Friday, 21 October 2011

Some perspective is in order

It’s too bad Khaddafy wasn’t captured alive and put on trial, both to educate Libyans and the entire world about exactly what took place under his rule as well as to start off the new regime with a display of respect for human rights as a universal norm and value. However, that’s probably asking a lot of people who have been terrorized for four decades and barely have a functioning military hierarchy among the rebel forces. So it’s a pity, but hardly surprising. And incidentally, it’s their revolution. Maybe they decided to follow the Obama example: when you find your enemy, you blast his effing head off (in the absence of a handy drone missile).

Nonetheless, it’s legitimate to express dismay at the execution-style killing of the dictator. Less acceptable is the constant undercurrent of doubt, pessimism and sniping at how the Libyans have handled their uprising from the start. Today’s Guardian wasted no time with this headline mere hours after the assassination: ‘Libya’s revolution has triumphed, but will democracy?’ A fair question, one that was never asked of, say, Czechoslovakia or Russia in the early 1990s. I wish I had assembled the more glaring examples in recent months, but a media historian ought to. They give off a faint whiff of racism from the Wise Ones of western punditry who apparently cannot fathom that an oppressed people not led by somebody who looks like them can pull off a revolution and then successfully and adequately organize their society for the well-being of its inhabitants. And just wait, we will soon hear about the skeery, dangerous Islamic politicians who may get a foothold now—not that anyone worried much about how the overthrow of communism empowered reactionary Polish Catholics or Hungarians nostalgic for Admiral Horthy.

Finally, why is it so hard to accept that NATO played a positive role in the outcome? The world is not comprised of the innocent and the evil locked in eternal combat, but of highly problematic bipeds whose motives are rarely free of ambiguity. NATO and Obama could have let Khaddafy’s tanks roll into Benghazi and his minions massacre tens of thousands, Bashir Assad-style. In that case certain knee-jerk elements would be accusing the U.S. of complicity in genocide and denouncing BP’s oil deals. You can never please some people. There are now 100 million Arabs living in three revolutionary regimes across North Africa. This is a good thing.

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