I have heard almost nobody arguing the opposite -- certainly not the White House, which consistently has warned that "We’re under no illusions -- Libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy. There will be difficult days ahead."
But for all those concerns, the intervention in Libya should be recognized as a success and real accomplishment for the international community.
The NATO intervention did save Libya's protestors from a near-certain bloodbath in Benghazi.
It did help Libyans free themselves from what was an extremely nasty, violent, and repressive regime.
It was fought under a real, if contestable, international legal mandate which enjoyed widespread Arab support.
Libya's success didinspire Arab democracy protestors across the region.
Reuel Marc Gerecht.
a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy. You are a former media specialist at the CIA's Directorate of Operations, now the National Clandestine Service.
Remember when he repressed and killed thousands of his own citizens, when he actually used the veil of Islamism at different times and passed laws in the name of Islam to try to establish his credibility? Remember Muammar Gaddafi used terrorists who actually bombed airlines and killed hundreds of Americans around the world, setting off the sorts of things that I think we're debating here tonight. Remember that?
I want to stress this. The transition in the Middle East is in the very early stages, sorts of violence that we saw and we've been talking about, that killed our ambassador in Libya, those extremists that killed him and murdered him, those sorts of things -- we need to recognize that those threats have not been completely eradicated. We also need to recognize that the large protests against those extremists in Libya would never have actually happened under Muammar Gaddafi. We need to recognize that there's a space there, that I'm not in favor of elected Islamists or liberals or anything. I'm in favor of systemic change that has legitimacy. And I think this is a key distinction between what Reuel and I are saying and what the other team is saying. We can't implant this.
We need to recognize the reality that because of the dysfunction caused by dictatorships for decades, you're going to have this first early result. And, yes, there's still going to be violence and risks, but I actually think it's less than what we saw in terms of the hundreds of thousands killed by the dictators in these countries. And I actually think the more that you have popular reaction of the sort that we saw in the streets Benghazi
against those murderers, you have I think a possibility then to push them and further marginalize them in that debate.
The fact that al-Qaida and its affiliates had virtually nothing with the removal of leaders in places like Egypt and Tunisia and the widespread calls for political reform and the battles that are still going, I think, is telling. The fact that Ayman Zawahiri, the head of al-Qaida, wrote a book attacking the Muslim Brotherhood for actually participating in democratic politics is telling. Looking ahead, it seems that al-Qaida's popular appeal, I think, will remain low, given that many of the protesters are out there supporting democratic reforms. People are going to the ballot box, the very thing that radical jihadists are opposed to.
In Egypt, the Nour party of the Salafis is absolutely morally repugnant, all right? No doubt about it. But they are actually in the process of collapse right now because they haven't figured out how to handle the pressure of democracy yet. The Muslim Brotherhood is having serious internal debates because they haven't figured out how to handle -- this is all new terrain for them. That's what we want. We want them to fight it out. It's not going to produce something pretty in the short term. But what they're suggesting, having dictatorship and somehow having the United States, oh, I'm going to create a liberal here and a liberal there and a liberal here, it makes no sense.
September 26, 2012, •
.....Mohammed Morsi, who is proving rapidly to be one of the more pleasant surprises in world politics.
He has a doctorate in materials science from USC, earned during the 70s, and is able to say “Go Trojans” with the best of them. According to an interview with the New York Times, he dislikes the libertine aspects of American culture, including “naked restaurants” like Hooters–an attitude which may distinguish him from about half the American population.
Dr. Morsi was widely considered a political neophyte at the outset of the election campaign. But since being elected, he has shrewdly maneuvered to put to rest dangers of a military coup (and has disappointed many American neoconservatives) by appointing a new army chief of staff, General Sedki Sobhi, to replace the generals who toadied to Mubarak for a generation. Sobhi is likewise a product of American universities, in this case the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania.
Both Morsi and his new army chief of staff (the latter, in an essay written seven years ago) stress the issue of Palestine. It is a neoconservative talking point that Arabs either do not have, or should not have, any real emotion about the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians–though of course Americans on the eastern seaboard managed to get worked up over the Alamo well before the age of modern communications.
Their perspective on Israel-Palestine is hardly radical: Morsi regularly mentions that the 1978 Camp David Accords also called for Palestinian autonomy (as well as securing peace between Egypt and Israel)–to which Israel has replied by moving a half million settlers into the West Bank. Egypt’s treaty obligations toward Israel are often taken as the beginning and end point of America’s interest in Egypt, but Israel had West Bank obligations under the treaty too–less clearly spelled out, which it evaded from the very beginning.
Was Friedman similarly apoplectic when Morsi traveled to Saudi Arabia last month? I don’t believe he was. Saudi Arabia is even more repressive and its government is even less representative than Iran’s, but Friedman wasn’t saying that Morsi’s visit meant that he was siding with despotic monarchy against the Saudi people, was he? If Morsi were on the side of “democracies” against dictatorships, he would have to be at odds with most of America’s client states in the region.
Friedman’s makes two mistaken assumptions. He assumes that attendance at the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement is an endorsement of Iran’s government and Iranian policies, which isn’t the case. Traditionally non-aligned governments are probably not interested in taking clear sides in the midst of the growing tensions between the U.S. and Israel and Iran, and why would they be? If they aren’t endorsing Iranian policies, it doesn’t follow that most of the NAM members are interested in taking orders from Washington on how to conduct their foreign affairs, either. If Morsi is going to Iran, he is probably doing so with the knowledge that it demonstrates a break with the old Egyptian leadership and shows that Morsi can act independently of the U.S. Morsi is likely much more concerned with his domestic audience and exercising the power of his office than he is worried about the plight of the Iranian opposition, and it would be very unusual if it were otherwise. The impulse to see all other countries’ dealings with Iran, no matter how minimal, through the distorting lens of our hostility towards Iran leads many Americans to jump to badly flawed conclusions about those other countries and their governments’ intentions.