Debate Forum: Left 3/15/11

… And Stay Out

By Ben Tompkins

Benjamin Tomkins

I think the country … may … be growing up a     bit.  A few days ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton articulated the U.S. policy on the ongoing crisis in Libya with the following statement:

“I think it is very important that this not be a U.S.-led effort because this comes from the people of Libya themselves.  This doesn’t come from the outside; this doesn’t come from some Western power or some Gulf country saying ‘this is what you should do.’”

Finally, a government that understands how meaningful democratic reforms take place.  Her statement represents a dramatic evolution in the attitude the U.S. has towards other nations, and a shift away from the belief that the U.S. is morally correct because it is the most powerful nation on the planet.
Consider George W. Bush’s religion-soaked sense of self-appointed righteousness (Mr. “I’ve heard the call. I believe God wants me to run for President”) and you know what I’m talking about.

For far too long, our foreign policy has been dictated by the idea that, because the U.S. is the most powerful nation on the planet, we naturally occupy some moral high ground from which we can feel justified interfering in international affairs.  Oddly enough, these divinely dictated moral mandates also seem to support our selfish interests.  It’s weird.  It’s like we’re some overbearing mother figure who thinks it’s reasonable to call her 30-year-old daughter while she’s on a date because mommy is worried and “needs” to know everything’s OK.

Now there are definitely many reasons we should limit our involvement in Libya. For instance, we have no money. Like, none. Also, we have no spare troops. We also have no good reasons for going into Libya. Gadhafi is a raving, lying, homicidal lunatic who maintains the following policy regarding human life:
“Those who do not love me deserve to die.”

I happen to have that same policy for my day-to-day existence, except that when I say it’s A JOKE …  Yes, there is a major humanitarian appeal to going into Libya, but ultimately, I find that all those reasons are superficial when you get down to the real value for staying out of their business until we have broad international support, and even then only in a limited capacity such as enforcing a “no-fly” zone.

The Libyans, as well as the Egyptians, Tunisians and many other peoples in that area who have lived under the thumb of dictators, have finally decided this is their time to embrace democracy and freedom. This is their revolution and their moment, and they need to be allowed to seize it through their own efforts just like we did. How else can you truly value and take ownership of your country’s future? Freedom is rarely won through discussion and the martyrs of Libya will stand in monuments of stone to remind future generations of Libyans of the price their fathers and mothers paid for their freedom.

Now imagine if the U.S. rolls in there, kills Gadhafi and installs a democracy on behalf of the Libyan rebels. First of all, no government installed by foreign military intervention will be either a truly Libyan democracy, or, for that matter, be viewed as such by the Libyan people. Think about Iraq and how seriously they take their government. Right. And secondly, a U.S.-led intervention will ultimately change the conflict from being about Libyans to being about … the U.S. and our interests.  Annoying selfish mother-in-law syndrome.

When you decide that other people are only entitled to believe whatever they want provided you give them your final, ultimate gatekeeper of moral “rightness” stamp of approval, you’re not really giving them any freedom.  You’re only allowing them an illusion until they disagree with you, and then you use “mother knows best” as an excuse to stick your nose where it doesn’t belong.

Plus, when you let a real grassroots democratic revolution to take place, you are by definition relinquishing your control over them. It’s like allowing your teenage son or daughter the freedom to make real choices with all the successes and failures that go along with assuming the mantle of adulthood. Ironically, it takes far more faith to give a country license to outgrow your control than it does to justify meddling in its affairs by way of some arbitrarily self-imposed righteousness.       Look, I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t be outraged by Gadhafi’s actions. Nobody wants to feel like they are tolerating domestic abuse, but blowing down the front door to just save lives is not the answer. Not even the Libyans want that. Pursuing an international, non-U.S.-led coalition for a “no-fly” zone to address atrocities committed by Gadhafi is a reasonable, respectful and merciful course of action, which will address human rights abuses without invalidating the efforts of the Libyan rebels. Go Hillary.

Benjamin Tompkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, CO.  He hates stupidity, and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue.

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at

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