Grappling With the Libyan "Intervention":
Goddamn, how the Rude Pundit really, really wants to get on board with the whole Libyan totally-not-a-war intervention. No, he'd love to be standing there, waving his mighty fist o' liberal rage and saying, "Fuck you, Qaddafi/Ghaddafi/Kadaffy," and proudly admirin' how much we're a-savin' the rebels. As someone who back in the day was pretty much screaming, "What the fuck, Clinton?" back in the day with Bosnia and Rwanda, you'd think the Rude Pundit would wanna jump with glee at the humanitarian purpose that the no-fly zone has, as the halting of what might Gaddafi himself said would be a slaughter.
But he can't. 'Cause there's just some shit here that's gnawing at him, preventing that war hard-on. He remembers having this feeling back when the United States invaded Afghanistan, but he was able to put it aside for a couple of months while we were presumptively going to find and arrest/kill/corpse-photo Osama bin Laden. Now, though, with Libya, even though good liberals everywhere tell him that this is a good thing, this has a purpose, even though the President articulated what sounded like a decent case for decency, he can't jump on the train.
See, President Obama lost the Rude Pundit last night when, during his address to the nation, he said of the mad colonel, "He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorized innocent people around the world –- including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents" and "In the past, we have seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day." Yep, that's true, and it sucks and makes him a vile, evil fucker who truly deserves to live out eternity in a hell where he's chained to a table and has plastic surgery performed on him endlessly without anesthetic. The thing is that he did that shit and more, but, back before the revolt in Libya, the Obama administration was taking steps towards arms sales with Gaddafi (in the wake of George W. Bush making nice with Libya).
In March 2009, the American ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, told the Financial Times, "The new military relationship would begin with training programs, followed by the sale of non-lethal weaponry." Then "at some point, if both sides want it...we would hope that [the sale of lethal weapons] would be a culmination of our military relationship." At the same time, a Defense Department spokesperson said, "We will consider Libyan requests for defense equipment that enables them to build capabilities in areas that serve our mutual interest." Man, Lockheed-Martin must have been worried about the Iraq war winding down.
Now, of course, things do change over the course of a couple of years. But what doesn't change is the past. And, in 2009, the very Gaddafi that the Obama administration was hoping to have defense equipment-trading sex with, ending with a lethal weapon sales orgasm, is the same Gaddafi who strung up and murdered his own people. So what fucking galls the Rude Pundit now is that, prior to the current war (and, fuck you, it's a war - we didn't all sit down and tell Libya how its actions make us feel), all that other shit that Gaddafi did was going to be forgotten about and the same President Obama who spoke so forcefully against the Libyan leader was going to see if we could get to a place where we sell him weapons.
Oh, good pro-war liberals, how the Rude Pundit knows that the exigencies of foreign policy make strange and awful bedfellows. And, indeed, if nothing else, we could spin the war as at least preventing American arms sales to Gaddafi. So, no, on its own, the fact that we were going to be just fine with arming the murdering, terrorizing, rights-denying dictator does not alone mean we shouldn't now protect tens of thousands of people.
Last night, Obama said, in response to criticism, "It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right." And the Rude Pundit agrees that, in the abstract, we should act, as we should have in the Congo and the Sudan, as we should in the Ivory Coast. That's in an abstract America. In the abstract, President Obama wrote in his book The Audacity of Hope, "Why invade Iraq and not North Korea or Burma? Why intervene in Bosnia and not Darfur?" Apparently, as president, the concrete reality is different for him.
But another reality is that we are not the swaggering fuckers we once were. Eight years of the Bush presidency and a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have left us diminished as a nation in ways that are only now becoming clear. And, in so many ways, behaving like we are that mythic nation is pathetic, like Britney Spears attempting to do her old dance moves.
Does that mean we not act? Yeah. Yeah, mostly, it does. And next time people lose their unemployment, have their houses foreclosed upon, and their food stamps cut, you ask them if saving the people of Libya was more important than putting food on their table. You ask them if they understand that the money is always there to fire missiles but not to give their kids a decent public education or their parents a decent retirement.
But, as the Rude Pundit said, this ain't easy and he's still wrestling. We do watch people get slaughtered all the time and do nothing. We're doing it right now in Yemen. And the only compelling case that President Obama made is that he wanted to make sure that fragile, new Tunisia and Egypt had a chance without a flood of refugees.
Right now, though, it seems as if we just bought Libya. Once we say we're there to prevent the massacre, then we can't ever leave until there's no chance that the massacre's gonna happen (and if NATO is there, we're there). And, in laying out conditions for U.S. action in the future, it sure seems like President Obama just wrote a check to the world. Let's hope we don't have to keep cashing it.