Nation Building

21 Oct

Libya’s Gadhafi was the bin Laden of the 80s. Yesterday, thanks to a Libyan rebellion and NATO help, Gadhafi met the fate he had long deserved, not only for murdering innocents abroad, but those at home as well.

As a partisan Democrat, I’ll point out that bin Laden and Gadhafi were both eliminated either by America or with American help, yet with no American casualties. In the 90s, NATO made quick work of ending the Serb nationalist socialist expansionism throughout the Balkans.

As we wind down in Iraq, and build up for the eventual wind down in Afghanistan, it’s time to re-visit the Powell Doctrine and, perhaps, codify it. War isn’t just dangerous, it’s expensive – we’re spending $300 million per day in Afghanistan. Almost $110 billion per year – it would be better if that money was being spent by the government domestically on infrastructure or education.

The Arab Spring reminds me of the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, and the way in which each country’s specific personality or situation dictated the way in which its revolution came about. Tunisia deposed its ruler, while Libya’s was shot. The Poles, Czechs & Slovaks, East Germans, and others peacefully built a mass movement, the Romanians had to take up arms – while Husak and Honecker and Krenz retired, went on trial, and/or were exiled, Ceausescu and his wife were shot like dogs – an altogether reasonable way for those two to go.

Now that Gaddafi is gone, Saleh in Yemen and Assad in Syria cling to power in the face of popular uprisings. Iran’s people tried valiantly, but were defeated once the secret police began killing them. Once the people in these countries bring change about and rid themselves of their oppressors, there is hope that regional peace might again have a chance. Without cynical authoritarian dictators at the helm, there’s hope that the new governments will stop blaming Israel for all their people’s woes and start building a modern, free, prosperous, and democratic Arab world.  I’ve always believed that, for the most part, average people in most countries just want to have a job, a home, a family, some vacation time, and the ability to drive to that country’s version of Denny’s for a Grand Slam every once in a while. They don’t want to live like serfs, and they don’t want to fight endless wars. (Neither should Americans, by the way).

You’ll note that the Arab Spring hasn’t brought about Talibanesque Islamic Republics; these people don’t seem eager to replace one form of despotism for another. Maybe the United States will have learned from its recent successes and failures in nation building and provide needed assistance, if invited to do so.

I know it’s unlikely, but one can always hope.

14 Responses to “Nation Building”

  1. Max October 21, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    While we’re at it, we need to refrain from our incessant propensity for “nation building” as our own infrastructure continues to crumble and the national checkbook is accumulating increased negative balances.

  2. jimd October 21, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    Goes back to my point about electing another Republican to the oval office. They got it so wrong, so heartbreakingly wrong the last time we should never consider that party until it undergoes an enema.

  3. Brian Castner October 21, 2011 at 7:12 am #

    The killing of Bin Laden cost thousands of casualties over a decade, but you are right that none died that night. Whether there was a better way to eventually get Bin Laden is another debate; just noting the price there was high.

    But on the ‘what do average people want’ question. I used to think like you do, and in less tribal/moderately westernized countries like Iraq, Egypt and Syria it might be true. But I think we americans project those values on others way too widely, and there are large portions of the world where they want jobs, families and Denny’s a lot less than they want the ability to live under a specific religious doctrine that will bring an eternal reward. I’m not comfortable saying with certainty what those areas want anymore.

  4. RaChaCha October 21, 2011 at 7:23 am #

    Sic semper tyrannis!

    Ceauşescu’s fate was too good for him.

  5. Jesse October 21, 2011 at 8:19 am #

    So, I guess since (a) Qadaffy got a bullet or 3, and (b) Obama’s the prez, it doesn’t matter that he completely blew off Congress and unilaterally committed us to billions more dollars in unauthorized military action?

    I guess when it’s your guy and things go as well as can be expected, you don’t care about the law.

    • Alan Bedenko October 21, 2011 at 9:04 am #

      Taking part in an action pursuant to an obligation under a duly ratified treaty is also the law of the land. Don’t know how the conflict shakes out legally, but there you go.

  6. MJC October 21, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    When a dictator is asked (or commanded) to step down by his people and refuses, he absolutely should be killed and paraded through the streets, like Qaddafi or Mussolini years ago.

    Brutal? Yes, but it serves as a grim reminder to other would be despots that democratic elections are the only legitimate means of creating or maintaining a leadership.

    And Jesse – presidents have always had police action powers. Reagan bombed Tripoli in the 80’s. Guess it wasn’t a problem for you until the black president took office.

  7. Fat Tony October 21, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    This is absolutely a victory for the Powell Doctrine. Reagan used restraint in Tripoli when some thought he should have taken out Qaddafi, Bush I used restraint in the Gulf War when some though he should have marched into Baghdad. Bush II got us into the morass. I’m not at an Obama fan at all, but I have no problem for how the current Libyan situation was handled.

  8. Leo Wilson October 21, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Results. It’s all well and good to stand on the deck of an aircraft carrier, declaring “mission accomplished” when the dictaster falls, but an ongoing reality may take a bit longer to flesh out.

    Will you be as smug in victory if Lybia turns into another Kosovo, where terrorists today recruit and train people to attack Americans?

  9. Allen Miller October 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    100% Kudos to President Obama, 95% Bush Policies. Drones are good for business.

    Re-Elect George W. Obama!!!

  10. Allen Miller October 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    After being criticized by a commenter on another post for going into to many details, I thought about it and he was right. I was going to make @10 my only comment. But I have to say one thing then I am gone from this thread.

    This was a good post Alan Bedenko you are very right. Only my opinion, I could be wrong though.

  11. Bbill October 21, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    Allen, just a bit of advice: don’t believe one word you hear on Fox News. They lie. And lie and lie and lie. That’s their purpose. fyi.

  12. MJC October 21, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    @10, Allen is right. In fact, Obama could switch parties right now, not alter a single one of his policies, and guarantee his re-election by at least a 75% margin.

    As for drones, I have no problem supporting an all-drone military, until, of course, the drones become self-aware and turn on us.

  13. Ethan Cox October 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    I can’t say it even a whit better than ol’ Glenn, so:

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