Apathy Enables War, Will Help in Libya Occupation

John Glaser, July 11, 2011

Stephen Walt asks a good question: Whatever happened to the war in Libya? The front-page-worthy Obama War #4 has flickered out a bit in the past week or two, yes. This is indicative of a few things. First, it is hard to decide what to focus on when the national security state has put so much on our plate, as Glenn Greenwald lists in this introduction:

In just the past two months alone (all subsequent to the killing of Osama bin Laden), the U.S. Government has taken the following steps in the name of battling the Terrorist menace: extended the Patriot Act by four years without a single reform; begun a new CIA drone attack campaign in Yemen; launcheddrone attacks in Somaliaslaughtered more civilians in Pakistanattempted to assassinate U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki far from any battlefield and without a whiff of due process; invoked secrecy doctrines to conceal legal memos setting forth its views of its own domestic warrantless surveillance powers; announced a “withdrawal”plan for Afghanistan that entails double the number of troops in that country as were there when Obama was inaugurated; and invoked a very expansive view of its detention powers under the 2001 AUMF bydetaining an alleged member of al-Shabab on a floating prison, without charges, Miranda warnings, or access to a lawyer.  That’s all independent of a whole slew of drastically expanded surveillance powers seized over the past two years in the name of the same threat.

But secondly, it is notable that the national security state absolutely relies upon the forgetfulness and apathy of the American people. A fourth unnecessary war is appalling at first, but when it persists for over 100 days, working up the same disgust and protestation can be difficult. This is one aspect of the public sentiment that ensures the national security state a free pass when they decide to start another war (here is another). That Americans are getting used to (and apathetic about) the illegal Libya adventure is precisely what Obama and the Pentagon were counting on to allow the continued bombing that we’ve seen along with what seems like the inevitable introduction of ground troops/long-term occupation. As this Wikileaks release of a CIA report regarding public opinion on the war in Afghanistan proved further, “Public Apathy Enables Leaders to Ignore Voters.”

It’s been evident for some time now that ground troops will eventually be “necessary,” but Walt offers some additional historical context for that notion (in addition to the American public’s apathy giving the war parties a free pass):

back when NATO first got involved, a number of people made the obvious comparison to the 1999 war in Kosovo. Both wars were launched on impulse, there were no vital strategic interests involved, and both wars were fought “on the cheap” through the use of airpower. NATO leaders expected the targets to succumb quickly, and were surprised when their adversaries (Milosevic in 1999, Qaddafi today) hung on as long as they did.

But there’s another parallel that deserves mention too. Serbia eventually surrendered, and I expect that Qaddafi or his sons will eventually do so too. But in the case of Kosovo, NATO and the U.N. had to send in a peacekeeping force, and they are still there ten years later. And Kosovo has only about 28 percent of Libya’s population and is much smaller geographically (some 10,000 square kilometers, compared with Libya’s 1,800,000 sq. km.) So anybody who thinks that NATO, the United Nations, or the vaguely defined “international community” will be done whenever Qaddafi says uncle (or succumbs to a NATO airstrike) should probably lower their expectations and prepare themselves for long-term involvement in a deeply divided country.

I simply cannot see a near-term end to the Libya war in which the U.S. and NATO simply pick up and leave. Can you?




6 Responses to “Apathy Enables War, Will Help in Libya Occupation”

  1. Feeling weary of war, politicians and feeling helpless as well, is the foundation for Apathy. I think that Most of the US of A believed that all they had to do was vote for what they thought was an anti-war candidate and they had done their job. They tuned out that Obama never was an anti-war candidate.

    The fact is that he was the Perfect pro-war candidate. The neo-cons and Bush backers still buy into the "war is peace" garbage and now the Democrats won't actually protest because he is their president right or wrong. They honestly believe they still made the right choice because McPalin would have been worse. I honestly think they are bought and paid for by the same group of corporate fraudsters, Banksters and those in charge of the MIC. Not to mention the largest Loby AIPAC.

    Behind door number one (neo-con) Behind door number two (neo-con) So what is behind door number three? If it's labeled Liberty it can only be Ron Paul.

  2. The Libya war makes me sick. The Vote in the house of representatives was only 30 votes off. Its not going away. The American people taking their congress reminds me of the American civil rights movement. It ebbed and flowed

    If you think Obama is getting a free ride when he criticized 2 wars and started this "as Sephen Walt said War of Whim", think again.

  3. It appears that nothing can stop the wars and subsequent expansion of the empire except total financial exhaustion. Lets assume someone like Ron Paul were to get close to taking over the executive branch. As much as it pains me to write this, if he were close to power, it would not be surprising to see Paul assassinated because of his political views. Sadly, pro peace figures down through history are seen as more of a threat to vested interests than warmongers.

  4. The "why" or "what for" of all of these wars still bedevils me. Not an economic determinist, so I can't buy the "kill for oil" rationale; but I fail to find the war on terror argument or the clash of civilizations anything near plausible. I can see the need for opening markets being a driving force. History proves this. We are producing too much junk, and they're aren't enough people globally to buy the surplus. We're tapped out nationally. The dearth of consumers needs to be addressed, even if doing so threatens the well-being of the planet's eco-systems. Ford saw the need to create more customers, and paying his workers more was a step in that direction. Cultural resistance to Hollywood, et. al. might entail the employment of guns first, ballots later. Islam and the more orthodox of Christianity are proving to be the biggest obstacles to what Benjamin Barber has referred to as McWorld. Whose side are you on, boy?

  5. There are multiple reasons, One is to destablize areas of the world so that they don't become powerfull enough to pose a threat, militarily or financially, Money has a lot to do with it as well. When the IMF steps into any nation they are forced to privatize to pay for their debt. Energy and water play a large role as do all commodities. South America had a lot to do with fruit and corporate money as well. Religion plays a role but it has more about getting people to go along with the Neo-Con programs. Dollar Hedgmony has a bunch of to do with it as well. We need the US dollar to remain the world currency. The money made by the FED and the MIC also plays into it. There are many more reasons as well.

    The Desert Fox Erwin Rommel, one of Germany's greatests Generals (who tried to kill Hitler) was ask by his son what was war and why did it have to happen. He drew on a piece of paper. On one side was a battle scene with death and destruction on the other was the deutsche mark.

  6. [...] wrote last week about how the national security state “absolutely relies upon the forgetfulness and apathy of [...]