A lot of arguments have been put forward against the current military intervention in Libya. While I understand the arguments of those who are sincere with their criticisms of the choices of the US President I believe that win or lose this action is the correct one to take at this time.
Our involvement in Libya is about Libya, but it also about the whole of the Arab Spring. What is at stake is the possible – just possible – attainment of every major liberal goal for millions upon millions of people. The ultimate success of the Arab Spring would do more for human rights in the world than all efforts towards that goal combined could possibly hope for.
A successful Arab Spring could lead to an African Fall. The population of effectively sadistic oppressive regimes in the world could fall dramatically in a few short years. Coming decades could see vibrant cities and societies where the very idea today is seen as so absurd as to not even enter serious conversation. Continental swathes of land soaked with blood, suffering and injustice could be saved from perpetual grinding hopelessness.
If my country did not at least try do what we can to foster this fragile moment of hope I think I would consider joining the cynics who believe we have lost our value in the world.
I am willing to sacrifice my part of whatever it is we are gambling with here to support not only the people of Libya but all of the people who find themselves at the door of their prison. If that means higher oil prices for a decade, and all that comes with that, so be it. If in 20 or 30 years that region of the world is as sane as Taipei and so many other other places that used to be sadistically oppressive not so long ago it will have been worth any cost. This land that I sit on now was sadistically oppressive in many ways to many people just beyond living memory (and if you want to get picky, within living memory). It has been worth the cost to make this land safe.
The financial cost of our Libyan intervention does not bother me in the least. It’s like Donna or I complaining that we cannot get the kids new clothes but we still spent money on tires for the car. In the end we all juggle making sure the kids aren’t naked and the car doesn’t slide off the road, somehow. Should we have safer tires and better clothes for the kids? That isn’t the point of household finances, you cover everything the best you can.
The Arab Spring is worth more to me than a thousand miles of pavement or any of the other things we spend money on. The recently former Libyan ambassador has said that a restored Libya would pay the tab, so while I don’t really expect that, in theory the cash won’t be the point at all.
Libya not Iraq or Afghanistan and our engagement has nothing directly to do with those wars. In fact, it is in all manners that matter the exact opposite. If the money is a main objection then the fact that this entire action will cost no more than a few days of Bush’s Iraq should put it in some perspective.
We have invested enormous human and financial capital in one completely unnecessary war and another at least poorly executed war. These wars have had the theoretical basis of bringing a region dominated by sadistically oppressive regimes into the 21st century. A place where there are the same basic human rights that ever liberal thinker in the world today agrees are absolutely fundamental. Human rights that are worth struggling and organizing and sacrificing for.
Today, more sadistically oppressive regimes in that region have fallen spontaneously than we achieved with trillions of dollars and countless thousands of lives. Today, right now, we stand at a crux where there may – or may not – be a North Africa where human rights are respected as we would expect ours to respected in our homes. There may – or may not – be a Middle East where these same basic human rights that are the core of everything about liberal ideology are respected as we expect ours to be.
If we had invested none of our time and our energy and our money and our people trying to cause what is happening today then perhaps the argument about the resources we are investing now would have more weight, but compared to everything we have spent and lost already this is a nickle-ante bet after a long night of losing that very well might return a trillion to one.
As far as I am concerned we cannot do enough to carefully blow on that small flame that is the Arab Spring.