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Libya [Mar. 16th, 2011|08:58 pm]
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I have never been a big fan of writing to my Congressman. It always seems like such a meaningless gesture. Last I heard Congress gets two hundred million letters a year; realistically one more isn't going to make a whole lot of difference unless it ends "Sincerely, David and Charles Koch".

But it's reached the point where I'm so angry and disappointed and bitter and hopeless that even a meaningless gesture is sounding pretty good, so today I wrote Representative Campbell, Senator Feinstein, and President Obama telling them to support the Libyan rebels.

I didn't mention voting in the letters, because it seemed like bad etiquette, but I am totally ready to be a single issue voter on this. At this point, any politician who is not doing everything ey can to push through an immediate intervention in Libya totally loses my respect as a government official, as a human being, and as a carbon based life form.

Which means it's not looking good for President Barack "I torture 10% fewer people than Bush, as far as you know" Obama. At this point I am willing to just own up and say I messed up and should have voted McCain. Would it have been annoying to have Palin occupy a high government position? Incredibly. But at least the man has enough principles to be pushing for a no-fly zone in Libya.

So if you ever want me to respect any of you again, listen up, Democrats. This is more important than jobs. This is more important than health care. This is more important than whether or not gay spotted owls have the right to unionize in Wisconsin.

This is about whether six and a half million people - about the population of Washington State - get to have a chance to live in a free society, or whether they get massacred and tortured and forced into a life of humiliating subservience to an insane despot. This is about soldiers being burned alive in their own barracks for refusing to kill unarmed protesters. This is about a deliberate policy of targeting medics so they can't help the wounded on the other side. This is about videos so terrible I am not even going to link to them because no one deserves to have to watch that sort of thing.

This is about whether all this American talk of "Hey, let's have more freedom and democracy in the world" has any kernel of truth whatsoever, or if we just talk about that kind of thing and then totally don't even lift a finger when people try to get freedom and democracy and are murdered in cold blood for it while begging us to help.

As a Jew, I was raised to always honor the dead of the Holocaust by repeating, mantra-like, "never again". I do not believe this is a solely Jewish thing; I believe I remember hearing the same phrase in public school. But what exactly do people, including many of my fellow Jews, think they mean by "never again" when they say it as if it has meaning, and then ignore Rwanda, oppose intervention in Kosovo, stay silent during the Libyan crisis? Do they mean "If a tyrant named Adolf, with a silly mustache, ever conspires to murder exactly six million Jews, we'll totally stop that"? Are they completely blind to the idea that clean-shaven tyrants not named Adolf murdering a number of people that may be either more or less than six million could also be relevant here?

I'm not an idiot. I understand this whole realpolitik thing where we've got to act in our own national interests. But that's just the thing. Intervening in Libya would win us back the moral high ground and the respect of the Arab street that we lost when we invaded Iraq - which is exactly the thing we're spending zillions on in the propaganda portion of the War on Terror. It would let the average Arab know that despite all of our slick PR claiming we're on their side, we actually are on their side. It would re-assert our status as a world leader. It would make us best friends forever with newly liberated Libya. And, not to be crass, Libya has lots of oil and we're not exactly going to get it by enraging Gaddafi and placing sanctions on him and then letting him stay in power.

And what enrages me is how trivial and easy doing the right thing would have been in this case. If we'd just spent a week or two shooting down Gaddafi's planes, that would have probably been enough to turn the tide - and if it wasn't, no one could have faulted us for not trying. This isn't an Iraq-level "spend ten years in the middle of a god-forsaken desert". It's a "Shoot a few fancy missiles, save six million people from misery and/or death, go home, have a parade".

But instead we've spent the past month deliberating endlessly over whether it's a good idea. Look. Practically the only thing our government is good at nowadays is invading Middle Eastern countries without really thinking it over first. And all of a sudden, we are thrust into a situation where that is exactly the skill set we need to save the day, win back the respect of the Arab world, and live with ourselves as halfway-decent human beings afterward. And suddenly our one great talent fails us.

I totally blame Barack Obama. He's made what Mark Twain describes as the mistake of "the cat who, having once sat upon a hot stove lid, will never sit upon a cold stove lid again either". Okay, so we screwed up in Iraq by invading en masse a country that didn't want us, that the rest of the Arab world didn't want us to invade, and that had no plan for reconstruction. And now we're faced with exactly the opposite situation: committing a tiny, trivial amount of firepower to a country that is begging us for help, that the rest of the Arab world (in the form of the Arab League) has asked us to intervene in, and which is already trying to form its own nascent post-Gaddafi government. And Obama's just like "Nope, learned my lesson, never doing anything in the Middle East again".

And I also blame those "we shouldn't be the world's policemen" people. It sounds so easy. But it's not about whether we feel like having the role today or not. It's about what the consequences of our decisions are. If you own a gun, and one day you see an unarmed psychopath break into your neighbors house, rape his wife and kids, then torture and slowly kill the entire family, and you know you could stop him if you wanted, but you just sit at the window saying "Hey, I'm not my neighborhood's policeman, herp derp", then you are a horrible, horrible person. The fact that this sort of thing is less immediately obvious in the case of nations than in the case of individuals is utterly without moral relevance. (This isn't a perfect metaphor: to really be complete, you'd have to give a sanctimonious justification for your action in a snide tone afterward.)

There is a family legend about the death of my great-grandfather. He ran a hardware store in New York City, and in the course of a robbery gone wrong he was shot and killed. The police caught the robber and put him on trial, and the prosecution sought the death penalty, but because the robber had a family the jury decided to spare him and give him a prison sentence instead. And when she heard he was going to be spared, my great-grandmother yelled at the jurors "NEXT TIME I HOPE IT HAPPENS TO YOUR FAMILY!". And I never understood how a basically decent person could have so much hatred until now. All those people writing clever lists of Top Ten Reasons Why It Would Be Too Much Trouble To Intervene In Libya in the British papers - next time, I hope you're the ones stuck in Benghazi waiting to be mowed down by artillery because you once dreamed of being free.

PS: Meaningless gesture

PPS: I suggest you don't comment on this entry, especially if you disagree; as you can see I am obviously too emotional right now to be able to deal with critical comments in a reasonable way.

[User Picture]From: mme_n_b
2011-03-16 09:27 pm (UTC)
As opposed to, say, being stuck in Abhazia under American napalm because some idiot voted for McCain? I think I'd prefer Benghazi.
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[User Picture]From: squid314
2011-03-17 10:53 am (UTC)
I kind of hope even McCain would have the tiny tiny iota of sense it would take not to do that, but I realize I have no evidence for this.
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[User Picture]From: cactus_rs
2011-03-16 10:07 pm (UTC)
As awful as this is going to sound, this post is exactly why I avoid the news or reading headlines or anything. There is no sane reaction to this other than rage and righteous indignation, and there's only so much of either of those I can stomach before I want to drink myself into a stupor.

(That said, I would never rescind my vote for Obama/Not-McCain. Principles? Don't fucking kid me. Maybe the John McCain of 2000. Not the McCain of 2008.)
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[User Picture]From: ikadell
2011-03-17 05:48 pm (UTC)

Maybe the John McCain of 2000. Not the McCain of 2008


squid314, no offense, but you have no reason to believe McCain actually has enough guts, or brain, to handle this the way you want.
Obama at least has brain.

Edited at 2011-03-17 05:48 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: hentaikid
2011-03-16 11:35 pm (UTC)
I simpathyse with your sentiments, but sticking one's oar into a civil war unilaterally is a tricky affair. It could galvanize support for Gadaffi. The Libyan air force may prove not to be decisive but the propaganda value of a foreign attack could prove to be.

I always recall the example of the Argentinian montoneros who were released from prison in Argentina to go sabotage British ships in Europe, their relationship to the military government was no warmer than the Libyan rebels to Gadaffi, especially after almost certainly being tortured in prison, but still they agreed.

I for one am glad you don't have another cowboy at the helm over there.
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[User Picture]From: mme_n_b
2011-03-17 04:31 am (UTC)
Personally, I find it hard to sympathize with someone who says "we should go to war" without also saying "I'd want to join the Army", because that's like saying "I'd like someone else to die so I can feel better".
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[User Picture]From: squid314
2011-03-17 12:12 pm (UTC)
This is the first time I've ever heard someone not directly linked to the social circle of adelenedawner use "spoons" in this way. Is that normal vocabulary now?
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fFXZMOZmNEmpY - (Anonymous) Expand
[User Picture]From: seldomawake
2011-03-17 04:25 am (UTC)
Amen. Well said.

Thank you. So much.
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[User Picture]From: selfishgene
2011-03-17 11:46 am (UTC)
You can imagine a sensible intervention. That does not mean any real world intervention will be conducted sensibly. Consider that American politicians are chosen by a purely rational process that tests their intellectual capacity and wisdom in a deep way - not.
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[User Picture]From: squid314
2011-03-17 12:01 pm (UTC)
This is a Fully General Counterargument - you could use it to argue against any policy anywhere.
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[User Picture]From: ciphergoth
2011-03-17 02:33 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure you're right, but I'm inclined to think so.
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[User Picture]From: eyelessgame
2011-03-17 04:01 pm (UTC)
Damn, I posted something, and then read through to your PPS. Sorry.
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[User Picture]From: cynicalcleric
2011-03-18 01:42 am (UTC)
America and the US military were essentially traumatized by Vietnam for almost 2 decades; it wasn't until the Gulf War in '91 that they really felt okay again.

I agree with the air support in Libya, especially since everyone and their brother is lining up against Gaddaffi. When the French and the Arab League are even against you shit has gotten real.

(Interestingly, Germany is sitting this one out. Forget the US trauma over Vietnam and now Iraq: there's a country that seems afraid to actually engage in military actions against anyone for any reason short of being invaded. Though given their history of the last 150 years it's not surprising.)

I think the question here is when is it okay to in intervene and how much? It was a big question during the Egyptian revolution: how much action will make the Egyptians like us more and how much will lead them to hating us more as meddlesome outsiders? How much can we attack Gaddafi without him being able to strengthen his position because of the external threat?

I agree we should get involved with maximum air power, but I think the above are questions we also need to answer.
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