The Libyan revolutionaries are taking too long to catch Gadhafi. Already, they have been upstaged by a hurricane; there will be other events and non-events occupying our screens before they wrap up this business. They should care more for the 24-hour news cycle!
Here is what the conservative media are avoiding saying: In this particular case narrowly defined, the Libyan Spring, the Obama doctrine paid off. There were no American boots on the ground or very few. The President did succeed in talking allies, especially the UK and France, into doing most of the heavy lifting, what with Libya being in their backyard and what not! The NATO allies did most or much of the bombing. The US supplied intelligence, and the initials strikes. The Libyans did all of the dying, so far. There would have been less dying if we had intervened earlier or more vigorously. Don’t expect the liberal media to take the administration to task for this. It will never happen. There is subtle undercurrent of racism or xenophobia in liberal foreign policies: Let the natives die; it’s their job or isn’t it?
The major military role the NATO allies played may induce good consequences beyond the liberation of Libya. Reading the French press, and a little of the British press, I am forming the impression that the political classes of both countries are shocked to discover how thin their national defense establishments really are. They find that they are straining to complete this very limited mission against a half-disarmed enemy that is nearby.
There is a group that’s been keeping its mouth tightly shut. That’s the Libertarians with a capital “L” (as opposed to libertarian members of the conservative branch of the Republican party like me). They have become rigid pacifists. They don’t like it when a war ends well without major expenditure of American treasure and with no American casualties. They don’t have the graciousness to say: OK, this one worked out although we were against it. This rigor mortis, and this principled but ultimately unthinking pacifism is why Ron Paul will never be President. I will vote against him, I will not vote for him. So will millions of conservatives who have much in common with him but who recognize that the US historically does what needs to be done, including militarily. (Allow me for once to speak as a European who grew up during the Cold War, two days-march from Soviet tanks.)
Here is what the liberal media have trouble thinking about and commenting on: Educated and media-connected young Arabs everywhere know and knew that Iraqis were voting. The Libyans who are holding guns now in the streets of Tripoli were ten and twelve and fourteen when Iraq’s own Gadhafi was hung by the Justice of his country. Of course, they must have asked themselves at some point: Why not us?
And, as usual, the media are not asking the obvious questions about what did not happen: Did the Libyan insurgents ask for Russia’s help, for China’s help? Were they not simply saying to us six months ago: If you removed Saddam Hussein, why not help us? The Libyan freedom fighters are obviously the children or the grandchildren of Georges W. Bush. What rank-and-file Arab ever contemplated the possibility that representative government was also for the Arab world until Bush’s neo-conservatives showed it to be the case?
And here is what no one wants to say aloud: Overweight Libyan shopkeepers, elementary-school teachers, and accounting undergraduates, all without military training, have restored Arab military honor. That’s the same honor that had been dragged in the mud of fratricidal wars and sacrificed in vain and vainglorious attacks on Israel. It ‘s not the first time a citizens’ army acquits itself better on the battlefield than gladiators in red berets and impeccably ironed camouflage uniforms. Ask the Israeli. We keep forgetting this simple truth.
For me, the most striking political observation of the past week is how the American media organs fell on one another lamenting in advance the post-Gadhafi era. Pundits, with the notable exception of my guru Fouad Ajami, an Arab, were pushing each other out of the way to be first to point out how many divisions existed in Libya, suggesting that the aftermath would possibly, probably, be horrible None wanted to be the last to make pessimistic predictions. Either this is more underlying racism or it’s one more proof that we have become a nation of old ladies (and that’s not fair to many old ladies).
I can just imagine, in late 1944, the American press worrying aloud about the possible horrors of post-Hitler Germany. Crazy, man!
The horrors of post-Saddam Iraq, you say? Yes, it was done badly. Yet, if there were no way to do it better, if it were my decision, I would do it all over again. It’s not difficult decision: Just count the numbers of mass graves that were not added.
8/25/11 Two afterthoughts:
I often worry about what should be there but isn’t. In the context of the Arab Spring, I worry about Algeria, next door to Libya. It’s a large country of 36 million. It has oil wealth but also a great deal of corruption and inequality. The existing regime is a unique mixture of democracy through elections with stewardship by a large military. It has an honest President who rules largely bey decrees pretty much at the pleasure of the military. Military stewardship there is tolerated and even encouraged by Western countries, including the US and France, the former colonial power. The reason is that in the nineties, that same military prevented an electorally victorious Islamist coalition from taking power. This does not make Algeria a happy country. I suspect that most Algerians, who all learn French, want to move to Europe, to France, to Belgium, anywhere in Europe. There is not much of a reason to believe that Algeria will not explode too.
Much of the media, including the press I read regularly is looking for evidence of looting in liberated areas of Libya and making tsu,tsu noises when it finds it. It seems that unimaginative journalists are trying to will upon Libya a repeat of the liberation of Iraq. This is silly and unwarranted. First, of course, “looting” guns and ammunition is a rational act of self-defense. Beyond this obvious fact, I think looting the dictator’ personal belongings is a healthy thing to do after forty years of dictatorship. Parading in the street wearing one of the tyrants many headgears and wrapped in his bedspsread signifies to others, and especially, to yourself, that you have begun to not fear him. Long live looting!