Monday, May 2, 2011

Now, Back to Libya, Which is Already in Progress

I have been in drone mode, I guess, lulled into assuming that official pronouncements about what is happening and what is supposed to happen in Libya are substantive and not examples par excellence of what George Orwell said all political speech is: intended to give the illusion of solidity to pure wind.

We are told that nobody is going to put European or American “boots on the ground,” but it is obvious now and should have been obvious from the start that there are only two alternatives:

1. That American troops will go to Libya and take out Muammar Gaddafi’s military and then him, or else,

2. Gaddafi will continue to rule Libya until he dies of natural or self-inflicted causes, and that he will exact his vengeance on Europe and America.

There are no other alternatives. Troops will either be used against Gaddafi or we will have to live with his return to Libya’s state-sponsored terrorism of years past—the terrorism that brought you the Lockerbie bombing of twenty-two years ago.

This should have been obvious because it became clear during World War II that air power alone, using conventional bombs, can never bring a country to submission—unless, of course, you use nuclear bombs. At some point you have to send in the troops or else resistance will continue. (In 1928, an Italian military theorist wrote a book entitled “Air Power,” in which he argued that you CAN bring a country to its knees simply by dropping conventional bombs on it. The German Luftwaffe was very impressed by this theory and tried it out on Britain. It didn’t work and has been thoroughly discredited.)

It might seem surprising, given what I have said above, but I am not advocating that we send troops into Libya. I am saying that this is exactly the moment when we might still have a chance to step back from the brink and say, leave Gaddafi alone for the moment. We arguably already missed our moment when we could have eliminated him with surgical precision; every option from now on will just get messier and messier. One benefit to leaving him alone—though not a clean solution since Gaddafi himself will remain a problem—is that the Muslim Brotherhood would not gain power in Libya as they have in Egypt and look to be gaining elsewhere in the Middle East.

You Say Usama and I say Osama

Some might have noticed that Fox News last night called the Dead Head in Islamabad “Usama” instead of “Osama.” Lest anyone read anything into this, “Usama” is just the proper classical Arabic pronunciation and transliteration of bin Laden’s given name. There was no equivalent of “O” in classical Arabic. In Saudi Arabia, where bin Laden grew up, and where the modern dialect of Arabic does have the “O” sound, people probably did call him “Osama.” But the Quran is written in classical Arabic, and that book arguably exercises even more control over the conception of what is “correct” in the minds of Arabic speakers than the works of Shakespeare and the King James Bible do over the minds of English speakers. So calling him “Usama” instead of “Osama” is oddly respectful and proper. Of course, if you pronounce it “Usama” instead of “Osama,” it helps you to keep from saying “Obama” when you mean “bin Laden,” which everybody should start doing—saying “bin Laden” instead of “ ’sama” so you don’t say the wrong name.

Thought of the Day on Afghanistan

"The only thing worse than staying in Afghanistan, would be what will happen when we leave."

--former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger

Is that a valid conundrum or an excuse for continuing to do something stupid, like sticking your hand in a bear trap so that the only way to get it out is to risk sticking your other hand in?

Proposed Bumper Sticker

You rid us of Osama bin Laden,
But now, Obama, ban Biden.

1 comment:

  1. Four years later I see why they don't pay me the big bucks to make predictions. Native rebels did the boots on the ground bit, but it all backfired on the U.S. when not only Gaddafi but Obama's vicegerent got shafted by the rebels. Now Libya is out of control and mostly allied with ISIS.