What's All This Then?

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Some time in the future - perhaps in a thousand or ten thousand years, earth will cease to be looked upon by other beings as the lunatic asylum of the cosmos. At that time, there won’t be 195 or more separate nation states and in excess of 6,000 languages spoken by the people who will be living on the planet, almost all believing that their existence is due to an unseen divine being who they worship under the dictates of a variety of organized religions, the followers of those different religions believing that their version of a divine being is the true God on whose behalf they attack and kill believers of other religions - or kill and attack people of a different nation state for a variety of reasons - assuming that the human race will have survived. And at such a time there would be no need for some peoples living in different parts of the world to get together and decide to interfere violently with people living in some other part of the world because of violence in that part of the world which the aforementioned groups of peoples disapprove. In other words, in a sane world, there would be no need for the action in Libya that the President described on Monday night. Unfortunately, this is still the planet of the insane, so that action was necessary. And insane as we may be, we are still capable of acts of sanity.

President Obama has been criticized from the left and from the right for his efforts on behalf of what are being called Libyan "rebels." In Egypt they were called "protesters." Perhaps that was because the army did not attack them. Ed Schultz, on his progressive radio program , has started to call them "freedom fighters." Maybe he’s right, but without knowing exactly who they are, I’m not sure what to call them. Maybe dissenting activists. But as long as they are against and presumably want to get rid of Muammar Gaddafi, I think of them as the good guys.

Among the criticisms from the left and from the right is the plaint that we haven’t taken action against dictators in other countries who brutalize their own people. The President didn’t really go into the "why Libya and not other countries" in his speech so I will offer my own answers to that question. Few will question our involvement in the world wars of the past hundred years - or at least the last 97 years - from 1914 to now. But there are plenty who question our involvement in lesser wars - from Korea to Vietnam to Iraq, including me. But that’s not the subject of this discussion . Those conflicts are different from our involvement in Libya which, as the President made clear in his speech, has a lot to do with who we are as a people and as a nation. He didn’t add the bit about the earth being a lunatic asylum but I submit it very much relates to who we are as a nation. We are among the less insane of the world’s inhabitants and as such have an obligation to help those who are suffering under the weight of deeper degrees of insanity when it is possible to do so - or to put it another way - when it’s "doable."

I believe that most Americans are in support of a policy that, while not cited as an official policy of the United States - is one of offering whatever support can be offered to those seeking freedom from autocratic rule - a policy - again unwritten in most cases - shared by many of the world’s democratic, industrialized nations. There are of course limits to what aid we can give to people suffering under a brutal dictator. There are those who would like the United States to "liberate" North Korea and to invade Sudan or Iran and bring democracy to Syria and Saudi Arabia - but we are in no position to be the world’s self appointed policeman and declare war on any country we select for humanitarian reasons. If we did that, we’d be in a constant state of war and gas would be $15 a gallon. We can hope the people living under theocratic rule or other repressive forms of government will eventually throw off the shackles that restrict their freedom of thought and action - but in so many of those cases, military intervention to help them is not something we could consider for too many reasons to discuss here. But what we can do is help people in such a nation when it is practical and possible to do so, particularly people who ask us for help and who have more than a ghost of a chance of overthrowing a dictatorship and perhaps form a government "of the people" - if not democratic in the U.S. and European sense of the word - at least one that is not repressive.

Libya falls under the category of the practical and the possible - a conflict that we may well be able to help resolve in favor of the people who are in revolt against their dictator. In other words "doable." It won’t be easy. Libya is a far more difficult situation than that of her neighbor to the east, where regime change is slowly taking place after a massive peaceful protest movement that unseated Hosni Mubarak. But with help from the countries enforcing UN resolution 1973, including the next step beyond the no fly zone - the supply of weaponry to match that of forces still loyal to Gaddafi, success, while not a certainty is at least within the realm of possibility. The United States may have to become involved in training or organizing the rag tag group of rebels or freedom fighters into a cohesive military force. There will be an outcry by critics of the President against involvement beyond the operation we are now conducting from the air and sea - but any and all help that we provide to depose the madman who has ruled Libya for more than four decades will be worth the effort - more so in my opinion than our seemingly never ending involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. And if they and we succeed, perhaps our fellow inhabitants of the cosmos will look upon us as being a little less insane. Who knows, it may move us microscopically closer to a time when "they" will come..