“America will always do the right thing, after exhausting all the alternatives.”
— Winston Churchill
My previous postings regarding the Libya situation may have been too cynical and pessimistic. I want the world to be better, and do believe it’s getting better. I just wish it would hurry up. But Rome wasn’t built in a day; civilization is a slow climb. And of course I’m not one of those cynical pessimists who believe humanity is irredeemably bad and progress is an illusion. Libya may well be yet another proof of that error.
The civilized world’s response had, yes, been frustratingly slow; but that many others thought so too signifies how much the world has improved, compared to past eras when such principled and altruistic intervention would have been literally unthinkable.
It was only in 2006 that the UN codified “R2P,” a “responsibility to protect” populations from mass atrocities, even if perpetrated by their own governments. This was potentially a radical amendment of the international order, operative since the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which established the modern concept of nation state sovereignty – ever since invoked to shield gangster regimes like Qaddafi’s. R2P pierced that shield, holding that sovereignty is not a privilege, but a responsibility.
This might have seemed just hot air. But the Libyan operation is the first actual action undertaken pursuant to R2P. That Russia and China did not veto it is a remarkable departure from past form. Likewise its endorsement by the Arab League. This is like the Japan earthquake that shifted the Earth’s tilt! One small step at a time, we are on the road to a world in which peace, freedom and justice reign.
Yet, sad to say, the Obama administration actually still doesn’t get it. The next domino is Yemen; President Saleh is a goner, but the U.S. is once again missing in action. This regional revolution is happening basically without us, almost even in spite of us. That’s not only a betrayal of our ideals, it also disserves our true long-term national interests.
The US still acts as though Islamic terrorism is our #1 foreign policy concern. It is not. It does not actually have the potential to injure our interests in a major way; it’s not an existential threat (like the USSR was). Rather, it’s a nuisance we can deal with without getting our underwear in a twist. The odd bombing now and then is no big deal when viewed in the context of, for example, the annual 30,000+ highway death toll I keep mentioning, which we accept with equanimity. And forgive me, but even in the most extreme scenario, if Al Qaeda nukes LA (overwhelmingly unlikely, in fact), that would not destroy our society either; we’d recover. Yet we are so irrationally terrorized by terrorism (exactly as the terrorists want), we let this tail wag our foreign policy dog. That injures our interests more than anything else terrorism could do to us!
And why is Obama so insistent we’re not leading on Libya? Is there some shame in it? Those who criticize us for it will do so whether we lead or follow. But after all the criticism about our supporting dictators, we should be trumpeting this action rather than trying to downplay it. And we should be forthright that the objective is Qaddafi’s ouster. Why be disingenuous? If that’s not the objective, then the intervention is pointless. If it scares other dictators, all the better. It’s not an illegitimate objective, but a moral one, and the world needs moral leadership, which should be our role, that we’re proud to exercise.
I have always followed world affairs because I view it as one giant morality play. Evolution endows us all with instincts for morality and justice. To see a Tomahawk cruise missile blasting off, at long last, to join the battle against evil in Libya, thrilled me to the ends of my toes.
I feel sorry for the poor bastards on the receiving end. Those pro-Qaddafi soldiers are human beings, and as much victims as are the Benghazi civilians. It is not America responsible for their deaths; it’s Qaddafi. And the sooner they are defeated, the sooner this horrible carnage can end, and Libya can be yet one more nation joining the inexorably growing global community of free, peaceable, and prospering societies that Immanuel Kant foresaw two centuries ago.