Sunday, April 3, 2011

America And Free Libya

Like Freddie, I'm happy to see the high-profile defections from the Gadhafi government. The Gadhafi-crumbles-from-within rebel victory scenario is probably the one that results in minimum bloodshed.

But I don't see why he wants such a hard line on this:
If the Qaddafi government does somehow come to fall out of power, all people of conscience-- realists, liberal hawks, non-interventionists, neoconservatives, and all flavors in between-- have to be adamant: no American "influence" of the new government. No installation of friendly leadership, no de facto choosing sides with providing arms or money to favored actors within Libya, none of the endless machinations by our intelligence service of internal Libyan affairs. It's precisely that kind of flagrantly anti-democratic action that has so poisoned our reputation in that part of the world.
If you wanted America to not influence events in Libya, you're already doomed to not get what you wanted. We and our allies just blew up a bunch of government artillery with aerial bombing and saved a rebel movement from annihilation. I think the Obama administration is going to be able to present a pretty good account of its actions when all is done -- I support this intervention for basically Juan Cole reasons. But "We didn't influence events in Libya" is not going to be one of the things we can boast of, no matter how we interact with the new government, and people whose admiration of America is based on our being able to say it are people we've already lost. While there's something to be gained from not choosing sides in their internal disputes, it's the kind of thing that gets figured into the cost/benefit analysis once we figure out what the eventual sides are, and which I wouldn't take any absolute stand on in advance.

I also wonder why Freddie thinks outside meddling would necessarily be anti-democratic. Suppose there's a decision point where the new government could either be a democracy or a new dictatorship. Whatever the total cost/benefit analysis would come out to, I'm pretty sure that democratic considerations would weigh pretty heavily in favor of supporting democracy.
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