By Ryan Henson
At the beginning of 2011 we look out across the Atlantic to see an Arab world very much different from the status quo that had persisted for decades and decades before. Egypt, Tunisia and now Libya have shown that indeed the global order is molting its old and archaic skin to reveal a new entity, unsure but hopeful nonetheless. We see now that democracy does not appeal just to the western, Christian dominated mind but also to the young, progressive hearts of Muslims. For some this comes as a shock, a shaking of stereotype that makes them pause to examine their conception of Muslims and the Muslim world. If they share the same values that are so universal they are brought immediately closer to us. Their existence no longer seems foreign, vague and, to some, barbaric. Our values no longer seem so contradictory, so incompatible.
The Arab world has demonstrated the true commonality of the human condition. We all, in essence, want the same thing: freedom, liberty, equality, and the chance to pursue what gives us happiness and what gives us love. It would seem silly to suppose that any group of humans could be so different from the other that these values would not apply. Yet we assume this far too often when we think of cultures, customs, and ways of life that differ from our own. These people want to live lives free of oppression and injustice just as we do, and we must do everything in our power to insure that they are afforded that opportunity.
The United States and its allies are currently involved in an air campaign over the vast nation of Libya in attempt to stop a murderous madman from massacring his own citizens, people who had begun protesting the lack of freedom in the country’s political system. Libya has been held in the iron clench of Gadhafi for decades and a stifling hold it has been. Gadhafi has wielded his militaristic vice with crippling efficiency, suffocating any breath of dissent or whisper to the contrary. Here is a man deluded to the point of insanity with his own lust for power and his own pathetic delusions of egomaniacal grandeur. This is one of the few remaining true modern dictator whose reign should have been ended long ago and now we have a chance to make sure that it does.
The case for intervention really couldn’t have been stronger. An organic, citizen led outcry for reform and democracy: check. A borderline insane, authoritarian ruler: check. Multilateral support and UN approval: check. But still the international response remains cautious. Yes air strikes were a huge step forward but they aren’t sufficient. The violence is, if anything, worsening, as reports fly in of Gadhafi’s forces drawing civilians to their positions to deter allied air strikes. Just today their were reports of a shelling of a Hospital near Misrata that had already been running out of beds do the influx of casualties from attacks on the populace by Gadhafi aligned forces.
What we need is boots on the ground. Air power is limited, especially now that the military has begun to intertwine itself into civilian dense areas. Allied air forces will be handicapped by their aversion to civilian casualties and made helpless spectators to the slaughter that will continue in the narrow alleys and crowded city streets throughout Libya. The United States should take the lead and push the U.N. to authorize a ground invasion of Libya. If such authorization is given, it is the US that should assume operational command and be the first to commit troops to the cause. The political uproar will be deafening no doubt, as the American public wont easily stomach a third war thousands of miles from home. But think about the consequences of defeat for the Libyan people. They are nothing short of an exponential worsening of the oppression and violence that they find themselves drowning in now.
The International Community has laid its hopes in the ill-equipped unorganized Libyan rebels to overthrow Gadhafi. But they can’t do it alone, and no matter how many fighter planes you put into the Libyan skies they won’t be victorious without the military might of the West at their side in the sand of the Libyan Desert. It is our moral responsibility to help the Libyan people as we are in the unique position of possessing the power to ensure that they are delivered into a better future. This isn’t Iraq or Afghanistan. This time the people of Libya are looking to us. They are calling to us to extend our hand so that we might pull them up off of the cliff where they so perilously hang. Why do we hesitate? I can think of no other cause in recent history that more justifies the risking of American lives abroad than the tragedy that is unfolding in Libya today. What are we waiting for?
March 25, 2011
Volume LXXXI Issue 19