Idealism may not always be the best way to serve our ideals.
Jalel Harchaoui, a researcher in Paris interviewed by the Nouvel Observateur, has uncovered what he considers the real reasons for the war on Libya that brought down leader Muammar Gaddafi and prompted Hillary Clinton later to boast, “we came, we saw, he died.” Harchaoui claims that “Hillary Clinton wanted an idealistic and liberal war because she was already preparing her campaign. She wanted to prove, as a woman and spouse of a former president, that she could conduct an easy, clean war in the role of the good guys.” (Our translation of the original in French.)
Here is today’s 3D definition:
Cynical and self-interested but acceptable and effective because of the naive belief — held by your electors and promoted by the media — that punishing people you don’t know but whom you suspect of being evil is always the right thing to do
Joe Penny’s article in The Intercept gives more background on the parties behind the Libyan invasion (primarily France, the US and UK). It points out, among other things, that then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy saw the assault as a golden opportunity for a real-life sales demonstration of the Rafale combat jet that he hoped to sell globally. Sarkozy scored big for France on that one: “[S]howcasing the Rafale jets in the Libya campaign and other wars in Mali and Syria, France ended up attracting eventual clients in Egypt, India, and Qatar.”
Sarkozy has since been indicted on grounds of corruption, though Harchaoui, for one, doesn’t believe that there’s a solid case against him. Penny points out that Sarkozy had made some serious blunders with Egypt and Tunisia and “was eager to shift the narrative to put himself at the forefront of a pro-democracy, anti-Gaddafi intervention,” despite his public coziness with Gaddafi up until that point. In other words, “idealism” delivered in the form of an image-comforting “pro-democracy” war has become a standard cynical tactic for self-promotion among leaders.
From the intercepted Hillary Clinton diplomatic emails, which were finally released by the State Department in December 2016, we also learned that both France and the US had a “good” (but definitely not idealistic) reason for bringing down Gaddafi: He was planning to launch a pan-African gold-backed currency that threatened France’s neo-colonial CFA Franc, the dollar and the euro. Currencies are the foundation of colonial and imperial economic systems, or what some call the “liberal, rules-based international order.” Libya had massive gold reserves in 2011.
The mainstream media avoided mentioning this issue, although The Guardian published an opinion piece at the time that described it in some detail.
In March 2011, Clinton solemnly stated the idealistic case: “[T]he international community came together to speak with one voice and to deliver a clear and consistent message: Colonel Gaddafi’s campaign of violence against his own people must stop.”
“One voice” places the issue on the highest moral plane, elevating the reasoning to an appeal to a universal principle of justice, underlined by the affirmation that the message is also “clear and consistent.” In an era when it is no longer de rigueur to declare war (the US Congress last declared war in 1942), announcing that another leader’s practice “must stop” has become the equivalent and apparently acceptable substitute for a formal declaration of war.
An email from Sidney Blumenthal to Hillary Clinton revealed the main reasons Sarkozy was so keen on attacking his former friend. There were five, including “plans to supplant France as the dominant power in Francophone Africa.” “Blumenthal informed Clinton that the discovery of Gaddafi’s secret plan [to launch the gold dinar] was one of the main factors leading to the French President decision to attack Libya.”
Historians routinely discover multiple reasons that push nations into war. The official one is always idealistic and usually does correspond to a real issue. One might imagine that evolved democracies with powerful media, driven by the notion of freedom of expression and the primacy of public interest, would encourage, explore and develop a serious debate around the multiple issues many experts and journalists are aware of, in particular before acts of war can be engaged.
It’s a sad commentary on the state of our democratic institutions that has not been the case for some time.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
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