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The Left should have supported the Libyan intervention

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/20/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,148 times Debate No: 21278
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
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Throughout the Western world the political Left was split over the Libyan intervention. It is my position that those on the Left who supported the intervention were right and those on the Left who opposed it were wrong. I'm expecting an opponent who will argue against the war from the Left.

1) No semantics
2) A forfeited round = an automatic loss of the debate
3) PRO will argue why those on the political Left should have supported the Libyan Intervention.
4) CON will argue why those on the left that opposed the intervention were right to do so.

I hope this debate will be a good one. I await your challenge.


Thank you for the interesting topic.

Good luck.
Debate Round No. 1


4 key points I would like to make on why the Left should have supported the Libyan Intervention.

1) The intervention had multilateral support (unlike Iraq):

The Libyan rebels asked desperately for the World to help them []
The Arab League supported the intervention []
The call for war was spearheaded by Britain and France, not the US. []
The UN Security Council approved the intervention []

2) The intervention was legally & morally just:

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is norm in international law that sovereignty not a privilege, but a responsibility. The objective of R2P is to prevent or stop genocide and crimes against humanity. []

Qaddafi's forces were guilty of a long list of war crimes. The rebels didn't begin resist violently until Qaddafi's forces began to open fire on unarmed protesters. [] During the civil war Qaddafi's forces engaged in murder, torture, rape, kidnappings, and the shelling of residential areas. [] Before NATO's intervention Qaddafi's tanks were headed towards the rebel stronghold Benghazi. Threatening to end the resistance by quickly and brutally crushing it. []

Samantha Power wrote a pulitzer prize winning book "A Problem from Hell" about genocide and the moral failure of the international community to stop it. In the book she asks "Why do American leaders who vow "never again" repeatedly fail to stop genocide?" []. Now Power is currently serving as the Senior Director of Multilateral Affairs on the Staff of the United States National Security Council and is a special advisor to President Obama. On Libya she said that a failure to intervene would have been "extremely chilling, deadly and indeed a stain on our collective conscience." []

3) Lefties aren't always against intervention

Many Leftists volunteered to travel and fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War out of "international solidarity" [] []. The Left were firmly on the side of the Allies during WWII. And a generation of 60's radicals would later in life lead the call for intervention in Kosovo []. One of those radicals was Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister and member of the typically pacifist Green party. []

4) There was no other humane or practical alternative

It's not enough to just state what your against, you must also state what your for. Those who oppose the intervention either A) Believe it is better to be spectators to massacre than take any risk to try and stop it. Or B) Believed the international community was trigger-happy and that Qaddafi's tanks could have been stopped peacefully from advancing on Benghazi. Or C) That the Arab League should have intervened instead, despite not having the political will or military capability to do so.


I thank my opponent for a well-argued first round, and such an interesting topic. My opponent makes four points, which I will address in turn before moving on to my argument in chief.

1) The intervention had multilateral support (unlike Iraq)

This contention is not so much an argument why the left should have supported the Libyan intervention as a preemptive refutation of a reason they might not have. Since I will not be arguing this reason, there is no need to address my opponent’s refutation of an imagined argument. I will not address this point further.

2) The intervention was legally & morally just

I obviously am going to disagree on this point. In my argument below, I will outline why I believe intervention was not moral. Here I will simply address the points my opponent raised. Under R2P, violations of sovereignty are justifiable only in response to four circumstances: genocide, ethnic-cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. None of these conditions were met in Libya. Clearly genocide does not apply as Qaddafi was not seeking to eliminate a particular race, or people from the earth. His actions were entirely confined to Arabs within his own borders. Ethnic-cleansing also does not apply, while there may have been a tribal element to which cities supported Qaddafi, security forces were targeting protestors and not engaged in a systematic attempt to eliminate the tribes in question. Crimes against humanity are defined by the Rome Statute as “They are not isolated or sporadic events, but are part either of a government policy (although the perpetrators need not identify themselves with this policy).”[1] The Libya uprising was clearly a sporadic event not a long-term government policy. Finally, since there was no war prior to foreign intervention, how can there have been war crimes?

If indeed, R2P justified foreign intervention, why did we not intervene in Bahrain, Yemen, or Syria? The answer is that R2P didn’t justify it, and Western intervention in Libya was motivated by selfish economic purposes.

3) Lefties aren't always against intervention

The fact that a particular “lefty” became an establishment politician in Germany, and consequently support another economically motivated war in Kosovo, is completely irrelevant to the proposition.

4) There was no other humane or practical alternative

My opponent presents several false choices. Whether there would have been a “massacre” is a point we can debate. Had the tanks arrived in Benghazi, probably a few people would have been killed but then order would have been restored. I’ll grant that it would not have been a fair, or just order, but the argument that hundreds of thousands of people were about to be wiped out is plainly silly. The Arab League is quite capable of taking action. Saudi Arabia spends over 11% of its GDP on military[2]. The fact that they chose not to act should be telling. For some reason Western powers are more willing to kill Arabs in the name of “Arab freedom” than Arabs are.

Counter Argument

The Libya intervention was an economically driven statest war designed to advance the interest of Western capitalists. Qaddafi had been an international pariah for decades[3]. Libya produces 1.5M barres of oil per day and that level could be considerably higher[4]. The intervention was designed to remove from an oil rich country a dictator who does not serve the interests of Western oil companies. This is a fairly common thing to do for a Western military. The U.S. did it in Iraq (twice), in Iran, and in Venezuela. On the other hand, we support dictators who act favorably to Western oil interests such as in Iraq (earlier), Iran (later), Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and now Syria. Once the dust settled from the allied bombing in Libya, Western oil companies wasted no time rushing in to un-nationalize the Libyan oil resources. A greed driven war that supports powerful interests in Western capitalist countries is exactly the sort of intervention that the Left should oppose.







Debate Round No. 2


I would like to thank my opponent for his/her competent challenge.

1) The intervention had multilateral support (unlike Iraq)

One of the popular criticisms from the Left of the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq was the fact it was unilateral. [] The US did not have the approval of the UN, or even the approval of some fellow western democracies like France. Those who claim the Iraq War was "illegal" would now be hypocritical to deny the legitimacy of a multilateral mission that was UN approved.

The fact that the Libyan people requested outside intervention and were gracious to NATO for doing so, should not be overlooked. [] Popular Libyan support, Arab League approval, and NATO's withdrawal at the end of the mission, should all cause anyone to pause before uttering the word "imperialism". []

The Left should support this kind of intervention because it was multilateral and humanitarian, not unilateral and "imperialist".

2) The intervention was legally and morally just

"[S]ince there was no war prior to foreign intervention, how can there have been war crimes?"
This is completely false. The armed rebellion started in February 2011. The UN voted to authorize a "No-fly Zone" on March 17, 2011. NATO started boming on March 19, 2011. []
The rebels had taken control of Eastern Libya and had pockets of resistance in the West, including the city of Misrata. [] Qaddafi then began his blitzkrieg campaign on the rebel controlled areas of Libya. There is no other appropriate term for this but civil war. And Indeed that war began before the UN voted to intervene in it.

Since the civil war was a war, the news reports I liked to in this section of my 2nd round argument would be reports of Qaddafi's war crimes. War crime investigations show evidence that many of those crimes were ordered from the top of the chain of command. Qaddafi had reportedly told his troops that "It is absolutely forbidden for supply cars, fuel and other services to enter the city of Misrata from all gates and checkpoints" which would starve Misrata's population during the four month siege, and ordered that the "blue sea turned red" with the blood of the inhabitants. []

The UN resolution approving the No-fly Zone gave "attacks against civilians" and "crimes against humanity" as the rationale for intervention and condemned the Qaddafi regime and Pro-Qaddafi militias as the perpetrators. It also authorized "all necessary measures to protect civilians". [] This is textbook R2P.

"If indeed, R2P justified foreign intervention, why did we not intervene in Bahrain, Yemen, or Syria?"
Indeed R2P is an ideal that sometimes fails to be applied due to political, geographic, and military reasons. Russia and China are politically preventing action on Syria for example. But this all or nothing argument is just another way of saying nothing. Just because we can't save everyone everywhere doesn't mean we shouldn't bother saving anyone at all. This argument is often disingenuous since those who make it are unlikely to support military interventions in all these countries at once.

The consensus on the Left was that letting Rwanda happen was a grave mistake. Should this be a mistake we continue to make? If not then the Left should have supported this intervention.

3) Lefties aren't always against intervention

My opponent marginalizes my point to "a particular "lefty". The point I was trying to make was that the Left isn't always "Anti-War" (supported WWII). Nor did it always consider foreign interventions as bad (Leftists from around the western world volunteered to fight fascism in Spain during it's civil war). I also pointed out that the case for humanitarian intervention in Kosovo came from the Left (Fischer, Bernard Kouchner, Bill Clinton, and others). Exactly what of economic value did tiny Kosovo have?

4) No other alternative

The problem with averting disaster is that it allows people like yourself to say "i'm not so sure". Look at what Qaddafi did before. His tanks would've destroyed Benghazi within days. NATO and the US are the only ones who could have mobilized forces in time to make any difference.

Counter to your counter:

The US already had an oil relationship with Qaddafi, in fact oil companies lobbied on his behalf against the intervention. [] If this was really about oil the US would be pro-stability (pro-Qaddafi), not for the instability of regime change and the uncertainty of a new government.


In his previous response, my opponent said:

"The problem with averting disaster is that it allows people like yourself to say 'i'm not so sure'."

This statement is an ad hominem attack and I will not stand for it. The resolution was "The Left should have supported the Libyan intervention." The resolution was not "The Libyan intervention was good" nor "Mimshot should have supported the Libyan intervention." As a matter of fact, Mimshot did support the Libyan intervention. While I tend to take the liberal side of the debates on this site I find interesting, I do not identify myself as one of "the Left." I took this debate because I thought it was going to be an interesting discussion, because I thought that opposition to the Libyan intervention was consistent with "the left's" positions, and because I thought it would be interesting to argue a position from the other side.

I think I have said enough on this topic. The resolution was not whether the intervention was right, it was whether the left should have supported it. I will not return to arguing that they should not.

My opponent introduced four points in the first round. He has not added any, and I rebutted them in my first round, so I'll only respond to his responses here.

1) The intervention had multilateral support (unlike Iraq)
My opponent doubled down on this point -- a rebuttal to an argument I never made. I have never said the left should have opposed the intervention because of a lack of multi-lateral support. I said the left should have opposed it because the humanitarian aims were a thinly veiled attempt at economic colonialism by Western oil companies. This point was irrelevant last round and remains irrelevant this round.

2) The intervention was legally and morally just
My opponent made to replies to this. First he argued that a civil war is a war. Perhaps this is true, but his only example of a war crime was "It is absolutely forbidden for supply cars, fuel and other services to enter the city of Misrata from all gates and checkpoints." If prohibiting fuel or cars from entering a city is a war crime, then Russia should have been guilty of war crimes when they cut off gas to Europe ( My opponent hasn't given a law of war it violates.

3) Lefties aren't always against intervention

That lefties felt WWII was justified has no bearing on whether they should think this war was justified.

4) There was no other humane or practical alternative
On this point in the last round, I made the argument (and provided sources) that the impending massacre was overblown propaganda. My opponent replied with ad hominem attacks (without sources).

Counter to your counter:
The fact that oil companies had a relationship with Qaddafi doesn't mean they couldn't gain more from his replacement. The oil fields were still nationalized, whereas now ExonMobile and BP own them.

This sort of globalization through the use of military force is precisely the type of war that the left objects to. My opponent has made no legitimate argument to the contrary. The left should not have supported the Libyan intervention. The proposition should be affirmed.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by YoungContrarian 6 years ago
My opponent took issue it this statement:

The problem with averting disaster is that it allows <i>people like yourself to say</i> "i'm not so sure".

Allow me to clarify what I meant. By <i>"people like yourself"</i> I meant those who were against the intervention. Since Mimshot accepted this debate arguing CON I had only assumed that was his actual opinion. But apparently he was playing a devil's advocate. How was I to know? I meant no offence.

He made the counterfactual argument that whether or not a massacre would take place in Benghazi was "debatable". My response was that since it was avoided before it began people will always say <b>"I'm not so sure"</b>. Given the previous actions of Qaddafi's forces and the statements he said, we had every reason to assume massacre would happen.

TO VOTERS: Please read both our final round arguments carefully and see if Mimshot really responded to all the points I made. Thank you.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: This is too much of a tie... Tempted to give sources pro though...