Left Leaning in my Right MindThe following was posted on my personal blog -- Left Leaning in my Right Mind -- two weeks ago, before I was a Kossack. It seems more and more likely that my worst fears are to be realized. Civilians are getting killed by US-NATO actions, it is not clear how disengagement can come about, and the "toe in the water" of establishing a No-Fly (No-Drive? No-Mortar?) Zone has been revealed to be at least up to the ankle or knee with the CIA on the ground.
Pacifism may seem like the worst idea in a crisis, and it is...except for all the others.
I clearly identify myself as a pacifist--a conscientious objector with an uncompromising opposition to all war. I have taken it to the streets in protests and vigils opposing both "Operation Desert Whatevers" in Iraq, and correctly feared that Afghanistan would become flypaper that would stick US forces there for a very long time.
So why do I have the urge to support the military action that began today?
So why am I not (yet) up out of my seat in outrage as Tomahawk cruise missiles rain down on Libyan anti-aircraft and radar facilities this night? Why did my heart lift a bit when network news interrupted my weekend sports to tell us that French fighter jets chased Gaddafi's planes from the sky?
Oh, I still feel the same fears. I don't believe that this will end quickly, and I won't be surprised if it does not end well. And I am absolutely sure that innocents will, already have, died at our hi-tech hands. But this time I am entertaining the thought that this could, maybe, possibly be a "right" war, even though I have always considered that an abhorrent and self-contradictory concept. I feel differently tonight. I just am not sure why.
This is not the first time that brave people will have their fight for freedom brutally crushed. Do I feel differently about the dictators, Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein? They both were monstrous in suppressing thier own people. Libya's army has many mercenaries from outside the country, while Iraq's army was largely home grown. Gaddafi was tied up in Lockerbee and the German nightclub bombings, while Saddam never was a significant player in international terror (sorry, neocons.)
But none of these reasons, nor all of them together, can explain why today feels different to me. I cannot make my emotions consistent with my beliefs tonight.
Maybe I just feel like it has been a long time since my country has been on the right side of history. Or the right side of humanity's advancement. Perhaps we could act in the Muslim world, for once in a way that Muslims see as supportive and respectful of Islam. Egypt's overwhelmingly peaceful uprising against Mubarak was so thrilling, so inspiring, and the Libyan opposition's first week of action seemed full of similar promise. I had hopes...
"I had hopes." As I typed those words, the air just went out of me, and the tears have started to well up. My urge to support this military force arises, ultimately, not from what Gaddafi is doing to the hopes of the people he governs, but what he did to my hopes. I had expectations, my own picture of what should happen for people I do not know in another continent I have never seen. I didn't ask, and I cannot trust that the men I have seen speaking for the "rebels" (in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are "insurgents") also speak for the mothers and daughters and young sons of Libya. Maybe they do, but I don't know so.
I do know it this the Libyan people's struggle--succeed or fail--and if America had not made such poor choices over the past two decades about jumping into the wrong struggles for the wrong reasons in Islamic nations, this intervention would not be so appealing to me now. I must admit that part of me hopes for America's redemption through this conflict, but that again is my hope. I ultimately cannot condone killing others for the sake of my hopes. Nor will I ask our fighting women and men to die for what I imagine is the right thing.
We are...no, I am so steeped in the thought patterns of imperialism: knowing what is right for the rest of the world, when in fact I am unconsciously rooting for what would be my preference. A committed pacifist has to keep asking "why" when something inside him exults at war. It is the only defense against imperial thinking.
Am I happy with my answer? Is my answer satisfying? No. It's just true. My truth. Pacifism is not a philosophy that is free of problems, but it has the problems I can live with.Updated by Mark Throckmorton at Mon Apr 04, 2011 at 09:31 AM PDT
The great lesson I learned from the experience that led to this diary post is the importance of looking at my own motivations and emotions before I act. I actually thought I might wind up with a "good reason" to support US/NATO involvement in Libya when I started writing, then found out my excitement came from my own egoic stuff that wants to be a vicarious "winner"--even in a fight that shouldn't take place.
When the powerful take significant action without understanding that dynamic within themselves, deep and lasting tragedies occur. There is hope that this intervention will turn out differently from others, but if it does not, as the old peace protest song said, "When will we ever learn?"