Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Libya’s explosive bailout

So we’re at it again, eh? Only this time it’s the French that are looking for glory. Western leaders met in Paris the other day to decide what to do about Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his whole “no mercy” policy towards his citizens, and eventually settled on a time-tested strategy: precision bombing of strategically-important ground targets.

Western powers pounding on a dictator’s troops isn’t unique, but what is rare is that France seems to be leading the effort. In fact, over a week ago, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was calling for military support for Libyan rebel fighters who are quickly losing ground to Gaddafi’s minions, while President Barack Obama was trying to give friendly advice to the bloodthirsty dictator, urging reform and respect for international human rights standards.

Now, I can’t blame Obama. Two unpopular foreign wars, a “recovering” economy and a lot of whackos demanding, again and again, to see his birth certificate make dealing with global crises like these a touchy venture, to say the least. American military advisors, tired of playing babysitter for the country whose parents they murdered, kept reminding everyone that deposing a dictator is the easy part; it’s the nation building that gets tricky.

But drawing comparisons between Iraq and Libya is pointless. With the former, the U.S. unilaterally invaded and systematically dismantled the infrastructure of a nation, while subsidiaries of a company, Halliburton, whose cookie-jar then Vice President Dick Cheney had his hand jammed in, rolled in under the auspices of democratic reconstruction.

Saddam Hussein wasn’t exactly warm and cuddly, but his people hadn’t yet called for his head when our Abrams tanks and F-15s rolled in to “shock and awe” with guns blazing. So, when U.S. contractors were slow to provide basic necessities and began killing civilians, the people of Iraq, in the form of armed insurgent activity, started calling for our exit. And why shouldn’t they?

Okay, so yes, Saddam systematically tested chemical weapons on minority populations; had countless arrested, tortured and killed by his secret police; started an unpopular war with his neighbor Iran that ended in massive casualties and no real change to the Iran-Iraq status quo, aside from increased tensions and a lot of graves. Generally, Saddam was a mean guy – but Gaddafi is too.

The important distinction between the two cases is that in Libya, the citizens instigated the violence against their maniacal tyrant; the U.S. didn’t do it for them. This might be an obvious point, but it’s one that has been mostly ignored in coverage of the Libyan crisis.

When the U.S. took away the agency of the Iraqi people, we were playing a very dangerous game. Here were a people who had lived in relative comfort – well, aside from the constant fear of government-sponsored kidnapping and what not – and we came on in and literally destroyed their country. So when the Iraqi people didn’t have medical care, potable water or reliable electricity after getting a revolution they didn’t ask for in the first place, it’s no wonder they took up arms.

The West got spoiled with Tunisia and Egypt. Relatively little blood shed and a peaceful transition to new constitutions with publically-accountable elections on the horizon. Even Yemen, Bahrain and now Syria are diplomatic no-brainers: urge the government to respect human decency and push for timely reform. So when Gaddafi started brutally cracking down on peaceful demonstrators, and those peaceful demonstrators turned into an armed rebellion, the West revealed its guilty conscience. If you want proof of this collective guilt, just look to Hillary Clinton’s recent reassurances to the global population that the decision to help out Libya wasn’t unilateral.

I understand why all of our leaders are being so apologetic, but I’m not so sure they need be. The Libyan people tried to pull an Egypt, they wanted to go the way of Tunisia; the problem is they have an absolutely insane autocrat with a sizeable armory and a will to power so horrifying it puts the Joker to shame. So to see the U.S. and its allies use their firepower in support of a popular revolt in this case is actually refreshing.

I’m not condoning a bombing campaign that is most likely going to result in needless civilian causalities,  but when I think about the piles of historical documentation on the extreme and horrifying measures tyrants often go to in order to retain power, I can’t help but feel like I’m staring at a lesser of two evils scenario.

Regardless, military officials are still cautious and have been quick to warn that Islamic extremist organizations will be quick to seize this opportunity to bolster support under the “the West is only after our resources” banner, but please take a moment to really consider this.

The Libyan people have risen against a dictator who’s been hailed as an ally to the West in the War on Terror. Part of the reason Gaddafi has been as buddy-buddy with the West – despite his questionable record as a leader – is because Libya is oil rich. So if the West’s military actions are in support of a liberated Libyan people’s right to take more control over their lives and country, then it seems that no matter who we back, we will always appear as though we’re grabbing resources.

Anyway, we’re assisting a popular uprising instead of performing it for the Libyan people, but the real curve ball in this situation is France. They were the first to drop bombs and it seems Sarkozy is tired of France being the butt of all the jokes in the Security Council. Good for you France, I have a feeling Obama will have no problem bequeathing to you the title of “Global Policeman.”

Max Calloway is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].

Editor’s Note: “Staunch” has been changed to “hailed as” in reference to Gaddafi’s support with the U.S. in conducting the War on Terror and “red-herring” has been changed to “curve ball” in regards to France’s role in the campaign.

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  • A

    ArafatMar 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm


    In re-reading your article let me just say I apologize for my comment. I wrote it before I read your piece to its end…sort of reacted to your tongue-and-cheek description of Saddam.

    Great writing on your part!

  • A

    ArafatMar 21, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    “Saddam Hussein wasn’t exactly warm and cuddly, but his people hadn’t yet called for his head when our Abrams tanks and F-15s rolled in to “shock and awe” with guns blazing.”

    Ahhh…isn’t that a quaint way of putting it. You, Mr. Calloway, are adorable!

    Warm and cuddly? Well other than the fact that in the 7 year long Iran/Iraq War where one million Muslims (great loss to humanity!) were killed I suppose he was a little bit warm and cuddly.

    But let’s not forget about the invasion he led into Kuwait. Remember that one? Warm and cuddly indeed! Remember what he did in his hasty retreat? That’s right he blew up all the Kuwait oil fields creating what some call the single worst environmental disaster of all time. (I don’t know if that is true, or not, but I doubt environmentalists consider his actions exactly warm and cuddly.)

    Or let’s not forget his bombing of the Kurds with mustard gas. What a hoot! Only Saddam would do sumtin like that. Oh wait, I almost forgot all the other Islamic leaders who are killing their own people today inclduing the Iranian leaders and the Yemeni, Egyptian, Libyan, Syrian, Jordanian, Bahraini, etc…leaders.

    Warm and cuddly the whole lot is what I would say.

  • H

    HistorianMar 21, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    Max is clearly thinking that the Kooky Colonel’s repudiation of his WMD program after seeing what happened to Saddam constitutes some sort of cooperation in the wider WOT. Unfortunately, Max isn’t aware of the fact that most KNOWLEDGEABLE observers now believe that Khaddafy never had any real WMD program, and that he ginned up some evidence of one in a hurry in order to APPEAR as if he had changed his ways. Let’s not forget that Khaddafy arranged a hero’s welcome for the supposedly close-to-death Lockerbie bomber who was released from prison in Britain.

    Max is also clearly not aware that the colloquialism “red herring” refers to something intended to distract one’s attention away from what is really going on. It seems a small point, but it kind of radically changes the meaning of Max’s concluding paragraph.

  • H

    HelloMar 21, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    “The Libyan people have risen against a dictator who’s been a staunch ally to the West in the War on Terror.”
    How do you balance that statement with his acknowledgment of being responsible for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 which killed 243 passengers and 16 crew? Maybe you should study a wee bit of history before going to print.

    Kindly name two ways this terrorist has been an ally against terrorism.

  • H

    HelloMar 21, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Of course you don’t blame Obama. No one blames this guy for anything.

    There is one thing your opinion column conveniently leaves out – that is, the congress not only authorized President Bush’s military actions, they funded it – TWICE!

    Obama is accountable for what the US decides to do, or not do. And wasn’t the whole reason why Biden was brought on the ticket because of all of his foreign affairs expertise.

    This all begs the question – what is America’s foreign policy??? Because it just seems to this poster that when it gets too hot in the kitchen, Obama is usually vacationing out of the country. Look it up.

  • D

    David McgownMar 20, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Great article! You are very talented. Summed up everything I was thinking. Great Job!!!!!