A rare US greenspace of thought in today's dimmer, dirtier world....
The Arabs and Iranians are looking at the United States to redeem itself....since 1953...to 2011...
Sadly, this very noble aim is directly at odds with this equally true statement:
That [American] idealism has been badly eroded both at home and abroad.....
The big power governments are afraid that their exploited citizenry might take such heart from a Libyan rebel success that they (we) might try to insurrect in some way against our own Upper Classes. And the upper-class-front American government would rather see millions of Libyans die than to see millions of Americans take such inspiration from a Free Libyan success that they (we) might try something analogous against our own Koch Brothers, for example.
So people "in" the governments of America AND Europe will have to figure out how to act fast, hard, and successfully before their government-employers can shut them down cold....
I have reached the conclusion that James Clapper was exactly correct in saying that if the situation in Libya is left to its own internal resolution, Qaddafi's forces will re-conquer the country and re-establish his rule throughout.
It appears to me that four things are causing the Obama Admin’s foot-dragging on Libya:
1- American collective continuing trauma over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a “feeling” that this would be more of the same which it would not be.
2- Russian and Chinese unwillingness to see collective action on a principle that they think could someday be applied to them.
3- Saudi unwillingness to see another existing Arab go down. Obvious analogy.
4- Israeli government application of the 1% principle in opposing a situation they cannot predict in favor of one that they understand fully....
Impelled by these factors, the administration and those who wish to do nothing are taking refuge in an appeal to legalisms, validation in international law, the UNSC, NATO, the EU, Arab League and any number of other evasions of responsibility for the catastrophe that the "Freedom Agenda" of the Bush Administration and Obama's coat-trailing in Cairo have brought on through encouragement of revolt.
Arab intellectuals are often a pusillanimous and confused lot. Today on Farid Zakariyah's GPS show, he assembled a panel of these creatures. They managed to say that the United States should encourage FREEDOM! everywhere, everywhere, but that significant military intervention to prevent the defeat of FREEDOM would be unacceptable. The leading exponent of these mutually exclusive positions was one Rami Khouri, a Lebanese editor. He is a great favorite as an opinion giver at the US Army War College. No wonder we are screwed up....
Dr. Brenner and Pat lang are absolutely right on every count..., re Libya and the broader MENA implications....
I propose that we keep in mind a few truths about who we have been as a country, where we are as a world power, and why we may reasonably wish to be down the road.
1. American idealism always has been central to our self esteem, and to our standing in the minds of other peoples, even as we have acted pragmatically (wisely or otherwise) in pursuit of our national interests. That idealism has been badly eroded at both home and abroad with the deleterious consequences strikingly evident in both spheres.
2. In an evolving world where our relative power of coercion/persuasion is destined to diminish considerably, the intangibles of status and image grow in importance as assets to be used constructively to help shape a responsible multilateral management of world affairs.
3. Our crass conduct in the Greater Middle East during the 9/11 decade has been far more costly in every respect than the Washington punditocracy (or certainly the media) know or admit. The revolutionary wave in the Arab world is a stroke of good fortune given us by the gods. It creates circumstances of historic dimensions wherein we can restore our credibility and our standing as the 'good guys.' Obama and his minions seem to have no awareness of this whatsoever.
4. The challenge is to seize that opportunity while not disregarding our valid, tangible interests that do not fully coincide with our longer term interests in being the godfather and underwriter of democracy in the region. The pivots of our strategic position have been four preoccupations: Terrorism, Iran, Israel and oil. The first three have become obsessions that defy reason and logic. A saner, more reasonable estimation of authentic interests and threats in regard to all three would markedly alter how we balance our divergent concerns and make tradeoffs between short-term and longer-term perspectives. By devaluing the multiform 'war against terrorism,' we lower our stake in Bahrain naval bases, in potentates like Yemen's Saleh, and in keeping Shi'ites at bay wherever they raise their heads.
5. The stickiest issues are raised by Saudi Arabia - because of its key role in the global oil market and because there the fall of the House of Saud could bring to power truly disagreeable people.
6. The Bahrain/Saudi link is there although I lack the expertise to estimate possible spillover effects. I do think, though, that there is no compelling reason to have Mr. Gates personally put the American imprimatur on the Bahraini royal family, or for us to embrace whatever is left of Mr. Saleh's fragile regime.
7. This is the critical moment to fight free of the lethal Israeli embrace. Two passive acts could vastly improve our position in the region and the world: leaving Bahrain and Yemeni rulers to their own devices; lowering the temperature of our campaign against the Mullahs' regime in Iran. Two active acts complement them: calling out the Israeli government; and intervening in Libya. The last is of far greater importance than the place's nominal value. Pat Lang is absolutely correct on this. Nearly everyone in the world outside of the U.S. knows on which side decency lies. They also are looking at the United States to redeem itself. It is not mainly a matter of means but of ends. Very few would mistake a focused, multilateral intervention to turn the military tide there (with no follow-an occupation) with our savaging of Iraq and Afghanistan. Peoples’ instincts usually are truer than we give them credit for. This is especially true when the lines are so sharply drawn and everyone's consciousness heightened.
Dr. Michael Brenner