In an op-ed in the New York Times the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin warns the people of the United States against further interventions:
It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”
Putin especially mentions Libya which he describes as now “divided into tribes and clans.”
Libya today is worse than that. It has moved on into lawlessness and ruin. Only yesterday, a year after a U.S. ambassador was killed in Bengazi, the foreign ministry building there was attacked with a large bomb. The biggest concern for the “west” is of course the spice from Libya, which is no longer flowing.
The Libya intervention, like those many before it, was build on lies and propaganda. A new policy brief on the Libya intervention from the Belfer Center at Harvard Kennedy School makes three points:
• The Conventional Wisdom Is Wrong. Libya’s 2011 uprising was never peaceful, but instead was armed and violent from the start. Muammar al-Qaddafi did not target civilians or resort to indiscriminate force. Although inspired by humanitarian impulse, NATO’s intervention did not aim mainly to protect civilians, but rather to overthrow Qaddafi’s regime, even at the expense of increasing the harm to Libyans.
• The Intervention Backfired. NATO’s action magnified the conflict’s duration about sixfold and its death toll at least sevenfold, while also exacerbating human rights abuses, humanitarian suffering, Islamic radicalism, and weapons proliferation in Libya and its neighbors. If Libya was a “model intervention,” then it was a model of failure.
• Three Lessons. First, beware rebel propaganda that seeks intervention by falsely crying genocide. Second, avoid intervening on humanitarian grounds in ways that reward rebels and thus endanger civilians, unless the state is already targeting noncombatants. Third, resist the tendency of humanitarian intervention to morph into regime change, which amplifies the risk to civilians.
Twelve years after 9/11 the U.S. is turning to a bit less interventionist policies. Obama’s defeat over Syria in both houses of Congress and in the public opinion is a very welcome sign of that. But there is still this very American disease of exceptionalism which Putin is very right take on:
I would rather disagree with a case [President Obama] made on American exceptionalism, stating that United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
This assumed exceptionalims has very bad results. It is a costly illusion not only for the Libyan or Syrian people but, in the long run, also for the U.S. people themselves.