President Obama did the right thing, in the nick of time and under pressure from America’s traditional allies, and under pressure from the Arab League, (Go figure!) At least he did. Attacking Ghadafi is one of those cases where our national interest and common decency converge. Can’t let them go to waste! We couldn’t very well let the Libyan rebels get massacred. We couldn’t very well let me Ghadafi put his threat into action of going house to house to murder his opponents. Yes, I know that we don’t know which of the rebels are seekers of liberty and which are Jihadists. Again, I have to refer to the dog that did not bark. The Islamists seem remarkably absent from rebel-held areas. After all, the western press had free rein there to look for them, to find them, and to interview them live on television. That’s for common decency, for humanity, for morality.
As I keep saying, I wish there were another sheriff in town but the fact is that there isn’t. My position here may sound exotic because I come from a different ethical tradition. Under French law, there is actually a crime called: “non-assistance to a person in danger.” The underlying doctrine is that if you can help while running only a reasonable risk, you are obligated to help. That’s pretty much where we are with respect to Ghadafi’s decrepit air force and his obsolete air-defense system.
Now for our national interest in the anti-Ghadafi operation. It comes in two forms. First, we owe Ghadafi for years and years of terrorism. Almost certainly, we owe him for the deliberate assassination of 300 over Lockerbie . If we were not sure, it would be easy enough, it’s still easy enough to execute an international arrest warrant against him and to try him in the Netherlands. We can always apologize if he comes out innocent. If he does not comply with the warrant then, of course, we can kill him while attempting to arrest him.
The second package for our national interest is the spectacle of irresoluteness America gives under Obama’s guidance. With respect to any tyrant, you can say nothing or if you say something, it cannot be just an opinion as long as you are, like it or not, a superpower. Obama declared almost a month ago that Ghadafi had to go then, he sat on this hands. If the French had not pressed the issue, it’s not clear he would have done anything at all. It’s not a matter of swaggering like 20-year old on Red Bull. It’s just that others who are actually dangerous to us are watching. That would include the insane leadership of North Korea and of Iran. That would include also the thoroughly corrupt, unprincipled, ever-opportunistic Chinese Communist Party of China. I don’t even put it past the Kremlin gangsters to try something a little daring against us if they sense that we are weak.
And then, there is Arab opinion, the “Arab street” that was high on the list of liberals’ concerns when President Bush initiated the liberation of Iraq. Either you care about the street or you don’t. I think it’s reasonable not to care although it’s cynical. If you profess to care – by making a big speech in Cairo, for example – then, you cannot reject an opportunity to show friendship. And you cannot allow a situation where Arab opinion, the segment of Arab opinion you care about, democrats, says thing such as, “The French are the real friends of the Arabs; the Americans only pretend to like us, sometimes, for our oil.” Incidentally, the revolutionaries and the Ghadafi partisans alike seem to credit French air strikes for stopping the imminent offensive against Benghazi. It’s not surprising given our dithering and the Brits’ silence. And maybe, the French did it all by themselves, I mean that raid that destroyed tanks on the edge of the city. They had an aircraft carrier in the vicinity.
Speaking about oil: A reminder to liberals and progressives who have not yet apologized for screaming that Bush went into Iraq to steal the oil (“No blood for oil!”): There is still little oil coming from Iraq. The first two licenses for exploration and for exploitation to be approved by the democratically elected Iraqi government went to a Chinese company and to a French company, respectively. American oil companies are notably absent. I am not suggesting the Iraqi government discriminates against them. Whatever the reason, their absence surely undermines the Left’s simplistic slogans of 2003.
President Obama’s piousness about not exceeding the UN mandate appears sillier by the day. Someone bombed one of the places where he might have been in Tripoli, twice, I think, as I write. In fact, everyone believes that his whole fascist regime will dissolve when he dies or flees. Then, the parties will sit together and cobble something approximating a representative transitional national union government. The final truth is that, like a rabid dog, Ghadafi is too dangerous to be allowed to live. It’s not just my opinion, it’s a description based on his past. Would he blow up civilian planes over the busy Mediterranean skies if he had a chance? Well, he did it for a much smaller threat to his power. Here is an intriguing thing about the man I don’t hear discussed: When he took power in 1969, he was 27 and quite handsome. He is almost exactly my age. I am well aware of the ravages of age on a handsome guy’s face. I know I would not win that many beauty prizes today. But look at Gadhafi: He has become spectacularly ugly. Simple aging might not explain the transformation. I keep wondering what medication he is on that causes the repulsive swelling of his face. Medication might help explain his madness.
The president did the right thing in my opinion, which is surprising, even if he hesitated a lot. It’s surprising because he has spent so much of his adult life paling around with American terrorists and with his black racist pastor Wright. From them, he learned that American is the greatest source of evil in the world and possibly, at least indirectly, the only source of evil. Thus, there was nothing in his simple-minded leftist playbook from 1968 about what to do against a self-evidently greater evil than America, and you have the power to stop it, and probably, no one else will. Well, as I said, at least he did. And though I am skeptical, I am not against letting the Europeans take the lead in determining what goes on on their back doorstep.
I see one big danger in the way President Obama handled this affair and it’s not a major escalation. I am pretty sue it’s not going to happen. There will be no American occupation, and no direct attempt at state-building. The Europeans will be forced to hold the bag if this does not end quickly. The big danger is of a political and ideological nature. By insisting on waiting for a Security Council approval, Obama has taken a significant step toward having the UN appear like a world government. I believe this is completely unacceptable, of course. I don’t want to live in a world where policy is made and/or implemented by dozens of banana dictators and where China and Russia have equal influence with the US and the United Kingdom.
It’s hard enough living in a country whose laws and policies emanate partially from the likes of Chicago and New Orleans.
And, by insisting also on approval from the buffoon Arab League, the president lent more legitimacy to it than he received. And, predictably, the Arab League began whining within twenty-four hours that the coalition was going too far anyway. As I write, only one member of the Arab League out of 20 member states, most armed to the teeth, Qatar, has promised four planes to help the coalition. No other member state has offered a tank, or two, or even a mobile kitchen, or a single ambulance. The Arab League is the organization that gave the dictator of Sudan its official blessing in the middle of the Darfur on-going massacre. President Obama made them look more real and purposeful serious than they are, another gross step against the progress of democracy in the world.
With all this, we have almost forgotten Israel. For years, I gave the PLO that runs the West Bank the benefit of doubt. Two weeks ago, one of its affiliates cut the throats of four Israelis settlers. One “settler” was two months old. There is no doubt left for me unless the assassin is caught and executed by the PLO. Nevertheless, I am optimistic about that corner of the Middle East. For one thing, the insane hatred of Israel among Arabs can’t get much worse. For another thing, democratization never fails to bring a circulation of ideas and of facts. It’s like airing a room. More Arabs will come to realize their madness in this matter. More Arabs will be slightly more willing to admit that they don’t hate Israel day and night, that they have a life too. I have yet another hypothesis. For the past thirty, forty years, many Arabs felt deeply ashamed about their abject subjection, about their cowardice. To avoid hating themselves they threw all their frustration at the scapegoat Israel that was continuously being offered by the same tyrants responsible for their subjection. With tyrants gone and preferably hung, some Arabs, at least, are liable to begin acting like free men.