Since President Obama became president and inherited two very stupid wars…well one really stupid war (Iraq) and one pretty stupid war (Afghanistan), “critics” on the left and right immediately began to deed those wars over to President Obama. They worked their asses off to convince the media and their followers that these are now Obama’s wars and when you combine that with the GOP created meme that nothing can be blamed on the previous president, you end up with the strange world we currently find ourselves in. Whether our involvement in Libya is a “war” or not is a matter of semantics to me, a word.
On the right, it makes sense to blame it all on Obama, it’s politics man, that’s what they do. But when it comes to some critics on the left, primarily the firebaggers and the hard core pacifists, I don’t get why they don’t leave the blame where it belongs, at the foot of the Bush administration. I’ve speculated for months about the motivations of the firebaggers (Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald) but it’s really difficult to pin them down, except that they seem to relish the attention they get from their grandstanding and have been trading on the “outrage of the week” with their latest fundraising drive. I’m not sure either Jane or Glenn have any moral base, they both lie and exaggerate and inflate damn near every issue they take on.
When it comes to the pacifists, which for many years I proudly claimed to be, I understand their reservations. I abhor violence and in my younger days, didn’t consider the gray areas whenever a military intervention occurred. I still feel very strongly that force isn’t ever the best option. As I get older, my views have evolved and things aren’t as black and white as I used to think. The Libyan situation is a good example of the difficulty of seeing everything as black and white. I used to have a “it’s not our problem” attitude…let these countries take care of their own problems. Part of my evolution of thought is a result of a project I worked on about 11 years ago for the Holocaust Museum of Houston. In that project, I interviewed several holocaust survivors and logged and selected clips from dozens of other survivor interviews. One of the major lessons that almost all of them wanted to share is that we must never let that happen again. We as a society must not sit back and watch as a despot murders and tortures “his” own people. I can never forget looking into “Walter’s” tear filled eyes as he said with more passion than I’ve ever seen, “we must never allow this to happen again.”
When President Obama said the following last night, it reminded me of that moment with Walter.
In the face of the world’s condemnation, Gaddafi chose to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the Libyan people. Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. Supplies of food and fuel were choked off. The water for hundreds of thousands of people in Misratah was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled, mosques destroyed, and apartment buildings reduced to rubble. Military jets and helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assault from the air.
Confronted by this brutal repression and a looming humanitarian crisis, I ordered warships into the Mediterranean. European allies declared their willingness to commit resources to stop the killing. The Libyan opposition, and the Arab League, appealed to the world to save lives in Libya. At my direction, America led an effort with our allies at the United Nations Security Council to pass an historic Resolution that authorized a No Fly Zone to stop the regime’s attacks from the air, and further authorized all necessary measures to protect the Libyan people.
I know that the knee-jerk reaction from many is why Libya and not Syria or Bahrain or any of the other places where similar things are happening? Well for one thing, I’m not sure any of these other situations are really very similar to Libya, but for arguments sake let’s say they are. Are these people proposing that we help in all these countries. I doubt it. That thinking plays right into the “black and white’ syndrome that has infected too much of our society. The President addressed this idea as well…
In fact, much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya. On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all – even in limited ways – in this distant land. They argue that there are many places in the world where innocent civilians face brutal violence at the hands of their government, and America should not be expected to police the world, particularly when we have so many pressing concerns here at home.
It is 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. In this particular country – Libya; at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Gaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.
To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and – more profoundly – our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.
So I guess the struggle I had with this decision to intervene shows that things aren’t always black and white, good or bad, right or wrong. In one instance, we watch as Gaddafi murders innocent people and oppresses the citizens in his country and in the other instance, we have Libyan troops being killed. They are people too with families and aspirations. Who really knows how many of Gaddafi’s forces support what they are doing or whether they feel they would be killed if they didn’t follow orders. So given this gray situation where there is no “good” or “right” or “black and white”, I think the President did exactly what we needed to do as a country. I do hope this sets a precedent where we as a country use our power to help minimize death around the world instead of contribute to it.
I guess I would say I’m anti-killing now, instead of anti-war. If intervening in a violent situation like Libya saves more lives than not intervening, I have to go with intervening.