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Benghazi, Libya and the Arab Spring--what have we learned?

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2014 1:49 pm    Post subject: Benghazi, Libya and the Arab Spring--what have we learned? Reply with quote

I spent two weeks in France, where the news available in English was very different than anything you get in the US. First, nobody tried to blame Obama for what was going wrong in the world, whether in Libya or Nigeria. Indeed, most of the European world sees the United States as irrelevant to those struggles. Second, it became clear that militias in Libya have come to civil war, making Benghazi a very unsafe place, and most countries were removing their diplomatic staff. Nobody in Europe thinks that this is the fault of either Obama or Hillary Clinton.

So it seemed like time to revisit a very savvy comment by Boggsy on this thread:

If you want to have an adult conversation about Middle East policy and the role of USA, it would be welcome. If you're bored on a Tuesday morning, and want to provoke a response from a liberal, you'll have to look elsewhere.

Of course, since the subject de jour was Libya, the oh-so experienced and humble mrgybe reminded us all that Libya was in Africa, and then went on to take Obama to task. Of course, he had to reverse direction multiple times, as the official position of conservatives was whatever Obama wanted to do was wrong. When the conservatives cried for bombing and no-fly zones, and the administration seemed to lean in that direction, conservatives were left with criticizing his “indecision.” As if the decisiveness of the Bush administration into rushing to war in Iraq, with neither a plan nor a clue, was something to be emulated.

It is perhaps useful to look back at this administration’s response to the Arab Spring, and its aftermath, and see—not if either the pundits on the right or Obama was right, but ask whether or not we’ve learned anything. I think this is the true lesson of Libya and Benghazi.

There were certainly those on both the right and the left who thought we could make a difference in Libya, and that the elimination of Gaddafi was worth taking a chance. As Libya descends even further into chaos, it seems that judgment, with the benefit of hindsight, was wrong. (It is interesting to note the observation in this article that one of the root causes of this violence is the lack of a central government without any real power.) It seems to me that the clear lesson of Libya is that the empowering of militias that were capable of overthrowing Gaddafi left us with a legacy of violence and chaos. It is not fundamentally different than the lesson of Afghanistan, where the US efforts to foster a proxy war with Russia left us with trained militias, and ultimately the Taliban and Al Queda.

I wondered whether or not literacy had a role in the outcome, or at least in our perception of having a different outcome in Libya than in Afghanistan. After all, Libya has much better metrics of literacy, with nearly 90% of the adult population literate. This can be compared to 39% in Afghanistan—with the literacy rate of women only 13%. Syria weighs in at 84%, Iran at 82%, and Iraq at 84%--although only 64% of adult women in Iraq are literate. Egypt shows a similar gender disparity, with men at 81% and women at 65%. In all of those countries, literacy has risen dramatically, so Afghanistan is the sole example in the currently imploding Arab world without high literacy. (In Nigeria, where a struggle over literacy and religion dogs the north, literacy for men is 77% and 55% for women.)

Our military adventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Libya have not actually allowed the United States to project its power overseas, despite the cries on the far right for more of the same, and their attacks on Obama, and on all Democrats, as weak. How does that compare to the results for diplomacy? Let’s look at Iran—which Cheney tried in vain to get Bush to attack with nuclear weapons. Obama has taken a diplomatic approach, relying on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Here’s their latest report:

Joint Statement by Iran and IAEA
21 May 2014 | On 20 May 2014 the IAEA and the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) held another technical meeting within the Framework for Cooperation agreed between the parties last November.
During the meeting the two sides reviewed the good progress that had been made on the seven practical measures that were agreed three months ago.
Iran and the Agency also reached agreement on five additional practical measures (see attached) to be implemented in the next step.
The Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) agreed on the following practical measures to be implemented, pursuant to the Framework for Cooperation, by Iran by 25 August 2014.
1. Exchanging information with the Agency with respect to the allegations related to the initiation of high explosives, including the conduct of large scale high explosives experimentation in Iran.
2. Providing mutually agreed relevant information and explanations related to studies made and/or papers published in Iran in relation to neutron transport and associated modelling and calculations and their alleged application to compressed materials.
3. Providing mutually agreed information and arranging a technical visit to a centrifuge research and development centre.
4. Providing mutually agreed information and managed access to centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities.
5. Concluding the safeguards approach for the IR-40 reactor.

It seems that the Obama administration, whatever their indecision on Libya, has managed to learn the lessons of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. The United States will not be hailed as allies and saviors if they intervene in sectarian disputes in the Arab world. The American public, and the American economy, do not have the political will and money to actually invade and conquer these countries. Lesser efforts seem to unleash more chaos than change.

On the other hand, diplomatic efforts to control nuclear power, which proved effective in dealing with the fissionable material that wasn't secure after the dissolution of the USSR, seems to be making progress in Iran. Perhaps we should watch the Ukraine for a while and see what happens before we decide we know what to do next.
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Joined: 10 Jul 2005
Posts: 3228

PostPosted: Sun Jun 01, 2014 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Husseins people admitted that diplomacy was working and his Gov. was on the brink of collapse. President Cheney was aware of this.
That is one reason he announced the coming attack on Iraq in the first day of his taking office. He had to hurry or Clinton's diplomacy efforts were going to work to take down Saddam.
First he had to trick American Conservatives into supporting the trillions of wasted money and lives.
Did not prove hard with the help of the fake media.
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