More on the Libyan Question

Juan Cole has an interesting post up at Informed Comment on the current state of affairs in Libya: Top Ten Accomplishments of the UN No Fly Zone.

I find Juan’s analysis of the current state of affairs to be a little encouraging. I understand the break that exists between the folks who do not believe military force should have been used and those of us who were clamoring for protection of the people who were being targeted by the Libyan armed forces. This seems to be posed as an either or situation: either we stand by and let the Libyans settle things themselves or we attack Gaddafi and set up for an Iraq-style invasion. But maybe this is not an either or situation, but a “both and” situation. Maybe there are more options than the either or analysis suggests?

Gaddafi is like Mugabe is like Mubarak is like Papa Doc, he is a guy who has seized and wielded power over a country for decades. People in charge become principles unto themselves, they transcend principles like autonomy or economic justice or populist ambition for a better life. People in charge for decades become institutions and it’s hard to change institutions and yet change will occur. The arc of history bends toward justice because human beings want justice and will work and sometimes fight for it. In any given moment, the arc of history may suggest retrograde movement, but I believe it is two steps forward and one step back. It would be great to never see a step back, but the forces that support and benefit from the status quo fight the human beings who work for expansion of justice, for expansion and protection of human rights because the impact often occurs in a zero sum game where human progress comes at the expense, a pinch on the lifestyle of the ruling class.

It has been a mistake to embrace Gaddafi over the past decades. Even though democracies may embrace retrograde politics at times (Michelle Bachmann anyone?) they do allow for changes in the political direction of a country when enough voters/activists decide a new direction is needed. Leadership that does not answer to the will of the people on a regular basis is a tyranny even when it is popular.

In terms of the “both and” option mentioned above, I am hoping that the international community can identify and commit to means other than military attacks to convince Gaddafi that his time has passed.

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