Monday, March 21, 2011

Is it Time to Abandon Internationalism?

After one third of the Jews in the world were murdered by Nazi Germany and its allies, the civilized nations all declared that this would happen "never again". Of course, the innocents killed in Cambodia, Rwanda, and elsewhere, were not the beneficiaries of this new determined stance against genocide. And the United Nations, which was formed to deal with this sort of problem, has been of little help.  Instead, they have been preoccupied with the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank, while ignoring dozens of other occupations such as the Russian occupation of Chechnya, the Turkish occupation of North Cyprus, the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

The current policy of the US administration, backed by the ideology of the radical wing of the Democratic party, is to rely on "international" forces to do the job. This was expressed by a recent letter writer to the Wall Street Journal, who stated that " by operating within the context of the Security Council and NATO, President Obama has avoided making the US look like a bully in Libya's sovereign affairs and is acting with the ]full legitimacy of the International community behind him"  Never mind that by this standard, the United Kingdom was acting as a bully interfering in German-Polish affairs when Britain declared war in 1939.

Now we have Libya. A cruel despot has ruled the country for 41 years. The recent uprisings in most  of the nations of the Middle East and North Africa has spread to Libya. Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, who has billions to spend on arms and fighters, has engaged in a sweeping and massive attack, including air power, against the poorly armed rebels. The American reaction? President Obama called on Qaddafi  to step down. When he did not do so but began to slaughter his fellow Libyans, Obama did nothing, despite the urging of Britain, France, and the Arab League. America would not get involved without the blessing of the UN.

The lesson? As the Wall Street Journal put is "When the US fails to lead, every nations recalibrates its interests and begins to look out for itself first “  Those dictators who are looking to see what will happen now know that if their own people want a change in leadership, they can turn their guns on them and be pretty sure the US will stand by passively.

In what must surely be an unusual precedent, the Arab league has publically called for American intervention in Libya.  Such appeals have fallen on deaf ears, despite Obama’s attempts at wooing Arab nations. Further, Saudi Arabia, against American advice , sent military forces into Bahrain to suppress an uprising, indicating the new Saudi non-reliance on American good will.

The foreign policy bumbling of the Obama administration has resulted in a loss of American standing in the world. According to Jennifer Rubin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been “especially peeved with the president’s waffling over how to encourage the kinds of Arab uprisings that have recently toppled regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, and in particular his refusal to back a no-fly zone over Libya”. French president Nicolas Sarkozy urged Clinton to push the White House toward more aggressive action in Libya, while Clinton repeatedly replied “There are difficulties,”  The G8 foreign ministers left their meeting in Paris last  week “completely puzzled” about American intentions and priorities

Now the UN has finally acted, thanks mainly to Britain, France, and the Arab nations. However, this did not happen before  Libyan opposition forces, at one time on the verge of destroying Qaddafi, have almost completely been obliterated. At this point, Qadaffi, on the rocks only a week ago, is favored to win. Or Qaddafi could simply declare a cease fire and remain in control of almost all of Libya, free to continue his attacks against his own people and to sponsor terrorism elsewhere.

The U.S. has now reversed course and supported a U.N. resolution to use military force against Gaddafi. This is to be commended; whatever led Obama to change his mind is good news.
Of course, we must ask why this happened, and question whether it was wise or foolish to wait for the UN.  It is likely that a combination of repeated overtures from Britain, France, and the other Arab states, not to mention domestic pressure from Hillary Clinton and others, were impossible to continue to ignore. It was foolish to wait so long; Obama should have sought a congressional resolution and acted unilaterally if necessary. Had he done so, Libya would almost certainly be rid of Qaddafi at this time.  
President Obama believes  that a  disinterested and uninvolved American superpower is our proper role. However, the US has responsibilities, and there are times it must act against those like Qaddafi who abuse human rights. 

According to J. E. Dyer, “Obama has declined a leadership role. Obama’s language was descriptive, not active or leaderly. He applauded our NATO allies and the Arab League for their leadership and endorsed the points in the UN resolution, but declined to state a U.S. determination to secure any positive objective. The line  “The United States did not seek this outcome”  is not a statesman’s comment. It’s whining. Regrettably, with his statement, the president has not clarified or strengthened the U.S. position on executing this military task.”
Daniel Henninger has suggested that internationalism has collapsed.  The failure of NATO, the European Union, the Arab league, or the UN, to stop Qaddafi in a timely manner, was not only a failure by these guardians of the international order, but it also meant the bankruptcy of the foreign-policy views of the current Democratic party.
Obama chose a foreign policy team that  deviated from prior administrations in its conviction that it must pursue American interests only in concert with other nations, never alone. We have been tested by the uprisings in the Middle East, and found wanting. We did poorly with Egypt and far worse with Libya. In the words of Libyan opposition leader Essam Gheriani “Everyone here is puzzled as to how many casualties the international community judges to be enough for them to help. Maybe we should start committing suicide to reach the desired number”. Another Libyan opposition leader, Mohammed Abdallah, stated “the hand s of the international community are covered in blood”. In the words of Henninger, the US is falling into “a dangerous irrelevance”

Please bookmark!

1 comment:

  1. Such global governing will ruin us and such are against America's inherent character. Of wich: isolationism and nativism are key--as far as i am concerned.