Outside of an asylum, is there
anybody nuttier than Moammar Qadaffy? Well, yes: Marc Lynch, associate
professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington
University – and non-resident smarty-pants at the Center for a New
Security – who blogs at ForeignPolicy.com,
“The unfolding situation in Libya has been horrible to behold. No matter how many times we warn that dictators will do what they must to stay in power, it is still shocking to see the images of brutalized civilians which have been flooding al-Jazeera and circulating on the internet. We should not be fooled by Libya’s geographic proximity to Egypt and Tunisia, or guided by the debates over how the United States could best help a peaceful protest movement achieve democratic change. The appropriate comparison is Bosnia or Kosovo, or even Rwanda where a massacre is unfolding on live television and the world is challenged to act. It is time for the United States, NATO, the United Nations and the Arab League to act forcefully to try to prevent the already bloody situation from degenerating into something much worse.”
This may seem like a crazy idea, an off-the-wall suggestion made in the heat of the moment. But when you think about it – and witness how widespread such sentiment is amongst our assembled “experts” and professional know-it-alls – you realize such a call to intervene was inevitable. It was only a matter of time before the War Party would find an excuse to intervene in the Middle Eastern upsurge, and make it all about us. We are, after all, a nation – nay, an empire – of narcissists, and so the pertinent question is: what can we do? What must we do? Benghazi is burning – don’t we have a moral obligation to preen on the world stage as we put the fire out?
Qadaffy would like nothing better. His poorly translated speech is being described as “surreal,” and “rambling,” and indeed it may have been both, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t or couldn’t be effective in a Libyan context. In that speech, standing in front of the bombed out ruin of a building that stands as a monument to Reagan’s 1986 bombing, he directly addressed the rebels:
“You people with big beards when this was happening, when 170 planes were bombing — where were you? You were bowing to your master, America. We fought back against the tyranny of America, we were resilient.”
The specter of American intervention is just what Dr. Qaddafy ordered: it would play right into his hands. As is so often the case with government action, both at home and abroad, it would have exactly the opposite of its intended effect. Yet we have been through this so many times that I find it hard if not impossible to believe an associate professor of political science and international affairs has failed to assimilate this lesson – especially in the case of an alleged “expert” on the Arab world. Can Professor Lynch really believe a “forceful” intervention – starting with a “no fly zone” – won’t buttress Qadaffy’s position?
The wily old dictator hasn’t managed to stay in power for 41 years by sheer chance: he knows how to appeal to the passions and prejudices of his people, and his strategy is clearly to divide the country along generational lines – rather like the Nixon-Agnew strategy during the Vietnam era. Like the Nixonians, the Qadaffyites are pointing to those crazed youths running rampant in the streets as influenced by the twin poisons of drugs – “You rats were given pills!” – and radical ideology, which is what the reference to “you people with big beards” is all about. Like our own neoconservatives, and the Glenn Beck crowd, the daffy dictator is raising the specter of the dreaded Muslim Brotherhood as the real author of the Arab upsurge. In the Nixon years, it was communism that was the Great Bogeyman: today, it is Islamism – or, in the case of the hardcore neocons, Islam per se.
In the face of a signal event such as the Arab Awakening, the real political alignments and dividing lines suddenly become visible, like lightning at midnight. On one side of the divide, we have Moammar Qaddafy, Glenn Beck, Hosni Mubarak, David Horowitz, King Hamad of Bahrain, and most of the writers for National Review, who think it’s all an infernal plot hatched by Islamist radicals. On the other hand, we have the overwhelming majority of the peoples of the Middle East, who yearn to be free – and the overwhelming majority of Americans, who sympathize with their plight.
Intervention by the West would strengthen Qaddafy – possibly even saving him from a well-deserved end – and give ammunition to the marginal Islamist element sympathetic to al-Qaeda. Both would be confirmed in their worldview: see, Qadaffy would say, the foreigners are coming to take over your country. See, the Islamists would aver, the Crusaders are coming to take away your revolution.
The interventionists are running the concept of a “no fly zone” up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes. But the reality is that this would be merely a prelude to full-scale intervention by the NATO nations, principally the US, with the UN imprimatur added on as an afterthought. Lynch compares this to the US intervention in Kosovo – a “humanitarian” intervention that ended with the establishment of a gangster “state” whose “President” is a big-time Mafia chieftain and accused organ thief! And, yes, there are still US troops in that country, and a substantial albeit diminishing European contingent. Once the West intervenes in Libya, it will be a good decade or so before they get out – if they aren’t chased out first.
Lynch tells us how “shocking” it is “to see the images of brutalized civilians,” but Al Jazeera has been regularly broadcasting far worse images of civilians brutalized by the American bombing of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – is Professor Lynch not equally shocked? Is he calling for “humanitarian” intervention to stop the Americans from massacring defenseless people? Of course not.
Oh, but don’t worry, says Lynch, this isn’t “an imperialist venture.” Why isn’t it? Well, just because it isn’t: because it’s an “emergency,” and we have to take action “before it’s too late.”
It’s always an emergency, isn’t it? There’s always some overriding imperative – strategic, economic, moral – that compels us to “act,” i.e. call out the Marines. Yet the timing of this is just a tad more than suspicious: at the very moment when the Arab world is rising up and throwing off its chains – chains forged in the furnace of Western colonialism and imperialism – the self-appointed Saviors of the World are riding in on their white horses, ready to “guide” the revolutionary upsurge to a more manageable conclusion. And it just so happens that Libya is rich in oil: news of the recent troubles caused oil prices to reach their highest point in two years. Like common thieves targeting a drunk, Western political leaders smell a bonanza – and are ready to pounce.
None other than Paul Wolfowitz, one of the authors of the Iraq debacle, demands “urgent action,” and Danielle Pletka, chairman of Ahmed Chalabi’s American fan club and a big wheel over at the American Enterprise Institute, fumes:
“Have they convened an emergency Security Council meeting? Have they demanded Qadhafi step down? Have they frozen Qadhafi and sons’ assets or called on others to do so? Have they imposed any economic measures? Have they done anything except wait all day and issue a comment at 5 pm? There are no easy answers, but there are clearly wrong things to do and among them is ‘just sit there.’”
Pletka and her fellow neocons can’t live in a world where we “just sit there” while others determine the course of events – and determine their own destiny. A world in which the United States isn’t the Prime Mover is, for them, a nightmare universe – and they’ve been living that nightmare since January, when Tunisia and then Egypt had their lids blown off. Two major American allies in the Middle East inside of less than two months – how could the Empire survive such a humiliation? Libya is their big chance to intervene and save face.
Of course, “moderates” like Professor Lynch will soon be outdistanced by crackpots like Cliff May, of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, who has declared he’d “go further and tell the Libyan armed forces that the West will bomb their airfields if they continue to slaughter their people. Arming the demonstrators also cannot be ruled out. The Libyan government is already blaming the protests on foreign help, and the protesters are facing a life or death struggle. The worst policy would be to encourage the demonstrators without giving them the tools to prevail.”
May’s was one of the loudest voices warning that the Egyptian revolution could well be a Muslim Brotherhood front – now he wants us to bomb Libyan airfields and give the rebels “the tools to prevail.” Should we bomb Bahrain’s airfields after the king’s security forces – imported from Saudi Arabia – slaughtered his own citizens in the capital’s main square? I don’t think the FDD believes that. Michael Ledeen, their foreign policy guru, certainly doesn’t.On their web site, FDD approvingly cites Amir Taheri, who writes;
“In Bahrain, Tehran hopes to see its allies sweep to power through mass demonstrations and terrorist operations. Bahrain’s ruling clan has arrested scores of pro-Iran militants but appears more vulnerable than ever. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has contacted Arab heads of states to appeal for “urgent support in the face of naked threats,” according to the Bahraini media.”
King Hamad and Hosni Mubarak – good: Qadaffy (and Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad) – bad. This kind of moral calculus is determined by the degree of the dictator’s complicity with American (and Israeli) plans for the region.
The War Party hopes to make lemonade out of the enormous lemon handed to them by the youthful revolutionaries of the Middle East – and an alliance of neocons and liberal “humanitarian” interventionists will make it happen if and when it does.
US intervention in Libya would short-circuit the Libyan revolution, prolong Qadaffy’s inglorious career, and lead to more and not less anti-Americanism even in the short run. It would, in brief, be a disaster – just the sort of blunder that could suck us into yet another quagmire from which there is no early release.