I have so far refrained from commenting on the Libyan fiasco. I do not understand what is going on, and the administration has so far not condescended to enlighten us. We are not taking sides or deciding the future of the country--that is up to the Libyans, we say--but then declare that no outcome is acceptable unless Gaddafi is sent packing. We are there to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, says Madame Clinton, but she gives no details. It is all very well for the President to say he doesn't have to wait for mass graves, but we could say the same thing about dozens of countries in the world where ugly dictators are oppressing and murdering their subjects. Why Libya and why now?
Ms Clinton and Ms Rice are fond of making the analogy with Bosnia and Kosovo, where, they say, US military intervention brought down the tyrant Milosevic. They appear to forget that we used to lie and pretend we were only advising the "Bosniaks." They also forget that Milosevic was not only a legal head of state but was ousted by a combination of a free election and popular protests. What does this have to do with the 40 year military dictatorship in Libya? If Gadaffi is almost as bad as Milosevic, then we can leave it to the Libyans to get rid of him they way the Serbs got rid of Slobo.
Gaddafi's great crime, according to the President and Mme Clinton, is that he is waging war on his own people. In other words, when a regional rebellion breaks out, as it did in Chiapas or here in America at the end of 1860, no government may use armed force to put it down. Guided by such a principle of nonresistance, no government could possibly defend itself even from criminals and terrorists. And, if the argument is based on the idea that Gaddafi's regime is illegitimate, because it sponsors terrorism or oppresses the people, why did we wait this long to do something about it?
This administration, it seems, is doing its best to outdo the Bush administration in incompetence, stupidity, mendacity, and evil. They have a long way to go, but they are doing their best. I suppose that they have learned a thing or two from the past several administrations. For example, that it is always better to tell one big lie and not to get bogged down in minor details and justifications that might be refuted. Rumsfeld, Powell, Cheney, and Bush looked pretty silly when they could not turn up the weapons of mass destruction they had promised the world, and Obama, see, is not waiting for mass graves: These preemptive strikes, he will be sure to tell us, have prevented the slaughter.
Consider the logic, for a moment. I have taken two aspirin every night for 10 years. I have persuaded myself they help me get back to sleep. And, know what? I have not had a heart attack or stroke, which proves the doctors are right. I also have not contracted tuberculosis, cholera, or Bubonic Plague. It's marvelous. In addition, I do a kind of abbreviated Rosary in my mind, which must be the reason The Rockford Institute has not gone bankrupt. I used to own a rabbit's foot, I never walk under ladders or step on the cracks in the sidewalk. And, whaddya know? I haven't had a DUI or been sued for libel.
The administration has quite correctly perceived that neither the media nor the people will call them on their infantile reasoning or their lies. If there were a single competent or honest reporter in the entire White House press corps, Obama would be in hiding today. But the conservatives are, if anything, worse than the leftists. Poor Rush Limbaugh is beside himself, justifying the war while attacking Obama. You see, this is all about American exceptionalism, about America as a beacon of democracy. Who is dumber, President Barry or the conservative guru of the airwaves? (Hint for coming up with an answer: Obama is actually the President and gets to turn his pretty fantasies into an ugly reality.)
I am sure there must be good reasons for trying to kill Gaddafi and overthrow his regime. Unfortunately, our President has not supplied any. If we want to overthrow an evil regime, why not start with North Korea or China or even the Ivory Coast? Better still, let us bring all the armed forces back home, bully the president of Mexico into inviting our troops into his country to restore order, and take over all of Mexico and Central America. We'd get lots of oil, stimulate the economy, and provide decent jobs for all the Mexican immigrants we could send back to where they came from. Mexico would once again provide cheap and tasteless vacations to the hordes of American tourists who have made a hell out of their own country and have to take cruises and go to tacky resorts where they can get publicly drunk and sleep with each others' wives.
Just a thought, which I shall develop in a future venture into the politically absurd.
In the meantime we can enjoy the show. We bomb a country and kill people in order to save lives. Leftist Democrats are nonplussed, and Republicans have now discovered that a President requires Congressional approval for a military action. Who says screwball comedy is a lost art?
Thomas Fleming is the former editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of The Politics of Human Nature, Montenegro: The Divided Land, and The Morality of Everyday Life, named Editors' Choice in philosophy by Booklist in 2005. He is the coauthor of The Conservative Movement and the editor of Immigration and the American Identity. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Rockford Institute, he taught classics at the University of Miami of Ohio, served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, and was headmaster at the Archibald Rutledge Academy. He has been published in, among others, The Spectator (London), Independent on Sunday (London), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, Classical Journal, Telos, and Modern Age. He and his wife, Gail, have four children and four grandchildren.