Posted by: Martin Scherer | 24/08/2011

Libya – That’s the way to do it.

There could not be a greater contrast between the Bush/Blair Iraq crusade and the Cameron/Obama Libyan up-rising.

It’s not just the difference in loss of life, the bankrupting cost, or the time its taking. It is the fact that Iraq after Bush/Blair remains a great risk to the West whereas after Cameron/Obama Libya after will seek its place amongst the list of stable law abiding economies.

Cameron has been proved both right and righteous. Cameron has restored Britain’s reputation for being fair in its use of force.  Cameron has restored British pride and confidence that it can be a world leader and world respect for fairness. Will Obama and the USA get the same credit?

During his first term, Bush apologised for 50 years of US foreign policy propping up dictators with money and armaments. It wasn’t just the US that should have apologised. The colonisers, principally, France and Britain, looked at the map, ignored natural defendable boundaries of rivers and mountains, and drew straight lines where they chose. Worse, they ignored cultural boundaries, cutting cultures in half and forcing others to live like rats in a shoebox. The inevitable result was those cultures fought it out to determine who was King. Look at every major conflict around the world and you will see that is the root of the problem. Remember Biafra in Nigeria. Ruanda, the former Yugoslavia, the whole of the Middle East, Libya, and the country of my birth, Uganda, which is two whole nations and three half nations.  The West then fed dictators with loans and armaments to brutally suppress populations, so the West could plunder their natural resources.

During his first term and at his second inauguration, Bush changed that policy. He promised the USA would stand by those who sought their freedom. A fundamental seed change for which Bush deserves credit. Bush continued to fund groups within those countries to realise they could rise up and how they could do it. However, marching into Iraq, Bush completely ignored his own policy.

What about Obama? Sometimes the most difficult thing to do, is to do nothing. Doing nothing is always difficult for a politician. Leaders are expected to lead. We all know the feeling, when our children grow up. They must take charge of their own lives. They will make mistakes. They must learn from those mistakes or they will never grow to responsible independence.  Sometimes, parents and leaders, must fail those they lead and allow them learn for themselves.

The USA cannot rush in to everyone’s amazement and awe to solve every problem in the world, but as the most powerful nation of earth, the USA can set the expectations – the moral ground and objectives.

Power is nearly always more effective if not used than when used. Regan/Thatcher took that approach. Regan created a myth of awesome power – Star Wars. Thatcher said, ‘I’ll have a chunk of that’. A brilliant exercise of muscle flexing without revealing what power they really had. Russian leaders knew they
could not compete. To sleep easy in their beds, Russian leaders knew there was only one thing they could do. Westernise. The communist wall fell without a
shot being fired.

Responsibility for Libya did not lie at the feet of the USA alone. Responsibility lay with its people and neighbours. The Arab states, the African states and Europe. NATO had the responsibility to make it a fair fight by knocking out the superior armaments the West supplied to Gadhafi. Africa and Arab nations had a responsibility to say the dictator must go. The USA had the responsibility to say – sort it out or you cannot join the rich man’s club.

Obama did not say that. Despite that history, despite his famed oratory, Obama did not make that clear. Yet that is what Obama and the USA did and they deserve credit for it.

Libya may now fracture along cultural lines, especially if left alone. That seems unlikely. Arab and African leaders will not want Libya to fragment, for that will threaten their own positions. Libya has oil. The West wants the oil to flow because that will bring down oil prices and begin to restore investor confidence in world economies. Libya has a young westernised, western educated, population, who will want their country to unite and prosper.

Libya will become a beacon of what is possible in Arab states. The message to dictators is simple. Change, democratise, or your people will rise and the West will make sure it’s a fair fight.

Boys will be boys and boys will fight. When we were kids, boys watched American cowboy films of the Wild West. Great fun, bang, bang, but
no-one died. Nearly always those films taught the moral and judicious use of power. Education through entertainment. Regan rode that horse both in film and in politics. Socialists hated him for it.

Americans have a gun called the Peacemaker, which seems a pretty odd name for a gun. A gun is only a peacemaker if it stays in the holster. Once it comes out, someone is going to die. Global capitalism is the great peacemaker. No capitalist wants to shoot a supplier, drop bombs on countries where they have just built a factory, or shoot their customers.



  1. The problem, or one problem, is that these civil wars often result in trading one tyrant for another in countries that have no experience with democracy or anything remotely close to it, as opposed to the West, where democracy developed slowly over hundreds of years. I fear that trading one tyrant for another will be the result in Egypt, Libya and Syria.

  2. I would say, however, that perhaps Libya has the best chance. We’ll see.

    Boyd Lemon-Author of “Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages,” a memoir about the author’s journey to understand his role in the destruction of his three marriages. Information, excerpts and reviews:

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