The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Remember back in the heady days of the “Arab Spring” in Egypt. If you believed the media reports, idealistic liberal college students were about to turn a dictatorship into a liberal democracy. That was a time when progressives praised the leadership of President Obama in advocating the overthrow of Hosni Mubarek, and neo-cons celebrated the outbreak of democracy in the Arab world’s biggest country. Sadly, they were both wrong.

Now, as we watch Islamist elements fight with the Egyptian military to determine whether the country becomes a military dictatorship with questionable ties to the US or an Islamic fascist state that hates the US, one wonders exactly what the President is thinking as his administration waxes poetic about events in Libya.

Like Mubarek, Muammar Qaddafi is a thug, a tyrant, and a murderer, but for all of his negatives, he was probably a better option than the tribal thugs who will now battle for supremacy in Libya. While the intrepid ‘Anderson Coopers’ of the MSM report jubilation in the streets of Tripoli, other more sober observers provide a more realistic assessment of Qaddafi’s overthrow.

Margaret Wente comments:
The likelihood of a very bloody fight for Tripoli is high,” writes Middle East expert Adam Garfinkle, editor of The American Interest. “NATO is not in a position on the ground to do anything about it.” The problem, he explains, is cultural. European wars are fought by European rules, where the enemy is given an honourable way out and is therefore not obliged to fight to the last man. Tribal rules are different. The main rule is that the defeated tribe is “politically, socially, economically and, often to some extent, literally decapitated” in order to make sure its ranks will not rise up in revenge. Yet despite the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, Westerners seem oblivious to tribal rules. We still seem to think that with a helping hand from us, Libyans will start behaving the way we want them to.

Have we learned nothing? Evidently not. Just as with Afghanistan, the starry-eyed idealists who are all gung-ho over rescuing Libya have developed a serious case of mission creep. What started as a limited objective (defend the civilians of Benghazi) grew quickly to embrace regime change, and could yet metastasize into nation-building. You’d think we’d know by now that it’s awfully easy to get in – and much harder to get out.

Over the past few years, the reframe "Have we learned nothing?" can be applied to many things. Not the least is the Obama foreign policy in the Middle East. At best it can be called naive. At worst, it is antithetical to the long-term interests of the US, obvious to realities on the ground, and dangerously prone to errors that can result in unintended consequences that will lead to war.

George Jonas sums things up rather well when he writes:
For the West to welcome the replacement of a friendly despot with an unfriendly democrat may show altruism, but welcoming the replacement of a friendly despot with an unfriendly despot shows only naiveté. As for pursuing replacement policies without finding out who is about to replace whom — well, there’s a word for that, too. It’s called negligence.

Nah … it’s simply that the smartest guys in the room see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. They learn nothing.