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The Boko Haram kidnapping has once again brought out the "peace through bombing" faction on the left.

Cross posted from Pruning Shears.

As the response to the kidnapping of several hundred Nigerian schoolgirls has grown from hashtag activism to full blown international incident, the calls for action have become increasingly bellicose.  Some of those calls have revealed (once again) a deeply rooted militaristic streak in America, one that transcends political affiliation.  This time around the example starts in the UK, where last week Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett appeared to support bombing or invasion:

It is my view that there is a case for military assistance, but on a more basic level, there are things that we can do to support those who are begging for help. The British feminist movement has immense social media clout. We can all follow the Facebook group Bring Back Our Girls and use the hashtag. We can write to our world leaders, demanding that they offer assistance to rescue the girls. We can organise rallies and marches locally, as many others already have. We can support and listen to the Nigerian community here in the UK.

That paragraph has an interesting construction.  It starts by at least tentatively approving bombing or invasion, but then details a number of non-military options for rescuing the girls.  Interpretations may vary, but I got the impression she at least wanted preparations for bombing or invasion to begin and in addition to that for activists, governments and NGOs to continue to apply pressure on the Nigerian government.

But the bottom line is, she mentioned military action first.  Given America's recent history with bomb dropping, cranking up the war machine for another round doesn't seem like a good idea.  Glenn Greenwald said as much, and the reaction from some on the left was incandescent rage.

Bob Cesca decided to simply mischaracterize Greenwald, but that's about par for the course with him.  Rebecca Schoenkopf cut right to the chase and went Godwin.  Chez Pazienza literally dehumanized him ("he has no humanity") and also pulled off a neat trick.  He linked to a piece of his detailing what an awful person Greenwald is, which includes the following numbered highlight: "Glenn Greenwald Is Almost Certainly Going To Call You Names at Some Point."  Pazienza furnished that link in a post titled "Glenn Greenwald: Asshole."

Schoenkopf and Pazienza also gave hearty endorsements for bombing.  First Schoenkopf, who apparently has been spending too much time playing Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell:

It is time to take out the Boko Haram dudes like you took out those pirates, and get those girls.

Seriously, just drone the shit out of em. Go get those girls.

But her understanding of the situation is actually more grounded in reality than Pazienza's you've-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me level of naïveté: "There was no concession that maybe, just this once, the vast resources and technological prowess at the disposal of a superpower could be used for good."

Perhaps instead of hoping that maybe, just this once, this military adventure will be the one that finally gets freedom bombing right, it would be useful to reflect on how (darn the luck!) such actions have persistently refused to work out that way in the past.

Just a few years ago Libya was on the verge of genocide, remember?  And we needed to drop lots of bombs to prevent that (no weaselspeak about NATO and leading from behind, thanks - without the US, the bombing wouldn't have happened).  We are now too modest to boast about such benevolent intervention with a Mission Accomplished party, but we all know it worked out splendidly right?

The impulse to say "fuck it, send in the troops" is not confined to neoconservatives.  There are plenty on the left who enthusiastically support it as well - provided it is done for the correct purpose.  The fact that such interventions invariably make things worse, aggrandize the "war first" faction, and marginalize those seeking effective nonviolent responses doesn't seem to occur to those people, though.  If we just keep fighting new Hitlers and preventing new Rwandas every few years we'll eventually get right, no?

I actually do agree with Cosslett up to a point, though.  There is a case for military assistance - if it's made by, say, Belgium.  Belgium seems like a peace-loving nation.  They declined our offer to help bring Jeffersonian democracy to Iraq, and it doesn't seem like its people feel the urge to regularly take up arms.  So if Belgium says "this is bullshit, we're going in," I'm willing to listen.

"But if every country decided for itself whether to do that, it would be terribly destabilizing!"  Yes, but in case you hadn't noticed the US hasn't been much of a force for stabilization lately.  Furthermore, that objection implies the US is the nation in charge of deciding when wars should happen; that we are exceptionally and uniquely qualified to judge when military action is appropriate.  Liberals who - even implicitly - endorse that should acknowledge it puts them comfortably with the Bill Kristols of the world.  As a card-carrying member of the vast left wing conspiracy, all I can say is: I did not get that memo.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's the cast of mind that all problems are to be (6+ / 0-)

    resolved by violence, Shock and Awes, bombing, missiles, drones

    when a school kid has a problem and he shoots a dozen of his mates we're all aghast, shocked, and with much wringing of hands all wail "how could this be, it must never happen again!"

    when the government does it on the international level, we all say "great, USA kicks ass!"

    and yet it's the same cast of mind, part of our infatuation with, our worship of violence

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Thu May 15, 2014 at 02:35:36 AM PDT

  •  I'v been following the US war on Africa (5+ / 0-)

    …via AFRICOM for two years. We have boots on the ground in 38 countries.. It's the next place US teenagers will go to die for oil.

    I follow through a custom search on Google daily HERE.

    Typical stories are below:

    Kidnapped Girls Become Tools of US Imperial Policy in Africa

    By Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report

    Wednesday, May 14, 2014

    A chorus of outraged public opinion demands that the “international community” and the Nigerian military “Do something!” about the abduction by Boko Haram of 280 teenage girls.

    It is difficult to fault the average U.S. consumer of packaged “news” products for knowing next to nothing about what the Nigerian army has actually been “doing” to suppress the Muslim fundamentalist rebels since, as senior columnist Margaret Kimberley pointed out in these pages, last week, the three U.S. broadcast networks carried “not a single television news story about Boko Haram” in all of 2013.

    (Nor did the misinformation corporations provide a nanosecond of coverage of the bloodshed in the Central African Republic, where thousands died and a million were made homeless by communal fighting over the past year.) But, that doesn’t mean the Nigerian army hasn’t been bombing, strafing, and indiscriminately slaughtering thousands of, mainly, young men in the country’s mostly Muslim north.

    The newly aware U.S. public may or may not be screaming for blood, but rivers of blood have already flowed in the region. Those Americans who read – which, presumably, includes First Lady Michelle Obama, who took her husband’s place on radio last weekend to pledge U.S. help in the hunt for the girls – would have learned in the New York Times of the army’s savage offensive near the Niger border, last May and June. In the town of Bosso, the Nigerian army killed hundreds of young men in traditional Muslim garb “Without Asking Who They Are,” according to the NYT headline. “They don’t ask any questions,” said a witness who later fled for his life, like thousands of others. “When they see young men in traditional robes, they shoot them on the spot,” said a student. “They catch many of the others and take them away, and we don’t hear from them again.

    Islamist forces, this time Boko Haram—the very forces that the US and NATO backed and armed in Libya as a proxy ground force in the war to topple Gaddafi—are being used as the bogey man to justify the intervention of US military forces.

    The major European powers that once ruled large parts of Africa, but which no longer have the military resources to resume control of their former colonial possessions unaided, have welcomed the US military interventions in Africa, most recently in Libya, Mali, Niger and the Central African Republic, as a means of securing their own interests.

    It was with American geostrategic interests in mind that in 2008 the Bush administration set up US Africa Command (AFRICOM). The Obama administration has expanded AFRICOM to around 5,000 personnel stationed in Africa, with a presence in 38 countries. The US now has more troops in Africa than at any time since its intervention in Somalia in 1993.

    The scale of its activities is vast.

    It's party time for US Defense Contractors. Money's pouring in.

    The American people will never know about this  US proxy war with China until their kids are already dead for oil.

  •  My personal checklist: (0+ / 0-)

    Does Nigeria have OIL? Yes, a lot
    Is Nigeria fractured along have/have-not lines? Yes
    What would happen if Nigeria held a free vote and the have-nots came to power? OIL might be nationalized
    What is the USA/UK doing in the region?  Contributing to the have/have-not divide, in order to better control Nigeria, for profit

    Conclusion: there is a good chance that Boko Haram was a US/UK creation, trained by the School of the Americas crowd.  Anyone waiting for the US/UK to take the side of the Nigerian population and hunt down these terrorists is in for one hell of a long wait.

    190 milliseconds....

    by Kingsmeg on Thu May 15, 2014 at 05:49:24 AM PDT

  •  A military is not a precision tool (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    designed, like a scalpel, to cut away only the "bad" part of a population and leave the rest untouched and better for the surgery.

    The very best military use of a military (as opposed to non-military uses such as providing aid in emergencies) is in discouraging foreign aggression, by simply existing and also by actively defending borders, whether those borders are our own or those of an ally.

    When we send our military uninvited into another country to solve problems there (by killing people), we are de facto claiming sovereignty over that country. As an aside, I realize this applies, and not just technically, to the raid into Pakistan to get OBL, although I think that was about as narrowly focused a military operation as one could imagine. An assassination really, of a non-Pakistani the Pakistani government had officially (if not necessarily sincerely) disavowed any concern for. Regardless, there are MANY terrible crimes against humanity being committed in places around the world. I acknowledge that, but I don't wish our country to take unilateral responsiblity for governing those places. In the admittedly unlikely event there is a broadbased international consensus that something needs to be done by a coalition of nations (as, for example, in the case of the LRA) then I'm open to the idea of supporting military force. But such consensus is not likely to be easy to come by in a world in which some actors (i.e., us) already act as if we run the joint.

    My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
    --Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872

    by leftist vegetarian patriot on Thu May 15, 2014 at 09:39:22 AM PDT

  •  I'd be down with using the military if there were (0+ / 0-)

    a plausible way to rescue the girls without most of them being killed.
       US surveillance and intelligence assistance, fine. Boots on the ground? That will probably get the girls killed.

  •  Indeed... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The "might makes right" faction of humanity is (unfortunately) well represented on both sides of the political spectrum.

    Truly sad that, this long after the Enlightenment, we still haven't learned much.

    To quote the great Albert Einstein: "I don't know what sorts of weapons will be used to fight WWIII, but I know what kind will be used to fight WWIV, sticks and stones."

    The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today. - August Spies

    by joegoldstein on Thu May 15, 2014 at 10:59:00 AM PDT

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