I left a long comment on Juan Cole's blog in response to another of his silly posts regarding Libya. In this one, he just points to a different silly post by Michael Berube. Cole, of course, is very sensitive on this issue, and while I've been surprised to see some of my comments published in the past and this may also be published in that link, as of now, I expect that it will not be. So I'll put it here so that my time in writing it and getting links to support it will not be entirely wasted if Cole feels it does not meet his editorial standards.
There are some problems with that essay. Firstly, where is the actual person on the left that Berube is supposedly criticizing? He could have quoted, say Glenn Greenwald from Salon, but did not. That way he avoided responding to real arguments. We have to say that was a cowardly tactic. Whoever Berube is responding to may well be more a figment of his own imagination than a real person.
On the other hand, the civil war that NATO created out of civil unrest killed probably at least 30,000 Libyans.
None of the comparables, not the putting down of civil unrest in Bahrain, not the putting down of civil unrest in Syria, not China in Tienanmen Square resulted in death tolls near that level.
Obama supporters claim we'll never know how many lives would have been lost in putting down the rebellion if NATO had not intervened. We do know, we use comparable situations. At most a tenth of the amount that were actually lost would have been lost if NATO had not intervened. Otherwise we have to just say history is just not a guide, so we make up whatever number makes us feel good. That argument says Saddam Hussein "might" have killed every single Iraqi if the US had not invaded in 2003. Some people will dishonestly say we'll never know, but really we know.
Did this cost that Barack Obama ensured that the people of Libya would pay result in more representative government for Libyans? So far no. Even if it did, that's a lot of lost human life for that goal.
For far less loss of human life Barack Obama could tell the US puppet regime in Saudi Arabia that the US will not arm and equip a new military force of 35,000 troops to defend his regime unless it holds national elections.
Instead Barack Obama sends congratulations to the next in line to be the US' stooge dictator of that country, AND TO THE PEOPLE OF SAUDI ARABIA for his appointment.
But in the words of Barack Obama: "there will be times when our short term interests do not align perfectly with our long term vision of the region."
"Not perfectly" is right. Not at all would have been right also, given that his and his supporters' claims to support democracy, and more astoundingly, their claims that the democracy that hopefully may emerge is worth over 20,000 Libyan lives. Worth young people setting themselves on fire, but not worth the risk to Obama's political career that would be represented by being lax at maintaining the string of pro-Israel, popularly-unaccountable governments in the region.
So, rather than a straw-man argument, I'll present a real one. The predictable loss of human life that followed from NATO's intervention in Libya was just a gratuitous waste. It demonstrated that Barack Obama and his supporters do not value Libyan life relative to very small policy benefits to the US or to Libya and it is hard to escape the conclusion that there is an underlying bigotry that is even more unexpected and disappointing in Obama's case as a Black man raised in a Muslim family than than it is in the case of most Westerners.
I do not call for the US to intervene in that way in Egypt and don't call for such an intervention in Saudi Arabia. In both cases I only call for the US to stop supporting political systems that are more accountable to the US embassies in their countries than to their people.
Obama's strategy of supporting pro-Israel dictatorships while working to destabilize elected or non-elected anti-Israel governments is not morally defensible. His supporters are actually the best examples of "woolly thinking, outrageous lies, moon-eyed leader-worship, false equivalences, and simplistic proxies for actual thought".