If you have followed me on Twitter and Facebook or chatted with me in human form, you’ll know I don’t approve of American intervention in Libya. Is Gadaffi a bad guy? Of course. Should hegemonic powers use their weight to do good? Of course. Does that good sometimes involve killing people? Sadly, yes. I recognize that you have to crack eggs to make an omelet.
The frustration is that Libya borders Sudan, a country whose atrocities make the room dusty as I type. Just think about the fact that in today’s world “thousands of innocent people slaughtered” is a cliché. So our federal government’s sudden compassion for a brutalized nation rang pretty hollow. Libya is a top oil producer; it doesn’t take much detective work to figure out the source of the sympathy.
Nicholas Kristof, who is teeing up his third Pulitzer with his work in Egypt and Bahrain, tweeted the following [edited for paragraph-form]:
I’m getting pushback regarding my column from people who say we’re inconsistent: we jump into Libya but not Ivory Coast. True. But if we can’t be everywhere, should we be nowhere? If we don’t help Darfuris, must we also turn a blind eye in Rwanda & Libya? We know that we can’t feed all starving children. But consistency doesn’t require us to feed none. If we can save Libyan lives, let’s do it.
The question, in my mind, is not about vetting inconsistency. I get where it comes from; I understand. Sure, I’d rather help Libyans than no one at all. But the bigger point, as an American looking at his government, becomes being talked down to about the motivations behind our actions. Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: Ivory Coast has little to offer the US. In fact, let’s get that raging pachyderm a beer and make him part of the conversation.
I would much rather have Barack Obama stand at the podium and say, “We are intervening because instability in Libya will negatively effect our economy.” And leave it at that.
Let’s stop using democracy and humanitarianism as a Trojan horse for commerce. Just call it like it is, man. We’re not stupid. We know the game. This country went through eight years of George Bush pretending like we cared about Iraqi’s having the right to vote. This just sounds like Dick Cheney without the creepiness.
We have to defend our economy; global stability is intertwined with economic stability, which is intertwined with domestic stability, which is intertwined with domestic tranquility (and re-elections).
But just say so.
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Caleb Garling lives in San Francisco and wrote The St George’s Angling Club, available at