The other day, a total stranger — a man whom I have never met and who knows nothing about me or my views — angrily called me out on Twitter for pointing out yet another occurrence of the “islamists are taking over the uprising in Libya” fantasy meme:
It isn’t a *meme*; it was something blithely ignored by you crazy interventionists with blood rushing to your head in March.
After promptly blocking the dude (I don’t respond well to name calling¹), I started thinking. An interventionist? Is it possible to be one without knowing it?
I’ve always considered myself quite the opposite. I’ve been a skeptic of the NATO campaign in Libya and a critic of the war effort in Afghanistan; I opposed the Iraq war from the start; and I think I’m as anti-war as anyone who has spent a career watching people suffer and perish in actual, you know, real life.
But I also value honesty, and I’ve had a hard time hiding my disgust with the disingenuousness and, in some instances, outright trollish behaviour of some of the Libya intervention’s most vocal opponents, many of whom I respect and admire as experts in other fields.
As I have tried to point out elsewhere, there is little evidence to support their pet memes — international jihadists taking political advantage of the upheaval, local rivalries sparking a tribal conflagration, “pervasive” human rights abuses by the rebels, and so on. No amount of name calling or “these go to eleven” type of argumentation will change this. And playing fast and loose with the facts doesn’t help solve the Libyan imbroglio. If anything, it distracts from the real challenges facing the post-war government, such as guaranteeing due process, disarming local militias and reintegrating the brutalised youngsters now fighting Gaddafi.
I also have a primal dislike for double standards. It boggles my mind, for example, how someone who writes blog posts decrying civilian casualties in Afghanistan (about 1,400 this year) can dismiss the death toll in Misrata (about 1,200 since February) as insignificant. Or how someone who takes umbrage when Afghans are summarily blamed for their country’s woes can call the Libyan NTC “thugs” without a shred of proof. Or how the same people who write off Al Qaeda in Pakistan as a spent force suddenly claim that a bunch of unshaven chins in Libya are an existential threat. Or how experts who meekly accept Taleban assurances that they are completely separate from Al Qaeda refuse to accept the Libyan rebels’ word for anything.
Or — and this really gets my goat — how the area experts who hated it when pundits started making pronouncements about Afghanistan with total disregard for scholarly opinion now pull the same crap on real experts on Libya.
So, okay — if calling out guys like that makes me an interventionist, hell, I’m proud to wear the label.
As for the actual military intervention in Libya, I remain doubtful. But I guess that’s beside the point.
¹ I’ve been known to resort to ad hominems myself.