw a link to this on BWD. It is very moving and very strong. Another poem about Obama.

    • 21 Dorothy Rissman
      March 27, 2011 at 5:53 pm

      I did not mean for it to be displayed in this way. If it is a problem, someone let me know.

      • 22 Hachikō
        March 27, 2011 at 8:51 pm

        Thanks for posting that, Dorothy. Any idea who he is? Every word he said is righteous.

      • 23 Eleroy
        March 28, 2011 at 2:41 am

        This was phenomenal!!! Every single word of it!!! But I especially like these:

        But I’m not even going to harp on the fact
        That a lot of my president’s opponents are racist
        Because ninety-nine percent of the ones
        Who venerate James Earl Ray
        Will deny it every time
        Even though I read your blogs and your comments
        And your posts on YouTube
        And I saw the video on YouTube
        Of the eight year old angel
        At the McCain rally
        The one who held her father’s hand
        And looked right at the camera and said
        A monkey can’t be president
        And her whole family laughed
        Because she was as cute as a button
        And I had to laugh too
        Cause you said you’d never stoop
        To racism and bigotry
        Nuh uh. Of course not. Not you
        Get your David Duke looking-ass back in the closet
        Cause I’m not even talking to you

        My beef is with the folks who cast the right vote in 2008
        But in 2010 they thinking it’s time for another change
        I’m talking about the ones who stood to be counted when he told us “Yes I can!”
        But you didn’t take a stand one year later when parents plucked their kids from school
        So they wouldn’t hear the president’s education speech
        You didn’t take a stand when Sarah Palin hit the tour circuit
        And the tea party sprouted and grew
        And Glen Beck promised America gloom and doom
        You sat back and listened to the smears and the lies
        When they questioned his citizenship and found a way to demonize
        Something as simplistic as health care for everyone
        You sat idly by
        When they told you Obama was setting up death panels
        That would decide when your Grammy lived and died
        You sat idly by

        And I can’t complain too much ’cause I sat idly by too
        But today I’m pulling out my soap box
        And I’m yelling from my stoop
        And I’m taking a stand – like you should
        But I don’t care if you do
        Sarah Palin is an idiot
        Rush Limbaugh’s a liar
        Glen Beck is a fearmonger
        And McCain needs to retire
        And fuck you, America, for feeding my president to the lions
        I got Obama’s back!
        I’m down like four flat tires


        Everyone click on it and like this poem!!! Also leave the guy a word of encouragement and support. Very deserving!!!

        • 24 Dorothy Rissman
          March 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm

          Someone on BWD shared the Darrian ? Obama you pretty mother facker guys. It was on right side of Darrian’s famous video.

          It is righteous. I sent it to a whole ton of people.

          • 25 Dorothy Rissman
            March 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm

            Actually the above was meant hachiko. As to what you said. Thank you Eleroy. And I am going to print out the words above and keep it near my computer. The guy was great.

  10. 26 cat48
    March 27, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    This has been a rough week. I can’t even turn the TV on to catch some news b/c someone from the PL or the Goopers are constantly attacking my president. I know military actions are controversial, but I agree with Mr. Cole. How can anyone set and watch the citizens of Bengahzi be slaughtered if you can prevent it? There were hundreds of tanks, artillery launchers, etc. lined up outside of the city and Gaddaffi had promised to go room to room; closet to closet. That’s some frightening stuff to me. Our carriers were already in the area. Destroying the weapons, tanks, etc. outside the city was the least we could do. He was given fair warning to pull back. Guess Dictators may pay more attention next time the UN & the prez give a 24 hr warning.

    I think the president would have been screamed at just as fiercely by both groups if he had done nothing. They would have hung the “Slaughter” around the president’s neck. Their behavior is very predictable now.

  11. 27 WalkingOnSunshine
    March 27, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Pay no attention to the whiners and the haters. Obama is a hero.

Comments are currently closed.







Enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts by email.



RSS Obama White House.gov

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS WH Tumblr

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Steve Benen

  • 'We do have a rule of law here': Why Justice Dept. should act if Meadows ignores subpoena
  • Alexander Vindman: Meeting with Putin 'occurred about as good as it needed to'
  • Instagram CEO to testify before Congress on safety of teen users
  • Young Democrats are more likely to despise the other party, according to polling
  • Biden, Putin set for call amid growing tensions over Ukraine



Blog Stats

  • 43,153,535 hits

%d bloggers like this: