As we attempt to save the Republic by trimming government back to size (back to what we can afford and back to what only government can do), surely we can forego a few of wars the neocons would like to plunge us into. Actually my warning cries as we were sliding into another one in Libya had much more to do with the unlearned lessons of the past about how best to influence future event for the better than with the wasting of more precious treasure (lives and other resources). To his rather bumbling credit, President Obama gave in to the pressures of the warmongers reluctantly and only partially in Libya. Our involvement has been largely supportive of more direct, though also limited, NATO support for the rebels.
But here we are at the beginning of Part II of the Libya drama. The rebels seem to have finally toppled the truly crazed Gaddafi. We can all cheer his demise, but what will follow? Who are the rebels and where are they planning? We actually know more about them than when we first chose to support them (a collection of different tribes, political philosophies, and religious views, some good and some bad). Who will emerge on top and what will the struggle for dominance of the new regime be like? Will the average Libyan be better off or worse off? It is impossible to know at this point.
Craig Whitlock reports some interesting reactions to the Libyan civil war from the area in yesterday’s Washington Post, “Libyan rebels renew hopes of Arab Spring”
“If the shooting quickly subsides and the Libyan rebels are able to build a functioning central government, it would give further encouragement to protesters in the streets of Damascus and Sanaa. But if Libya descends into factionalism or tribal warfare — with scenes reminiscent of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein — then ardor for the Arab Spring could cool again.
“‘People are going to be looking at how this plays out very, very closely,’ said Jon B. Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. ‘It’s easy to agree that the leader must go. It’s much harder to agree on what comes next.’
“Some Palestinian activists said that their aspirations, too, had been buoyed by the success of the Libyan rebels but that NATO’s involvement had taken the sheen off the results.
“‘It is getting a cautious welcome because it was achieved with foreign intervention rather than by the people themselves, as was the case in Egypt,’ said Hani al-Masri, a political analyst in Ramallah, West Bank. ‘Some people are calling it liberation through occupation. The Egyptian experience was inspiring. In Libya, we have to wait and see.’”
My pessimism about our ability to improve the world (and our safety) with armies does not mean that I think we should do nothing in Libya or elsewhere to promote a better world (rule of law, respect for human liberty and rights). We know a lot about the blessings of liberty and the institutions (not necessarily, or even very often, just like our own) that help promote and preserve it. We have an interest, both humanitarian and national self-interest, in doing our best to share our knowledge and to promote sound governance and free markets in Libya and elsewhere. This is often done best by international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It cannot be successfully imposed from outside. It must to the form of support and encouragement to the indigenous forces for good (if we think we know who they are).
I commend to you the op-ed piece on this subject in the The Washington Post by Stephen Hadley on August 18th: “Our chance to shape change in North Africa and the Mideast”.