Libya: a legitimate and necessary debate from an anti-imperialist perspective

Gilbert Achcar,
Le Monde Diplomatique.

First published in Znet March 2011 – we believe is still of interest as it poses a methodology of how to approach such issues, without necessarily endorsing all its arguments.

The interview I gave to my good friend Steve Shalom the day after the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1973 and which was published on ZNet on March 19 provoked a storm of discussions and statements of all kinds — friendly, unfriendly, strongly supportive, mildly supportive, politely critical or frenziedly hostile — far larger than anything I could have expected, all the larger because it was translated and circulated into several languages. If this is an indication of anything, it is that people felt there was a real issue at stake. So let’s discuss it.

The debate on the Libyan case is a legitimate and necessary one for those who share an anti-imperialist position, lest one believes that holding a principle spares us the need to analyze concretely each specific situation and determine our position in light of our factual assessment. Every general rule admits of exceptions. This includes the general rule that UN-authorized military interventions by imperialist powers are purely reactionary ones, and can never achieve a humanitarian or positive purpose. Just for the sake of argument: if we could turn back the wheel of history and go back to the period immediately preceding the Rwandan genocide, would we oppose an UN-authorized Western-led military intervention deployed in order to prevent it? Of course, many would say that the intervention by imperialist/foreign forces risks making a lot of victims. But can anyone in their right mind believe that Western powers would have massacred between half a million and a million human beings in 100 days?

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