Ghaddafi is dead. Hooray.
Now on to the part where we actually have to think about the consequences of our actions. Why don’t we take a look at the region of the Middle East that has actually held elections without being occupied by a foreign power: the Palestinian territories.
Would you like to Google ‘Fatah’ and ‘Hamas’, or shall I?
It’s great that Ghaddafi is dead, and it would be nice if our actions in helping to bring him down were celebrated throughout the Muslim world. I won’t hold my breath though. After bombing the Serbians to help out Muslim Bosniaks the U.S. was thanked with a couple of airplanes being flown into our commercial buildings (it also refroze relations with Russia that still haven’t thawed).
The point I make here is not that all Muslims should be lumped together, but rather than our foreign policy establishment DOES lump all Muslims together. They never take into account all of the intricacies involving the political processes taking place in this part of the world. The effort in Serbia was a calculated response by the Clinton administration to win over the hearts and minds of the whole Muslim world, but what we got instead was soured relations with Russia and a nod of approval from the monarchies of the Gulf states, Turkey, and the autocratic regimes of Jordan and Egypt. One enemy (though certainly not the only one) of the Gulf state monarchies – al-Qaeda – had a different opinion on the matter.
Al-Qaeda looked the other way and saw military troops protecting the monarchies of the Gulf states.
Does anybody here seriously think that helping to dislodge a brutal dictator from power in the Muslim world is going to earn us the approval of the same Muslim world? In fact, what happens if – miraculously – a liberal, secular regime is voted into office in Libya? What do think will be the claims of the rival parties (especially the Islamist ones): that the elections were held fair and square, or that the new liberal regime is a mere puppet of the West?
Bottom line: unless there is a direct threat to the U.S. republic, we shouldn’t be playing that Old World game of Realpolitik. All that leads to is intrigue, speculation, and entangling alliances. Sure, some dictators have died because of our efforts. Then again, some have also benefited. Everybody is a hypocrite of course, but the more we can avoid being so, the better. The idea – nay wish! – that the newly liberated people of the Arab world will somehow elect secular, Western-friendly governments after 50 years of oppression by regimes that were perceived by the Muslim public to be secular and Western-friendly belongs to be filed under the category of ‘fantasy,’ not foreign policy.
The Ghaddafi regime undertook policies that were hostile to the West. His regime sponsored terrorism against innocent people in the West. I am glad he is dead. I am glad that his own people shot him in the streets. But I think one of the major complaints that Libyan elites had for his policies was not that he sponsored these acts, but rather that he sponsored them under the guise of anti-colonialism rather than for Islam.
A couple of thought exercises: what happens if the Libyan electorate chooses to entrust an Islamist political party hostile to the West with running the state? Does the United States accept the outcome, or do we take the same route we did when Hamas was elected in the Gaza Strip?
How would the U.S. be perceived by the Muslim world if our role there was limited to one of trading, and not one of policing?
Has anybody here thought about the possibility of a prolonged civil war in Libya due to regional rivalries that have been suppressed by a strong-arm dictatorship for the last 40 years? After all, the main reasons given for NATO’s operation in Libya was twofold: 1) to keep Libya from disintegrating into a civil war that would send thousands of refugees to Europe’s decadent shores and 2) to win over the hearts and minds of the Muslim world.
Can we be confident that these goals have been accomplished, or are we merely stabbing at shadows in the dark in the name of democracy?