On Saturday, which marked the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, President Obama authorized the American military to launch air strikes against targets in Libya. This decision came at the 11th hour, with Gadhafi loyalists close to arriving in rebel-stronghold Benghazi. While some Republicans like Sarah Palin had accused the president of "dithering" while a rebellion was about to be brutally crushed, the U.S. was actually trying to gather support among key European and Arab allies in the United Nations for military action. With approval and the participation of both Great Britain and France (!!!), the operation could finally begin.
I know it comes as a shock for people (as I learned in dialogues on Facebook and other blogs) that a liberal like me actually supports this military operation (some are calling it "the third war"). Many people, even pro-military and conservative folks, are against this operation. They cite all the usual complaints: we've spent too much in Afghanistan and Iraq already, we're in a current budget crisis, we're not the world's policeman, it's not the military's role, yadda yadda yadda. Well, you know what? I've always loved Madeleine Albright's most famous quote when she was Secretary of State under President Clinton: "What's the point in having the world's greatest military if we can't use it?"
President Obama is receiving major criticisms on both the right (no surprise) and the left (no surprise, either). In fact, even Congressman Dennis Kucinich (did I ever tell you how much I despise this little tyrant?) has suggested that Obama's authorization to use military force in Libya could be an "impeachable offense." If he does introduce a bill to impeach President Obama, he's a fool because the teabaggers are going to play him as they support the bill for other reasons (they don't care how Obama leaves office, just that he leaves office because they don't consider him a legitimate president due to their strange obsessions with Obama's birth certificate). I'm guessing that Kucinich needs attention again. His pet project is to create a cabinet level "Department of Peace", which I'm actually against because the last thing our government needs is another bureaucracy paying people good salaries to do relatively nothing.
In a way, I'm surprised at the amount of criticism leveled at President Obama for doing what I consider to be the right thing. I'm glad that he got off the golf course and actually did something. After all, Colonel Muammar Gadhafi had threatened to put an end to the rebellion in the eastern part of his country. What are we to do? Watch while innocent people and those wanting freedom from his tyranny to be massacred? Sitting around doing nothing is simply the wrong thing to do. I'm from the school of military being used for humanitarian goals: intervention to prevent genocide or massacres from happening. Granted, we can't go everywhere in the world an apply a consistent standard, which is why I'm a supporter of United Nations operations and believe that they should be allowed to have its own standing military, with the ability to recruit people from around the world to serve under the blue beret.
When it comes to military actions, I base my views on what I would be willing to do as a servicemember. When I was a young man in the Navy two decades ago, I was upset that my ship was sitting in the comfort of Sardinia while genocide was ongoing in Bosnia and Hercegovina in 1992. I wanted to do something about it, but President George Herbert Walker Bush didn't seem to care about it. When the genocide in Rwanda happened in 1994, I wanted to volunteer to go and do something to put an end to it, but President Clinton dithered (he was understandably hesitant due to the fiasco that Somalia turned out to be).
Interestingly enough, as a teenager living in Germany in 1986, I did not support President Reagan's air strikes against Libya in retaliation for the terrorist bombings of a Berlin discotheque in which a couple American soldiers were killed. However, in retrospect, those air strikes must have done something to Gadhafi's psyche because he became quiet. His infant daughter was killed during those strikes.
Yet the Pan Am flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988 and the fingerprints went back to Gadhafi. In 1992, when I was assigned to ride a submarine for three days (from La Maddalena, Sardinia to Naples, Italy), my supervisor told me to be prepared for being on a submarine for longer than 3 days in case the president ordered an operation against Gadhafi over his refusal to turn over terrorists connected to the Pan Am 103 tragedy. There were Navy seals on board the submarine with me, so it was possible, but ultimately did not happen. No crossing the line of death for the submarine I was on!
The above photo shows one of the Libyan planes going down in flames since the launch of air strikes against Libya. What a photo! One of the surprises of this military operation is that France has signed on to back the U.S. military. In the 1986 air strikes, France famously denied the U.S. military airspace to fly planes from bases in the United Kingdom to bomb Tripoli. That act infuriated a lot of conservative Americans. For me, I believed that France has every right to make their decision, because its their air space. However, two military members I knew on the USS ORION refused to go on liberty each time our ship made a port visit to France (Toulon and Villefranche-sur-mer). They would not leave the ship at all during the five days we were in each port because they hated the French for refusing to grant air space during the 1986 air strikes in Libya!!! Man, I couldn't believe how much they hated the French. Talk about stupid! That's the one thing I hate about American conservatives. They believe that we have the right to dictate to other countries what to do with their borders, airspace or foreign policy!!! No, believing that all nations are sovereign means accepting their decisions when it does not give in to our demands. Good for the French to not be bullied by the American president!
Maybe this change in behaviour among the French is indication that they like and trust President Obama. After all, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when President Charles de Gaulle was asked if he needed evidence to support President Kennedy's blockade of Cuba, the French leader famously said, "No, the word of the President is good enough." No leader would dare say that about President George W. Bush. Conservatives in America once again indulged in their anti-French delusions when President Jacques Chirac refused to go along with Bush's invasion of Iraq. So conservatives dumped French wine into the streets, refused to eat cheese, and passed legislation to rename "French" fries to "Freedom" fries.
A few weeks ago, Muammar Gadhafi gave an interview that was hysterically comical. I've heard rumours for years that he was "crazy" but this interview confirmed it. He blamed the rebellion on al-Qaeda, but claimed that he was universally loved by all Libyans. He refused to believe that there was a mass uprising against his government. He has been in power for 41 years, so ousting him is going to be tough. But he absolutely has to go. That's the reason why I can't believe more people don't support the military operation to help the rebels avoid being slaughtered. If Gadhafi is allowed to remain in power and defeat the uprising in Libya, the "domino" ends. The freedom movements in Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Syria will also die as leaders decide to copy Gadhafi rather than run off into exile the way Ben Ali of Tunisia and Mubarak of Egypt did.
Not supporting the military operation is like the Bay of Pigs and the end of the 1991 Gulf War, when our government allowed freedom fighters to be brutally defeated by Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein. I don't want to see that happen in Libya. While I agree that military air strikes should continue indefinitely until Gadhafi leaves power, I'm against committing ground troops. We should provide air cover for the rebels but not fight their ground war for them. Clinton's highly successful Kosovo campaign is the model for Libya. To compare what we're doing in Libya with what we did in Afghanistan and Iraq is ridiculous.
One thing I do have to hand it to Muammar Gadhafi for is his colourful manner of dress. The guy had a unique style all his own. He makes Liberace look like a square wallflower!
I think his shirt above is interesting. I'd love one of those with photos of world leaders that I admire: Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Vaclav Havel, Mikhail Gorbachev, Al Gore, and Barack Obama.
This is a photo of Gadhafi with Bush's Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. I think Gadhafi's outfit is really cool looking in this photo! I love how you can see the coldness between the two of them. There are official rules for American diplomats when posing for photographs with dictators. You don't want to be seen friendly with them or shaking their hands. Madeleine Albright had written about this in her memoirs when meeting Slobodan Milosovic, the war criminal president of Yugoslavia.
Oops...looks like President Obama did not get the diplomatic memo! Not sure when this photo was taken. I did think it was interesting that Gadhafi seemed to have made some deal with the American government after Saddam Hussein's government was toppled. Perhaps he feared that Bush was just as crazy as he was, so he wanted to secure his power by cooperating with the American government after a couple decades of isolation. In one news report I read, Gadhafi had written a letter to Obama, praising him as a "son of Africa." He seemed to like our new president, but I bet he's really pissed now. Can't trust us Americans!
The above map shows where the fertile areas of Libya are, while most of the country is smack dab in the middle of the famous Sahara Desert, the largest desert in the world. Most of the population lives along the coast, so breaking Gadhafi's powerhold on Libya should be easier than in Iraq or Afghanistan. His power is concentrated in the capital city of Tripoli. The rebel forces control the eastern part of the coastal region, on the other side of the Gulf of Sidra.
When I was a teenager learning about the flags of other countries, I thought Libya had the most boring flag of the entire world. Its simply the colour green. Now, I love green (its my favourite colour) but this is ridiculous. If you wanted to show displeasure to the Gadhafi regime, all you have to do was burn green construction paper! You don't need to buy a flag when green paper will do! Apparently, the flag is all green to symbolize Gadhafi's "Green Revolution" (and no, he is not known to be an environmentalist!).
Prior to his coming to power in the late 1960s, the above flag was the official Libyan flag when they gained independence from Italy in 1951. Its a lot better and has seen a reemergence as rebel forces have proudly displayed this flag in their protests against the Gadhafi regime. I like it a lot better. It has the colours of Africa (red for the blood, black for the skin colour, green for the land) and the crescent and star symbol of Islam. Hope this flag will soon be raised over all government buildings in Libya soon.
I am hoping and praying that Gadhafi will be removed from power before the end of the month. The reason is because Ben Ali stepped down in January and Mubarak went into exile in February. One regime change a month sounds like a good goal for the world in 2011. Apparently, the uprising in Yemen is gaining ground. Perhaps they will be the focus of the world for the month of April. In other news, Saudi Arabia sent its military forces into the tiny island nation of Bahrain (where we have a major Navy base, which my best friend Nathan had wanted to be stationed at in the late 1990s). The kingdom of Bahrain needed help to put down their uprising, since the $3,000 per person bribe by the King didn't seem to quell the discontent.
Its amazing to me that people who were happy about the people's victory in Tunisia and Egypt are not willing to see us provide air cover for those in Libya who want the same liberty and freedom. Trust me on this one...if we fail the people of Libya, its all going to come crashing down. If Gadhafi remains in power on the corpses of the freedom fighters, the rest of the regimes in the Middle East are going to follow suit. This will have a huge backlash against the United States because we will be seen as allowing a massacre to happen. Taking action against Libya should be a signal to every other autocratic dictatorship in the Middle East that the United States of America sides with the people wanting their freedom. This is just use of our military forces. May the people achieve victory!