Sunday, March 20, 2011

Trippin' in Tripoli

Don't get excited, I tell myself... relax... it's no big deal... this time it might be different. But then I think again, and contemplate the drearily-familiar scenario that is unwrapping itself off the “shores of Tripoli”. It always starts the same way, and the “run-up” to the present action has been rehearsed so many times that our leaders and diplomats can do it in their sleep. First, you have to have a real or imagined offense – not by a country as a whole, or its people, or (hopefully) its racial, ethnic, or religious group, but by its leader and his supporting cadre of bodyguards, secret police, and “elite” military units. Then comes the (attempted, and not always successful) process of diplomatic demonization and isolation, for which the U.N. is a far-from-perfect instrument. (Their "condemnations" work about as well as a pesticide that the roaches have gotten so used to that they eat it for dinner.) Then, assuming that doesn't work (and it never does), come boycotts of various sorts (trade, tourism, etc.) as well as sanctions (economic and political). (And let's not forget cancelling our participation in the Olympic Games -- a diplomatic stroke of genius that only a man of Jimmy Carter's caliber would be capable of.) Then when that doesn't work, we've got “freezing overseas bank accounts” to fall back on – and by the way, how come we can always use that tactic against our foes but they can never use it against us? Hmmm? Well, moving right along... then comes the threat of “intervention” of some sort, which means military, which means... well, first there is the relatively clean, sterile, from-a-distance process of lobbing missiles hither and yon, but “only to take out strategic targets”, mind – and any civilians would be well-advised to stay away from any strategic targets. (We used to put Nike missile sites right in the middle of suburban neighborhoods... but surely the Libyans would know better than to do that.) That is the stage we seem to be at as of this writing.

The next stage is typically also mounted from a distance, but consists of missile strikes at non-military targets – preferably government compounds, infrastructure, palaces, etc. This is the “shock and awe” stage that was so vividly portrayed on cable TV when we went into Iraq. These missile strikes may or not be accompanied by actual bombing.

But then comes the moment of truth – you know, that fork in the road where Bush I chose one way and Bush II chose the other (regarding Iraq). Do we send in actual troops -- “boots on the ground” -- along with tanks, field artillery, etc.? And do we, thereby, commit ourselves to “regime change” ('cause that from-a-distance stuff won't do it), “spreading democracy”, “nation-building”, and all those other lovely programs that cost a fortune, never succeed, and make us even more hated around the world?

Obama has “stressed anew that he will not send U.S. ground forces into Libya”. Now, the first thing you have to do when a president says something like that is to head to the nearest betting parlor (you know, one of those kind that takes bets on anything, like how long “Wills” and Kate's marriage will last) and put big money down on a bet that we _will_ be sending ground forces in. 'Cause we always do, sooner or later. And that's because we are (allegedly) fighting for “ideals”, and the ideal of a democratic state, in any part of the world, cannot be realized unless we become (temporarily, of course) occupiers. After all, people have to be taught about democracy, since this is not an impulse that comes naturally to most. And any bad cultural habits that interfere with the formation of an enlightened democratic state have to be suppressed – which is why one of our first acts when we invade any country is to air-drop platoons of social-change specialists into the heart of their barbarity – women's rights advocates, gay rights advocates, anti-Christian agitators, and what not. (Wait, did I say “anti-Christian”? I should have said “anti-Moslem”. But I was right the first time. One of the most reliable outcomes of any of our interventions in the Arab world is an ethnic cleaning of any and all Christains from their midst – which is quite a remarkable paradox considering that the strongest and most consistent supporters of our foreign policy are Protestant Evangelicals. It's clear that the Regime would much rather deal with militant Islamists than with peaceful Christians – and why that is, I'm not prepared to say just now.)

And another pronouncement by our president that just makes me shake my head is: “... we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy, and his forces step up their assaults on cities..." As someone commented at lunch today, if that's the case where were we in Sudan? And where have we been in all the other places where the exact same thing was going on – with the very rare exception of Yugoslavia as it was breaking up? I propose, as an outline for an answer, the following factors: (1) oil; (2) Israel; (3) the fact that while Libya is in Africa, it's in North Africa – i.e. is not “black”. It should be obvious by now that various forms of genocide and ethnic cleansing are looked upon with disfavor wherever in the world they occur... except in black Africa, where they are looked upon with an indifferent shrug. “Well, what can you expect from these people? They're just primitive tribesmen, after all; savages.” And – unstated – what a boon it is to the Zero Population Growth movement. Huh? You don't think this sort of thing occurs to outfits like the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations on a regular basis? Please. There's been a "soft genocide" campaign directed at sub-Saharan Africa for decades now... and there is great rejoicing when the Africans take up the slack by themselves. (And who do you think supplies them with all that weaponry?)

But here's a new twist. In Libya, it's apparently not necessarily about “regime change” after all. Or maybe it is. Well – you have to check what Obama and/or Hillary Clinton said sometime in the last five minutes to be sure. We fall in and out of love with these characters about as fast as Donald Trump falls in and out of love with one of his buxom blondes. If anyone is looking for consistency, predictability, and – heaven forbid! -- principle in our foreign policy these days, they're wasting their time.

I write all of this knowing that it will be out of date the minute it flashes across the Internet. But the depressing repetitiveness of it all will not be – because we'll keep making the same mistakes again and again, until that day comes when we are no longer able to. And that will be a fortunate day, because it will mean that we are unable to add any more to the number of people who hate us. Or – it might simply be because the entire world hates us at that point. Which it will be is hard to predict.

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