A fundamental unseriousness


If it had the slightest interest in such things, chavismo could build an honest, cogent, powerful case against international intervention in Libya.

It could point out the thicket of contradictions that has led the United States to, at once, attack one Arab government (Libya) that is murdering its pro-democracy demonstrators while continuing to send weapons and “development aid” to another Arab government (Yemen) that is murdering its pro-democracy demonstrators.

It could note that Europe is now fighting an army equipped with European weapons bought with the proceeds of oil sales to Europe – a creature very much of its own making.

It could skewer the myth of “Arab support” for the intervention, pointing out the way governments busy violently squashing their own pro-democracy movements – Syria, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrein – had the tremendous balls to vote to request a no-fly zone over a country doing the same thing – though, admittedly on a much bigger scale.

It could ask whether those governments aren’t simply working to deflect attention from their own authoritarian outrages by keeping Al Jazeera and the BBC focused squarely on Libya … and out of their hair.

It could point to the extraordinary position of the Saudi theomonarchy, which is now supporting two interventionist adventures at once: one to quash the democratic aspirations of Bahreinis, the other to stop Gaddhafi from quashing the democratic aspirations of Libyans.

It could note what a funny coincidence it is that the U.S. only seems to mount its enormously high horse to attack its enemies, but continues to support its allies as they do more or less the same thing.

Chavismo could, in other words, make a serious, honest, bracing critique of the U.N.-mandated intervention in Libya.

But it won’t.

In order to make that critique, it would have to face facts it remains ideologically committed to ignoring. It won’t because it lacks the intellectual integrity to squarely acknowledge Gaddhafi’s indiscriminate use of military weapons against civilians.

It won’t because it has chosen to potray a sophomoric, deeply ahistorical narrative of the conflict where the allies are only out to get Libya’s oil … as though Repsol, Wintershall, Total, Eni, OMV, Shell, the Oasis Group, Chevron, Marathon, ExxonMobil, and BP hadn’t been getting Libya’s oil just fine for the last eight years thankyouverymuch.

It won’t because Chávez remains determined to question the one aspect of the attack that’s actually beyond doubt: its international legality.

It won’t because it lacks even the modicum of seriousness it takes to act minimally responsibly on the international stage. Because it insists on treating the truth as a kind of play-doh to be moulded arounds its ideological pre-commitments.

It won’t, in the end, because Hugo Chávez’s principled refusal to let reality dictate terms to him is different from Muammar Gaddhafi’s only in degree, not in kind.

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  1. “Only in degree” you are quite right. It is amazing how close and yet far apart the two regimes are, as if Gaddafi’s were a rehersal of Chavesismo: nationalism, populism and origin-ism, both very tribal.

  2. An excellent post! You are exactly right about Chavez’s juvenile position, “the imperio wants the oil!!!” If he had his way, intervention by the UN Security Council, totally legal per international law, would not be allowed anywhere some authoritarian regime was sitting on oil.

    I support the UN intervention in Libya, because I think the core reality is that there is a vast wave of pro-democratic revolt coursing through the Arab world, and that allowing Gaddafi to crush it will have repercussions everywhere. THEN there will be no argument against the Saudis crushing their people, or Bahrainis.

    You are totally right to point to the “thicket of contradictions”, but in the real world the important thing is to do the best thing, not the one which does not give rise to contradictions, because EVERY policy does. Not intervene in Libya? Well, why did you intervene in Yugoslavia, then?

  3. Sin desperdicio… también la oposición podría ver esto como una oportunidad para demostrar seriedad, pausa y criterio para opinar en temas internacionales. Pero seguramente lo simplificaran de la misma forma que Chávez. Que ladilla sueno como un nini.

      • How about a nini who may equally hate Chavismo and oppo politics, but is a sure voto for opposition in the event of an election? A person who hates Álvarez Paz’s, Enrique Mendoza’s and El Tigre’s guts, but would nevertheless vote for any of them if the alternative was Chavismo? Yeah, I know: that’s not a nini.

        Well, there are more of us.

  4. When you ignore all the ideological posturing and the political hot-air-mongering, there’s one explicit, concise, unavoidable difference between what Gaddhafi did and what the other governments oppressing pro-democracy demonstrators did that justifies action in one case but not the other: Gaddhafi used the air force.

    I’m not saying that fact makes too much less hypocritical, but it does make a big difference. Not to the pro-democracy demonstrators being shot with machine guns instead of bombed from MIGs, of course. But to the international laws and agreements, there’s a huge difference between claiming that demonstrators where “accidentally shot” while the police/armed forces where trying to restore order, and claiming that you were “forced” to use airplanes to bomb your own citizens to restore order. The use of the air force to deal with civilians, no matter how unruly they might be, is simply out of the question.

    And regarding the chavista’s treatment of the whole situation: at this point, do you really need more evidence that chavistas have the intellectual and emotional maturity of a 10-year-old child?

    • This I agree with.

      It’s tough, because it’s impossible to ignore the “frequito” you get seeing Gaddhafi bombed. But c’mon…

      • “It won’t because it lacks even the modicum of seriousness it takes to act minimally responsibly on the international stage. Because it insists on treating the truth as a kind of plasticine to be moulded arounds its ideological pre-commitments”

        Is it a lack of responsibility or a crazy coherence subsidized by oil?

  5. “Chavismo could – if it had the slightest interest in such things – build an honest, cogent, powerful case against international intervention in Libya.”

    Not if they followed your line of reasoning they couldn’t.

    “It could note what a funny coincidence it is that the U.S. only seems to mount its enormously high horse to attack its enemies, but continues to support its allies as they do more or less the same thing.”

    Really? I guess you didn’t notice that the Arab leader most supported by the US (if we equate aide with support) is now gone, the second dictator swept out by this democracy movement.

    “It could point out the thicket of contradictions that has led the United States to, at once, attack one Arab government that is murdering its pro-democracy demonstrators (Libya’s) while continuing to send weapons and “development aid” to another Arab government that is murdering its pro-democracy demonstrators (Yemen’s).”

    How the U.S. will ultimately respond to what is going on in Yemen, which is at a much earlier stage and much smaller than what has happened in Libya, is yet to be seen. Violence in Yemen on the scale of what we have been seeing in Libya for weeks, is only now beginning to appear – maybe.

    Moreover, this is very failed logic. If the western powers only help ONE country liberate itself is that somehow bad or not worthy of support? Put another way, if you do a good act for one entity does that mean you have to do it for every entity or the act wasn’t good and shouldn’t have been done? For instance, if I rush into a burning house to save someones life is that a bad act unless I rush into EVERY burning house I see?

    Clearly that is a logical fallacy. There isn’t anyone on the planet who won’t take whatever good acts they can get.

    In fact, that you are even taking pursuing this line of reasoning indicates that you must accept Chavez’s reasoning, that they are interested in capturing something of value in Libya, presumably oil. Only time will tell if that is accurate but there is currently no evidence of that – all indications so far are they are just weakening the Gaddaffi regime so that the Libyan rebels can take over.

    Are the western powers hypocritical and often out simply for themselves? Of course they are – there are many examples of that. But that is no reason to oppose them when they are doing something good (even if it is mallintioned – something we don’t know). Should 6 million Libyans not accept the western help and have to live under the Gadaffi regime another 42 years simply because those who are helping them don’t have the cleanest of hands? I think the answer to that is obvious.

    [A reverse example that can illustrate this is that in southern africa in the 1980s the ANC and SWAPO took aide from the Soviet Union and Cuba. Should we condemn them for that? No. They went to western governments for looking for support in their struggle against apartheid but didn’t get it so they took help from where they could get it (Cuba and the Soviet Union) as was their right to rid themselves of an oppressive regime.]

    In addition to being a logical fallacy your comparison with Yemen is also a factual fallacy because it could well be argued that so far ONLY the Libyans have been in a position to be helped. The rebels have lots of people on the ground willing to fight, control significant sections of the country, have made formal appeals for outside help, and could likely benefit from a simple application of airpower. For western countries who don’t want to send troops in to fight a war, nor have any interest in occupying a country, but are willing to use air power this makes perfect sense.

    In Yemen there is no insurgent army nor any insurgent held territory so air power can’t do much of anything – it has nothing to support.

    Finally, I would add that if the western powers really wanted to make sure the other rancid regimes around the Middle East survived they would let Gadaffi finish off the rebels which he looked to be on the verge of doing. Letting him kill everyone and sending the clear signal to every other country that you can be as violent and murderous as you want would be the quickest and surest way to stop the pro-democracy wave sweeping the region. In point of fact, up until three days ago that is exactly what it looked like they were doing!!!!!

    Personally, I don’t think it is any accident that the government in Bahrain got very violent once they saw the Libyan government being able to successfully use violence against its population. Nor do I think it an accident that after the west finally made it clear it would stand up to Qaddaffi that demonstrations started breaking out in Syria too!!

    Clearly, this is not an optimal situation. It would have been better if the Libyan rebels could have triumphed on their own. They have shown tremendous courage and determination but they couldn’t overcome a government that was ruthless in its violence and willing to bring in foreign mercenaries to slaughter them. Nevertheless, for anyone who supporters freedom, democracy and self determination I think it pretty clear on this day, March 20th, 2011, which side they should be supporting.

    • OW
      Although FT was playing Devils Advocate as a way of showing how Chavez could better argue against intervention in Libya, your comment helps shut down most of those possible arguments.

      One thing I found interesting in your comment is how the Libyan rebels were in a unique (and maybe rare) position to be helped by military foreign intervention and also how that intervention may help spark protests in other countries. I wonder if other movements will try to put themselves in the same position and how (perhaps by trying to ‘liberate’ cities or capture strongholds). I also imagine that Kadafi’s over the top, criminal response was a key factor that necessitated the foreign intervention and that other incumbents would take notice and follow a more moderate stance against rebels and civilians (which is not hard, since Kadafi’s response was so cruel and disproportionate that it even repulsed other Arab leaders).

      As I mentioned in a previous post, I oppose taking arms as a means of bringing about democracy, but not on moral reasons as some may think (or do) but because I believe non-violent struggle to be much more effective and to yield better results (I’m not a fundamentalist either). In that sense, it seems to me that if other liberation movements try to follow the Libyan example and turn into armed rebellions (maybe expecting foreign intervention or government leniency) that would instead slow down the liberation process for them.

      Just a point of view. Willing to discuss.

      • Yes, I thought of that after I posted the comment – that maybe those are just theoretical arguements, not necessarily ones that he subscribes to. Though I do think he is against this military intervention as previously he indicated he only thought such interventions were justified in the case of genocide.
        I guess we’ll have to wait for him to tell us how he meant those points to be taken…

      • As I mentioned in a previous post, I oppose taking arms as a means of bringing about democracy, but not on moral reasons as some may think (or do) but because I believe non-violent struggle to be much more effective and to yield better results (I’m not a fundamentalist either).

        Amieres, as much as you, or anyone else, opposes taking arms as a means to bring about democracy, I rather call it “to reclaim encroached inalienable rights”, there’s no denying, as Obama famously said in his Nobel peace prize accepting speech, that there are plenty of deranged fellows in this world. Individuals that would not ponder for one second whether sending out planes, or activating Avila plans, to placate civil demonstrations is the correct thing to do. In such cases, non violent resistance achieves only the perpetuation of abuses, and loss of freedom. Therefore, I think it’s a mistake to try and apply non violent methods in every single case, for the reasons quoted by Obama: what would have happened to non violent protesters in Nazi Germany? Probably the same that’s happening to them in Libya.

        FT brought the issue of degrees of difference, rather than kind, in relation to Gadaffi’s and Chavez’s relation with reality . I couldn’t agree more, in fact, those two are as deluded as Castro, as Hitler, as Mugabe, there are the same kind of beast, that one has killed more than the other matter very little, for the difference lays between those who would never kill and those who do. Once that threshold is crossed, it doesn’t really matter whether the body count is 1, 20, 300, or 3 million.

        • There is a problem with armed resistance that non-violent methods don’t have:
          Attacking armed rebels doesn’t delegitimize the government one bit, specially in the eyes of the military. They can keep doing it all day and they are fine with it. They don’t have to think too hard about it.

          OTOH, attacking unarmed protesters repulses the military, makes them think, when they do it if they do it they do it reluctantly at first, then against their own will, until they can’t do it anymore and have to stop.

          Kadafi, Chávez, etal can be lunatics but not all their generals, colonels, captains, soldiers are. People have moral qualms about it, even the military.

          Let’s consider Venezuela for a moment. In 1989 Plan Avila was put into action for the first time, there were scores of deaths. Chavez, Rosendo, Vasquez, Lucas Rincon they all were there and saw what happened and they all learned from it. In 2002 Chávez the lunatic said: “common boys let’s do it again”. All his generals, including Lucás Rincón said no, they had developed a conscience. See, the first time in 1989 they thought they could do it, no problem, how hard can it be?, it’s just like killing guerrilla figthers, right?, it will toughen us, they’ll respect and fear us more. The second time around they KNEW they really didn’t want to do it. The second time around Chávez was delegitimized in the eyes of his own loyal generals just by ordering Plan Avila.

          The same thing happened in Benghazi, Egypt and it’s happening now in Yemen. Non violent protests can stop military action in a way that armed resistance cannot. And it’s not about parading in front of guns letting yourself be killed. Non violent protests can be carried in a multitude of ways and places that can keep the population safe. It’s all about making people lose their fear and speak out and demonstrate, until it seems that everybody is demonstrating. You know: “La cascada de deserciones”.

          Unfortunately when part of the opposition decides to take arms they become fair game for the military. The rest of the opposition just go home and wait for the outcome, no more “cascada”, no more defections. In fact no more protests either. The popular movement, in a way, is dead. Now it’s a civil war, and who has the advantage?

          • AIO while I can agree to some extent, in Libya the military started shooting at the unarmed protesters first, not the other way around. I read reports that those soldiers who refused to shoot were shot themselves (this happened in Benghazi). Also the government got around this by bringing in mercernaries to do the dirty work: no qualms about shooting unarmed civilians, that’s what they’re paid for.

            Finally, once the military units rebelled what are they supposed to do? Toss their weapons and away and join the protesters? AIO not every case can be made to fit the non-violent protester mold.

            Do you honestly believe non-violent protests against the Nazis would have gotten anywhere? How about Pol Pot? Rwanda? Sometimes the people in charge have NO conscience, at that point you have to start fighting for what you believe in or flee.

          • FC
            I’m amieres not AIO.
            It’s completely irrelevant who started the violence. In fact violence in 99% of cases is going to be started by the tyrants. Why? It’s in their advantage. If the protesters respond to violence with more violence, now the tyrant has no problem using the military against them. What was that problem? The military don’t like attacking unarmed pacific civilians. Now they’re armed they’re not civilians anymore, they’re combatants.

            You’re right when you say that’s why Kadafi decided to use mercenaries for the dirty work. It doesn’t involve the military directly although they probably don’t like it either.

            “once the military units rebelled what are they supposed to do? Toss their weapons and away and join the protesters?”

            This is a clever question and I was a surprised no one asked it before. You’re actually exactly right. They should’ve kept weapons only to fight the mercenaries but never the regular army.

            I’ll expand more later, I’m sorry but I need to go now.

          • But Amieres, if they keep their weapons, they are armed rebels by definition, the regular military units then must suppress rebel units. To maintain this pacifist stance they must toss away their weapons. As I mentioned before, soldiers that refused to shoot civilians were shot themselves. It is very obvious that in Libya there exist enough military officers and soldiers who have no qualms on shooting unarmed civilians; they at least form the majority.

            This should not be surprising, at the risk of sounding ignorant, Libya is composed of many tribes, maybe as long as the government sends a group of soldiers to suppress a tribe they have no ties with they won’t have any issues.

            Today another news report on Misurata was released where rebels came out unarmed and were cut down to pieces anyway despite the military announcing (yet another) ceasefire.

            Once again another example that not everything can be solved with non-violent protesting. In Libya at least, it’s clear that the majority of the military forces still supporting the regime have no issues in shooting unarmed civilians.

          • And here’s another thought: You mention that the dissenting military units must keep their weapons to fight against the mercenaries… well what if the OTHER military units are the ones shooting civilians, then the rebel military units MUST fight these regular army forces to protect the innocent civilians.

            No Amieres, this is wishful thinking. You seem convinced that eventually ALL of the military units would have eventually rebelled against Gaddafi if the firefights hadn’t started. Not so, many of them probably have a lot to lose if he is ousted and most likely a lot of them have committed many atrocities. Libya is NOT Egypt.

          • “You seem convinced that eventually ALL of the military units would have eventually rebelled against Gaddafi if the firefights hadn’t started”

            1) It doesn’t need to be ALL military units defecting just ENOUGH military units.
            2) No I cannot say I’m convinced ENOUGH military units would have defected. Maybe, maybe not. It did look good for a while, city after city was defecting, diplomats, ministers and military. Basically all that was left was Tripoli, but then the armed resistance started and now we’ll never know.
            3) Even if the possibilities of non violent resistance were small from the beginning they’re still much much better than those of armed resistance both in terms of suffering and effectiveness. I mean, isn’t it clear that armed resistance was doomed to failure? And catastrophical, massacre-level, maybe genocide-level failure. Only the saving grace of international military intervention was able to save them. Counting on foreign intervention as your only way to avoid a massacre it’s a very VERY risky gamble.

            “what if the OTHER military units are the ones shooting civilians, then the rebel military units MUST fight these regular army forces to protect the innocent civilians.”

            The first thing the defecting military should’ve done is abandon the military bases and join the peace protests. Defending from mercenaries it’s ok. Taking a military base and holding it as a fort is an armed rebellion.

            I know the following is controversial, but it’s the only way not to start a civil war: They should’ve handed peacefully the bases to the replacements sent by the government and talk to them at the same time try to get them to join their cause or at least tone down the violence. They should also talk to them to help them or at least let them suppress the mercenaries.

            “As I mentioned before, soldiers that refused to shoot civilians were shot themselves.”

            I’ve read those reports too, that happened in Benghazi. That for sure prompted the military to defect very rapidly in Benghazi.

            Regarding the massacre in Misurata, “once the cat it’s out of the bag …”. It’s not possible to start a non-violent struggle in a battlefield, first peace must be attained. There’s no rewinding of the war, that’s why the decision to take arms is not reversible (no hay marcha atras).

          • Amieres I sincerely hope that it never comes to violence in Venezuela. But you have not convinced me that non-violent struggle is ALWAYS applicable regardless of the situation (which is what you seem to espouse). You see, the very fact that you insist in this absolute makes me doubt it (nothing in the world is absolute nor black and white, each situation is unique). Obviously non-violent struggle was very successful in Egypt and other places and it’s great if it happens, but that’s not always possible so I’m skeptical when you declare: “This is the fault of the rebels for resorting to violence”.

            I need only look at history to know that Stalin died in a bed and war was necessary to stop Hitler. Partisans didn’t resort to protesting in town squares against Nazi occupation. Pol Pot was eventually expelled by foreign intervention.

            Your timelines ignore a very crucial fact: In Libya, the difference is that the government started shooting on a massive scale from the very beginning. They did not allow time for demonstrations to fester and grow, anyone protesting was cut down. From the very beginning you had reports of helicopters shooting at civilians, mercenaries brought in to specifically shoot protesters. If they had followed your advice of non-violent struggle I think we would have seen far far more deaths and no rebellion at all. Business as usual in Libya.

            Well I’m signing off on this. I disagree that in Libya this could have been peacefully negotiated, I think you do a disservice to those that fight for freedom in Libya by chastising them for resorting to violence. As Alek says: so who are the sacrificial lambs? How many have to be martyred before it’s enough?

          • FC
            1) I have NEVER put any blame or fault on the opposition or chastise them in any way for taking arms. I’ve just stated that it was a bad decision, an error. The blame for the violence is on Kadafi and no one else.

            Why is taking arms a bad decision? It’s the proverbial jumping from the pan into the fire. It’s a bad decision because you don’t go to war against a superior ruthless enemy. Period. Why is that not clear?
            Had it not been for foreign intervention all the rebels would’ve been killed by now. How is that better than non-violent struggle?
            It’s also a bad decision because it ends the non-violent struggle that was being very successful in Libya. In just a few days many people, from the top military chief in Libya to one of the sons of Kadafi had defected. The movement was successful in almost half of Libya and it was just starting, it was growing in strength and momentum.

            2) I have never said that non-violent struggle is always going to be successful. But you can always use it, and you can even stop using it if you feel it isn’t working. That’s one of the things about non-violent struggle, it didn’t work? you give up? ok, go home, maybe we’ll try again next year.
            With armed rebellion, it didn’t work? ok, go to a grave (for the lucky ones that even get a grave).
            See the difference?
            In Libya the situation was clear: the risk that the international community didn’t respond soon enough or at all was too much. In fact for the estimated 1,000 to 10,000 “sacrificial lambs” that have already died it was too late anyway and that figure is still growing.
            The death toll of war is just not comparable at all.

            3)Non-violent struggle it’s not about “peacefully negotiating” with the dictator. That is another trap just like violence is. In Venezuela we fell into that trap (remember the Mesa del Dialogo sponsored by Carter Center and Gaviria). Non-violent struggle is about forcefully removing the dictator.

            “I need only look at history to know that Stalin died in a bed”
            Are you disregarding non-violent struggle against Stalin on the basis that it wasn’t even tried or because it was tried but it was unsuccessful?
            What about armed rebellions against Stalin?
            Were there any? Do you think they fared better or would’ve fared better?

            “war was necessary to stop Hitler”
            Like I said before, you cannot use non-violent struggle during a war. The moment to stop Hitler with non-violent struggle was before the war, but German people were in love with him so they wouldn’t do it.
            Nevertheless there were successful non-violent movements in countries like Denmark that were able to stop some Nazi abuses:
            Notice also that many countries that were attacked chose not to go to war against Germany because they just couldn’t win. In other words they assessed the enemy and decided that armed conflict was not advisable at the moment.

            “Partisans didn’t resort to protesting in town squares against Nazi occupation.”
            So they didn’t choose non-violent methods, so what? It doesn’t mean they were right because they also didn’t defeat the Germans, did they? Do notice though, they didn’t choose open confrontation either but guerrilla type warfare, very different proposal, isn’t it?

            “Pol Pot was eventually expelled by foreign intervention.”
            And armed rebellions did nothing to help.

            “If they had followed your advice of non-violent struggle I think we would have seen far far more deaths and no rebellion at all.”
            In any situation you have to assess your options: a) frontal confrontation against a superior army
            b) non-violent methods (protests, strikes, proclamations, etc.).
            How is a) preferable when it means almost certain death for so many people? With b) if there is too much violence in the streets then don’t use street protests go to general strike, staying at home, for example. How could there be more deaths that way than with war?

        • This is a very interesting conversation. Now here’s my last question: at what point do you say: “Non-violent protests did not work, we will have to resort to armed struggle.” If the people with the guns (the military) haven’t defected in sufficient numbers what then? You need to be prepared for the alternative. And I think it’s not wise to surrender weapons and “peacefully” give them to the replacements. This isn’t a “Panaderia”, you’ve defected, you will be arrested and incarcerated as a traitor because a military man gives an oath to obey the state.

          Maybe you don’t start the fight but you sure as hell make sure you can defend yourself IF the government comes shooting instead of negotiating.

          Looking at other cases: the Egyptian military were simply more than enough to force Mubarak to step own, but they needed to KEEP their weapons to do so, not surrender them. Fortunately the Egyptian military as a whole was NOT going to shoot civilians and suppress the population, they were firmly in control.

          Right now a similar development is occurring in Yemen. Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, decided to support to the students, but he’s most definitely NOT tossing away his weapons. As a matter of fact he’s ordering his troops to protect the civilians. But he’s also negotiating a deal with the current ruler so there is no bloodshed.

          In Egypt and Yemen, it’s fortunate that the military forces supported the civilians and not the dictator in sufficient strength to force the leader to step down for the good of the country.

          In Libya this did not happen, but in my opinion I don’t believe it was because the rebels decided to start a shooting war. I believe the defections reached a high tide, it wasn’t enough and Ghadaffi moved to suppress the rebels and even brought mercernaries to help do the dirty work. I’m unconvinced that more time was needed for a “cascade” in Libya. Non-violent protests had run their course and Ghadaffi had enough loyalists to strike back. At the point, you must defend yourself.

          • “I’m unconvinced that more time was needed for a “cascade” in Libya. Non-violent protests had run their course”

            To answer this specific point I think it useful to compare with the other revolts in the area:

            Tunisia: Protests and demonstrations started in mid December.
            On January 14th Ben Ali fled the country.
            Time: about a month.

            Egypt: Protests started on Jan 25th.
            On Jan 29th “the military reportedly refused to follow orders to fire live ammunition”.
            On Feb 11th Mubarak resigned.
            Time: 17 days

            Yemen: Protests started in force in Jan 27th.
            “On 18 March, protesters in Sana’a were fired upon resulting in over 40 deaths and ultimately culminating in mass defections and resignations.”
            Time to first defections: 49 days.

            Libya: Protests started on Feb 15th.
            Defections took place from Feb 20th to ~ Feb 26th.
            Time to first defections 5 days.
            Proper military conflict started around Feb 28th. Notice how defections stopped around that time.

            Of course it can be argued that that’s all the people that were going to defect. But two thing indicate that may not be so.
            1) Non violent struggle doesn’t have a finite time frame. It can go on from weeks (above) to years (India) with varying intensity throughout.
            2) Defections started in Libya rather early compared to the other countries (Yemen took more than a month and a half) but it also ended abruptly, coinciding with the start of the civil war.

            Like I said, the military has no issues attacking armed combatants. Also in times of internal crisis the best thing to do with the military is to keep them busy doing what they love: war. You know “idle hands are the devil’s tools”, keep them busy so they don’t have time to think and defect.

          • I forgot the link for Libya’s defections:

            “at what point do you say: “Non-violent protests did not work, we will have to resort to armed struggle.”

            Only when you have military superiority. You should never jump into a military conflict when your forces are inferior because there is no rewinding or undoing war, once it starts there is no stopping until the deaths and destruction are too much and one side surrenders.

            “you’ve defected, you will be arrested and incarcerated as a traitor because a military man gives an oath to obey the state.”

            Executed is more likely in Libya.
            That is the great risk the defectors take. If they fear for their lives and they don’t see a future in the non-violent struggle they should flee the country. Starting a civil war is not going to give them a better chance if the other side has a bigger army, but it will mean for sure, lots of deaths and destruction. If they flee at least the non-violent movement can continue and still be successful.

            “Maybe you don’t start the fight but you sure as hell make sure you can defend yourself IF the government comes shooting instead of negotiating.”
            You have to assume the government is going to come shooting, remember that is to their advantage. Avoid the armed conflict at all costs, don’t fall in the trap.

            The best defense is not engage them openly but to continue with non-violent struggle in safe ways: strikes, proclamations, flash protests, massive prayers, etc….
            People actually need to be trained on how to proceed or respond in case of violence so that they don’t respond with more violence.

            “In Egypt and Yemen, it’s fortunate that the military forces supported the civilians and not the dictator”

            Fortune has little to do with it. If non-violent struggle continues unabated long enough eventually all the institutions of the government will crumble and give in. The military is one of those institutions.

            When people object to non-violent struggle they first use the argument: the dictator is ruthless he’ll kill/arrest everyone that opposes. Then they realize the dictator is just one person and the military is separate. So they use a similar argument: the military support the dictator and they’ll kill/arrest everyone. But the military is not just one person, it’s many persons with many different points of view. They as an institutions are not immune to the protests of the people. When a general gives in to protests it’s because he can notice he’s loosing control of his subordinates.

            For people it’s hard to understand how non-violence can be more effective than violence. Everybody understands how violence works but when they see successful non-violence movements in Tunisia, Egypt, half of Libya and maybe Yemen, it’s like magic, they don’t understand how it happened so they attribute it to the good hearts of the military. The same military that supported the tyrant for years and years, that enjoyed all the benefits of being the ruling class, that has so much to loose if the tyrant falls. Really? they got soft all of the sudden? No, they can see the government crumbling under the weight of the popular discontent and they’re trying to save their own hide before is too late for them. It’s not because they’re nice.

          • Amieres, you make a number of valuable points, no doubt. Let me plug here something that I wrote not long ago:

            Chavez no aguanta un esfuerzo bien organizado por parte de los opositores a nivel nacional. Lo he dicho, y lo reitero, no tiene ni la capacidad logística, ni suficientes hampones como para controlar una rebelión a nivel nacional. Y la rebelión, antes de que vaya a salir Eva Golinger a decir que estoy llamando a un magnicidio, ni siquiera tiene que ser violenta. Nuestros hermanos en países andinos han hecho del bloqueo de carreteras una estrategia muy efectiva a la hora de exigirle a sus gobiernos el respeto a derechos inalienables. ¿Por qué no hacer algo similar en Venezuela, es que no hay piedras suficientes? ¿O es que la gente protesta de la boca para afuera y está esperando que “alguien” resuelva? Como dice un buen amigo, “alguien” no vino. No es fácil, pero el que algo quiere, algo le cuesta. La iniciativa debe comenzar a nivel individual, como Chucho, quien no esperó las instrucciones de nadie para plantarse frente al hampa organizada. No es fácil, pero la libertad, la dignidad, y los derechos humanos, civiles y políticos no son negociables.

            I agree with you in that indiscriminate killings of civilians have a powerful effect in semi conscious military, and that that could trigger what you call “la cascada de deserciones.” But my question is a pragmatic one Amieres: who will be the sacrificial lambs in the land of “que alguien resuelva”? Who in Venezuela will risk life when: 1) there’s a widespread mistrust in politicians, meaning risking one’s own life could mean e.g. that Manuel Rosales ends up in power; 2) over the years Chavez has made sure that come his moment of reckoning, he won’t be caught “cagando sin papel” again, so there are plenty of mercenaries inside the country at his orders, from Cuban G2 to FARC, ETA, and home grown armed groups. Frankly the locals, being Venezuelans and all that, are IMO the least lethal, but how about the others, would they give a f… about killing Venezuelans indiscriminately when they don’t killing their own?

            I agree with you that non violence can get Chavez out of power. It’s easily doable. But it needs a degree of coordination, at national level, that seems impossible to achieve due to our idiosyncratic characteristics. The success of non violent struggle in Venezuela will necessarily have to be thought along the lines of generating a “cascada de deserciones” WITHOUT the body count and the sacrificial lambs, simply because there aren’t any takers. In my view this can be done by wooing some military, and chavista thugs to our side by offering amnesty for that they have already done, with one proviso, a la Putin with the oligarchs: get into politics and you’ll lose your shirt. Their fear, which is totally understandable, is two fold: “when the oppo gets in we’ll end up in jail for corruption and other charges, and, graver still, there’s a chance we won’t be able to enjoy our ill gotten riches.” Chavez is constantly fomenting this fear to galvanise support among the fanatics that still support him. The cost of exit, for Chavez and his mates is very high and that is why they’ll do whatever it takes to remain in power. However, we’re talking about a small number, in the low hundreds. Those ones need be persecuted till the end of the earth, and be brought to justice. The rest are “recuperables”.

            As per the mercenaries that are happily camping and living in Venezuela under Chavez protection, those ones need to be handled with extreme care, for those won’t have hesitations about killing Venezuelans.

            To conclude, I reckon that Venezuela is in many respects uncharacteristic, for its government has surrender so much sovereignty to other parties that Chavez can’t really be compared with Gadaffi, or Castro, or Mugabe. Mind you, he’s got blood in his hands, and he’s more than capable of ordering shooting civilians -from under a desk, or get the tanks out, however, neither of the thugs of his ilk, in their countries, have surrender so easily to foreign powers as Chavez has done with the Cuban dictator. So in any consideration of non violence struggle in Venezuela, non-Venezuelan actors have to be considered, for they’ve got much to lose too.

          • Alek

            I basically agree with your comments.

            “But it needs a degree of coordination, at national level, that seems impossible to achieve due to our idiosyncratic characteristics”

            Typically there needs to be a movement, a group that creates, organizes and leads the protests and the rest of the population follows their lead.
            In Venezuela the only group with the skills, energy and national reach is the students movement in my opinion.

            “who will be the sacrificial lambs in the land of “que alguien resuelva”? Who in Venezuela will risk life”

            Everyone that goes to the protests is a potential sacrificial lamb. All of us, any of us. We all must participate and not wait for other to do it for us. There may be minimal violence like in Egypt or there may be deaths like in Libya and Yemen. Those who decide to protest are putting themselves in greater immediate danger in hopes of improving their situation, getting a better life with less dangers like common crime, political violence and government abuses.

            If political violence is triggered by the regime or it’s mercenaries there can be two outcomes: people shy away in fear and protests dwindle or people get enraged and protests grow. If the former happens that could mean loosing the street (again), if the latter happens that could mean winning the country back (as long as violence doesn’t spiral into civil war).

          • “If political violence is triggered by the regime or it’s mercenaries there can be two outcomes: people shy away in fear and protests dwindle or people get enraged and protests grow. If the former happens that could mean loosing the street (again), if the latter happens that could mean winning the country back (as long as violence doesn’t spiral into civil war).”

            Some say 19, others 23, fact of the matter is, people died on 11A. What happened afterwards?

            As per the student movement, while I agree that they are the only organisation that can mount such a movement -ojo for practical reasons: every town in Venezuela has a school, or liceo, or universidad- , and I have said as much many times -I remember for instance telling Diego Sharifker before he became what he is today-, these guys are, erm, just one step out of adolescence. If the Venezuelans grown ups have not been able to coordinate anything, is it reasonable to expect that our youth -notoriously shallow, mente’ pollo, and detached as they are- will do the job for us? I think not.

            What you argue for is the task of responsible citizens, of people committed to the greater good of the WHOLE country. Whenever you find a gathering of more than 20 of those, be sure of getting in touch with me.

  6. OW makes many good points, which I agree with.

    Seeking out contradictions has some theoretical relevance, though, because contradictions often disclose the real reasons for a policy. For example, I never bought the idea that the intervention in Iraq was “for democracy” because other countries—Libya–were equally undemocratic and offered easier prospects for intervention to succeed without Sunni/Shiite complications, etc.

    But for sure, inconsistencies in foreign policy practice are not per se proof of malfeasance. They may be evidence of such, or evidence that history is moving faster than diplomacy.

  7. The suggestions to Chavez are lacking in logic as OW clearly pointed out.

    However, it is good that Quico tried to clarify just how some people think.There are many people out there who cannot see important differences and this is scary.

    Push comes to shove, the West will have to do whatever is best for their own interests, while taking into account the interests of others when possible.Sometimes this requires politicians to be hypocrites, but that does not mean that they have wrong intentions or even that they are taking wrong actions.

    The world is not so simple, as to allow us to make decisions that clear cut.

  8. Great article, excellent debate in the posts; it´s been awhile.

    THIS is why I read CaracasChronicles.com; good stuff today, excellent.

  9. “its international legality.”,,,,mi pana, si tù sigues creyendo en la legalidad, (moralemente hablando, porque legalmente -lamentablemente- todavìas existe) ,e imparcialidad de la ONU entonces te sale viaje gratis para Disney World, para que sigas soñando.

  10. By the way, Toro, I do think your post brings up some interesting points, but probably not the way in which you intended.

    I think many ideologies are “committed to ignoring” certain things. And while it is easy to point out those “blind spots” of other ideologies, wouldn’t it also be productive for you and others here to take a look at what you are “ideologically committed to ignoring”? I know, I know, its not at all comfortable to go there, but if you’re at all honest with yourself…

    I’m sure you all can come up with plenty of things, but I’ll give a few ideas just to get you started:

    The role of class interests, and class warfare in Venezuela

    Main oppo candidates come from/represent some of the wealthiest families of the Venezuelan oligarchy

    Main oppo candidates are capable of, and have supported, acts of violence against peaceful protesters (which you and they are “ideologically committed” to forgetting now)

    Corporate media represents the specific interests of its corporate owners, not “free speech”; plays a major role in leading the opposition movement as Ramos Allup recently admitted

    “Political prisoners” in Venezuela actually committed crimes, some shot and killed protesters in the streets (ideologically committed to denying?)

    Liberal democracy is a limited form of democracy, an invention of bourgeois political movements in the 18th century, not the only form of democracy

    April 2002 was a pre-planned coup orchestrated by the opposition (still LOTS of people around here who are “ideologically committed” to denying that one!)

    Why the US has allied itself to the Venezuelan opposition and viceversa (ideologically committed to ignoring US economic interests)

    Oh, and the so-called “student movement” has been revealed to be a farce on several occasions, just recently exposed faking their “hunger strike”

    Just a little food for thought. Are you “ideologically committed to ignoring” certain things too?

  11. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-there-a-chavez-terror-network-on-americas-doorstep/2011/03/18/ABauYU3_story.html?hpid=z6

    Check this link out! while living in Venezuela one hears rumors of Al-Qaeda training in margarita, but up until now I never read a story on the subject from a credible media outlet. The following link is yet another example of the foreign press turning on Huguito! On a side note, anyone have Sean Penn’s email? I would seriously pay money to have this reach him!

      • Agreed, he is definitely extreme right. but the fact that its published abroad by the Washington Post shows how the tide has begun to turn against Hugo. In regard to the Anti-Castro extremest. Not much gray area there… you are ether pro or not kinda like abortion. You cant really be semi abortion, can you?

    • The Al-Qaeda on Margarita allegations have been around a while, but this column talks about Iranian terrorist trainers, which is new. One thing that gives this at least a bit more credibility is the Chavez-Iran connection, something he never really had with the Taliban. But much more interesting than speculating over that connection is the claim that he got that factoid from a “Venezuelan government source.” It would really be something to find out a little more about who that is. The multitude of Arabs in Chile with Ven passports is of concern, not necessarily for the terrorist ties but for how easy it appears to get one of them.

      Couple comments for elsewhere on this post – FoxtrotCharlie, no offense taken here for putting my nick in place of amieres. Interesting conversation, though I have nothing to add.

      Quico, one for you: I fail to understand how Arab states supporting the no-fly zone (albeit somewhat hypocritically, perhaps) is evidence of a myth of ‘Arab support’ for the intervention. Seems like their lack of support, given obvious own interests, would do nothing to disprove Arab support, but getting behind it supports the argument.

  12. One thing I do miss from the previous incarnation of this place was the ability to filter posts. It was a great tool in reducing the noise-to-signal ratio. Nowadays I have to manually scroll and skip. It’s a bit annoying but you can’t have everything.

  13. I always thought that Chavez was IN FAVOR of revolutionary governments. But I guess that rebelling against a government that he’s called revolutionary is a counter-revolution.


  14. The reason to bomb Libya was supposedly to protect its civilians from being killed by war planes bombing them. Toro accepts this as absolute truth as do many other bloggers here. But is it true? It’s not as if there were demonstrations in Benghazi as there were in Cairo and Tunis and Gadhafi’s planes bombed them. In fact, Russian intelligence stated that their satellites had no evidence that Gadhafi’s planes were bombing civilians when it was first reported on CNN: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpqbzrBVH-Q These allegations could have just been propaganda and the report of March 4th from Sky News would appear to bear this out.

    One day Toro will stop raving on about Chavez and look at what the US has done to mankind since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. How many dead, Toro? How many displaced? How many innocents dead to get Osama when there is an arguable case that Al Qaeda does not exist and is a CIA invention and that all these bombings, killings and invasions are all part of the neocon Project for a New American Century.

    Bombing civilians in Libya = WMD in Iraq = excuse for attack = the greed for oil. So far the Tomahawk cruis missiles have only killed 48 civilians and Russia is objecting. Is this justifiable?

    • Arturo,

      For Goodness sake, al-Qaeda doesn’t exist? You are round the bend, man.
      Of course it does. Another matter is how it is structured. Killing Osama, for instance, is as meaningful as killing any one minor fundamentalist: it won’t change anything as 100 others will take his place. This is something a lot of people in the West do not understand. Osama is not like Hitler and his fundamentalism is not Nazism. These are two very different phenomena. Al Qaeda is also a very lose organisation, it is more of a “front” than anything. Again I refer you to veteran Robert Fisk, who is not precisely anyone’s puppet and is one of the few very decent reporters in the region who has been proven so right so many times.


      Actually, for once I do give some credit to loony Arturo. Qaddafi is a murderer and all and the video Arturo linked to comes from a well-known Russian TV station that is the Russian FOX News kind of channel, but some of the airstrikes the opposition in Libya have been repeatedly denouncing are not airstrikes at all.

      I wonder why we don’t get more information about which airplanes are being put down from these

      Qaddaffi has massacred his people for decades now: the Abu Salim prison, the killing of wounded in hospitals and so on. Now: if the West is going to go after him, I think it should use a more accurate set of reasons and not the airstrikes.

      At the beginning I was not getting Angela Merkel’s position: it is election time, she wanted to out-Green the Green (also with the Fukushima thing), she may be worried because closing down nuclear reactors would produce another energy landscape, the government is haunted by the German past, whatever: it did not make sense.

      Now I believe they have seen intelligence that is opposed to what the US and France are saying.

      I saw yesterday evening more information from France 24, which is very much behind Sarkozy and criticizes the German position, and in spite of the very long footage from the front, from Bengazhi, from everywhere the opposition was, I did not see any inequivocal sign of airstrikes.

      Funnily, just a couple of weeks ago several French “top intelligence” specialists, including one who had served for a long time in the French army at high level (forgot his name) declared the Libyan aircraft was a shambles, with most MiGs and other units out of service. Which is which?

      I also watched the video of Medvedev talking about Putin’s statements. Although Medvedev did say what the West reported and he distanced himself very clearly from Putin, he was also very critical about the use of force for anything going beyond defending the Libyan people and producing a regime change. On one side he was extremely critical of Gaddafi. On the other side he does not think it is outsiders who have to change that government. Medvedev has been mostly Putin’s puppet, but I think I understand where that guy comes from and he is trying to do the right thing with the information he has at hand. The information that comes about airstrikes may not be what the US/France say.

      Now: you don’t have to pay attention to my anecdotal evening-zapping-browsing home-intelligence gathering from my living room, but I wonder if at this stage you will blindly believe anything a couple of countries’ media say.

      Remember Iraq. And Qaddadi is playing the very same game Saddam Hussein was playing. Remember the inspectors?

      Try to find the airstrikes here as well:


      On the other side, Arturo is wrong about oil. Libya has been providing all the oil the West wants for many years now…just like our compatriot, the comandantepresidente and heroe of the Museo de Historia has been providing oil to the US Americans.

      • I meant airstrikes from Gadaffi forces against civilians.

        They have flown planes and thrown some bombs at the start
        but the vast majority of their planes were not working anymore.

        Another thing were their tanks and ground troops, which were very much active until Western forces pulverized them on the road to Bengazi.

        I believe Gaddafi requested foreign observers because he was going to play cat and mouse just as Saddam did. Still, I wonder if the West could not just have followed through but using their technology to guarantee Gaddafi forces were definitely immobilized.

        The issue now is how this will evolve and whether the West will know where to stop.

        At this moment it seems like regime change. If it is like that, be it, but call it by its name.

        • I think the air strikes stories come from some isolated cases of air strikes against rebel-held targets but mainly from the incident where the helicopter in Benghazi fired on a crowd. From there the stories were repeated in international media and the government-imposed news blackout which did not allow any news to filter out of Libya only further flamed people’s imaginations as to what could be going on in the country. Did Gaddafi order jets to fire on crowds? Maybe. The point is, the idea of a mad dictator ordering his air force to fire on unarmed people strikes a nerve and resonates in people’s minds the world over and whether it happened or not it’s become a focal point for everything wrong with Libya’s leadership. It’s kind of like the Germans greasing their rifles with Belgian orphans in the First World War: It probably didn’t happen but they committed enough atrocities to make the accusation believable.

  15. Relying on “Russian intelligence”–they of the spotless record on truth–is part of the problem, not the solution.

    However, evidence that Gaddafi bombed unarmed protesters is not hard to find. First of all, the protesters say it happened. They are many. Amazingly, two Libyan jets in the air at the time, piloted by trusted Colonels in Gaddafi’s air force, both defected to Malta, “because Gaddafi ordered us to bomb civilians.” Gaddafi’s own UN Ambassador also confirmed this. Finally, the UN General Assembly, (not the Security Council) with 192 members, voted by acclamation to suspend Libya from the UN Human Rights Council—three weeks ago because ofthese “gross violations of human rights.” It is fundamentally “unserious”, as your title indicates, for a commenter to close his eyes to these realities in order to construct a more friendly reality, one in keeping with their ideological preferences, but at the expense of the rights and lives of real human beings.


    • Jeffrey, I was answering to this.

      I mentioned: Gaddadi has committed plenty of crimes against humanity, not just in the last weeks, but also shortly before and after the Western countries lifted the embargo against him (apparently, they did not notice it back then).

      I mentioned one event some years earlier where his forces massacred on one go over 1000 prisoners.

      I know about the planes you mentioned defecting to Malta and I am sure he told them to do what the Venezuelan military wanted to do in 1992: bomb civilians.

      Here we are talking about what has been happening in the last 5 days or so.
      What the Western forces were mostly doing was annihilating the ground troops, not the Libyan aircraft. Were the opponents saying this and that? Sure, but about the aircraft strikes I still want to see the latest Gaddafi bombs or pieces of bomb anywhere. As I said: serious reporters on the ground, specially Al Jazeera, are still saying those reports are not confirmed. The situation is evolving all the time.

      About Russian intelligence: it is as bad as the US American one, I believe, and both sides have a special “rapport” towards truth.

  16. Arturo,

    your comment reminded me of the old stories that circulated during the cold war in the old soviet controlled countries. Nothing was true, everything was a fabrication of the west.

    So according to you, Ghaddaffi did not bombarded his own people and the whole war was just an excuse for…?

    First, it is difficult to see what the excuse was for. Second, something is clear: Ghaddaffi is a MAD man, a well-known terrorist and a dictator that has dominated Libia for more than 40 years.

    As Obama said yesterday, the guy has to go.

  17. When countries try to comply with international law,while at the same time reaching their strategic goals, there might be some hypocrisy involved.

    The mandate is only to protect the civilians, but the interpretation will be stretched in an effort to get rid of Qaddafi.I still think it is justified because when it comes to international affairs an impeccably consistent stance is not realistic, especially when dealing with devious characters like Qaddafi.



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