I fully embrace my bleeding heart liberalism with what I believe should be a non-controversial statement that all human beings have a right to live unoppressed and without fear of brutalization from their government. And while I don't particularly like the American Exceptionalism notion of being the police officer to the world, I do believe that if we can help the citizens of any country from starving or being disappeared by their government, that we have a moral responsibility as members of the human race to help.
That said, what has always troubled me about the decision to go into Libya is how disingenuous the arguments have been to justify it. There is no question that Qaddafi is a crackpot. It is also indisputable that the Libyans have been oppressed. But I can also say the same about at least a half dozen other countries. Why are we intervening in Libya and ignoring the plights of people in the Ivory Coast, Yemen, Nigeria, Bahrain, Tunisia, Syria, Guatamala, Myanmar, Ghana and on and on?
On the Meet the Press roundtable panel, Ted Koppel brings up the $64,000 question: Why Libya? Why now? And as Savannah Guthrie points out, the Obama administration really hasn't come up with a coherent answer for that.
MR. GREGORY: We've just heard this discussion, particularly the secretary of Defense saying that this campaign in Libya is not in America's vital interest. Questions laid out by Senator Lugar and criticism. Pretty high stakes for the president, who's about to address the nation about it all.
MR. TED KOPPEL: Yes, and I don't think he's going to be able to answer the central question. You asked the right question in talking about the, the national interest. The question hasn't yet been answered as to why it is that Libya, of all countries in that region, has won the humanitarian defense sweepstakes of 2011. We have seen many countries, both in that region and throughout the world, where civilian loss and civilian suffering has been much, much greater. Congo for the past 12 years, we've lost about five million people. Sudan, three million people, never any talk of military intervention. Take a look at what's going on in the Ivory Coast today. Secretary Clinton was talking about the number of refugees that might have come out of a Gadhafi attack on Benghazi. You've got 700,000 refugees in the Ivory Coast right now--close to a million, in fact. Why, why Libya? Hasn't been answered.
MR. GREGORY: Do you think, Savannah Guthrie, that the president will make the case that in many ways this was a message being sent to the rest of the Arab world, particularly the Persian Gulf, where they'd like to see more reforms more quickly after the Saudis put troops into Bahrain, that they felt that they had to take a stand here?
MS. SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: I think they felt they had to take a stand because, as senior aides will say to you, you have to put this in the context of the Arab Spring. When you look at Libya, you have to be looking at what happens to--what's going on with its neighbors. In fact, this week in South America, I asked the president point-blank, what is the national security interest of the U.S. in Libya? And he cited Egypt, Tunisia, unrest in the region. So the president's going to have to put it in that context.
What's so fascinating about his rhetoric, though, is while he's saying, "We need to do this, the U.S. will take this military action," you can see the subtext is clearly his own reluctance to do so. It's not the normal commander in chief fare, "Our cause is just, our cause is righteous. We'll see it through to the end." Instead, you hear him saying, "We'll be in and out. It's going to be limited in duration. We won't be the ones enforcing the no-fly zone. It's not going to be our ships enforcing the arms embargo." So you kind of see that reluctance shot through his rhetoric.
Unfortunately, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates isn't helping either:
Sorry, Sec. Gates and Clinton, with so much focus on austerity measures for American citizens because of budget shortfalls, spending the billions it will cost to protect European countries' vital interests just doesn't fly.