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All things being equal (which they rarely are), U.S. military intervention in Libya should pay off to the decided advantage of this North African nation’s fledgling revolutionary movement. But in the realm of military policy (or foreign policy by other means), it appears that matters are more likely to go haywire than not. Put another way, the logic of war, it seems, only accommodates unilateral movement—and that is to say, toward escalation, rarely withdrawal or contraction. Nevertheless, while no outcome is clear at this time and from this distance, nor do we know what allegiances the revolutionaries might embrace in the future, I cautiously support the President’s decision to re-enforce the UN mandate to impose a “No Fly Zone” over Qaddafi territory. I must admit to a kind of childish glee at the prospect of this madman’s defeat, as he seems to froth at the mouth here lately at the very idea that thousands of Libyans would dare to defy his rule. Indeed, entire towns of the country—Benghazi, Zintan, and Misurata, among them—have come to focus anti-Qaddafi rage. But what these cadres lack in military training and discipline will hopefully be compensated by their commitment to change, though some observers are not very sanguine about their military wherewithal. As one writer contends, the Libyan opposition “is overwhelmed by the logistical problems of resupplying the front, maintaining political unity and simply answering the phone” (and here). Despite these difficulties, the opposition’s most formidable weapon “remains their cause and who they are”—in short, Libyans, who after decades of Qaddafi rule, believe that the “fear is broken.” “Finally people are not afraid. They want to read what they want. They want to say what they want. Every single Libyan is so surprised. We didn’t know we had this in ourselves.” (Chris McGreal, “Libyan rebels know it’s them or Gaddafi.”)
For an American audience, however, the stage of action unfolding here is rife with surprise and so far small alarms (which threaten to swell), none of which should have happened quite this way: the country’s Lib/Lab/Left coalition, including the Progressive wing of the National Democratic Party, finds itself split over the constitutionality of an act of war that was not only executed without congressional approval, but also absent an approval that was not even solicited in the first place. Democratic Congressmen Dennis Kucinich of Ohio’s 10thCongressional District and Anthony Weiner of New York’s 9th have expressed so nuanced an objection to America’s recent airstrikes over Libya that they simultaneously agree with one another and stand in opposition. Weiner concurs in Kucinich’s view that President Obama should have come to Congress, but believes that his colleague’s conclusion that the President’s failure to do so marks an impeachable offense goes much too far. This dilemma of head knocking, of scholastic hair splitting, is the inevitable result of decades of adhoc, unprincipled foreign policy and in a significant number of instances, outright political fraud and misrule. Because of it, the democratic voter, knocked off course by the awful lies that took the nation to war in Iraq, for instance, has kept it there for nearly ten years, and contributed mightily to the nation’s broken economy now finds herself run up the nearest tree with no clear-cut tactic for climbing down. Neither hawk, nor dove, neither fish, nor fowl, this peculiar creature perfectly reflects the post-modernist crisis of belief—to know what is right, but perforce muddles through anyway.
If the contemporary political scene in fact engenders a supremely unhappy conscience, then we might well locate its sources in the progressive regress from clarity. Having foreclosed on the latter, is it any wonder that Americans have adopted “Fox News” and its feverish shadow boxers as their leading purveyors of what is going on in the world?