Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 14, 2012

Rieff On Liberal Interventionism

This polemic by David Rieff against liberal interventionism is spot on: Save Us from the Liberal Hawks

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of (humanitarian) war. That, at least, is what much of the U.S. policy elite seems to be pushing for these days in Syria.
What is surprising, though, is that despite the disaster of Iraq, looming withdrawal in what will amount to defeat in Afghanistan, and, to put it charitably, the ambiguous result of the U.N.-sanctioned, NATO-led, and Qatari-financed intervention that brought down Muammar al-Qaddafi's regime, is how nearly complete the consensus for strong action has been even among less hawkish liberals, whether what is done takes the form of the United States and its NATO allies arming the Free Syrian Army, opening so-called humanitarian corridors, or encouraging Turkey and a coalition of the willing within the Arab League to do so.
Nothing is wrong with intervention, it seems (just as there is nothing wrong with drone strikes), just as long as it is done by good U.N.-loving, multilateralism-oriented Democrats from the coasts, rather than by ignorant, war-worshipping, vulgarly nationalistic Republicans from flyover country.
It is this religious quality to the support for R2P that helps account for the odd reaction among those who believe that something must be done to stop the Assad regime's war against much of its own people despite the Russian and Chinese vetoes.
Safely out of government, Slaughter was able to go further, demanding that the United States and its allies do something to bring the carnage in Syria to an end. Otherwise, she wrote, R2P would be exposed as a "convenient fiction for power politics or oil politics."  [...] Like the iconic U.S. officer in Vietnam who told a reporter that his troops had been obliged to burn the village in order to save it, Slaughter seems to be willing to undermine the structural foundations of international order, which, for better or worse, is based in large measure on the Security Council, in order to further it. Peace is war; war is peace. George Orwell, call your office.
Meanwhile, despite the astonishing propaganda barrage in the media (for once, CNN, the BBC, and Al Jazeera were all on the same page!) that for all intents and purposes endorsed the claims about dead and wounded made by the anti-Assad insurgents (the disclaimers tended to come at paragraph three or four of a print piece, or the tail end of a video segment), the reality on the ground in Syria was far more complicated. [...] These nightmare scenarios are anything but far-fetched. What is taking place in Syria may have begun in part as a democratic insurrection, but it has become a low-level (at least for the moment) interconfessional civil war.
But in the brave new world of R2P, this does not seem to matter very much to a born-again liberal interventionism eager to flex its muscles.

Rieff should have extended it to the western Europeans where many such liberal internventionist have their home in the green and the former social-democratic parties. Typically they have no experience in anything military, but call for bombing this or that country as soon as someone there kicks a cat around.

Humanitarians they are not.

Posted by b on February 14, 2012 at 16:37 UTC | Permalink


You should see how hard a "liberal interventionist" Kenneth Pollack is trying to pedal away from a war with Iran lately, just three months after he insisted on the continuation of the policies of sanctions and threats which have quite predictably brought us to the current precipice. I guess the lesson that the liberal interventionists learned from Iraq is to do your best to avoid having to take responsibility for the predictable consequences of the very same policies that they've promoted.

Posted by: Cyrus | Feb 14 2012 17:22 utc | 1

I gotta say I'm sick to death of this "liberal" vs "Conservative" horseshit. It should be obvious to all what a tactical scam this is just by paying attention to the policies of this piece of shit fraud Barack Obama.

These whores in DC masquerade themselves as "left" or "right" in an effort to divide the people, while they lock hands in giving us the shaft. We bicker amongst ourselves to the point of impotence while they enjoy giving us a royal fucking. Really, our government is "representative" to only the interests of the elites and the globalists that are manipulating global events towards a concentrated power and wealth structure that is not "national" in nature.

In terms of what we purport ourselves to be, most of the sluts in DC should hang for treason. When a nation that used to pride itself in the rule of law, (and the equal dispensation of the law amongst ALL classes of its citizenry), can throw the law away at the whim of a President, ("look forward rather than backward"), the truth becomes obvious; The "law" serves only one purpose, to hold the masses down while our "leaders" exist and operate with lawless impunity, pursuing agendas and goals that are wholly unrepresentative of the people's interests.

There is no such thing as a "liberal interventionist". They are simply "interventionist", pursuing policies of intervention, not policies of liberalism. False pretenses and labeling has become the trademark of DC policy marketing, and I see no reason for "b" to nurture the practice by presenting the hawks in DC as ideologically divided along partisan lines. The blood flows red no matter who pulls the trigger. And, apparently, both sides of the aisle are eager to swim in it.

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Feb 14 2012 17:59 utc | 2

Humanitarians they are not.

And you? You're a hypocrite in the maintenance of your anything-but-USuk ideology.

Item: Do you defend the interests of totalitarian regime in Bahrain to defend against the "thugs"?

No. Of course not.

Posted by: slothrop | Feb 14 2012 18:04 utc | 3

Slothrop, you piece of RW excrement, why do you post here? Your scripted swill became exposed as mere propaganda long ago.

Why not join the Limbaugh/Hannity/Debka/Fox fans in their orgy of ignorance, and get your rocks off by mind melding with your own kind? Surely squeezing one off in an ideological circle jerk would be immensely more satisfying to you than exposing yourself here, where we all are well aware of the soft and shriveled nature of your arguments.

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Feb 14 2012 18:22 utc | 4

POA @ 2: One of your better posts, mirrors my current thoughts completely. As to Slothrop..Just doing what He/she is paid to do.

Posted by: ben | Feb 14 2012 19:28 utc | 5

Didn't know that bands of heavily armed (machine guns, RPGs, mortars) 'thugs' were roaming the cities and towns in Bahrain (unless you mean the own Bahrain 'mercenaries' and the GCC 'peacekeepers'). Or that 'Al Qaeda' was using massive car bombs to kill dozens of people every other week.

I know you can do better, you are a smart guy, so keep trying.

Posted by: ThePaper | Feb 14 2012 19:57 utc | 6

I don't believe Iraq was "lost". Splitting Iraq into warring factions, eager to swap oil for security was the intent all along. As for Afghanistan, according to counterpunch, the way is being cleared for smaller, hardened special-ops bases and drone hangers while the much-ballyhood "withdrawal" continues. The prize, a pipeline to Gwadar, is irresistible.

Posted by: ruralito | Feb 14 2012 20:02 utc | 7

@slobthrob "of course not". And the pretty lady on the TeeVee who pats the fly-blown african kid on the head and makes a sad face, she's agin it too!

Posted by: ruralito | Feb 14 2012 20:07 utc | 8

In the testosterone-laced world of the US foreign policy establishment, apparatchiks make their bones by proving that they’re not ‘squeamish’. If you’re a Dem, and particularly if you’re a woman, the best career strategy is to be the most belligerent person in the room.

Posted by: Watson | Feb 14 2012 21:38 utc | 9

Diana Johnstone is always very good on Liberal Hawks and their "responsibility to protect"

Who Will Save Libya From Its Western Saviours?

What both the pro-intervention left and right share is the conviction that “we” (meaning the civilized democratic West) have the right and the ability to impose our will on other countries. Certain French movements whose stock in trade is to denounce racism and colonialism have failed to remember that all colonial conquests were carried out against satraps, Indian princes and African kings who were denounced as autocrats (which they were) or to notice that there is something odd about French organizations deciding who are the “legitimate representatives” of the Libyan people.

Posted by: Frank | Feb 14 2012 22:48 utc | 10


Thanks Ruralito. Its nice to chuckle occassionally, at that asshole's expense.

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Feb 14 2012 23:28 utc | 11

"If you’re a Dem, and particularly if you’re a woman, the best career strategy is to be the most belligerent person in the room"

Well, certainly, Hillary's balls outweigh Obama's by a substantial tonnage. A shame those gonads aren't batting for the force of good.

If the media presented the whore in an honest light they'd photoshop a beard on her and call her public statements "policy ejaculations".

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Feb 14 2012 23:38 utc | 12

The "law" serves only one purpose, to hold the masses down while our "leaders" exist and operate with lawless impunity, pursuing agendas and goals that are wholly unrepresentative of the people's interests.

Three of Derrick Jensen’s 20 premise. If you are not already aware POA, I thought you might be interested.

Premise Four: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

Premise Five: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice.

Premise Thirteen: Those in power rule by force, and the sooner we break ourselves of illusions to the contrary, the sooner we can at least begin to make reasonable decisions about whether, when, and how we are going to resist.

Posted by: juannie | Feb 14 2012 23:53 utc | 13

It's true, PissedOffAmerican, as you suggested in your above post, that what neoliberals like Susan Rice and Samantha Power share in common with neocons like Robert Kagan and Dan Senor is the goal of expanding US-Israeli hegemony around the globe, particularly in resource-rich regions of the world. But what is not mentioned much is how they use two different sets of rhetoric to accomplish this goal -- neoliberals use rhetoric that's couched in phony humanitarianism, while the neocons use rhetoric that's couched in phony patriotism. This gets to the heart of why Republicans, who tends to be neocons, are virtually indistinguishable from Democrats, who tend to be neoliberals.

It's my hope that more and more Americans will soon learn the meaning of the terms "neocon" and "neoliberal" within the context of DC politics and then come to the disturbing realization that Democrats are about as different from Republicans as Coke is from Pepsi. Meanwhile, we are forever stuck with this phony dichotomy between Democrats and Republicans, which is comparable to being stuck in the desert without a leg to stand on.

Posted by: Cynthia | Feb 15 2012 0:05 utc | 14

"....the sooner we can at least begin to make reasonable decisions about whether, when, and how we are going to resist"

Any resistance by force is an impossibility. We live in an age when mass amounts of us can be inihilated by the simple release of toxins or biological agents, untraceable as to origin. Our capabilities to resist have no hope of prevailing over the might of a modern military. We are merely along for the ride, and the megalomaniacal pursuits of a very few elitist ghouls will undoubtedly determine mankind's fate.

Its really not looking too rosy for us. Probably, the best thing for mankind will be for the whole ball of shit to blow up in our faces, before we have completely demolished our chances for survival. Judging by the cover-up at Fukushima, the odds of this happening are pretty damned slim. Seems we are going to be perfectly willing to smother ourselves in our own shit.

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Feb 15 2012 0:14 utc | 15

Democraps and Republiscum share an identical agenda. The big difference between the two factions of the War Party is in how they us propaganda to manipulate the masses--R2P vs. "freedom and democracy," respectively. Both "justifications" are a load of crap hiding Washington's relentless power grab.

What's most disturbing to me is the blind allegiance of the bases of both Democrap and Republiscum parties to the ruinous policies of their political elites.

Glen Greenwald noted on Book TV (with Noam Chomsky) that a few years ago an audience would be split 50-50 on Bush's security policies, Democraps unanimously expressing outrage. Now it's more like 90% approving with 10% opposing Bushabama's policies. Now the people who get denigrated are the small minority that exhibit critical thinking skills and common sense (the 10%.)

The War Party has effectively run the country's values off the rails, which is why I'm voting 3rd Party in November.

Posted by: JohnH | Feb 15 2012 2:17 utc | 16

Any resistance by force is an impossibility.

Why use force when we have much better options.

I don’t think it takes all that many people to check mate the system. 10% of the population, prepared to go the extra mile, should be enough. Some 30 million US Americans, all pulling on the same rope, and the colossus will fall. It is all a matter of finding the opponent's weak points and exploiting them in a fashion they can’t defend themselves against.

The way I see it, the best way to beat the system is with its own weapons.

What if tomorrow 10 million citizens lined up outside their local police station to turn themselves in for having smoked marijuana at some point in their life. Another 10 million show up to report themselves for having illegally burned a CD or downloaded a movie. What are they gonna do? The justice system would collapse if they wanted to prosecute everyone, so all they can do is throw up the arms and declare pot smoking and file sharing from now on legal.

The secret to fighting the system is to smother it with goodwill.

Imagine enough residents decided they had enough of this Orwellian DHS surveillance shit, and every day tens of thousands of pissed of Americans called the DHS hotline to report a fabricated "suspicious activity". By their own rules they have to follow up on all reports, causing system overload.

When a Border Patrol stooge starts to give his usual "Where are you from, where are you going, whats the purpose of your border crossing, etc" spiel, tell him what he is asking for. Plus more, much much more. Give him details till his ears start smoking. Be overly friendly and extra compliant, to the point that he wishes you'd shut the fuck up and get out of his sight. Waste their time to the max, make a procedure that should normally not take more than 2-3 minutes into a 20 minute event, in a manner where they can't fault you. You are doing as you were told, yet you are annoying the hell out of them goons,.

And now imagine every day anew an armada of cars with drivers and passengers following the above principle line up at the control point. Apply lawful civil disobedience and we can end the system by drowning it in its own shit.

How to fight JP Morgan Chase? Go into their nearest branch, line up and open an account with 10 dollars. Then go back the next day, line up and withdraw 5 dollars. The next day you go back and redeposit the 5 bucks, only to withdraw it again the following day. And so on. Now find one million people prepared to do the same, stand all day in mile long cues outside JP Morgan branches, wanting to open an account, deposit or withdraw $5. End of business for JP Morgan branches.

How to fight Wal Mart? At 7 am in morning, every morning, get in your car and meet up with 1000 other Big Biz opponents in your nearest Wal Mart car park, hopefully filling it entirely. Then, when the door opens, go in, spend all day there but no one buys a single item. What are they gonna do? They are not selling a dollars worth of inventory and yet they can't call the cops on you, its your right to park in their lot and go browsing.

Every person going through a TSA check should opt to be strip searched, and when the lusty TSA freaks heads are at hip level, let one rip into their surprised faces. Ooops, officer, this only happens to people I like.

I guess what I am trying to say is, people united can never be defeated. We are too many, the system too flawed, too fragile. It would break the moment there is a critical mass of people prepared to act.

Viva la revolucion, amigos.

Posted by: Juan Moment | Feb 15 2012 3:16 utc | 17

"It would break the moment there is a critical mass of people prepared to act"

Yeah, and this fictional scenario will play out when? Perhaps you can recruit the army of Fox News fans into performing the actions you describe??? Or, uh, maybe the Maddow droolers will stop fantacizing about Rachel's sex life long enough to join you in your endeavors.

Your post certainly underscores my point, as you follow my impossible scenario with one of your own. Smoke another doobie and dream on, brother.

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Feb 15 2012 4:47 utc | 18

Why so defeatist POA?

I don't live in the States so I can't really judge that, but what you are saying is you believe not even 1 in 10 Americans is ready to actively challenge the system.

How about you? Would you be prepared to engage in civil disobedience?

Posted by: Juan Moment | Feb 15 2012 6:30 utc | 19

Double standards of intervention

The current debate over sovereignty and interventionism also brings up a more disturbing realization: Pushed to the extremes, neo-conservatism and liberalism meet up again to create a remarkably similar set of policies. Accusing a regime of violating international law, threatening its neighbors, risking regional conflict, and engaging in heinous crimes against its own citizens are just as applicable to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as they are to Bashar al-Assad’s Syria. The justifications neocons and liberals use to justify their flagrant disregard of international norms, institutions, governing frameworks, and behavior are different, but the result is almost the same: relatively powerful western countries meddling in regimes they dislike.

The blatant hypocrisy of those same western countries not intervening in their own abusive client regimes — while angrily condemning the Russians and Chinese for identical policies — is, one supposes, to be ignored. After all, there is a massacre going on in Syria. Who are you to say we shouldn’t try to stop it?


"Democracy" in Libya?
University of Oxford: National Public Opinion Poll of Libya

The first ever National Survey of Libya suggests that the population would still prefer one-man-rule over alternatives like democracy.

Posted by: b | Feb 15 2012 6:50 utc | 20

Juan Moment wrote:

I guess what I am trying to say is, people united can never be defeated. We are too many, the system too flawed, too fragile. It would break the moment there is a critical mass of people prepared to act.

Right on!

The system is very fragile. And as to bio-terror etc. (see POA), the massive use of force, I think that is very overrated. For one, the whole of the security apparatus (security, secret / covert entities, civil protection, police and army) have to stand and act as one man; they are not numerous enough, coordinated enough, and dominate now only thru intimidation, ‘terrorism’, random hits (easy and cheap to do.) They act - all over the world - right now to create fear and chaos, but control they do not really have. They are destroying, not building or controlling, and that is a weak position. And they can be turned!

Well, color me optimist on this bright cold morning.

Posted by: Noirette | Feb 15 2012 9:59 utc | 21

Thought i'd toss in Immanuel Wallerstein's acute commentary this morning:

Commentary No. 323, Feb. 15, 2012
"The Syrian Impasse"

Bachar al-Assad has risen to the heights of being one of the least popular men in the world. He is denounced as a tyrant, indeed a very bloody tyrant, by almost everyone. Even those governments that refuse to denounce him seem to be counseling him to curb his repressive ways and to make some sort of political concessions to his internal opponents.

So, how is it that he ignores all this advice and proceeds to continue to use maximum force to continue political control of Syria? Why is there no outside intervention to force his removal from office? To answer these questions, let us start with assessing his strengths. To start with, he has a reasonably strong army, and up to now, with a few exceptions, the army and other structures of force in the country have stayed loyal to the regime. Secondly, he still seems to command the support of at least half of the population in what is increasingly being described as a civil war.

The key government posts and the officer corps are in the hands of the Alawi, a branch of Shi'a Islam. The Alawi are a minority of the population and certainly fear what would happen to them if the opposition forces, largely Sunni, were to come to power. In addition, the other significant minority forces - the Christians, the Druze, and the Kurds - seem to be equally wary of a Sunni government. Finally, the large merchant bourgeoisie have yet to turn against Assad and the Baath regime.

But is this really enough? If this were all, I doubt that Assad could really hold out much longer. The regime is being squeezed economically. The opposition Free Syrian Army is being fed arms by Iraqi Sunnis and probably Qatar. And the chorus of denunciations in the world press and by politicians of all stripes grows louder by the day

Yet, I don't think that, a year or two from now, we will find that Assad is gone or the regime basically changed. The reason is that those who are denouncing him the loudest do not really want him to go. Let us take them one by one.

[Copyright by Immanuel Wallerstein, distributed by Agence Global. For rights and permissions, including translations and posting to non-commercial sites, and contact:, 1.336.686.9002 or 1.336.286.6606. Permission is granted to download, forward electronically, or e-mail to others, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To contact author, write:

[edited by b]
@Jaundist - please do not steal copyrighted material to post it here in full. Just provide a link and an excerpt.

Posted by: jaundist | Feb 15 2012 10:44 utc | 22

Mass participations:

When I participated in mass actions that resulted in a couple hundred planned arrests the authorities simply suspended enforcing the law for a few hours until they had disposed of us.
This was at the Nevada nuclear test site, and we all agreed to be arrested but to only use the names of John and/or Jane Doe. They cited us, but with the useless names on the citations.
I would think they could wait us out for a day, or a couple of days before returning to their usual action. Makes it harder to be effective. Still, a people united.....

Posted by: Jake | Feb 15 2012 14:18 utc | 23

Yeah POA, a hell of a conundrum.
I tend to agree with you...
I fear it’s too late already,
I take some heart
from an old catcher’s philosophy,
“It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Resistance can and does take many forms.
Just exchanging ideas here is resistance.
Thanks, Juan M and Jake.
I think you might have, just might have
Some great ideas/activities.
We each do what we can.
As I’ve mentioned before POA,
I find your vernacular paradoxically charming and effective.

Posted by: juannie | Feb 15 2012 14:49 utc | 24

"Why so defeatist POA?"

Well, because I interact with my fellow American citizens every day, and I know full well how uninformed, naive, misinformed, and unengaged they are. Juannie's scenario is a delightful flight of fancy, as tittilating as it is improbable. Defeatist or realist??? You decide. While you're deciding, consider what we have stood by and ALLOWED these last to decades, while drinking the swill surrounding the events of 9/11.

"How about you? Would you be prepared to engage in civil disobedience?"

I would, I do, and I am.

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Feb 15 2012 14:55 utc | 25

POA, I get your point, you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. For how long has the 'Boycott Coca Cola' campaign been running, and yet their sales keep climbing. People's apathy is pathetic.

Its no different here in Australia, the great masses vote for any character, no matter how slimy, as long as he or she is promising them the most personal gain. They have no problem with aggressive wars being fought in their name, police brutality at home, environmental degradation, who bloody cares, as long as I'll be better off. Ah yeah, and keeping out refugees arriving by boat, always a popular winner.

Despite this depressing fact, history is one long timeline of events and outcomes being achieved once thought impossible.

You Can Blow Out a Candle But You Can't Blow Out a Fire
Once the flames begin to catch The wind will blow it higher

I've mentioned above only a hand full of possible direct actions people can take, there are countless other ways how the ones prepared to step up to the plate can throw sand in the gearbox.

One prime factor for people being slow to revolt is that doing so generally means stepping outside the law, too risky for most, especially those with families and something to lose should the illegal action go wrong. But given the knowledge that a million others will do the same, and what is done is not criminal per se, I can imagine more activists would come out of the woodwork.

Also, it is encouraging to see that the PIPA and SOPA monstrosities have been stopped for the time being, thanks in parts to the huge number of people speaking out against it.

I am donating every so often funds to Sea Shepherd, one of the few organisations I am aware of taking the fight directly to the opponent, Japanese whalers and Canadian baby seal clubbers. Leading by example, having their protest boats rammed and sunk, but fuck it, back out the next season and sticking it to them. You may think of Sea Shepherd what you want, but their growing membership is proof that an increasing number of people are prepared to tackle those bastards head on.

Anyhow, I share your disillusionment with the world as it is, but differ from your belief that we might as well give up. Who will be be the John Brown of the 21st century? I don't know, but my guess is he or she is already amongst us. It starts with one, and so it grows.

Posted by: Juan Moment | Feb 15 2012 16:38 utc | 26

Anyone else recall late in Bush Jr's second term when the hispanic population went on general strike across the US? It was in the few millions and stopped much of the countries commerce for a day. CNN and the rest of the networks both covered it and did not criticize severely... I think due to very large numbers. I was shocked at the small amount of police brutality and the deafening silence from both major parties.. though of course there was some brutality in LA etc.

I think there was much to be learned from that action, its numbers, the medias sullen response. It would take those numbers for an extended period to achieve much because the entire system is corrupt and there is no clear alternative beyond red pill (GOP neo conservatives) vs blue pill (Dem neoliberals) in the zeitgeist. But I agree with Juannie... it can and will happen as soon as enough people realize they can/do have the power.

Posted by: Eureka Springs | Feb 15 2012 16:47 utc | 27

R2P was dreamed up by Australia's Gareth Evans, who supported the genocide in East Timor in return for a crack at its oil. John Pilger keeps showing the clip of the rat celebrating with champagne.

Posted by: Bob Jackson | Feb 16 2012 12:16 utc | 28

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