Armchair warriors find a mudpit

While I’ve been deeply troubled by the incursion into Libya, I’ve also tended to give Juan Cole the benefit of the doubt. Cole claimed that humanitarian considerations demand intervention.[1]

But things went downhill from there. Glenn Greenwald challenged Cole to say whether he would be willing to back his words with his life;[2] Cole replied that he would.[3] My comment that this was an utterly empty exchange was ignored.[4]

Now, Cole has brought further discredit upon himself with some questions for Greenwald, which in essence invoke the existence of NATO and NATO’s service to the United States in Afghanistan. He concludes,

So the NATO effort in Libya is what the UNSC called for. Given the legality and legitimacy of NATO actions, does not the US have a moral responsibility to support our allies, especially given what they have been doing for us?[5]

So, because the United States has been carrying on with the Crusades in its relentless support for Israel and in its meddling in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, some extremists attack the United States. Despite the fact that the attack was planned and organized in Germany, the U.S. attacks Afghanistan, and NATO backs the attack. Never mind that this was an extremely foolish war; that we’re still fighting it nearly ten years later should be reason alone to question its wisdom. Never mind that reifying the Crusades is no way to end them. Never mind that al Qaeda is no longer even in Afghanistan (at least in any significant numbers) or that the Taliban—unsavory as they may be—are not the cause of this war. Never mind that our continued effort in Afghanistan has devolved to a bizarre binary logic of either the U.S. wins or “the terrorists” win. Never mind that the stupidity of this war boggles the mind.

Now, because European countries enacting a colonial legacy felt it necessary to intervene in Libya, and because we “owe” them one, Cole now thinks that the war is morally legitimate.

The intervention in Libya may indeed be defensible, as I’ve noted.[6] But Cole’s logic is the kind that leads to war after war after war. It never ends. And that is, in my view, the most powerful argument in opposition to this war.

  1. [1]Juan Cole, “An Open Letter to the Left on Libya,” Informed Comment, March 27, 2011,
  2. [2]Glenn Greenwald, “Question for Juan Cole,” Salon, March 30, 2011,
  3. [3]Juan Cole, “Answer to Glenn Greenwald,” Informed Comment, March 30, 2011,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Armchair warriors thumping their chests,”, March 31, 2011,
  5. [5]Juan Cole, “Questions for Glenn Greenwald,” Informed Comment, April 3, 2011,
  6. [6]David Benfell, “An eye for an eye in Libya,”, February 21, 2011,

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