Libyan Revolutionaries Require American Support

Alex Posa, Columnist

We sat by and watched as another leader brutalized his people. The Libyan rebels are all but broken. Without strong action very soon, Gaddafi will roll through Benghazi and destroy the rebel forces, probably murdering tens of thousands of citizens who looked at their Egyptian and Tunisian neighbors and saw a foothold for freedom. As I write this article, Obama announced support for a no-fly zone. This is too little too late.

I look at my peers and wonder, where is the anger? In the past month I’ve heard (and supported) the outrage over anti-union laws and the de-funding of Planned Parenthood, but I don’t feel this indignation over the slaughtered Libyans. I’ll admit I haven’t done anything beyond write a letter to my Democratic senator, but I still want to hear the anger from my peers. The protests and revolts in the Middle East and North Africa — and especially Libya — force us to ask some difficult questions. When a violent revolution against an oppressive dictator presents itself to the anti-war, pro-human rights crowd, how should we react? Can we support the rebels’ violence and still be consistent in our morals? There is little question that the anti-Gaddafi forces have done some truly reprehensible things, including lynching dozens of suspected mercenaries from other African countries. Nevertheless, we are beyond the point of being able to question whether the removal of Gaddafi can be violent and still moral. Before the revolt, we may have been able to charge Gaddafi with numerous war crimes and remove him with little violence. Though an unlikely scenario, we could still hope. Yet we can’t turn back the clock. In Libya today, we must side with the violent revolt — the alternative is Gaddafi’s brutal regime. Violence is necessary in this case; We can’t pussyfoot and hope for a ceasefire. Unless the United States supports intervention in Libya, it will be very difficult to say we should intervene as new cases of genocide present themselves to us.

Do we look like hypocrites if we support military action in Libya after denouncing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? The differences between Libya and our Cold War proxy wars should be obvious; This isn’t some big tactical play to defeat a purely existential threat, so those dozens of conflicts aren’t comparable. But if we look at our two ongoing wars there are some similarities. We are attacking a cruel dictator just as we were in Iraq. Yet military intervention in Libya would be for very different reasons. There is no claimed threat of WMDs since Gaddafi publicly dismantled those programs. We aren’t afraid he’s supporting al-Qaeda. In fact, he’s blamed both us and the terrorist group for inciting the current rebellion. Ultimately, Libya is in a state of humanitarian crisis — intervention should be simple. However, we can’t merely supply peace-keeping troops as we should be doing in Sudan.

Labor and reproductive rights are relatively easy positions to take in that the issues are clear-cut. It’s not as easy to support a war when we haven’t been attacked. Maybe you’re worried that if you support intervention and the U.S. and its allies fail to stop Gaddafi, you will later have to look back at your advocacy in shame. But if you don’t support international action, you will regret it whether we fail or not.

Of course, I could be completely wrong about the moral difficulties Oberlin students are going through, and you actually don’t care one way or another. It is an overwhelming problem on an international scale, and we can do almost nothing on an individual level. The UN rarely listens to petitions and picket lines. Understandably, almost all of us feel much closer to domestic and local problems that directly affect our community than to people being slaughtered thousands of miles away.