Sunday, June 26, 2011
Good News From Libya
The good news is that victory is all but assured in Libya. Just don't ask for whom, or how or why. Or any other questions for that matter.
Ten years ago, liberals howled in outrage when President Bush said, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." They wanted a third option like remaining neutral. Or a fourth option of being with the terrorists, while still having the patriotic credibility of condemning any action against Muslim terrorists as "Un-American". Now Hillary Clinton replied to Republican congressional critics with, "The bottom line is, whose side are you on? Are you on Qadhafi’s side or are you on the side of the aspirations of the Libyan people and the international coalition that has been created to support them?"
As rousing retorts go, this sounds like it was processed through the sausage factory of bureaucracy and ended up as the conclusion to a thesis. But then it's hard to make, "You're either with the international coalition and the aspirations of the Libyan people or with the guy in the robe who was a close ally three months ago" sound snappy. That's the problem with fighting wars on behalf of a multinational philosophy that can only be summed up in polysyllabic torrents of words that don't mean anything.
When Bush said, "You're either with us or against us", we all knew what he meant. But what does fighting for the aspirations of the Libyan people mean? If it turns out that the Libyan people aspire to behead their daughters and ethnically cleanse Africans, will we still be for that. And if not, why not. Either we are for democracy or we're for crushing their aspirations under the tanks of a dictator. And who are we to pass judgement on their aspirations anyway. Look at the Indians, Three Mile Island and Britney Spears.
It doesn't take much to start from that way of thinking and go straight to dropping bombs for female genital mutilation and sending in the marines in support of beheading gays, even as the marines are forced to accept openly gay soldiers.
"You're either with our coalition or with Gaddafi" abandons national interests in favor of some vague right to protect civilians from bombardment by bombing them first. How many villages do we have to destroy before we finally save them? There's no way to tell. Not without blowing them up first.
If we're going on bombing raids to protect civilians, then why are the skies of Syria, Sudan and Iran clear of B2 bombers and Tomahawk missiles? It's because we only protect certain civilians. Usually the ones who don't exist.
To justify the war on Libya, Obama has claimed that if he had not acted thousands of civilians would be dead. Last month he reiterated that all the 700,000 people in Benghazi are still alive only thanks to his swift actions. How do we know that? Well Obama took action and they're alive, aren't they. What better proof could you possibly ask for?
You might as well act skeptical when the administration also insists that by spending trillions of dollars they saved millions of jobs. How do we know that millions of jobs were saved? There are millions of people still employed, aren't there? Q.E.D.
And when next fall we begin bombing China to save 1 billion Chinese from something or other, then so long as there are a billion of them still alive when we're done-- then clearly we were right to act. Either you're with us or with the imaginary crisis we made up to justify a stupid policy that doesn't even make sense to us and that we can't rationally defend. That one's almost as big a mouthful as that whole bit about the "the international coalition and the aspirations of the Libyan people". But it's more accurate.
So why are we in Libya? A better question is why aren't we in Libya. When George Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, his reply was, "Because it's there." Libya is there too. And if we don't bomb it, someone else will. But George Mallory died on Everest. Which suggests that there might be better reasons to climb mountains and bomb countries than their general "thereness".
Libya has a dictator. A quality it has in common with the Muslim world and much of the globe. But you don't see us sending in the marines to remove the tyrants of the majority of the UN membership. After all who would authorize such an operation? Not the UN. And then we would be acting unilaterally, which in finer diplomatic circles is considered worse than tyranny, pederasty and genocide. Throw in a reference to religion and you're worse than the Third Reich.
Hillary Clinton with Gaddafi Jr
When Bush went into Iraq, it had genocide, chemical weapons and was a threat to the region. Libya has none of these. Which is why the same Times scribblers who took a firm line against seizing Saddam are keen to knife Gaddafi. But the situations are totally different. Saddam was just another homicidal tyrant , but the robed madman of Tripoli is standing in the way of the great tidal wave of democracy sweeping through the region. He isn't killing people. Worse he's obstructing the march of the Arab Spring. The Times editorial page can forgive genocide, but not standing in the way of the wave of history. No one does that and lives.
Reasonable observers will note that waves are rare in a desert and anyone claiming to see one has just sighted a mirage. That the rebels consist of Gaddafi's own ministers and representatives from the local branch of Al-Qaeda. But why quibble at such minor points. Just rephrase the sentiment a little. "Either you're with the Gaddafi government and Al-Qaeda, or with Gaddafi and his African mercenaries." And we must do our utmost to defeat Gaddafi so that his ministers and Al-Qaeda can battle it out for the chance to take a percentage of bribes from Western oil companies.
Taking that firm line against Gaddafi sounds better if we forget that we were for him, before we were against him. And if he manages to outlast Sakorzy, Cameron and Obama, or at least the two out of three on that list who are going into elections as unpopular losers, then we may end up being for him again.
Obama was photographed pressing the tanned creepy flesh of the Arab world's craziest leader at the G8 summit a mere two years ago. And in 2013, he may be doing it again. Gaddafi has been bombed by Americans before. And lived to tell the tale. And what's a dead son or daughter anyway when international diplomacy is at stake.
But then you get the feeling that Obama went to war as much out of irritation at Gaddafi's insistence on calling him a "Son of Africa" and "of Muslim descent". It's one thing to kill your own people and another to be a Birther. No one puts baby in a corner or in the position of having to show his birth certificate.
The ultimate in good news though is that this is not a war. It's just one of those things where we go to a country and drop bombs on it. But not in a warlike way. It's just one of those kinetic military actions. And kinetic military actions or KMA's, kinetically deploy munitions, which is clearly an action and involves the military, but is not a military action, just a kinetic action of the military. And I don't think we have anything to worry about.
Last week there was an armed kinetic event on my block with one fatality. Some hotheads are calling it a murder, but why throw around crazy words like that which give people the wrong impression. It was an event and kinetics were involved. Also kinesthetics and eventually anesthetics and paramedics. But the more we talk like academics about the dynamics of kinetics, we are free not to pay attention to the chrematistics of undeclared illegal wars fought on behalf of the aspirations of oil companies and foreign policy apparatuses who use reform as a synonym for friendly dictatorships.
And this particular kinetic military action, which we may or may not be fighting, is a winner. It may not be for us, but like the lottery, someone out there is going to cash in. Will it be Gaddafi or his ministers? Al-Qaeda or the African mercenaries? And what about BP or Obama's golf game. We may be cutting and running from Afghanistan, and sitting down to talk things over with the Taliban, but our slow slog toward the rough beast of Libyan democracy waiting to be born is going smoothly.
In the words of Gaddafi's Son of Africa, "There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and our values are." There was and still is no evidence whatsoever that Gaddafi had ever threatened Obama's interest in playing golf all day Or his socialist values. But the mere fact that Obama is able to continue to play golf and spend money is proof that we were right to act. We can't be selfish and act only when we know there's a crisis. We must just act. Climb mountains because they're there. Bomb countries also because they're there. Just remember. You're either with us or with the people who think before they act.