Posted by: sean | March 13, 2011

Intervening in Libya

Here is Alan Kuperman (UT-Austin) on Fox discussing American intervention in Libya:


Personally, I’m more than a little agnostic about foreign (and especially American-led) intervention in Libya, but I think Alan Kuperman’s comments are highly misleading on several accounts.

Kuperman: “Peaceful resistance movements don’t provoke massive retaliation against civilians…”

I suppose we might quibble about how much retaliation might qualify as “massive,” but the implication here is that this was initially a rebellion instead of a peaceful protest movement that turned into a rebellion after the regime made the decision to kill protesters in Benghazi and elsewhere.Kuperman continues to say that “if there are massacres of civilians, then we should intervene,” implying that to date there have been no massacres of civilians. I would be curious to know exactly how many dead civilians constitute a massacre for Kuperman. Considering that reports from the early days of the protests estimated the number of murdered peaceful protesters in the hundreds, if not higher, it seems that the bar for a massacre is being set pretty high.

Finally, his comments (which come close to explicit support of Qadhafi) that there are “Islamist extremists” among the opposition and that characterize Qadhafi as a “friend” are highly disconcerting coming from someone who claims to be interested in the fate of civilians. (And by the by, is it acceptable to slaughter civilians if they’re partisans of a particular political movement, in this case Islamism?) Anyone who claims to worry about civilian casualties would do well to recall Qadhafi’s 1996 massacre of some 1,200 prisoners at the Abu Slim prison after they had the temerity to protest the conditions in which they were being imprisoned.

Again, I have very mixed feelings about the idea of foreign intervention in Libya. And there are a number of reasonable arguments why it wouldn’t be a good idea, but the contention that there haven’t been massacres of civilians simply isn’t one of them.



  1. Fox, The Red Neck’s CNN.

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