Friday, April 1, 2011

The Problem of Libya

One Expatriate's View of the Situation

Let me say first that I love America. I shed tears when the 4Troops sang the National Anthem on the Mall of the Capitol on October 31 at a rally I was attending. While I have previously alluded to the fact that my patriotism is more akin to that of Wendell Berry than Joseph McCarthy, I committed myself to the poisonous vicissitudes of the New Hampshire Primary between 2004 and 2010 because I think the people we elect make a difference. Politics is not just about your daughter playing the piano or your son coming up from fishing in the brook; it's about the role of nation states in stopping violence and despots.

Second, let me say that she makes some pretty damn stupid decisions sometimes. Though I would rarely find cause to consult with Congressional leaders if they were men like John Boehner, I do think the President acted without duly adhering to our Constitutional requirements and over-stepped. At first, I thought it was another moment of meticulously orchestrated brilliance where he could allow himself to be the fall guy for a bad decision, sparing Gates and the rest of the team, including Congress, from the blame of taking us to war. Now, I am not so sure that was the plan.

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi is a disturbed, sick man. Though not quite beyond a reasonable doubt, some blood from Lockerbie clearly and convincingly stains his resume. We do not yet know the full extent of his diabolical activities...but for the Watchman, we may never.

Nevertheless, men are capable of reform and other men should be capable of forgiveness. We cannot overlook the despotic ruler's past transgressions or let our guard down against future mischief from the bizarre, insular, radical revolutionary commander, who at age 68 seems to still have the piss & vinegar of his only true ally, Hugo Chavez (a dozen years his junior). On the other hand, I do not think we should prosecute a war because of what happened a distant moon ago.

Women, despite the rape that the propaganda machine has focused on this week, have fared better under the liberal, Libyan regime than under most of the neighboring nation-states, including some of America's allies.
From a purely amoral, utilitarian stand-point, the Senators who asked what the game plan is for succession demonstrated a keen understanding of the problem that the world will face if Libya is de-stabilized and the Colonel removed. I tend to find myself in strong agreement with Hu Jintao, the President of China, "[H]istory has time and again proved the use of military force is no answer to any problem, but, complicates the problem." Hu emphasized that the ultimate solution lies in "dialogue and other peaceful means."

The other utilitarian question that seems to arise from my senator, Hon. Jeanne Shaheen, and others is whether we have a strategic interest and whether we need to take a central role in the fighting, since NATO is sufficiently prepared to carry out this misadventure without our overt, direct leadership.

Secretary Hillary Clinton clearly drove the behind-the-scenes push for air strikes, because she understood the guanxi it would give America among is allies--notably, France. The United States government has been prosecuting its own oil wars for a decade with reticent support from these allies. This gives the US a chance to say, we will protect your strategic interests if you support protecting ours. France needs Libya's oil as badly as we need Iraq's and Kuwait's.

The bigger problem with the strategy we have adopted is whether it acts as a recruitment strategy for Al Qaeda or similar groups. The United States--no saint in regards to human rights violations itself--enters as policeman of the world, causing resentment and stirring up hatred with potential allies as large as China and Brazil. While setting sail for Libya was a big step for China, as noted in The Economist, its steadfast commitment to peaceful resolution of the conflict after this initial action is admirable and should garner notice for Hu Jintao from the same committee that gave Barack Obama and Liu Xiaobo a $1.5 million US dollar prize.