Comment on Colonel Gaddafi

by Sean Gabb

I suppose I should say something. The man was a tyrant, and probably got what he deserved. Even so, his death was made possible by British and French air power, and I don’t like what has happened. Here goes:

1. It was none of our business what the Libyan Government and people thought of each other and did to each other. We should never have got involved.

2. Collaborating in the assassination of foreign heads of state is a bad policy for accountability in our own country. Once it becomes a normal part of warfare to kill heads of government, our own politicians will withdraw behind squads of armed men in sunglasses. Fifty years ago, one of my grandmothers found herself sharing a railway carriage with the Prime Minister. Even today, I occasionally see Cabinet Ministers on the Underground. This is important for keeping a loose connection between rulers and ruled. The killing of Colonel Gaddafi puts further pressure on this relationship.

3. The obvious delight of western ruling classes at the videos of the death is distasteful. It may be their own moral degradation that made them take such delight, and allowed them to take it without worrying that we could see. It may have been relief that Colonel Gaddafi would never be brought to trial – and a question they have never felt inclined to answer is whether he became a bloddy tyrant before or after they stopped selling weapons to him.

No, I don’t like it.

20 responses to “Comment on Colonel Gaddafi

  1. He was a murderer and a loon.

    Bliar, Broon and Camoron are also murderers. Here’s hoping eh…

    By the way Sean , is this some new style of circular, cybernetic posting that ends by looping back to the begining?.

  2. No, it was a typo – now removed.

  3. Björn Lundahl

    As I see it, it is our right to involve whenever we want if someone violate somebody else rights. It can never be a private matter. If Gaddafi was executed by an, for example, voluntary army I can not see any wrongdoings by doing that. We all know what he has done. Governments should not have any more rights than civilians. If they do bad things, it is a good thing that someone is doing something about it. They should be scared, this will keep a lid on criminality.

    Actually it is very important that someone is doing something, individual rights are more important than “the rights of nations” or “the rights of governments”.

    There are no other rights than individual rights. Period.

  4. Bjorn, it makes little sense to talk of “individual rights” when you have made plain that you do not even recognise the concept. If, by your definition of rights, anyone can interfere with anyone else so long as they believe that person has “violate somebody else rights” [sic], then no one can ever be safe. People will be justified in running round attacking and even killing each other as they see fit, and if they do so on mistaken assumptions, or at least on assumptions with which we do not agree, then the worst we will be able to say is that they should have spent a bit more time checking their facts, or that we disagree with them. No – contrary to what you claim, we have no right to interfere in other people’s lives, except in so far as their actions of which we disapprove have been directed against us. We may choose to extend the definition of “us” to include family members, friends, pets, and even our homes and possessions, but we can hardly extend it to include the whole world.

    This being said, can you explain the derivation of your authority to interfere?

    • Björn Lundahl

      If someone would, for example, be using physical force against someone else and this was a violation against this mans rights (and not only, for example, self defense), it would be a very good thing if someone else did stop this aggression.

      I take the same stand as Rothbard did, Ethics of Liberty:

      “Many people, when confronted with the libertarian legal system, are concerned with this problem: would somebody be allowed to “take the law into his own hands”? Would the victim, or a friend of the victim, be allowed to exact justice personally on the criminal? The answer is, of course, Yes, since all rights of punishment derive from the victim’s right of self-defense. In the libertarian, purely free-market society, however, the victim will generally find it more convenient to entrust the task to the police and court agencies.”

  5. Bjorn, you seem to be confused about what Rothbard has said. If you actually bother to read his words you will see that there is no justification there for attacking complete strangers on the basis of what they may doing to other complete strangers. It’s also notable that you haven’t answered my question. No one’s utterances (unless one is religious and wishes to hold up what is taken to be the word of God) can be taken as a serious basis for an ethical framework, except in so far as they may seem to correlate with our own considered notions. If I were to say to you, “It is only right and proper that anyone who happens to be named Bjorn should be considered evil, and subjected to the utmost penalties”, would you think my words trustworthy? Of course you wouldn’t. And would your opinion change if I were someone ‘important’? Of course it wouldn’t. Even if Rothbard had said what you evidently wish he had, it would not in itself supply you with a justification. Do you not understand that he’s talking about a *response* to what is, in effect, an act of aggression against the self? As I’ve already pointed out to you, our family and friends, even our possessions, may be regarded as extensions of our selves. That is all very reasonable. However, once we take the position that anyone and everyone is “us”, there can be no moral limit to our interference with others.

    I suspect that the problem here is one of emotion. Like most decent people, you are outraged by dreadful things that you learn of, and think “something should be done”. But this is not a good basis for our own behaviour. We can rarely be sure of the truth of matters that transpire beyond our own personal bubble. What we ‘learn’ through media such as newspapers and television may or may not be true; but it is an act of supreme naivety to regard it as true where we lack independent knowledge of our own. It is still worse to regard it as true where our doing so is plainly to the advantage of those who govern us, and who wish to extend their own power by indulging in global meddling.

    • Björn Lundahl


      If the victims are crying for help and Gaddafi and his gang is going around threatening and murdering anyone that “comes in his way” and this on a grand scale, people can act on behalf of those people by promptly stopping this criminality. People can “hire” anyone they like.

      In a pure libertarian society this is so. But if the defenders are themselves wrongdoers, they too can be punished.

      That is my interpretation of Rothbard in this situation with Gaddafi.

  6. But Rothbard hasn’t said what you claim, and your “interpretation” is preposterous. As to hiring, we can hardly take this as a justification for foreign governments involving themselves in such matters. A government is not an individual and it can hardly be regarded as having the right to act as it were a mercenary.

    • Björn Lundahl

      I am not defending government involvement. They do sometimes defend rights by violating other people rights. Bombing cities and civilians can not be considered as defending individual rights, of course not.

      I am talking about defending rights voluntarily.

      Say for example, if someone would kill Hitler during the second world war, I would not think that this was a murder and an act of criminality.

  7. I agree. Whatever right or duty an individual might have to go running about the world to help others – and I tend to agree with Mario here that charity is most effective when confined to those we know – Gaddafi was overthrown by the British and French Governments. Without all that bombing and arming and diplomatic support, Gaddafi would have sorted out those protests last spring. It is no more the business of our government to get involved in the affairs of other countries than it is to give foreign aid.

  8. Björn Lundahl

    Yes agree with the statement “no more the business of our government to get involved in the affairs of other countries than it is to give foreign aid”.

    I guess that in a libertarian society other powerful agents could come to rescue. The victims could, for example, pay them of by “enslaving” the offenders.

  9. Whether we defend rights voluntarily or not is hardly of practical importance if we have no right to defend them in the first place. Also, either your understanding of English prose is a good deal worse than I believe it to be, or you are pretending not to understand what Rothbard has said. He is NOT justifying an attack on someone merely on the grounds that the attacked person has infringed *someone’s* rights. Even the brief extract you’ve quoted contains sufficient qualification that no literate and mentally competent person could infer such a thing.

  10. Björn Lundahl

    I do not know what you are aiming at.

    If a government is oppressive (which all governments are), people have the right to take necessary actions to overthrow that government.This as long as the force is directed against the aggressors (in this case the Libyan government).

    If people then can get help from outside in doing those actions, they are morally allowed to do that.

  11. Bjorn, you don’t answer my questions and you ignore my objections, some of the bases of which I have made clear to you. As it’s now obvious that you have no intention of explaining the nature, extent and derivation of the rights you take for granted, and in short have no intention of offering an intellectual justification for your views, this my last comment. You can continue offering banal variants of “C has the right to protect B from A” and “B has a right to seek C’s assistance”, and continue pretending that they are both synonymous and axiomatic.

  12. Björn Lundahl

    Mr Ecks
    “He was a murderer and a loon”

    A very good and straightforward point of view. No further explanation needed.

    People like Putin would of course not agree.

  13. Besfort Azizi

    He should of had a fair trial. If we are so democratic and helped bring a criminal in front of the justice to respond for what he has done and bla bla bla by bombing the crap out of Libia, we should have also kept him alive so the whole world would hear what he has to say. Everybody I think would have wanted to hear him say his last talks. I think that western countries when they come face to face with money, oil or other valuables like political interests and somebody stands in their way, they tend to forget the democratic values and human right’s (it does not matter if the other person is a human rights violator), we should not be the same, because by doing so we are worst. I hope i made sense for somebody.

  14. Besfort Azizi “He should of had a fair trial”. Yes that would be the best thing.

  15. Björn Lundahl

    Besfort Azizi “He should of had a fair trial”. Yes that would be the best thing.

    That was my reply.

  16. Following which we could discuss whether the ‘fair trial’ was fair?

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