By Sacha Ismail
Helping out at a student freshers' fair recently, I ran into a member of another socialist group. (For the purposes of this article, I'm not going to reveal which one, since I think the arguments she made could have been made by members of most of the groups in Britain.) We argued briefly about Libya. The person in question seems, from what I know of her, very intelligent - so it was a good test of how political demagogy rots your brain.
This is not an attempt at satire; I'll try to report what she said and I said as accurately as possible.
"So you still think it was a bad thing the Libyan rebels won?"
"No, we supported the Libyan rebels. We're not the Sparts!" (The Sparts, who "supported Qaddafi against imperialism", were just outside.)
"But you wanted the NATO intervention to stop, in which case they would have lost."
"Oh, right, this is about you supporting NATO."
"We didn't support it. But do you accept that, if the intervention had been stopped, the rebels would have been crushed?"
"How could that not have been the case?"
"Because the rebellion was massive, and armed." (I remember these words exactly.)
"But they were losing. Qaddafi's tanks were already entering Benghazi when the bombing began. All the rebels seem to agree they would have been crushed without intervention - even those who distrust NATO. Why do you think they called for intervention otherwise?"
"Look, I'm not going to waste my time debating your pro-imperialist position..."
Then she left. Fair enough: she had things to do. But I found the attempt to convince herself that the rebellion would have survived without intervention - because she could almost see the contradiction in her group's position, and didn't want to see it - very telling, and typical of the British left.