We can fret about it, and we can prophesize doom. We should. Doom is a distinct possibility. We can also explain to the rebels why they are wrong to welcome Western intervention. But I’d rather not. It feels dirty. I’d rather ask what other roads were not taken. One of Lenin’s comment begins doing that:
I would have argued that they (‘Western’ governments) could keep their military hardware out of it, recognise the transitional council, release Qadhafi’s frozen funds to them, allow them to acquire arms, and open the borders to Libyan refugees. These would have been practical, relatively low-cost measures that could have made a lot of difference.
How could we have actually helped on the basis of this template? The organized radical left in Europe, together with the left in the Arab world, could have perhaps called on volunteers to gather in, say, Marseille, to prepare for sailing to Libya. A camp of volunteers could have come about, a solidarity “tahrir square”, clamoring, amplified by widespread demonstrations, for all the measures Seymour suggests, as well for free passage, arms for the rebels as well as for themselves, supplies, boats to take refugees safely across the Mediterranean, and everything else that might have been needed, AND NO NATO military intervention AND limited assistance for people who want to help the rebels.
We didn’t do that. Why? Maybe we couldn’t. Why? What should we do so that we can do that? These are questions worth discussing. In the absence of any of that, what is better for the rebels, the poisoned cup of imperialist “help,” or the empty cup of anti-imperialist rhetoric? The answer is stuck in my throat.