If Muammar Qaddafi violently suppresses the Libya uprising while America stands by, will Arab and Muslim opinion really believe that we were “neutral”? Or will they believe that we tacitly support Qaddafi – as they believed through the 1990s that we tacitly supported Saddam Hussein? ~David Frum
Does anyone accept the idea that Arab and Muslim publics believe the U.S. tacitly supported Saddam Hussein in the 1990s? This is risible. The massacres of Shi’ites after Desert Storm followed President Bush’s decision to call for an uprising against Hussein, which created the expectation of U.S. support that Bush had no intention of providing. The mistake was to give people in Iraq false hope, which is effectively what a lot of advocates of intervention in Libya argue that the administration should be doing. Just as earlier proponents of rollback had given false hope to the Hungarians that the U.S. would aid their uprising, Bush encouraged people to launch a suicidal rebellion. The U.S. wasn’t perceived as tacitly supporting Hussein. The shame of the 1991 massacres was that the U.S. had stupidly implied that it would give support to rebels that it wasn’t prepared to deliver.
Frum has several more questions, but this one stood out for its absurdity:
If you are a Libyan insurgent and you are offered arms by international Islamist groups, do you say yes or no?
Libyan rebels would likely say yes and would have done so anyway, not least because many of the Libyan rebels are jihadists and sympathizers with those same “international Islamist groups.” As The Economist reported last week:
Libyans have a strong jihadist tradition, going back a century to Omar Mukhtar, who conducted a holy war for two decades against the colonising Italians; he lost but remains a heroic unifying symbol. Religious, tribal and nationalist feeling is still strong. More recently, Libyan jihadists have been prominent in Iraq, where, according to a study by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center in 2008, Libyans (nearly all from the eastern part of the country) made up a fifth of foreign jihadists, the second-largest group after the Saudis and the highest per person of any country. Sufian bin Qumu, a rebel leader in Darna, north-east of Benghazi, was once Osama bin Laden’s chauffeur.
If Frum is concerned about the growing power of Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood (some of which has been made possible by the Iraq war and U.S. democracy promotion), why does he want the U.S. to intervene in a conflict that will help put such people in positions of power? How does it weaken Iranian influence if the U.S. is pulled into a Libyan civil war? How can it be to America’s advantage in trying to contain Iranian influence if its attention and resources are diverted into yet another conflict that has nothing to do with American interests?
For sheer irrelevance, this question also caught my attention:
If you are the president of Venezuela and you lose an election, how will you react when President Obama tells you that you “must” honor the election results?
Does Hugo Chavez base his reactions to anything said by Obama or any other Western leader on anything other than his interest in consolidating power? Is Obama supposed to take military action in Libya so that he can more effectively scold Hugo Chavez for electoral fraud? This is supposed to be an example of how Obama will damage U.S. “credibility” by not intervening in Libya, and it is just as ridiculous as you would expect it to be.