Friday, March 18, 2011

How to Get Gaddafi - Newsweek

Why should the United States intervene into the affairs of Libya when both sides to the conflict may be equally bad, or even as the case unfolds, the so-called "rebels" may actually be worse than the tyranny under challenge?

Is it to the interests of the United States to have Al Qaeda run Libya rather than the Colonel?  The choice strikes me as not terribly dissimilar than the question during the thirties, do we support Stalin or do we support Hitler?  In that conflict we ultimately chose to ally with Stalin, as unsavory as that prospect was, on the proposition that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Such a calculus in the present case would seem to argue in favor of supporting the dictator, or, at minimum, of not supporting the rebels, since we know Qaddafi is a coward and can be brought to heel; such cannot be said of Al Qaeda.  It may be that Obama's dithering and Hamlet-like indisposition to exert leadership may actually serve our national self-interest, just as Bush's otherwise admirable assertiveness lead us into the Second Iraq War and its questionable results, its enormous cost in treasure, and the profound divisions in our own country with the further weakening of national self-regard internal division always encourages.

It may be that the rebels will fail without our material support.  But do we want them to succeed?  How do we advance our national self-interest by supporting them?  Are they champions of individual rights?  Do they support religious freedom?  Are they in favor of free speech, limited government, some form of democracy in which the rights of women, queer folk and other despised minorities are respected, or, at the minimum, where such minorities are not automatically consigned to cultural slavery, torture, or even death?  In brief, do the rebels promise a decent, civilized government, or merely promise the triumph of Sharia Law?

The reality is that very few revolutions, good or bad, succeed without some foreign assistance. Lenin had German money; Mao had Soviet arms. Revolutions that don't get some help from outside aren't so much inorganic as unsuccessful. Indeed, they generally don't go down in history as revolutions at all. More than one revolt has been brutally crushed by an Arab dictator—think of the Marsh Arabs' fate at the hands of Saddam Hussein. Such events tend to be remembered as massacres. We must hope that someone gives President Obama a history lesson before thousands of Libyans share their fate. It will be tragic indeed if America concludes from the experience of overthrowing murderous tyrannies in Afghanistan and Iraq that the correct policy is to turn a blind eye to murder in Libya. That, remember, was the policy pursued by the last Democrat to occupy the White House, in Rwanda as well as, for much too long, in Bosnia.