Libya Part Of A Larger-Scale Effort

June 27th, 2011 at 1:02 pm | 5 Comments |

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It’s easy to snipe at Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and George Will does a great job of this in a recent column. Will bristles at McCain’s and Graham’s charge that Republicans who eschew military intervention abroad are “isolationists.”

“This is less a thought than a flight from thinking, which involves making sensible distinctions,” Will declares.

I agree that McCain and Graham are often less than compelling advocates for a robust and assertive US foreign policy. And simply calling someone an “isolationist,” as they are wont to do, is a poor substitute for serious thought and analysis.

Still, McCain and Graham are right and Will is wrong: The United States must take an active interest in what transpires beyond our shores, and act militarily when and where we can to defeat our enemies and promote liberty. And we must do this not because we are vaingloriously “in search of monsters to destroy,” as John Quincy Adams famously put it.

Instead, America must promote liberty militarily when and where we can because we live in an increasingly close and interdependent world where time, distance and geography provide less and less protection.

Certainly, that ought to be a key lesson of September 11, 2001: Terrorists living in caves thousands of miles away can and did plan and execute a devastating attack on our homeland. So we best act swiftly and preemptively to stop them, as well as the countries and cultures that give rise to these sworn enemies of America.

Our intervention in Libya, then — which Will opposes — is best seen as part and parcel of this larger-scale effort. It is best understood as one battle in a larger-scale, long-term war (and I mean war in both its literal and metaphorical sense) to transform the Middle East and North Africa along more peaceable and democratic lines.

Libya, then, is a target of opportunity that emerged unexpectedly, and which a smart and wise America would rightly seize upon. The uprising there offers us the opportunity to rid the world of one of the most menacing anti-American dictators and terrorist sponsors, Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi.

Indeed, as Paul Wolfowitz explains in the Wall Street Journal,

The US has a large stake in the outcome in Libya. Not because of its oil production but because of the dangerous nature of the Gadhafi regime—made far more dangerous by the current conflict—and because of the effect that Libya can have on the rest of the Arab world at a critical time in history…

Gadhafi’s fall would provide inspiration for the opposition in Syria and perhaps even Iran, whereas his survival would embolden the regimes in power there to cling on. The sooner Gadhafi goes, the greater the impact will be.

In Libya itself, the U.S. might gain a much-needed friend in the Arab world. A British diplomat in Benghazi, the unofficial temporary capital of free Libya, has said that it is the first time during his many years in the Arab world that he has seen American flags displayed in appreciation.

Even in Tripoli, still under Gadhafi’s control, people go to the rooftops to whistle in celebration during NATO bombing raids. After a visit to Benghazi last month, Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman wrote:

“Imagine walking in the main square of a teeming Arab city and having people wave the American flag, clamor for photographs with a visiting American official, and celebrate the United States as both savior and model.”

Appreciation for the United States in the Arab world is something to be welcomed at any time, but particularly now when demands for freedom are sweeping across the Middle East. Yet here in the United States, there seems to be little appreciation for this or for the brave Libyans who are fighting for their freedom with such courage.

So yes, criticize McCain and Graham for lacking the explanatory power of Paul Wolfowitz and other advocates of the “freedom agenda.” But don’t criticize that agenda itself, because it is wise, prescient and necessary — and needed now more than ever.

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • Frumplestiltskin

    The difference between Obama and Democrats vision is it is not unilateralist, it recognizes we have allies who can share in the burden. I have not read anything from you about the French and their actions in the Ivory Coast but they did a bang up job helping get rid of Gbagbo.

  • Nanotek

    “Instead, America must promote liberty militarily when and where we can because we live in an increasingly close and interdependent world where time, distance and geography provide less and less protection.”

    we must educate our young, care for the elderly and infirm and rebuild our manufacturing base so … if the alternatives are global trotting to prop up Athenian democracy within dictatorships or rebuild America … I opt for rebuilding America

    too bad you gopers recklessly spent our money on tax cuts for the rich, your Medicare Plan D $400 billion give-away to your big buck pharma doners and on two unfunded wars that doubled our national deficit in just a few years…

  • medinnus

    Next up – Invading Iran and Syria, if we can ever get out of the complete clusterfarks like Afghanistan and Iraq. That way the Defense Budget becomes sacrosanct once more, and corrupt bastards like Halliburton can lose more billions through deception and fraud while GOP warhawks who never saw overseas duty in the conflicts of their generation play Chickenhawk Armchair General.

  • LFC

    It’s not like we didn’t realize this long ago, but I think this is the closest I’ve come to seeing Guardiano actually admit that he truly believes in the use of perpetual war as a blunt “diplomatic” instrument to be used against any country we don’t like and is small enough (i.e. no nukes) that we can kick its ass.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    As to the “freedom agenda” shall we get rid of medicare, childrens education, environmental protection, etc. to pay for all the necessary wars to bring it about? You got Syria, North Korea, Myanmar, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iran, Yemen, and so on.
    In the 8 years of the Bush administration there was zero effect in the world of his “freedom agenda” that we did not up and invade and the one country he tried to institute it cost a trillion dollars and was monumentally screwed up from the get go.

    And when, precisely did the Arab spring occur? Not under the time of Bush. He was just some loud mouthed cowboy whose every motivation was suspect.
    Obama played it right in Egypt, he didn’t make any grand pronouncements, didn’t pretend that what was happening was a gift from America. The end result was Mubarak is gone. So we will have Tunisa, Libya, and Egypt under Obama (I am not giving him credit for it, except some small measure in Libya but give the bulk to the natives)

    What Guardiano doesn’t understand is that revolutions that change society are organic, they are not engineered by America or some assclowns from Texas who couldn’t even identify the country on a map. We can affect the outcome (which is why I have been involved in education), certainly, but we can’t manufacture them and we sure as hell can’t afford to invade everyone. Assist, yes, Dictate, NO.

    Look at what Guardiano wrote: Liberal democracy, Bush realized, is the great alternative to repression and radicalism. It offers a better and more hopeful way; it promises “change you can believe in”; and it is the wave of the future.

    Say what you will about Bush, but the man believed this — and the rest of the world knew that he believed this. And that knowledge inspired trust and respect worldwide.”

    Talk about delusional. I doubt Guardiano gets out much. Bush was and is not respected even in America, much less worldwide. Bush was viewed with an enormous amount of suspicion in every country I have visited and I have been living outside of America for the past 15 years. The only places Bush was kind of liked was Taiwan and maybe Poland (though I can’t be sure about that)
    Hell, it was only Obama that got huge crowds outside the US. Republicans derided this as celebrity culture because they have no clue how truly horrendous our image became. The election of Obama represented a return to the promise of America from the nightmare that was Bush.

    Speaking as someone who has lived and worked outside America and who did see daily the image of the US I am absolutely certain that Bush was viewed as a clown, that the Republican party is viewed as narrowminded religious fanatics intent on expropriating as many resources from every country they can, all in the name of freedom.
    I don’t personally believe this, I honestly think Bush was sincere if clueless, but this is what I had to face for 8 years.

    Honest to God, people like Guardiano are a worse danger than Ron Paul and his idiocy. Guardiano has no sense of modesty, he imagines himself and his kind to be the world savior. I have worked to provide the tools for people to improve their lives, he simply wants to blow them up in the name of liberty and then be worshipped for it.
    Liberal internationalists don’t think it is all about them, neo-cons think it is about them.