Seattle sister of murdered US Ambassador assists on Libyan health initiative | 

Event: Three Libyan doctors visited Seattle to promote a new health initiative in Benghazi honoring the legacy of murdered US Ambassador Chris Stevens. Listen to KPLU’s interview with his sister, Seattle doctor Anne Stevens.


Anne Stevens
Anne Stevens

A group of Libyan physicians were in Seattle this week — despite the best efforts of the FBI to discourage them — to meet with Anne Stevens, a physician researcher at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and others to foster an initiative aimed at building a new health care system in that ravaged country.

Stevens, a pediatric researcher, is sister of the late Chris Stevens, the US Ambassador to Libya who was killed last September in the attack on the embassy quarters in Benghazi.

“After he was killed, we wondered why he’d been in Benghazi,” she said. “It was safe in Tripoli so why did he go there? We didn’t know.”

It turns out, Ambassador Stevens had been working with a physician from Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, Thomas Burke, to launch a project at the Benghazi Medical Center aimed at improving the poorly functioning health care system. Continue reading

Libya: Making the case for humanitarian warfare? | 

Flickr, Runs with Scissors

Gandhi and Che, two kinds of freedom fighters

On CNN’s Global Public Square blog, Stewart Patrick writes that the U.S. military’s support of the popular revolution in Libya and its defeat of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi vindicates the Obama Administration’s decision to engage in warfare on humanitarian grounds.

Patrick, who is a senior fellow at Foreign Affairs and director of the Program on International Institutions and Global Governance for the Council on Foreign Relations, notes that this was the “first unambiguous military enforcement of the Responsibility to Protect” doctrine. Writes Patrick:

The fall of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is a significant foreign policy triumph for U.S. President Barack Obama. By setting overall strategy while allowing others to shoulder the burden of implementing it, the Obama administration achieved its short-term objective of stopping Gadhafi’s atrocities and its long-term one of removing him from power. This was all done at a modest financial cost, with no U.S. troops on the ground, and zero U.S. casualties. Meanwhile, as the first unambiguous military enforcement of the Responsibility to Protect norm, Gadhafi’s utter defeat seemingly put new wind in the sails of humanitarian intervention.

I’ve raised this issue a few times on Humanosphere, including this post in mid-March immediately after the Obama Administration decided to intervene. I also noted an argument for intervention by Robert Pape in The Atlantic and later posted on the ongoing and, to me, somewhat confusing debate about what kind of humanitarian crisis justifies military intervention.

Patrick regards the decision to intervene in Libya as a justified but unique exercise of the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine — aka, the humanitarian case for warfare. Many will disagree with both characterizations.

As Patrick notes, many will see Libya as a dangerous precedent encouraging “interventionism run amok.” Others, looking at the Syrian government’s ongoing killing of democracy protesters, will see any argument against intervening there as a dangerous ambivalence.

New humanitarian standard for warfare? | 

Flickr, Jayel Aheram

Except for euphemistically calling warfare “intervention,” I think this article in The Atlantic about our current military efforts in Libya “The New Standard for Humanitarian Intervention” is a good read. Says the author Robert Pape:

We may be witnessing an historic shift in international norms.

Flickr, Runs with Scissors

Gandhi and Che, two kinds of freedom fighters

Pape’s article answers a question I raised a few weeks ago in my post asking “What determines the humanitarian military response?”

I will refer Pape’s article to my brother who, over the weekend, was challenging me on this — about Obama deciding to wage “intervention” against Libya without congressional approval, about the geopolitical wisdom of using warfare as a means to stop or resolve conflict and so on.

And it’s not just me and my brother. The chattering class (of which I am a card-carrying member) has been all over this issue as well, with some pundits who had been criticizing President Obama for not taking action in the Middle East now criticizing for him taking this action.

I recently looked at the reasons why I believe it is in our national interest to take aggressive “humanitarian military action” in Libya, as did Nick Kristof, who argues it is the better of several bad choices. For more than a month now, I’ve been citing stories about Ivory Coast that raise the question of why there has been so little international response to that crisis so similar in nature to Libya.

Pape goes beyond these specific cases and issues to look at what the rapid military intervention in Libya may mean for the future of foreign policy, and if it signals a more “humanitarian” approach by the international community — a lower threshold of intolerance for brutality. Says Pape:

Crises short of genocide, such as the Libyan conflict, justify a military response when it can save thousands of lives with reasonable prospects of virtually no or only very low casualties to international allies.

On Libya, the Arab revolt and the national interest | 

Flickr, Messay Shoakena

Anti-Gaddafi protests in Libya

The popular revolt in Libya began in Tunisia, gained force in Egypt, and is continuing its spread across much of the Arab world.

Libya is different mostly in that we are supporting the rebellion militarily, which has raised other questions.

The Arab revolt appears to be re-writing the political power grid in the Middle East and yet some continue to argue that none of this is in our national interest. Why then has Egypt been one of the top recipients of U.S. foreign aid?

Those who contend the Arab revolt has nothing to do with our national interests appear to have their heads in the desert sand. Geopolitically speaking.

But as a humanitarian issue, if this popular revolt continues to spread and grow, as some think it will, one question we need to ask is if we would intervene again.

Would we take action in another Arab country if there is a similar risk of large-scale, violent government retaliation? Is there a moral obligation, a precedent being set here, that will shift the discussion beyond the ever-debated political calculus focused simply on whether or not it is in our interest?

That’s what I wondered after hearing the question being asked by NPR’s Jackie Northam in a report today, Will U.S. policy in Libya spread to other nations? Continue reading

What determines the humanitarian military response? | 

Flickr, Runs with Scissors

Gandhi and Che, two kinds of freedom fighters

Most of us prefer to avoid using the military and killing people to solve problems.

At least, that’s what we say — that we prefer non-violence. Hollywood and the entertainment industry, however, seem to think shooting at people is, in fact, our favorite problem-solving strategy.

The reality is that a military response is sometimes the only course of action that will work.

Take what’s happening in Libya.

Is there a credible argument out there that challenges the need for the current international military response to Muammar Gaddafi’s murderous retaliation against those Libyans who are — as part of the broader Arab revolt — seeking an to end his dictatorship?

I’ve seen a few articles questioning the political validity of this move, or the specific tactics. Here’s a thoughtful post by Yale development expert Chris Blattman noting that military interventions imply broader failures in foreign policy.

But I can’t find anyone (other than Gaddafi and his few supporters) arguing that the military response aimed at stopping the pro-Gaddafi forces is fundamentally wrong. Rather, this action has become a humanitarian obligation. Yet: Continue reading

Analysis: Could the Middle East “Jasmine Revolution” spread to America? Should it? | 

Flickr, Megan Skelly

Grass fire

The grassfire Arab revolt sparked last December in Tunisia by the self-immolation suicide of a poor, abused fruit seller is now being called the Jasmine Revolution, apparently because the media likes to color code these kind of things.

Like Iran’s green revolution (which failed) and Ukraine’s orange revolution (which succeeded).

Right now, most of the attention is on Libya where Muammar Gaddafi (or Gadhafi, or Mallomar Godzilla, however you want to spell his name) is waging war on his own people, trying to turn back the tide of political reform. Continue reading

Wikileaks on Libya, Tunis and Egypt | 


The Telegraph published a worrisome article today about Libya, based on its interpretation of a Wikileaks diplomatic cable. Unlike in Tunisia and Egypt, the cable says, Libya’s popular revolt may be fueled by extremist Islamic elements.

Former jihadi fighters who underwent “religious and ideological training” in Afghanistan, Lebanon and the West Bank in the 1980s have returned to eastern towns in Libya such as Benghazi and Derna to propagate their Islamist beliefs, the cables warn

Of course, this was much the same rumor that accompanied the revolution in Egypt — with the media focused on the Muslim Brotherhood — which so far appears to have been not the case.

Still, it’s worth remembering that the Arab revolt’s launch in Tunisia may have been prompted in part by Wikileaks making public the excesses and corruption of the former regime of President Ben Ali.

Here’s a somewhat amusing 2009 cable from the US Embassy in Tripoli about Gaddafi’s children getting in trouble overseas and fighting among themselves for power.

Here’s a less amusing, perhaps revealing, 2008 cable from the US Embassy in Cairo that describes the Egyptian military as having great economic and social influence but also in decline.

Diplomat Matthew Tueller writes of the military’s “decline” in terms of its influence within the Mubarak power structure. What Tueller could not have predicted, of course, is that the military’s declining influence among the power elite may have been what contributed to the military’s identification with the popular revolt:

Recently, academics and civilian analysts painted a portrait of an Egyptian military in intellectual and social decline, whose officers have largely fallen out of society’s elite ranks….

Contacts agree that presidential son Gamal Mubarak’s power base is centered in the business community, not with the military. XXXXXXXXXXXX said officers told him recently that the military does not support Gamal and if Mubarak died in office, the military would seize power rather than allow Gamal to succeed his father.

Davos elite no longer consider Gaddafi’s son a model young leader. | 

Al Jazeera

At first glance, I thought this must be a spoof from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show or The Onion.

But no, it appears to be a real press release from the World Economic Forum’s “Young Global Leaders” program.

After the son of the Libyan dictator threatened “rivers of blood” if the popular protests continued, the WEF announced “Saif Al Gaddafi suspended from the Forum of Young Global Leaders.”

That’ll teach him! Continue reading