James C. Banks

But Who’s the Man That Comes after Gaddafi?

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2011 at 12:53 am

I missed the president’s speech on the “situation in Libya” last night, but I have caught up since then. I must give the president credit. I was expecting platitudes, but the speech—at least in as far as the Economist presented it—was actually one of the best arguments for intervention that I have yet seen. It didn’t convince me, though.

Part of the reason why I found this speech unconvincing was the way that the president and newspaper framed the argument. While neither is seeking direct regime change, both appear to hope that the circumstances the coalition has created in Libya will lead to a collapse of Gaddafi’s government, and that the collapse of this regime, in itself, is a positive good. I am not convinced because I have no idea who comes after Gaddafi. The only thing I know is that, if Gaddafi does fall, then someone will have to come.

The rebels don’t inspire much confidence in this regard. Marriages of convenience like the one between the United States and these rebels often end with both parties at one another’s throats. Our co-belligerencies with Saddam Hussein, with Osama bin Laden, and (to a very limited extent in 1969) with Muammar Al-Gaddafi did not end happily, in spite of the fact that they all seemed perfectly reasonable during the periods we perpetrated them.

Interventionists would say that it made sense for the United States to back Saddam Hussein as he buffered the Islamist revolution in Iran.  It made sense to give terrorists like Osama bin Laden training as they pushed back on a Soviet occupation.  What does not make sense is siding with possibly Islamist rebels (who will likely pursue a radically and dangerously anti-American agenda if they ever come to power) when the dictator they fight is cruel but, in his relationship to the United States, relatively insignificant.

Last night, I was waiting for the president to answer why we are pursuing this agenda.  As of tonight, I am still waiting.

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