Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Obama's Speech on Libya

Generally, I thought Obama's speech to the world nation was fair. It was well-written and he made a relatively compelling case for 'just' war in Libya (even though I personally don't believe that terminology to be very helpful).  You can come to your own conclusions about the military intervention, I, personally, have a lot of friends and respected thinkers on either side of the issue, interventionism and anti-interventionism.

One of the points that Obama formulated in his address was in regard to the "well why not military intervention in _____, there is a humanitarian crisis there" argument. I think it's a valid argument and Obama addressed it by saying that the military intervened in this case because American interests and values were at stake (although he didn't very clearly define what those interests of values were -- and no, I don't find 'protecting civilians' to be an American value. See 1,000,000 dead in Iraq for evidence) and because stopping Qaddafi was, more or less, a winnable battle.

Even though Obama made his counter-argument, I do want to return to "well, what about ______, why doesn't the US military do shit there" argument for the sake of pointing out the hypocrisy of it all.  Here are excerpts from Obama's speech:
In the face of the world's condemnation, ______ chose to escalate his attacks, launching a military campaign against the _____ people. Innocent people were targeted for killing. Hospitals and ambulances were attacked. Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted, and killed. Supplies of food and fuel were choked off. Water for hundreds of thousands of people in _____ was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled, mosques were destroyed, and apartment buildings reduced to rubble. Military jets and helicopter gunships were unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assaults from the air.
Sure, the president is obviously talking about Libya. But he could as easily be describing the Gaza Strip. Fill in the blanks with Netanyahu, Gazan, and Khan Younis, respectively. It fits like a glove, like a freaking glove.
It's true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what's right. In this particular country — ______ — at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the _____ people themselves. We also had the ability to stop _______'s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.
...
To brush aside America's responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.
Operation Cast Lead, anyone? 400 murdered children. You could cut aid to Israel, to the tune of $9 million/day, and you wouldn't have to put troops on the ground to stop the violence. Hell, you wouldn't even have to impose a no-fly zone. Just stop the hemorrhaging of US dollars and you bring the 'only half-assed attempt at democracy in the Middle East' to its knees.


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