Obama has fallen into precisely the trap he has denounced in all his books and speeches. True, America is not claiming Libya as its territory, but Obama’s friends call this “neo-colonialism” and “post-colonialism.” He is now the patron of the Libyan government. If it is incompetent, corrupt, or oppresses the people, Obama shares responsibility.
Moreover, as it does all these things and refuses to implement serious Sharia law, lots of Libyans will blame those arrogant, imperialist Americans. Why shouldn’t they want to kill the American diplomats who “supervise” the status quo and prevent them from turning Libya into Afghanistan under the Taliban; Iran; Gaza under Hamas; or, somewhat more mildly, Lebanon under a mainly Hizballah government, and maybe what will happen in Syria at some point in the future?
What are the Libyan government’s options? It can try to appease the opposition by more Islam. But that won’t work really. It can try to appease the opposition by distancing itself from the United States, but given its weakness that won’t work. And it can try to repress the rebels, but since it cannot depend on its own military forces — which are riddled with jihadists — that won’t work either.
That is the real lesson in Libya. For once, Obama took sides against the revolutionary Islamists. We are seeing in Egypt and the Gaza Strip that appeasement doesn’t work; we are seeing in Libya that engaging in conflict has its high costs, too. Obama claims to have “liberated” Libya, but to many Libyans he has enslaved it to infidels.
So what next? American military aid to the Libyan government and U.S. military advisors? An endless war against the jihadists? And what if the government in Libya, which is pretty fragile and cannot fully depend on its own military, starts to fall? In Somalia, the local al-Qaeda branch didn’t win only because Ethiopia and other African nations sent in thousands of troops. In Bahrain — a complicated situation in which there is a mistreated Shia population whose opposition has both moderates and radicals — the government was only saved by Saudi troops and against the will of the White House.
Treating what has happened in Libya as an isolated tragedy misses the point. Viewing it as generalized proof of Obama’s terrible policy doesn’t get us to the solution. There is a battle going on in the Middle East that will continue for decades. Obama has largely helped the enemy side. In Libya, while he gave some help to the Islamists, his basic policy supported the moderates for once. Now the price must be paid or one more country will fall to revolutionary Islamist rule and U.S. influence and credibility will decline even further.
This is a war, not a misunderstanding. It is a battle of ideologies and a struggle for control of state power, not hurt feelings over some obscure video.
PS: I have a lot of friends in the foreign service, now and retired, and I was very upset about the deaths of five American diplomats and two American soldiers in Libya. I know this person was a colleague, too. But my goodness, how horrifyingly revealing is this quote:
“They got the wrong guy,” said a friend of the slain Ambassador Christopher Stevens at the [notoriously anti-Israel, BR] U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. “If there was someone who cared about the Arab and Muslim world, it was Chris,” who had previously served there as chief of the political section. “He spoke Arabic, he was dedicated to the cause of the Arabs.”
Perhaps this diplomat should give al-Qaeda a list of approved Americans they should be assassinating. In other words, what? It would have been better to have killed a foreign service officer more friendly to Israel? To have murdered some Republicans or Jews? I’m afraid that this is very frankly how these people think. And what is “the cause of the Arabs”? Which Arabs? To wipe Israel off the map? To have radical nationalist dictatorships? To have Sharia states? At least define your “Arabs” as the genuine moderates, genuine democrats, genuine liberals, or even — since there aren’t so many of those people — those who feel their self-interests basically coincide with those of the United States.
I find this person’s statement even more shocking than the apology over the mysterious little YouTube film. And yes, I have heard this before in private. OK, an anecdote. I’m sitting with about a dozen U.S. military officers doing a briefing a couple of years after September 11 and my co-briefer — a medium-high State Department official in the Middle East section — starts visibly panicking as he’s speaking. “Other issues might threaten you,” he tells them, looking really scared, “but only the Israel issue can endanger your life.” I can only report that the looks of contempt on the face of the officers made me proud of the U.S. Army.
Note: I don’t mean this as a criticism of all foreign service officers. There are many good ones. But this Jerusalem-based diplomat’s reaction to the death of Ambassador Stevens, plus four diplomats and now two U.S. soldiers rescuing the rest of the embassy staff, is all too revealing. Perhaps he’s just too confused about what country’s capital he’s in.