Michael Totten

Libya’s Euphoria

My friend, colleague, and sometimes travel companion Jamie Kirchick filed a dispatch from Tripoli for Foreign Policy. The whole thing is worth reading, but this really stands out:

The other remarkable thing about Libya is that it is the only Arab country where America is not just liked, but loved. (Speaking with Libyans, I never feel I have to lie and say I am Canadian, as I sometimes do in other Arab countries to avoid potentially dodgy situations.) That its people love America precisely because their country has been bombed by it is all the more noteworthy. In Libya right now, Americans are the recipients of precisely the sort of admiration and gratitude they thought they would receive in Iraq eight years ago. One hopes that by playing a limited role in the country’s stabilization and reconstruction, they will be able to maintain that gratitude.

Arab friendliness and hospitality is all but ubiquitous in the Middle East and North Africa, and this is sometimes confused with political pro-Americanism, but I don’t believe that’s what’s happening right now in Libya, not with Jamie Kirchick who knows the difference. The people there would still be living in Qaddafi’s lunatic prison state if we hadn’t helped free them, and it’s obvious—thanks to our lack of boots on the ground—that NATO’s intervention wasn’t the colonial enterprise their old blood-spattered master said it was.

Libya’s affection for the West might be capricious and short-lived (we’ll see), but at least it seems to be there at the moment.