« Bibi or President Obama - Let America choose. | Main | "Sharpsburg" »

08 August 2015


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

FB Ali

There is no "limited, targeted correction" possible when you knock over a beehive. It will only make matters worse, apart from the "correcting" power getting unpleasantly stung.

The major lesson is: don't commit such a "blunder" in the first place. The days are gone when "imperial" powers could play around with other peoples like castles built in the sand.


I beg to disagree with your view of French success in Mali. As long as you have foreign troops in Mali you've failed.

Remove the French and UN troops which is a drain of resources for France and the African countries involved what would happen?

We only have to go back to May to see this:

Are the separatist now willing to bleed to keep the Islamic militia at bay in Northern Mali. The teeny 7.500 man Mali army are not up to the task. So it all comes down to if the Separatist have gotten a deal they will fight for. Else you just have another Afghanistan which can drag on for years.


Isn't there a substantial difference between the French efforts in Mali, on the one hand, and Libya and Syria on the other. In the former, the French have acted to support a duly recognized government against Jihadis whereas in Libya and Syria, the French intervened, in Libya successfully, to bring down secular dictatorships and, thus, unwittingly unleashed the Jihadi and Salafist forces that have created the current chaos in both countries.

If the French intervene robustly now in Libya as suggested, wouldn't the likely local reaction to the re-imposition of a neo-colonial regime be more closely akin to the Algerian insurgency than any road back to stability asa posited in the proffered solution above.

One question, if it were so well-known that the initial uprising in Benghazi-Derna was Salafist-Jihadi organized and fueled, why did we and the French and British intervene under the guise of R2P to protect the so-called innocent democracy builders in Libya in 2011? Willful ignorance or willful arrogance, or both?


Libya is not one country but two (or if you include the South three) with a lot of real, uninhabited desert between them. So the plan would be attack the East. This would allow West Libya to liberate itself from East Libyan occupation. Then pull back from East Libya as West Libya is strong enough to defend itself from East Libya. Then wait


If the western world keeps this up, we will eventually render the rest of the world into a bunch of Lichtenstein sized countries. We can call it "Lichtensteining" a place.

And maybe that's not such a bad thing?


Having spent months out of every year since 2010 in neighboring Tunisia, I have witnessed firsthand the ramifications of the Libyan debacle on the country, which has a history of economic interdependence with Libya with hundreds of thousands of educated Tunisians working in Libya and Libyans historically using Tunisia as a place to receive medical care,services etc. The initial 2010-2012 welcoming of the millions of "moneyed" Libyan middle class escaping the war into tunisia has since given way to resentment and disillusionment, with the dismemberment of Libya having an intense economic effect on Tunisia. The restriction of trade between the two countries(the short libyan-tunisian border is divided between 2, depending on how you count 3 political factions),the witnessed effect of the mass influx of weaponry from the Libyan conflict into what was erstwhile the most gun free per capita country in the world, the beach at Sousse and Bardo attest to the important and sharp consequences of blowback! I fear that until said blowback is sufficient to truly traumatize the powers that be shall they take note, at great detriment to the innocent in the meanwhile

Babak Makkinejad

Not going to happen.

Likely what would happen is the emergence of large military blocs as smaller states run to larger states for protection.

Potentially, this could lead to a state of permanent war between these large blocks - as depicted in thee book "1984".

Babak Makkinejad

And Malians are not Arabs - a much harder nut to crack.

Babak Makkinejad

I agree.

This is like what you hear sometimes in India or in Nigeria; "Bring the English back and they would put an end to all of this."

Those days are gone.

Babak Makkinejad

Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Nigeria, and South Africa have had the political wherewithal to have used the Organization of Islamic Conference or the African Union to try to bring the factions together.

But they did not.

It shows the extent to which all these non-Western states are dependent on US and EU - the erstwhile "White Man" to do something positive.

They are pathetic.


I can see that possibility, Babak. And I can see it setting up yet another set of alliances and mutual defense agreements that would involve even more wars. It would be like Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August.

“in the midst of war and crisis nothing is as clear or as certain as it appears in hindsight”


I'm in favor of the technique of repeatedly introducing spl &/or combat forces in support of an allied that is suffering from attack by core adversaries of ours. We go in, suppress, & then leave as fast as possible. Over & over and then maybe the bad guys will get it (if not really get it) and relent from warfare. They go away, or reform. Getting one's ass kicked in serial fashion might just work, be less expensive, & maybe we can even get over pontificating about our exceptional values and righteous wonderfulness... just get the job done & stand aside.

The Librarian in Purgatory

Having spent some time in the AO I can tell you that the views expressed in this piece could not be more simplistic or further from the truth-- a link/association diagram of the dizzying array of groups in play, across the political/ideological spectrum, would make your head spin. Such simplistic views are what created the disaster that is now Libya in the first place, much of that led by France and the R2P-ers in the WH.

This is exasperated by a paucity of accurate reporting from Libya in the west. A brief example would be the Libyan National Army (LNA). It is neither primarily Libyan (a number of foreign mercenaries), certainly not national, and not an "army" by any stretch of the word but a confluence of tribal and militia influences and agendas. Another example would be daesh in LY. The term covers, and does not differentiate between ISIS proper, Libyans who have ostensibly pledged allegiance to ISIS, and those who use the label as a cover for other political purposes, especially former regime loyalists out of Sirte.

The failure to see, realize, or make these kinds of distinctions will result in actions that do not take into account the ground truth, not as seen through western perceptions, but as it actually is.

robt willmann

There appears to be no reunification of Libya on the horizon. I do not know the history of how it became more or less a country. If a central government of sorts comes into being, it would have to be through persons who know the social and cultural traditions well in order to get enough people to go along with some new, country-wide organization.

A perceptive essay written in the 1500's discusses how it is through voluntary agreement and consent, overall, that a central government, including the government of a tyrant, comes into existence and remains in existence. Etienne de la Boetie, a Frenchman, wrote it and it can be found here, with the links to the three parts at the bottom of the webpage; it is entitled "The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude"--


It can be downloaded as a pdf file as well, and the essay proper starts on pdf page 38--


While on the subject of Libya, an important question is, where is Libya's gold? After Gaddafi -- who talked about creating a gold-backed dinar -- was killed, what happened to the gold? It may not all have been in Libya when the country came apart, with some of it possibly at the Bank of England for "safekeeping" (laugh, laugh). But that is a current and important question, which is pertinent to other countries where "kinetic activity" has taken place, and in those where it has not, such as Germany.

Mostly off topic...but today (8 August) Roger Stone -- the long time political operator and friend and admirer of Richard Nixon -- quit helping the Donald Trump presidential primary campaign and resigned. Trump, of course, has apparently said that Stone was fired. Stone's announcement is here--


A New York Times newspaper story discusses it (your web browser has to have "cookies" on to get to the page)--


Roger Stone was interviewed on CNN this afternoon about it and the discussion is in two parts--




I quite agree with FB Ali and Babak!

And to generalize a bit, and riff off the title of this post... not every problem has a solution. In fact my observation is that there are many more problems that are unsolvable than ones that are solvable. Furthermore, big picture thinking (with simple narratives) is quite overrated in it's usefulness, IMO.

Just because a problem seems solvable in theory doesn't mean that real life will have anything to to with that drawing board. Oftentimes the best you can do is try to make some changes at the fringes, try to nudge a certain trend, or try to entice or incentivize certain behaviors and conditions.

Although the quote below is referring to the field of technology rather than foreign policy, I think the points he makes are relevant.

Recasting all complex social situations either as neat problems with definite, computable solutions or as transparent and self-evident processes that can be easily optimized--if only the right algorithms are in place!--this quest is likely to have unexpected consequences that could eventually cause more damage than the problems they seek to address. I call the ideology that legitimizes and sanctions such aspirations "solutionism." I borrow this unabashedly pejorative term from the world of architecture and urban planning, where it has come to refer to an unhealthy preoccupation with sexy, monumental, and narrow-minded solutions--the kind of stuff that wows audiences at TED Conferences--to problems that are extremely complex, fluid, and contentious. These are the kinds of problems that, on careful examination, do not have to be defined in the singular and all-encompassing ways that "solutionists" have defined them; what's contentious, then, is not their proposed solution but their very definition of the problem itself. Design theorist Michael Dobbins has it right: solutionism presumes rather than investigates the problems that it is trying to solve, reaching "for the answer before the questions have been fully asked." How problems are composed matters every bit as much as how problems are resolved.

excerpted from Evgeny Morozov’s book “To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism” http://bit.ly/1DyQr2i


Are you talking about Omar Mukhtarization?


Modern Libyan state was born out of anti-fascist / anti-colonial struggle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omar_Mukhtar

David Habakkuk


From a 1986 interview with the former British Defence Secretary Denis Healey on McNamara and nuclear strategy:

'many of these problems are intellectually insoluble. What you hope to do, as with many problems in life, is to survive the problems rather than solve them intellectually, and Bob always believed a little bit too much in tidy solutions. He also believed in numbers, which is a great mistake, because verbs and adjectives and nouns are much more important than numbers in the real world.'

(See http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/wpna-32d67c-interview-with-denis-healey-1986 .)

Looking at the same question another way, one can say that a great deal of the time policymakers face choices which have a certain 'devil or the deep blue sea', or 'should it be the frying pan or are we better off jumping into the fire', quality.

If one problem is certainly 'solutionism' in itself, one also needs to look at the dynamics of processes of argument. Commonly, it is not in the interests of politicians seeking election to say: well actually, there is not much we can do about this problem, and if we get overoptimistic about our chances of making matters better we will almost certainly make them worse, and possibly a great deal more so.

Also, if one is arguing for the devil, as against the deep blue sea, it is natural to paint the former in the blackest colours, and be perhaps a tad optimistic about how good one is at swimming – and the same holds in reverse.

And this takes one back to the kind of questions dealt with in the Healey interview.

To understand the neocons, one needs to grasp that they started out as PR men for a tradition of thinking about nuclear strategy which comes out of the NSC 68 paper masterminded in April 1950 by Paul Nitze. Quite commonly, both defenders and critics of the paper miss a great deal of its complexity.

So for example, in his 1982 study 'Strategies of Containment', the historian John Lewis Gaddis displayed his absolute strategic illiteracy by by accusing Nitze and his colleagues of ignoring the vast American superiority in military-industrial potential. In fact a central point of their analysis was that a Soviet nuclear, and even more thermonuclear, capability would inevitably call into question what had been a decisive advantage of the United States in two world wars.

As long as the worst any pre-emptive attack by an enemy could do was Pearl Harbour, a high level of permanent peacetime readiness was unnecessary. The possibility of an all-out pre-emptive attack on the American military-industrial base changed the equation radically.

In the event, for complex reasons, Nitze and his colleagues decided the appropriate solution involved attempting to maintain a high level of permanent conventional military readiness. In part, ironically, they were animated by objections, both practical and also moral, to the 'Douhetist' enthusiasms of figures like Curtis Le May. It was this strand in NSC 68 which was resurrected by McNamara with 'flexible response'.

But part of the price that was paid for NSC 68 was that propaganda contaminated analysis, while Soviet purposes came to be defined in terms of an American nationalist vision of in which demonic figures are always resisting the irresistible onward march of 'freedom'.

It is the fact that the NSC 68 vision was taken to have been vindicated by the retreat and collapse of Soviet power which has brought disaster on us all. When in the 1996 'Clean Break' paper Perle and his associates painted a rosy view of a Middle East transformed so as to make it friendly to Israel, while at the same time painting the countries' opponents in such apocalyptic colours that no accommodation with them was worth considering, they were taking a leaf out of the NSC 68 playbook.

The result has been that rather than the relatively manageable 'frying pan' of autocratic and repressive nationalist regimes, we have jumped into the 'fire' of failed or failing states which are an ideal breeding ground for jihadists. This is a disaster for the United States and the West Europeans, and may in the end be a disaster for Israel and also not exactly good news for many Jews outside it.

Babak Makkinejad

The Idrisi Sufi Order was responsible for the creation of Libya.

I think Qaddafi destroyed that order.



If you check the link to the right labeled "Libya" you'll see some of the tribal complexity has been discussed here before.

Babak Makkinejad

NATO states destroyed the experiment of statehood in Libya - a territory that only began experiencing a Modern State in 1951 - based on the working models West of the Diocletian Line.

For more than 2000 years, there was never a state on the that territory.

NATO states destroyed a "solution", one cannot expect them to replace it with another one at any acceptable costs to them; likewise in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Kosovo etc.

I think it might be useful for NATO states to bring the "English" back and let those sensible Englishmen formulate and execute the EU foreign policy - the former Colonial Office had a much better track record at state formation than any other government organ or organization since 1950.


No. But his is a revealing story. My point is about unburdening US military practice from techniques that are set from on-high among policy makers. Further, it seems Italy under Facism was seeking a "neoclassic" colonial empire. In the present US context, I am suggesting that military forces be used for specific military ends, get that done, then leave. Yet willing to return to repeat the exercise as often as required for our adversaries to realize they can't succeed in the long run, so they might as well "go legit". I'm sure it's imperfect, there are always exceptions. But we could use a few alternatives to the Forever Wars that are wearing done our Nation, accomplishing no real & lasting good.


By accident then. Divide and rule was the purpose of the English.

Problem with European foreign policy is that there is no unity in it. It is just captured by a small group and because they are a small group they can't be honest why they do most things, even to their self. And failure is almost assured when you lie to yourself.


I would think that might be the best real option the US has left.

America has never been exceptional at diplomacy or negotiation IMO.

That and the current mediocrity of American politicians coupled with the state of the economy and other domestic issues hinder America's ability to sell itself as the "Shining City on the Hill."

An old British teacher/mentor of mine used to say America's primary power was always economic vice military or diplomatic and constantly harped on the fact "We don't have any money!"

There is no question the US has the world's strongest military but a general lack of public tolerance for casualties and extended operations plus the earlier mentioned issues make any big war and/or nation building project undoable IMO.

Babak Makkinejad

The English created the following states:

South Africa,
New Zealand,
and a number of mini-states in the Caribbean Sea.

Their record of success is state (nation) building is unmatched.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad