What about a No-Fly-Zone for the Palestinians?

Even the Israelis in Gaza, when they moved into the Gaza Strip, they moved in with tanks to fight such extremists. It’s the same thing here.

— Muammar Gaddafi (France 24)

In the last few days the UN have paved the way for a no-fly zone in Libya.

David Cameron and Barack Obama have also agreed to draw up “the full spectrum” of military responses to the crisis in Libya.

British PM David Cameron outlined his conversation with Obama, saying “We have got to prepare for what we might have to do if he [Gaddafi] goes on brutalising his own people…”

I find myself overwhelmed by Cameron’s humanist stand; it seems he really cares about the Libyan people.

And yet, I am left puzzled, for I have never observed British PM Cameron, US Pres. Obama or the UN being so touched in the same manner by the death of Palestinian civilians, who are also butchered on a daily basis by Israeli air raids. As it seems, in the quote above, Muammar Gaddafi performs far more integrity than Cameron, Obama and the UN. Gaddafi clearly manages to question the Western moralist agenda. If the UN is so enthusiastic to bomb Libya, shouldn’t it really start with Israel?

I would contend that for a moral interventional argument to be justifiable, it must be primarily grounded on moral integrity.

If America and Britain are, indeed, ‘morally driven’ why do they fail to protect the people of Palestine? Why do they allow Israeli airplanes decorated with Jewish symbols to drop bombs in Gaza? Is it because Israeli bombs are kosher somehow?

But I guess that we already know the answers — First, they want the Libyan oil and moral intervention is just a pretext for another oil war . Second, the American and the British governments are maintained financially by notorious Zionist lobbies: In America it is AIPAC, and in Britain it is the CFI. It becomes clear that if we want our leaders to save this planet or at least to perform any kind of ethical integrity, Jewish lobbies must be confronted.

I’d like to suggest to Cameron and Obama that if they behaved morally for a change and imposed an immediate no fly zone on Israel they could contribute significantly to resolving one of the most dangerous conflicts in the world today.

Such an act would also contribute to solving the current energy crisis — and most significantly, peace might actually prevail.

Gilad Atzmon, now living in London, was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military. He is the author of The Wandering Who and Being in Time and is one of the most accomplished jazz saxophonists in Europe. He can be reached via his website. Read other articles by Gilad, or visit Gilad's website.

22 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. MichaelKenny said on March 11th, 2011 at 8:32am #

    I’m sorry to see Gilad Atzmon lowering himself to the level of the “Israel always wins” crowd. I had a higher opinion of him than that! Still, the standard Israel Lobby propaganda lines are all there. Since NATO won’t act without a UN mandate, we have to be told that the UN is “paving the way” for that (It isn’t!) And, of course, Britain is in Israel’s pocket and any idea that it is acting in concert with its fellow EU Member States is not mentioned. Assimilating the Conservative Friends of Israel to AIPAC is funny. It’s like comparing a mouse to an elephant! Obviously, Israelis are very, very scared!

  2. lea said on March 11th, 2011 at 8:40am #

    Aipac + CFI control also Haarp?
    Is there a way to find out?

  3. MichaelKenny said on March 11th, 2011 at 8:51am #

    Might we know what “Haarp” is?

  4. Ismail Zayid said on March 11th, 2011 at 10:31am #

    The hypocrisy and double standards, displayed by the US, UK and their allies, are evident, as related here, by Gilad Atzmon. Their concern for the life of the Libyan rebels is admirable. But, pray, why was their deafening silence, and even support for Israel, when Israel waged its vicious assault on Gaza killing over 1400 people, including hundreds of children. We never heard of no-fly zone, sanctions, or possible military intervention against Israel, which was committing war crimes, including the use of prohibited weapons like phosphorus and cluster bombs. In fact, the US and its allies would not, even, support the call for a ceasefire.

    It is time that the hypocrisy and duplicity of these leaders of the so-called free world is exposed for its reality. It is also time for the international community to demand that Israel must comply with international law and the UN Charter.

  5. Rehmat said on March 11th, 2011 at 12:49pm #

    David Cameron has Jewish roots and Obama’s entire political career is financied and molded by Jewish Lobby (AIPAC), whose one of the two fonders, Dennis Ross (son of a Jewish mother and a Catholic step-father), is Hillary Clinton’s adviser on Gulf countries including Iran.

    Jerusalem-based Christian Friends of Israel (CFI) is a Zionist group and British government and its Opposition, Labour Party’ is control by the Israel Lobby (British friends of Israel).

    According to Islamophobe Glenn Beck at CNN (2010) – HAARP is US-funded project to push Jewish and bankers’ control over the world.

    I agree with Gilad Atzmon – “Jewish Lobby always win”. Not only in the case of Palestine – but the division of Sudan and now the push for division of Libya.

    Qaddafi, by every standrad, is far better than Benji Netanyahu, Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger – but, unfortunately, the so-called International Criminal Court (ICC) is on the side of the Jewish mass-murderers.

  6. shabnam said on March 11th, 2011 at 1:34pm #

    {I find myself overwhelmed by Cameron’s humanist stand; it seems he really cares about the Libyan people.}

    You have every right to be angry at Cameron, Obama’s lies about “humanitarian aid” Mr. Atzmon.

    Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya in his recent interview exposes Cameron and Obama as LIARS and tells you about their plot against LIBYIAN PEOPLE.
    Thank you for your post. All the phony ‘left’ who have aligned themselves with the war criminals under the veil of “anti imperialism’ must be exposed fully, many of them are Trotskyite.


  7. 3bancan said on March 11th, 2011 at 5:09pm #

    I’ve just watched “This is my land Hebron” on RT. As the genocidal barbarity of the Jewish nazis in the ME is public knowledge (in spite of the assertions in the film to the contrary by the soft zionazis Uri Avnery and Gideon Levy), it’s crazy to expect from the ardent supporters of those immoral barbarians to “behave morally for a change”…

  8. shabnam said on March 11th, 2011 at 6:28pm #

    People of the world are fed up and disgusted with the real axis of evil US – Israel – Britain that have committed numerous crimes against humanity, but these stooges who pose as ‘leader’ have not been shipped to ICC, a brothel house, for severe punishment.

    We are fed up with the dominant economic system runs by the Mafia who are trying to kill millions of Muslims and steal their resources. People must oppose these criminals with ONE VOICE. People of the region must be united against these criminals who pose as ‘leaders’ in the Western capitals. We are fed up with British nationals who cooperate with thieves and terrorists in London and Washington to collect their ‘benefits’ at the expense of others where have no objections.
    Mohamed El-Khairy at Al Ahram writes:

    {Foreign Secretary William Hague announced he had signed a directive revoking Gaddafi’s diplomatic immunity in the United Kingdom and also the diplomatic immunity of his sons, his family, and his household. He spoke of Britain’s readiness to provide humanitarian help.

    But we didn’t hear Hague and his colleagues call for a reckoning with the war criminals of the Israeli regime when they committed mega-atrocities against Gaza’s civilians just two years ago. On the contrary, they’re busy tinkering with our laws of universal jurisdiction to enable Zionist thugs to come and go without fear of arrest.

    Gaddafi may not be welcome in London but the Foreign Office will happily roll out the red carpet for Livni, Lieberman, Barak and Netanyahu, while Hague conducts the brass band.
    And nobody saw the Department of International Development waiting on Gaza’s borders with humanitarian help.
    Where was HMS Cumberland when British nationals on the Mavi Marmara and the Dignity and other vessels were being assaulted and terrorised in international waters by Israeli pirates, abducted and thrown in their stinking jails?
    Our warships Cumberland and York magically appear in the Mediterranean when Hague and Prime Minister David Cameron snap their fingers. The ships have been protecting victims of Gaddafi, and the York unloaded tons of medical supplies and other humanitarian aid for the Benghazi Medical Centre, donated by the Swedish government.
    Funny how these two vessels couldn’t be deployed to bring life-saving aid to innocent Palestinians after Israel’s indiscriminate “Cast Lead” blitzkrieg. Those same Palestinian civilians are still being bombed and strafed with impunity on a daily basis, so when the Libyan crisis dies down shouldn’t HMS York be loaded up with more supplies and sail for Gaza, where the humanitarian crisis continues unabated?
    On the Libya situation Hague has been sounding off with loud threats of retribution. “Crimes will not go unpunished and will not be forgotten; there will be a day of reckoning and the reach of international justice is long,” he says.
    He also talks of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya to protect its people. The BBC reported that according to Hague a no-fly zone over Libya would not necessarily need a green light from the UN.
    Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs that he had asked the head of Britain’s armed forces to work with allies to see if a military no-fly zone was possible.
    So if the answer is yes, there’s no reason not to impose a no-fly zone over Gaza, is there…? Oops, I forgot. The maniacs doing the murdering there are Whitehall’s “friends”, right? And Hague and Cameron have publicly pledged undying support for them, right? So, their balls are in a vice, right?
    Even 1,400 dead, the vast majority civilians including 350 children, is not slaughter enough to wrench them free… the thousands maimed and the tens of thousands homeless not enough cruelty.


    It is obvious that the ‘chosen people’ hoax is at play here.

  9. jayn0t said on March 11th, 2011 at 6:52pm #

    “I guess that we already know the answers — First, they want the Libyan oil and moral intervention is just a pretext for another oil war. Second, the American and the British governments are maintained financially by notorious Zionist lobbies”, says Gilad Atzmon. He is usually more insightful. Marxism doesn’t explain what’s going on.

    You can’t just wait until a Western country has a war with an oil-producer, then leap on the evidence, and say ‘see – a war for oil!’. You have to look at the counterexamples. There’s at least as much ‘peace for oil’ as war. The US and British governments are not ‘maintained financially’ by the Lobby – it is the other way round. Support for Gaddafi’s regime and the House of Saud is at least rational. The Lobby is a more difficult issue.

  10. 3bancan said on March 11th, 2011 at 8:47pm #

    I’ve just watched George Galloway on Press TV urge “fighters” to go to Libya to fight against Qaddhafi. I’ve never heard him to urge Palestinians or Iraqis to go back to their countries to wage war to free their countries…

  11. 3bancan said on March 11th, 2011 at 10:07pm #

    jayn0t said on March 11th, 2011 at 6:52pm #

    The assertion “The US and British governments are not ‘maintained financially’ by the Lobby – it is the other way round” seems to follow MichaelKenny’s “logic”.

    As to the “rationality” of the zionazified European – and not only European
    – leaders in their support of anti-Qaddhafi regime, I’d go with Francis Boyle:


  12. Deadbeat said on March 11th, 2011 at 11:29pm #

    jaynot writes …

    The US and British governments are not ‘maintained financially’ by the Lobby – it is the other way round.

    I agree with 3bancan. Jay you need to learn who Haim Saban is and the level of his contributions to the Democratic Party and what he stand for. You’ll discover that Saban contributes to the Democrats at levels that exceeds many “corporations”. In addition Saban practically owns and controls Brookings. It’s amazing that Amy Goodman, Laura Flanders, and the rest of the Left can follow the Tea Party money trail but ignores the Zionists money trial.

  13. MichaelKenny said on March 12th, 2011 at 3:40am #

    Wow! I hadn’t realised Israel was in such deep trouble! Practically the whole “gang” has turned out: IsmailZayid, Rehmat, Shabnam, 3bancan … I was particularly amused to see the claim about David Cameron’s “Jewish roots”. Why is it that someone who has even the remotest Jewish ancestry is deemed to be slavishly loyal to that part of his ancestry rather to the exclusion of all other ancestors? Does Rehmat think the Jews are some sort of “master race” whose genes predominate over all others? We had similar nonsense the other day about Sarkozy. In fact, two of his 16 great-great grandparents were Jewish and has no other connection whatsoever with the Jews or judaism. Thus, even the nazis wouldn’t have considered him a Jew! That situation is quite common in Europe. The Jews were everywhere and, in every generation right down to the present day, significant numbers of them intermingle and intermarry. He is also the great-great-great-great-great grandson of King William IV! Rehmat is clutching at straws!

  14. jayn0t said on March 12th, 2011 at 6:28am #

    “The Left can follow the Tea Party money trail but ignores the Zionists money trial” says Deadbeat, criticising them for selecting the evidence, exactly what he does, and Gilad Atzmon in this article. Yes, there are rich Jews who support Israel and the major parties. But there are even more rich non-Jews. The former are more pro-Israel than the latter are for their own interests, which are anti-Israel. A stronger sense of Western interests, Christianity and so on might help the Palestinians – no wonder the left is so weak on this question!

    Michael Kenny is understandably sarcastic about some of the ideas expressed here. But on the other hand, less extreme views pointing to the strength of Jewish identity compared with other groups may help explain the Lobby’s success better than vulgar materialism does.

  15. PatrickSMcNally said on March 12th, 2011 at 10:16am #

    > A stronger sense of Western interests

    There really is no such well-defined thing as “Western interests.” There are the interests of the upper classes, versus those of the lower classes. This is just as true in Israel as in the USA. What has created a visible decline in the health of the Zionist project has been the steady growth of class divisions within Israel, albeit at a slower pace than the more advanced process within the USA. At a time when there was still room in the world economy for US-capital to expand it was then also possible for the WASP sector of the bourgeoisie to create a sense of common national interest with the proletariat of the rising imperialist country.

    Starting in the late 1960s capital reached the limits of profitable growth and the demand arose to restore profits by attacking the living standards of the US proletariat. This time-period also overlapped (mostly just by coincidence) with the time-frame when the anti-discrimination changes brought about by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s had enabled many Jews to move into high positions without bothering about quotas. So at the same time that general demands arose among the WASPish bourgeoisie for an assault on the workers, a new well-funded pro-Israel lobby came out in full force on the political scene. It was not possible in such a context for the WASPish bourgeoisie to draw upon a sense of common identity with the white workers (whom they wished to further exploit) and rally them against the rising Jewish bourgeoisie.

    What will destroy the Zionist project will be the steady growth of class divisions within Israel, and the gradual emergence of transnational working class unity among exploited proletarians everywhere. There will never be any meaningful resurgence of white unity across classes, just as Israel will never be able to restore its national economy to what had existed under David Ben Gurion (when the Zionist project had actually had an appearance of healthy national unity). In the present context talking as if there ever could be a return to the days of bourgeois nationality simply creates a dangerous illusion which is more easily manipulated by Glenn Beck and other con-men like him. But the danger is not that somehow the Ku Klux Klan is going to come to power. That could never occur under modern-day capitalism. The danger is rather that such talk will again serve to divert many progressive-leaning people back into the shadow-boxing which treats political battles of 5 or 6 decades ago as if they were a current issue, and thereby distracts from the tasks of today.

  16. Deadbeat said on March 12th, 2011 at 12:58pm #

    jaynot writes …

    “The Left can follow the Tea Party money trail but ignores the Zionists money trial” says Deadbeat, criticising them for selecting the evidence, exactly what he does, and Gilad Atzmon in this article. Yes, there are rich Jews who support Israel and the major parties. But there are even more rich non-Jews. The former are more pro-Israel than the latter are for their own interests, which are anti-Israel. A stronger sense of Western interests, Christianity and so on might help the Palestinians – no wonder the left is so weak on this question!

    Here’s the problem with jaynot’s strawman — DISCOURSE. Apparently it is acceptable in the United States to discuss the money influence of the “rich” and “corporations”. In fact such discourse is totally acceptable across the political spectrum. However the money power, influence, and domination of rich Zionists is a considered taboo topic.

    Rather than examine Zionist power, influence, and dominance, jaynot chooses to deflect that Hiam Saban is the single most contributor to the Democratic Party, yet the Left continues to focus on “corporations” or the Koch Brothers regarding the Tea Party. No problem there but why not the same level scrutiny of Saban?

    Saban’s primary interest is the promotion of Israel’s interests and currently the U.S. is fighting two wars spending trillions of dollars in Israel interests. Saban practically owns Brookings, long considered a “Liberal” think tank, that influences U.S. policy.

    Yet jaynot in perfect Chomskyite fashion would rather LUMP “the rich” all together in order to obscure Zionist power and influence. Jaynot’s strawman is to make a false assertion that Deadbeat is being selective. The falseness of that claim is that Deadbeat is being INCLUSIVE. It is the Left and especially the Chomskyites that are selective. The pseudo-Left’s reporting of the Tea Party’s money is selective as they ignore Big Zionist money, power, influence and dominance.

    Why is this important? As I have stated often their are TWO scourges that require confrontation — Zionism AND Capitalism. Zionism uses Capitalism to increase its RACIST expansionism. Capitalism uses racism to maintain working class diffusion. Both overlaps but also stand apart with separate goals. While both are awful, of the two, Zionism is worse and it is Zionism that the pseudo-Left goes well out of its way to obscure and protect.

  17. PatrickSMcNally said on March 12th, 2011 at 5:23pm #

    This is indicative of what will ultimately destroy Zionism, the capitalist drive for privatization:


    Israel’s top arms firm eyes privatization
    Published: March. 7, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    TEL AVIV, Israel, March 7 (UPI) — Israel Aerospace Industries, state-owned flagship of the Jewish state’s vaunted high-tech defense industry, is moving toward privatization amid an emerging shake-up of the defense sector.

    This includes a possible merger of IAI and two other state-owned companies, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the limping Israel Military Industries.

    The Economist reports that IAI Chairman Yair Shamir, son of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, is the driving force behind the privatization plan.

    The Defense Ministry, as well as Israel’s Histadrut labor confederation, are reportedly not keen on privatizing a strategically important company that is so central to defense production and Israel’s military capabilities while delivering financial benefits. In 2009, IAI paid the government a dividend of $90 million.

    “Quite when privatization will come remains uncertain … but for Shamir it cannot come quick enough,” The Economist reported.

    “Privatization will give IAI currency and flexibility for acquisitions and allow it more discretion over how it spends its Research and Development cash.”

    Shamir envisages floating 30 percent of the company in an initial public offering and giving another 10 percent in stock options to IAI’s 16,000 employees.

    “Over five years he expects the government’s share to fall to 49 percent,” The Economist added.

    “He would like to see IAI dual-listed on an international stock exchange, such as Nasdaq, as well as the local TASE.”

    Shamir took the helm at IAI, Israel’s largest industrial concern, in 2005 after he had guided El Al, Israel’s national airline, to privatization. He took the job on condition he would be allowed to move IAI in the same direction.

    IAI began life as the Bedek Aviation Co. formed by the Israeli government in 1953 to maintain military aircraft. It began building its own aircraft six years later. In 1968, it produced the Nesher, or Eagle, a derivative of Dassault Aviation’s Mirage 5. That was followed in 1975 by the Kfir, or Lion Cub.

    IAI’s main mission has long been to provide Israel’s military with the weapons systems to defend the Jewish state. It has developed and manufactured a wide variety of systems, from the Arrow anti-ballistic missile that became the world first operational missile defense system in 2000, to a wide range of unmanned aerial vehicles that are exported to more than 20 countries.

    But to keep functioning despite a relatively small national defense budget and to compete with foreign corporations many times its size, IAI has had to turn to the export market to stay competitive.

    These days, Shamir says, some 80 percent of IAI’s revenues come from foreign sales, such as a $1.1 billion 2004 deal with India for the Phalcon early warning aircraft.

    Indeed, Asia is its biggest market. A similar Phalcon contract with China was scrapped after the U.S. government blocked it.

    The official reason was that U.S. components were used in the system but the bottom line was the Pentagon didn’t want China to obtain AWACS capability.

    Problems with the United States were also behind IAI’s drive to develop the delta-wing Lavi advanced combat aircraft, a prestige project launched in 1980. It was scrapped in August 1987, ironically by a government headed by Shamir’s father, because of financial problems.

    The Americans had provided 40 percent of the $6.6 billion financing and said they couldn’t afford the project. But they didn’t want to fund a jet that was going to compete with Lockheed’s F-16C/D Falcon or Boeing’s F/A-18C/D Hornet.

    However, the technology developed for the Lavi played a key role in the launch of Israel’s first satellite into space in 1988 and developing advanced electronic systems now used in Israel’s military aircraft.

    IAI reported in November that it had an orders backlog of $9 billion and attributed its improved financial condition to new foreign orders.

    In December, the defense and finance ministries, along with the Histadrut, proposed merging IAI with Rafael and IMI as a way to salvage IMI which was having serious problems at the time, largely because of efforts to privatize it.

    The merger would create the 20th largest defense company in the world that could compete better against foreign conglomerates. No decision has been made on this but it could impede Shamir’s hopes of privatizing IAI.

  18. 3bancan said on March 12th, 2011 at 7:17pm #

    PatrickSMcNally said on March 12th, 2011 at 10:16am #

    “What will destroy the Zionist project will be the steady growth of class divisions within Israel, and the gradual emergence of transnational working class unity among exploited proletarians everywhere”

    “The Zionist project” as an illegal parasitic military colony owned and supported by the racist world Jewry is based on the zionist racist and supremacist ideology irrespective of class divisions within Jewish society. While in the past there were also non-zionist Jews among the aliyah-makers, today practically all the Jews who live there and those who come in in there thousands every year are pure zionazis. Israel is a parasitic entity, kept alive by constant inflow of capital and people – and it’s the countless Jewish organizations all over the world who are taking care of it.

    PatrickSMcNally said on March 12th, 2011 at 5:23pm #

    “This is indicative of what will ultimately destroy Zionism, the capitalist drive for privatization”

    As Deadbeat (March 12th, 2011 at 12:58pm) said: “Zionism uses Capitalism to increase its RACIST expansionism”. Zionism isn’t bound to capitalism, socialism or communism…

  19. Deadbeat said on March 12th, 2011 at 8:34pm #

    Just to demonstrate my point about the pseudo-Left of its selective focus of money trail and to counter jaynot’s fallacy one can examine Paul Street arguments from his latest article posted here on DV…

    Is Labor Ready to Fight for Its Life?

    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his right Republican allies in the Wisconsin legislature might be a bunch of plutocratic, Koch-funded thugs but you’ve got to hand it to them – they’ve got guts …

    So what if it is obvious to any serious observer that Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans’ effort to undermine public unions – a longstanding goal of the Republican Party and many of its big business backers (e.g. Koch Industries) …

    Labor suspicions that the Tea Party backers the billionaire right wing Koch brothers were a major force behind the proposed Wisconsin legislation were validated when the liberal, New York-based blogger Ian Murphy placed a call to Walker in which Murphy posed as David Koch.


    I’m quite confident that Paul Street had never identified Bill Clinton or Barack Omaba or any other “Zioncrats” as “Saban-funded thugs” because such a description would then reveal and speak to the power and influence that Zionists have on the Democratic Party. The Tea Party are small potatoes compared to the level of power and influence that Zionists have long has on the U.S. political process and the two major political parties that operates out of Washington DC.

  20. PatrickSMcNally said on March 13th, 2011 at 4:22am #

    > As Deadbeat (March 12th, 2011 at 12:58pm) said: “Zionism uses Capitalism to increase its RACIST expansionism”.

    That has pertinence tot he way that Jewish lobbying groups operate outside of Israel. It doesn’t say much about the class dynamics within Israel, which are indeed capitalist in nature and are following a rather similar course to the way that class dynamics within the USA broke up the sense of collective white identity. The rising demands for privatization among the Israeli capitalist class are meant to sustain profits there, just as was the case here when such demands emerged among the US ruling class in the late 1960s. Those demands for privatization do indeed exacerbate all class divisions with Israeli society, and that is a dynamic process which will continue in the coming decades. No amount of AIPAC lobbying in the USA can alter such economic laws within Israel itself.

  21. PatrickSMcNally said on March 13th, 2011 at 6:26am #

    One small point of clarification regarding PS’s word-usage, it probably is better to describe Obama as a “snake oil charmer” rather than as a “thug” in the way that term was used to describe Walker. The difference in style is noteworthy, even though neither deserves support. Obama came into office shouting about “change we can believe in” and his pretense of a health-care plan was part of a deliberate attempt to appease the labor aristocracy at the very top of the unions. Walker has made no such pretenses but has simply attacked unions straight-up-and-out. Hence the difference between “thug” and “snake oil salesman.”

    That difference is clearest on the domestic front, but it can make some difference in foreign affairs too. Obama is more likely to listen to someone like General Wesley Clark, wheras McCain would more likely brush him aside and start sending troops:


    Gen. Wesley Clark says Libya doesn’t meet the test for U.S. military action

    By Wesley K. Clark
    Friday, March 11, 2011; 8:00 PM

    In March of 1974, when I was a young Army captain, I was sitting in a conference on civil-military relations at Brown University. Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.) was onstage expounding on the lessons from Vietnam about military interventions. He then stopped and looked right at me and the four West Point cadets at my side. “You, the young officer and cadets sitting there – never in your lifetimes will you see us intervene abroad,” I recall him saying. “We’ve learned that lesson.”

    For all his brilliance, Aspin couldn’t have been more wrong.

    We have launched many military interventions since then. And today, as Moammar Gaddafi looks vulnerable and Libya descends into violence, familiar voices are shouting, once again: “Quick, intervene, do something!” It could be a low-cost win for democracy in the region. But before we aid the Libyan rebels or establish a no-fly zone, let’s review what we’ve learned about intervening since we pulled out of Vietnam.

    The past 37 years have been replete with U.S. interventions. Some have succeeded, such as our actions in Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), the Persian Gulf War (1991) and the Balkans (1995-2000). Some were awful blunders, such as the attempted hostage rescue in Iran (1980), landing the Marines in Lebanon (1982) or the Somalia intervention (1992-94).

    Some worked in the short run, but not the longer term – such as the occupation of Haiti in 1994. Others still hang in the balance, such as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, consuming hundreds of billions of dollars and wrecking thousands of American lives. Along the way, we’ve bombed a few tyrants such as Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi himself, operated through proxies in Central America, and stood ready with fly-overs, deployments, mobility exercises and sail-bys across the globe.

    I’ve thought about military interventions for a long time – from before my service in Vietnam to writing a master’s thesis at Fort Leavenworth to leading NATO forces in the Kosovo war. In considering Libya, I find myself returning to the guidelines for intervention laid out by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in 1984. The world has changed a great deal since then, so I’ve adapted and updated his vision to develop my own rules for when the United States should deploy its blood and treasure in operations far from home.

    Understand the national interests at stake, and decide if the result is worth the cost.

    We went into Lebanon with a reinforced battalion of Marines in 1982 because we believed that it was in our national interest to stabilize the situation after the Israelis had been forced out of Beirut. But after the terrorist bombing of their barracks killed 241 U.S. service members the next year, we pulled out. After the tragedy, any benefits seemed to pale in light of the cost and continuing risks.

    In 1999, when we launched the NATO air campaign against Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, President Bill Clinton had to state publicly that he didn’t intend to use ground troops. He did so in an effort to limit the costs of an initiative that the public and Congress did not consider to be in our nation’s vital interest. The administration and I, as the NATO commander in Europe, were in a difficult position, and Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic knew it. But what Milosevic didn’t understand was that once we began the strikes – with NATO troops deployed in neighboring countries and the Dayton Peace Agreement to enforce in Bosnia – NATO couldn’t afford to lose. And the United States had a vital interest in NATO’s success, even if we had a less-than-vital interest in Kosovo.

    In 2001, when the United States went into Afghanistan, it was clear that we had to strike back after the attacks of Sept. 11. And we’re still there, despite all the ambiguities and difficulties, because we have a vital interest in combating al-Qaeda and similar terrorist groups there and across the border in Pakistan.

    How do we apply this test to Libya? Protecting access to oil supplies has become a vital interest, but Libya doesn’t sell much oil to the United States, and what has been cut off is apparently being replaced by Saudi production. Other national interests are more complex. Of course, we want to support democratic movements in the region, but we have two such operations already underway – in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then there are the humanitarian concerns. It is hard to stand by as innocent people are caught up in violence, but that’s what we did when civil wars in Africa killed several million and when fighting in Darfur killed hundreds of thousands. So far, the violence in Libya is not significant in comparison. Maybe we could earn a cheap “victory,” but, on whatever basis we intervene, it would become the United States vs. Gaddafi, and we would be committed to fight to his finish. That could entail a substantial ground operation, some casualties and an extended post-conflict peacekeeping presence.

    Know your purpose and how the proposed military action will achieve it.

    In 1989, when the United States wanted regime change in Panama, a powerful U.S. force took over the country, captured dictator Manuel Noriega and enabled the democratic opposition to form a new government. Panama today is a thriving democracy.

    On the other hand, in Somalia in 1992-94, we started out on a humanitarian mission, gradually transitioned to greater use of military power and then had a tragic tactical stumble trying to arrest a warlord. The loss of 18 Americans caused national outrage, and eventually we pulled out. We experienced classic mission creep, without reconsidering the strategy or the means to achieve it.

    In Libya, if the objective is humanitarian, then we would work with both sides and not get engaged in the matter of who wins. Just deliver relief supplies, treat the injured and let the Libyans settle it. But if we want to get rid of Gaddafi, a no-fly zone is unlikely to be sufficient – it is a slick way to slide down the slope to deeper intervention.

    Determine the political endgame before intervening.

    In Haiti in 1994, it was a matter of getting rid of the military junta that had forced out the democratically elected president and restoring a democratic government. We prepared and threatened an invasion, we used it as leverage in negotiations, and within four weeks of its start, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was back in power.

    But in Iraq in 2003, we failed to chart a clear path to democracy before taking action. So after we toppled Hussein, we lacked a ready alternative. Eight years later we’ve come a long way, but at a very high price.

    In Libya, we don’t know who the rebels really are or how a legitimate government would be formed if Gaddafi were pushed out. Perhaps we will have a better sense when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with rebel leaders, as she is scheduled to do this coming week. In a best-case scenario, there would be a constitutional convention, voter lists, political parties and internationally supervised free and fair elections. But there could also be a violent scramble for authority in which the most organized, secretive and vicious elements take over. We are not well-equipped to handle that kind of struggle. And once we intervene, Libya’s problems would become our responsibility.

    Get U.S. public support, obtain diplomatic and legal authority, and get allies engaged.

    Offensive war is, in general, illegal. In the Persian Gulf War, Iraq’s actions in 1990 were a clear case of aggression; we obtained full U.N. support. We had a congressional resolution. And we enjoyed the overwhelming backing of our allies and Arab partners. They even paid most of the cost of Operation Desert Storm, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. The resulting military action was widely hailed as a legitimate and moral victory.

    In 1999 in Kosovo, the United States and NATO had a humanitarian U.N. resolution backing our actions. The American public was mostly unengaged, but NATO was able to wield its diplomatic power and the incremental use of force to compel Milosevic’s surrender. (The coup de grace was his indictment for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal on Yugoslavia.)

    By contrast, going it alone, without substantial international legal and diplomatic support, is a recipe for trouble. Our haste and clumsiness going into Iraq in 2003 – without a compelling reason to intervene, in my view – has cost us dearly.

    In Libya, Gaddafi has used and supported terrorism, murdered Americans and repressed his people for 40 years. The American public may want to see him go. But his current actions aren’t an attack on the United States or any other country. On what basis would we seek congressional support and international authorization to intervene in a civil war? Do we have the endorsement of the Arab League? A U.N. Security Council resolution?

    Avoid U.S. and civilian casualties.

    In Kosovo, NATO had the upper hand from the outset. We weren’t losing aircraft (we lost only two in combat out of 36,000 sorties flown over 78 days); we never lost a soldier or airman in combat; and because we minimized innocent civilian casualties and the destruction of nonmilitary property, we maintained our moral authority.

    But once Americans start dying, public tolerance for military action wanes sharply. We’ve seen it time and again, from the aborted attempt to rescue our hostages in Iran in 1980 to Afghanistan today. Intervening successfully isn’t so much a matter of how many troops and planes you use, it’s about mustering decisive power – military, diplomatic, legal, economic, moral – while avoiding the casualties and collateral damage that discredit the mission.

    A no-fly zone in Libya may seem straightforward at first, but if Gaddafi continues to advance, the time will come for airstrikes, extended bombing and ground troops – a stretch for an already overcommitted force. A few unfortunate incidents can quash public support.

    Once you decide to do it, get it over with.

    Use decisive force – military, economic, diplomatic and legal. The longer an operation takes, the more can go wrong. In 1983, we went in with overwhelming force against an attempted communist takeover in Grenada. With 20,000 U.S. troops against 600 Cuban military engineers and some ill-trained locals, it was over in three days. The Cubans were out, the American students who had been held hostage were freed and casualties were minimal. Grenada transitioned to democracy.

    The operation in Panama lasted about three weeks; the ground fight in the Gulf War only 100 hours. We pushed the limit in Kosovo with a 78-day air campaign, but fortunately, Milosevic ran out of options before NATO had to commit to planning an invasion.

    Given these rules, what is the wisest course of action in Libya? To me, it seems we have no clear basis for action. Whatever resources we dedicate for a no-fly zone would probably be too little, too late. We would once again be committing our military to force regime change in a Muslim land, even though we can’t quite bring ourselves to say it. So let’s recognize that the basic requirements for successful intervention simply don’t exist, at least not yet: We don’t have a clearly stated objective, legal authority, committed international support or adequate on-the-scene military capabilities, and Libya’s politics hardly foreshadow a clear outcome.

    We should have learned these lessons from our long history of intervention. We don’t need Libya to offer us a refresher course in past mistakes.

    Wesley K. Clark, a retired Army general and NATO’s former supreme allied commander in Europe, is a senior fellow at the Burkle Center for International Relations at the University of California at Los Angeles. He will be online to chat on Monday, March 14, at 11: 30 a.m.

  22. hayate said on March 13th, 2011 at 2:29pm #

    The Devastating Consequences of Israeli Weapons Testing

    by Richard Lightbown

    March 13, 2011


    “Press TV on 4 March 2011 reported that cancer cases in Gaza had increased by 30 per cent, and that there was a link between the occurrence of the disease and residence in areas that had been badly hit by Israeli bombing. Zekra Ajour from the Al Dameer Association for Human Rights told the channel that Gaza had been a testing ground for illegal weapons.

    The wide range of heavy metals discovered by analysis in casualties, residents and soil in Gaza suggests that other unidentified weapons may have also been trialled. (The Sensor Fuzed Weapon has been suggested as one such technological perversion that the Israeli forces may have used. [21])

    The whole Gaza population and their environment, including generations yet to be conceived, have been put at risk of serious long term injury from heavy metal pollution of the air, soil and groundwater (and possibly the seawater too), while the causal pollution is likely to cross state borders into Egypt and even into Israel. Reassurances of the legitimate and responsible use and the reduced lethality of weapons (an opinion in part shared by Col Lane) are callous and inadequate in the context of the dangerous reality that has resulted. Meanwhile the impacts of Israel’s illegal assaults on Gaza remain ignored and the deeds uncensored by the wider international community.”