Sunday, March 27, 2011

Media and Politicians Ill Informed on Libya

NPR's On the Media has a great show on how much of our media and many of our politicians -- most of all Newt -- are fools on Libya. Many people are comparing Libya to Iraq, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Kosovo and Somalia. Foreign Policy editor Blake Hounshell says if Libya resembles anything it's Bosnia, only in Bosnia it took too long to save the masses from slaughter there. With Libya, the decision to act came in weeks.
Hounshell says one of the worst commentaries on Libya so far was one in the Nation that said Obama's female advisers "bewitched" Obama into getting involved. He said one of the best commentaries was by Nicholas Kristof. Hounshell says the story of Libya, where people are fighting and dying for freedom, has become a partisan slugfest. Our media have turned Libya into a stupidfest, indeed. Just like it does with nearly every topic that matters. Listen:

From Kristof's story:
In 2005, the United Nations approved a new doctrine called the “responsibility to protect,” nicknamed R2P, declaring that world powers have the right and obligation to intervene when a dictator devours his people. The Libyan intervention is putting teeth into that fledgling concept, and here’s one definition of progress: The world took three-and-a-half years to respond forcefully to the slaughter in Bosnia, and about three-and-a-half weeks to respond in Libya.

Granted, intervention will be inconsistent. We’re more likely to intervene where there are also oil or security interests at stake. But just as it’s worthwhile to feed some starving children even if we can’t reach them all, it’s worth preventing some massacres or genocides even if we can’t intervene every time.
For all the questions there is a simple answer:
Critics of the intervention make valid arguments. It’s true that there are enormous uncertainties: Can the rebels now topple Colonel Qaddafi? What’s the exit strategy? How much will this cost?

But weighed against those uncertainties are a few certainties: If not for this intervention, Libyan civilians would be dying on a huge scale; Colonel Qaddafi’s family would be locked in place for years; and the message would have gone out to all dictators that ruthlessness works.