Monday, March 28, 2011

THE LIBYA SPEECH. Obama made his case for intervention, and along with Juan Cole's it looks pretty good. But I still respectfully dissent.

Though the differences between this action and the Iraq invasion are obvious, so is at least one similarity: The likelihood that, however much we tout the handoff to our allies, we will remain involved in Libya for years. Bosnia is the more positive example, and Obama hinted that Libya, tucked between two nascent democracies, would go similarly. This is a fond hope, as the region remains volatile, and I fear the new Libyan government will have need of our "intelligence, logistical support, search and rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications" -- and some other things that went unmentioned this evening -- for a long time to come. And under the circumstance I don't see how we could refuse.

I do see the benefit in our involvement, and appreciate Obama's kinder-gentler model of support for home-brewed revolutions as opposed to the Orwellian "Your enemy is not surrounding your country, your enemy is ruling your country" approach of Bush and the neo-cons. And it's certainly consonant with what Obama laid down in his Cairo speech. It'd be nice to get people on that side of the world thinking of us the way South Americans thought of us in the days of Simon Bolivar, rather than the way they thought of us in the days of Pinochet.

But for all its advantages, this approach still leads back to the same place we've been stuck for nine years -- and, seen a certain way, for much longer than that. I can believe Obama is very different from the imperialist Westerners who've been fucking over small states for generations, and still believe that the best way for him to show his difference is to stay out of their affairs insofar as possible. We don't have a great track record since World War II, and while Obama appears to think that the best way to fix that is to do foreign intervention right this time, I would prefer a cooling-off period. Always leave 'em wanting more.

The thing is on, anyway, and we'll see how it goes. Maybe it will turn out that "the values that we hold so dear" can be transmitted by targeted bombing runs. I hope so. It would certainly be a new thing in my lifetime.

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