Yesterday's post generated a fair amount of commentary about the question of American action versus inaction in the Middle East, specifically about the wisdom of intervention in the Libyan turmoil.
Judge Crater, whose frequent comments are always appreciated (though would be more useful if they could be more specific and constructive) suggested that the entire edifice of neoconservative policy has failed. In considering the impact of the Iraq War, I am tempted to use Chou en Lai's (perhaps apocryphal) response to the question of the impact of the French Revolution: Its too soon to say. I do not know if the Arab world is irredeemably autocratic and authoritarian. It may well be that in one or two generations something resembling a liberal democratic polity will emerge in the Middle East and the entire world will benefit from such a development. However, the failures of the neoconservative Freedom agenda is not the current question. As M_O_M so eloquently pointed out in her response to CF, if we refrain from using any of the means at our disposal to support those who are risking their lives for Freedom, we are surrendering what makes us Americans.
This does not require armed intervention. It could be as simple as working out some arrangement sponsored by the UN that allows military people to leave and dump their military assets in areas that are understood as belonging to Libya. Draw up a few naval assets and establish a Libyan naval refuge. Declare a few airports sanctuary. There is something acutely sick about the fact that at least some of the military there are trying to avoid participating in bloodshed and no one on the outside is helping them.
We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to our history. We owe it to our future. Whatever the strange compendium of history, culture, experiment, etc, that went to forming the basic Commonwealth culture that is still alive in parts of the UK, Canada, the US and Australia, and perhaps will still dominate in India, it does require us to make that attempt. If not, we are abandoning that culture willfully.
It is possible to appreciate that what follows a monster like Qaddafi may be a disaster; an Islamist government in Libya would be terrible for Libya, the region, and the world and there may be little we can do to stop it, yet our diffidence in supporting Libyan Freedom fighters with the same passion with which we attack Israeli apartment building is a travesty.
Natan Sharansky (née Anatoly Borisovich Shcharansky) in his memoirs wrote about living in despair in the Gulag. The belief, fostered by their jailers, that the world did not care about their plight was a constant burden to the prisoners of conscience. When news of Ronald Reagan's "Evil empire" speech reached the prisoners, it had a galvanizing effect. They were not forgotten! The most powerful man in the Free World was with them, even if reality dictated that our support could never be overtly military.
In contrast, our current President, who proudly proclaimed his goal to change America's character to one nearly identical with every other tribal society on the planet (for, after all what is multiculturalism but an amalgamation of competing tribes with individuals subsumed by their tribal identification?) has offered minimal support, verbal or otherwise, to those in the Middle East who desire the Freedoms we take for granted. The Obama administration, in their arrogant cynicism, even cut the minimal funds supporting Egyptian (liberal) democrats in the last two years.
America was founded on the idea that the individual matters. A nation of individuals rather than tribes has accomplished amazing things and brought Freedom to millions at the sacrifice of much blood and treasure. America may have a limited capacity to influence change in the Middle East (though there are many things we could be doing short of armed intervention that we are eschewing in favor of working with the international community, ie the UN, the most corrupt and banal institution on the planet) but you would think that the least we could do would be to make it more difficult for madmen to murder their own people.
If our President succeeds in changing our character so that we are no longer a people who support democracy and freedom, even if all we can do is offer verbal support, we may well no longer be exceptional.