Where’s the noose?

I am thoroughly disgusted with the fecklessness of the U.S. government regarding Libya. President Obama’s fatuous March 11 assertion that we’re “tightening the noose” on Khadafy is right up there with George Bush’s notorious “Mission Accomplished.”

Where's the noose?

On March 12, the Arab League called for a Libyan no-fly zone. For Heaven’s sake what more could we need in terms of international legitimacy?* Yet still we do nothing but talk. It’s already too late. The noose that’s tightening is the one upon Khadafy’s opponents.

The Arab League’s pronouncement was actually an utterly astonishing departure from past form, and shows how much has changed in the region in the past months. But the U.S. government still doesn’t get it.

I am fully cognizant of all the problematic issues surrounding any military action in Libya (as expounded, e.g., by Richard Haass on the Newshour and George Will in his column). But there is a bigger issue at stake. We are squandering a golden opportunity to alter perceptions of America in the Arab “street.” This is an opportunity to finally prove that we stand with the people, rather than tolerating or even coddling tyrants. Instead, we are proving the contrary. It makes me sick.

Moreover, democratization of the region is very much in our long term best strategic interests. George Bush was right about that, at least. Tunisia, and then Egypt, radically changed the Mid East political weather, opening a big window for democratization, proving that autocrats could not stand against a really determined popular uprising. Bahrain and Libya followed. But now Khadafy is proving that a really determined sonofabitch still can stand against a popular uprising. And we see how, emboldened by Khadafy’s example, the Bahrain regime is following his playbook. The political weather is changing again; the window is closing.

Benghazi is going to be a bloodbath. And some of that blood will be on our hands.

* We have gotten ourselves into a moral and policy cul-de-sac by making the UN Security Council the be-all and end-all of international legitimacy, where the Chinese and/or Russians always use their veto on behalf of their Authoritarians’ Protective Society. International legitimacy should not be hostage to regimes that are themselves illegitimate. Regional legitimacy is the way to go.

UPDATE MARCH 17 — The UN has authorized military action after all. I guess I was not optimistic enough (!) and there are limits to the shame with which Russia & China are willing to cover themselves. This is a good thing. But now let’s see how swiftly and forcefully the US and allies will actually act. The Brits, apparently, are rarin’ to go.

7 Responses to “Where’s the noose?”

  1. Lee Says:

    Suppose your impoverished neighbor has a broken leg and is collecting money for an amputation and subsequent prosthetic. Would you contribute even though your personal opinion is that a plaster cast would be a better idea? Your neighbor has always been good to you, and you definitely want to help. The only thing possibly holding you back is that you are fairly certain that your neighbor has made a poor choice. Well, to be clear, you agree with your neighbor that the amputation approach would be better than doing nothing, but you can’t help noticing that a cast would be even better.

    Suppose further that your neighbor is proud to be a “great decider” and would not be happy to be told that the amputation is a bad decision — if you attempt advice, you will do little to deter the amputation, but will do much to destroy the friendship. At best, you can drop some subtle hints. In the meantime, do you contribute towards the amputation?

    FSR COMMENT: Lee, I love your devotion to nonviolence, but sometimes it is actually a sub-optimal answer. Sometimes war is the answer.

  2. Lee Says:

    And I love your work towards bettering the world despite your devotion to violence.

    [FSR: I’m not devoted to violence.] Sometimes war is not the answer. [FSR: Of course.]

    Qaddafi has offered a cease fire. [FSR: it appears it is a cynical ploy.] Rather than turn this into a blood feud, the cease fire should be accepted immediately and work towards an election should be commenced immediately with or without Qaddafi’s aid. [FSR: no reasonable election is possible while he remains in the picture. He should be removed from Libya or, preferably, executed.]

    If he interferes with the election process then we can continue our debate as to the best way to challenge him — in his strong suit or in his weaker suits. 🙂

  3. Lee Says:

    I apologize. No, of course, you are not devoted to violence. That was my failed attempt at humor, to rebut your statement that my devotion is to nonviolence. I assume that you are devoted to a better world — as am I — and that violence and nonviolence are tools for getting there, not goals in their own right.

    If Qaddafi stops shooting and permits democratic elections to occur then democracy has won. Let us withhold our violence in this case.

    FSR REPLY: Qaddafi will stop shooting and permit democratic elections when he is removed from Libya. Bombs away!

  4. Susan Says:

    Ur an idiot. Getting involved is a BIG mistake. It’s the job of arab league thyve got plenty of weaponry to do away with gaddafi.

  5. Lee Says:

    An article from The New York Times written by four reporters who were held and beaten for several days by Libyan loyalists includes:

    In hindsight, the rebels and the army, or militia, didn’t seem separated by all that much. They were really gangs of young men with guns, each convinced of the other’s evil.

    The rebels’ story was more familiar: They were fighting nearly 42 years of dictatorship, wielded by a man whom the vast majority in opposition-held Libya deemed insane. To the [loyalist] soldiers around us, they were fighting Al Qaeda or homegrown Islamists, and they couldn’t understand why we, as Americans, didn’t understand their battle.

    While I don’t trust Qaddafi, it appears that his troops are fighting for good, not for evil. Our shooting at them will only further convince them that we are evil — discourse would be so much more promising.

    FSR COMMENT: “Discourse would be so much more promising.” You ought to phone Qaddafi and point this out to him, I’m sure he’d agree readily to stop shooting and engage in dialog. His men fighting for good, not evil? Really, Lee? I guess you have different definitions of good and evil than I do. I find this kind of moral equivalency loathesome. During the cold war we were often likewise admonished by Noam Chomsky types that really, after all, the “free world” (their mock quotes) was not morally superior to the Communist block. It’s moral blindness.
    And the rebels “fighting nearly 42 years of dictatorship” are IN FACT fighting nearly 42 of dictatorship, of a particularly vile sort. The ones “fighting Al Qaeda or homegrown Islamists” are fighting for A LIE, because that’s not in fact what they’re fighting against. The postmodern mentality, in addition to being unable to distinguish morally between good and evil, also is prone to seeing no consequential difference between factual truth and falsity.

  6. Lee Says:

    Your references to loathsome moral equivalence has me believing that you have misunderstood my argument — I find Qaddafi to be a tyrant on the scale of the leaders of South African Apartheid or the Soviet Union — by which I mean that he is a very bad guy who is by no means anywhere as good as the leaders of the free world. In this comparison, there is no moral equivalence, period.

    But in South Africa, the Soviet Union, Northern Ireland, Egypt, Tunisia, …, shooting at our enemies’ troops was not an effective part of the solution. In Afghanistan and Iraq, shooting at the troops has been part of the solution, and progress is being made, but it is unnecessarily slow and deadly

    I see some level of moral equivalence only at the lower levels of the power structures. Qaddafi’s troops are real people, with families, hopes, and dreams. The vast majority of them can be persuaded to the side of good, but the route of bullets and bombs is a slow and deadly one.

    FSR REPLY: While you’re trying to persuade them to the side of good, they can kill a lot of people. Maybe we could have persuaded Hitler to the side of good; I suspect that before that effort succeeded, there would have been few Jews left alive. A nonviolent solution succeeded in South Africa because DeKlerk was very much not like Hitler, or Gaddafi. Hitler did not give up until he was completely defeated by force of arms. Sometimes there just ain’t no other way. Idealism (like yours) is utterly vain when it refuses to recognize reality.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I do not believe that Hitler could have been persuaded of anything, nor Stalin, nor any of the usual monsters from history books, nor most of their troops. But, as you are fond of pointing out, the world has gotten much better as the years have passed. For a number of reasons, including better communication and more wealth, it is now much easier to dissuade populations from going to war with other populations.

    Gorbachev and de Klerk did start out as monsters; they “saw the light” only as we aggressively eroded their power bases.

    FSR COMMENT: Yes, the world is indeed getting better — as evidenced by the newfound willingness of civilized nations to intervene to stop a bloodbath. But I can’t let pass the comment about Gorby & de Klerk. Neither was ever a monster; to the contrary, both were very good human beings trying to pragmatically do the best they could, to do the right thing, in the situations in which they found themselves.

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