Libya and the Masculinity of War: Whose Victory?

Libyan rebels have established their National Transitional Council. Without women. No surprise considering the parades of victorious men driven by the blinding macho of their rebellion against Gadhafi who continue to shoot off their guns in celebration. The rebels make their victory indistinguishable from their fighting. With significant proportion of arms from NATO forces who were reported to have slipped into ground fighting in the last weeks to assure the full and final victory they need to take control of Libyan oil fields, they have been waging war from the air. Their bombs explode upon Libyan families and Gadhafi forces alike, hospitals as well as military bunkers. Despite the Geneva Conventions, there are no “innocent lives” or protected civilians in today’s wars.

Welcome to the masculinity of war. It is not only that these rebels in ousting the hated Gadhafi are faced with being reduced to the US, French and British pawns in the game of who gets the best oil on earth, but that the violence of the rebels who made this war have reduced them to the dregs of masculinity where killing and fighting are elevated above all human values. Shall we expect enlightened rule from them? Or are they Libya’s next psychopathic leaders?

Those rebels are coming to power as Gadhafi did when he overthrew the existing monarch in 1969. He then turned himself into a dictator with what I call psychopathic leadership in Unmaking War, Remaking Men. From this book, here is the progression we that must be aborted if the blinding macho of the 2011 victory is not to repeat its past:

1. Presidents and prime ministers in remorseless disregard for human
life provoke and bully other states and powerless peoples.

2. At the orders of the leaders in #1, armed forces wage wars terrorizing
less powerful states and vulnerable peoples.

3. At the orders of leaders in #1 and the forces in #2, soldiers in
combat wage war against relatively defenseless people, making
enemies of humiliated men through their aggression and killings.

4. Men attacked and humiliated by the leaders of #1’s militaries
resist and fight back. (The leaders in #1 call them insurgents or
terrorists to delegitimize their struggle and their claim to their
right to self-determination against the occupation authorized
by the leaders of #1 and enforced by the forces in #2.

5. Leaders of the invaded, attacked, and humiliated men frequently
invoke religion and culture to assert their domination, and
psychopaths emerge from the ranks with terrorist tactics.

6. If the resistance prevails, its leaders will likely become the leaders
in #1. (Unmaking War, Remaking Men, p. 121-122)

This is not what we saw in the nonviolent rebellions of Tunisia and Egypt which is where we saw women. So, the rebels of Libya are not violent “people” but, for the most part, they are violent men caught up in the masculinity of war, encouraged and supported by US dominated NATO forces to fight violence with violence. In their neighbors, we are seeing that there is another way.

About Kathleen Barry

I am a feminist activist, author of five books including Female Sexual Slavery which launched an international movement against trafficking in human beings and a sociologist and Professor Emerita. My latest book Unmaking War, Remaking Men has prompted this blog.
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