The Freak Show: The Politics Of Libya

There’s much ammunition (no pun intended) on both sides of the debate over getting involved in Libya, whether it be taking a lead role in creating a no-fly zone or just participating with an international coalition. One thing that can’t be denied, however, is the fierceness of the politics. Only it seems like the politicians we rely on to make these momentous decisions have switched sides.

It should be no surprise, since our government has become one of “party first” and the needs of the country take a back seat. How else can you explain that the Republicans were chiding President Obama for what they called “dithering” over whether or not to take action, and expressed the opinion that he had no backbone. Prominent Republicans such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham called for immediate action to support the Libyan protestors. Then the President ordered our armed forces into action for an air assault to lead a coalition to create that no-fly zone, only to have the Republicans now come out and question his actions.

In fact, Republican House leader John Boehner has delivered a strongly worded letter to the President, questioning the military and diplomatic goals of the United States in getting involved in the civil war. He also accused the President of (horror of horrors) seeking advice from foreign countries on what action to take.

Isn’t this the same Republican party that a few short years ago was spouting off about Democrats being unpatriotic if they questioned President Bush on the handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Aren’t these the same Republicans who accused the Democrats of being weak and not willing to stand up and take action? Now we have a Democratic President who does just that, and all of a sudden they are on the other side of the fence.

The Democrats have also been suspiciously on the other side of the issue from their usual stance during the Bush years. A few have been outspokenly critical of the actions, but the majority have been very supportive of the President. Now what do you think the reaction would have been if this had been President Bush taking the same action? I’d bet my last dollar that they would have been crying foul, and lambasting him for getting us involved in another Middle East country.

Is nothing sacred? Is every action and debate only fodder for scoring political points? Don’t any of these elected officials care about the actual events, and the people involved? It certainly doesn’t appear that way. I’ve even heard a Republican express the hope that the economy not recover too quickly, since that would help the President in the next election. Not hope for a recovery? Now that’s someone that really cares about people getting jobs, and improving the lives of the people they are supposed to be serving. It’s disgusting, but unfortunately it’s what our government has turned into.

The Libyan question is a very difficult one to analyze. Obviously, the world would be better off without Gadhafi, as it was with Saddam Hussein. But there’s a whole host of issues that go along with that. Is it a vital U.S. interest, and one that is worth risking U.S. lives for? Because there is no doubt about the possibility of that happening, even if it’s just air cover that we provide.

There are also a number of other countries with brutal dictators that threaten not only their own people, but other countries. Iran and North Korea come immediately to mind. If we’re in the business of helping populations oust their leaders, where do we draw the line?

Another major concern is that this effort may very well be for naught. Even if we control the skies, so Gadhafi can’t bomb his people, his ground forces may successfully fight off the rebellion, and still massacre thousands of people who joined in the revolt. Do we try and stop that if it happens? Again, what is the limit of our participation, and isn’t there a possibility that we getting into another quagmire? Do we forget that we had a no-fly zone in Bosnia and the Serbs still managed to perform an “ethnic cleansing” of the Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica?

Even if the revolt is successful, and Gaddafi is driven from power, we have no idea what a new government will be like. It wasn’t long ago that the Palestinians had a free election and elected Hamas, a terrorist group that has since canceled any further elections and become a dictatorship in their own right. We know that Libya is primarily a tribal society, much like Afghanistan. We’ve learned there the difficulty of dealing with that type of country.

While the Arab League initially called for our assistance in creating this no-fly zone, what happens when there are the inevitable civilian deaths? It certainly won’t make us look any better on the Arab “street.”

Do we really want to spend all this money—estimates are in the hundreds of billions to maintain this operation for any length of time—when we are being told we are in a crisis of deficit spending, and enacting tax cuts? If the Arab League wants this done, l don’t understand why they don’t just form a coalition of their members and do it themselves. After all, they are awash in our oil money, and we’ve sold them thousands of aircraft and armaments. Where is their participation?

These are serious issues that need to be dealt with. What we need is a serious and informed debate on how to proceed, and how to deal with whatever the consequences of whatever actions we take will be. As always, this is not the time for partisan bickering, and taking sides by what party one belongs to. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re getting.