Gadaffi Vows to Fight to the Death!

Portrait Of a Madman

What Should America Do?

As the fighting spreads in Libya, Colonel Mummar Gadaffi, the strong man who has ruled that oil rich country with an iron fist for the last four decades, digs in and vows to fight to the end.  From the way things look at the moment, with the country divided between rebel forces and the government, Libya appears to be headed for a bloody and destructive civil war.  As is usually the case when there is a crisis in the world, a swelling chorus of impassioned voices are calling for American intervention.  One military man observed, “Everybody denounces the US military…until they get in trouble.”  Based on the comments of the Secretary of State, it appears that the Obama Administration is considering answering the call to action.  Yet I remain convinced that a unilateral American intervention in the Libyan conflict would be a blunder of major proportions!

Although old Republican war mongers like John McCain are ready to order American forces into the fray; even though we know little of the opposition forces,   it is not hard to understand why we should take no unilateral action in Libya. First of all Americans must finally reject the dangerous idea that we are the world’s gendarmes, riding to the rescue whenever and wherever a crisis erupts. This conception of America’s role in the world – that we alone must guide the world’s people because of “American Exceptionalism “ – keeps us constantly at war. Aside from questions of international law and moral conviction, we can no longer afford the cost in blood or treasure.

Already we are bogged down in two wars in the Muslim world with no satisfactory conclusion in sight, and we may yet be drawn into a very bloody conflict with a nuclear armed Pakistan – which will become inevitable should the Islamic fundamentalist appear about to seize control of the state.  Beyond these considerations, the US should avoid unilateral intervention because people like the President of Yemen, a former ally against Al Qaeda, is now charging that the US organized and is controlling all of the uprisings in the Arab world – which is as crazy as Qadaffi’s charge that Al Qaeda is controlling events with hallucinogenic drugs.

Yet, given the madness running rampant in the Muslim world, who knows how this kind of misinformation can be employed to bolster support for the embattled despots.  Not to mention the mischief Al Qaeda could make of it!  We need look no further than the last Congressional elections in the US, a country with two centuries of practicing at participatory democracy, to see the extent to which the untutored mob can be convinced to act against their best interests.

Then there are the real grievances of the Muslim peoples against the US, which makes relations between Americans and Muslims a combustible situation that can explode at any time.  Even as I write several American soldiers have been shot in Germany by a lone assassin who is described as “a devout Muslim born and raised in Germany of Muslim parents from Kosovo, ” a people we saved from genocide at the hands of the Serbs.  Screaming “Allah u Akbar!” he opened fire with an automatic assault rifle on unarmed American soldiers traveling to the airport by bus; killing a couple of them.   The guy worked at the airport where American troops depart for Iraq and Afghanistan.  It is the latest warning that so long as we are engaged in the business of slaughtering Muslims in their homelands, they will slaughter Americans everywhere!

Even so, I am not opposed to intervention when a government is committing crimes against its populous.   I have said repeatedly that national sovereignty should not be used as a shield behind which governments can commit atrocities against their citizens with impunity.  While I am not opposed to intervention as a general principle in international relations, armed force should be employed as a last resort. Force should be pursued only after the issue has been put before the UN, and the invading force should be multi-national.  Otherwise it should be undertaken by regional organizations like NATO for Europe, the OAS for the Americas, and ECOWAS should handle the present succession crisis in the Ivory Coast; which threatens to deteriorate into a civil war that has the potential to spread to other nations in the region.

Ideally, the Europeans should take the lead in checking the violent excesses of the Gadaffi clique.  After all, they had a hand in creating the peculiar ethnic mix that makes up the country and they are the main consumers of Libyan oil.  America’s role should be limited to enforcing a no fly zone, however according to Secretary Gates “this would be a big operation because Libya is a big country.”  And both Secretary Gates and the Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff have pointed out that establishing a “No Fly” zone is no simple mission: It begins with a military assault on Libya…which is universally regard as an act of war!   That’s why I am only in favor of taking this action as part of a joint military operation sanctioned by the United Nations.  Depending upon how events unfold I might be willing to amend my position, but it is hard for me to envision a situation that could change my mind on this.

It is imperative that we begin to restore our nation’s respect for international law and institutions.  After all, failure to do so under the Bush crowd led us into the disaster in Iraq.  Hence under no circumstances should the President allow even well meaning and bright Democrats like Senator Kerry, who wants the US to declare a no-fly zone on our own, to talk him into taking unilateral military action.  Even as American warships steam to the Libyan coast with their horrifying firepower, we remain in a sustained economic crisis here at home.   And Republicans are using this crisis to launch an amoral assault on the public interests and force the poor and working classes – the people who actually fight these wars – to pay the price for the blunders of the ruling elite.

What Americans crave is peace and prosperity; the last thing we need just now is another war to add to the three trillion dollars that economist Joseph Stieglitz, Nobel Laureate and Columbia professor, has calculated as the total cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars.  When you consider the fact that the society of Civil Engineers has estimated that we could have rebuilt the entire infrastructure of the United States – high speed trains and all – for two trillion dollars!

The Republicans will fight tooth and nail to prevent this type of investment in modernizing our country, although it is the key to commanding the future alas.  Yet the Grand Obstructionist Party will not hesitate to spend three trillion dollars on a war of choice, and a bungled war of necessity in some backward corner of the world.  It is a prescription for the end of American leadership in the world, and if followed we will witness the decline of American civilization in the 21st century!

Iconography Of A Meglomaniac

Gadaffi and his Harem Of Body Guards

 

 

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

March 2, 2011

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