by Nick Mirzoeff — NYU
March 27, 2011 – 18:12
After nine days of warfare, President Obama has deemed the new war worthy of our attention with a broadcast on Libya on Monday at 7.30 EDT. We have so many wars going on, it seems there isn’t even time to get on TV and announce the newest one. I’m drafting this review ahead of the actual speech because it’s not too hard to guess what will have been said. Really, once the speech is announced, there’s almost no need to give it.
Obama will talk in the overly rapid way he uses on these occasions, intended perhaps to convey “man of action,” but revealing more clearly that he’s just rattling through to the end, performing a task he’d rather not have to do. When he speaks in public, he takes his time and makes good use of pauses. He’ll also use a strange little chopping gesture with his left hand, no doubt focus-grouped to demonstrate decisiveness. It distracts from what he’s saying and you end up waiting for the next one.
There will be bromides to “our brave men and women in uniform.” Not to challenge the personal courage of these people in any way, but this mission is one where the “Allies” get to play bully in the playground. We will hear of “progress,” measured by the news that Mafeking has been relieved, I’m sorry, make that Ras Lanuf or one of the other small Libyan towns very few of us knew existed ten days ago.
Then it will be stressed that the mission is “limited,” but that the dictator al-Khalifa, I’m sorry, Gaddafi must fall. It will be emphasized that the U. S. has as good as left, before it even officially arrived via Presidential broadcast. In short, this is not a war but if it was one, it’s already over. Except if by any chance it isn’t, then NATO are running it, and we all know how independent NATO is from the U. S.
A quick shout-out to Hillary Clinton–remember the women’s vote in 2012!–and then it’ll be off for a world tour of the other wars, which will be going just fabulously well. A mere eight years after intervening in Iraq for a lightning quick regime change, the U. S. will be about to leave. Or have we already left, I forget? Afghanistan! we’re as good as out of there, because we know that the Pakistanis know where Osama is, and they know that we know, and so that’s ok.
For all the satire, this unwatched and unoriginal broadcast serves to reinforce the imperial dimension to global counterinsurgency (GCOIN) that had seemed vulnerable in the wake of Afghanistan’s palpable failure. The benefit of the Libyan mission, as GCOIN boosters from John McCain to David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy were quick to see, is that here the “Allies” can play Afghanistan Light. A “failed state” subject to the dominion of militia groups organized via personal obligations and hierarchies can, it is hoped, be quickly subjected to domination from the air, using digitized machines. The aspiration is a re-run of Gulf War 1991, an easy techno-triumph to restore the luster, not of the New World Order touted by Bush 41, but of the “Global Counterinsurgency.”
Feel free to scorecard these predictions in the comments section (which will all be approved, BTW, it’s moderated only to keep the spammers out). More serious remarks on atomic countervisuality on Tuesday.