As the situation for Libyan rebels grows more desperate, I am reduced to employing the Pat Buchan-coined phrase uttered by the deplorable cockroach Spiro Agnew, “pusillanimous pussyfooters,” to describe the Western failure to assist those struggling to oust the insidious tyrant Moammar “However You Choose to Spell It” Gaddafi.
One doesn’t have to know a great deal of real as opposed to mythic American history, nor retain a high level of cynicism to be aware that America’s democracy advocacy long has been at odds with its actual behavior, which has hewn closely to that which has been in our own economic, geopolitical or military interest alone. We’ve certainly gone out of our way to support conspicuously anti-democratic strongmen when it seemed convenient, or covertly destabilized a popular government.
It’s a given that Iraq was a miserable and unnecessary foreign policy fiasco, dubiously motivated and sold with manifest deception, setting back America’s global influence and genuine security immeasurably. Our foreign policy history and record of military intervention is checkered to put it mildly. But occasionally we make a good call: Bush’s humanitarian response in Somalia was the moral impulse, even if it ended tragically; as was the Clinton-led NATO initiative to prevent further genocide in Kosovo and the Balkans.
So it’s disheartening to watch these ordinary but courageous citizens in Libya revolting against a basket case authoritarian of long standing, and witness them, after credulously consuming our odes to freedom and democracy waiting in vain for help, as the West demurs and dithers.
Much less than a full-scale or even large-scale intervention, simply a limited or marginal one strikes me as capable of making an enormous difference there: airlifting medical and food supplies, arms, electronic and communication apparatus at the very least. Air support would most certainly “even the playing field” as the cliché would have it.
We’ve already sold out the Bahrainians for the sake of our military outpost there. So if this rout in Libya is allowed to continue it’s another shame, since this would appear to be that once-in-a-lifetime, often called for and ripe historical moment in the Arab world. The world, the Arab World is, as they say, watching.