Friday, April 1, 2011

"Just Win, Baby"

Maybe we should let Al Davis command in Libya. Colonel Duck's air forces and air defenses would long ago have been annihilated, the Marines would again be ashore in Tripoli and the Duck would be… out of power. Al, at least, understands winning. Of course, were this struggle merely a football match, Coach Qaddafi might be fired, to make room for someone more effective, aggressive, innovative, ruthless; someone able to rally the team and lead it back next season.

Which illustrates the difference between winning and victory. Victors destroy their enemies or at least the enemys' ability and will threaten them. Hannibal won a series of brilliant battles against Rome, but lost the war. Hitler drove the British into the sea and lost that war. Hannibal could not muster the resources to crush Rome, while Hitler failed to understand the need to secure his Atlantic flank. In contrast, Eisenhower and Stalin crushed the Nazi armies and put the Nazi leaders on trial. There is no question that the coalition against Col. Duck has the resources to obliterate his armed forces. The question is whether the coalition has the will for victory.

Coalition leaders have been disturbingly vague on that point. We have heard much of “humanitarian intervention" while any suggestion of "regime change" has been studiously avoided. The implication seems to be at the Allied intervention would end if the Col. would simply commit to behave himself, or at least forswear slaughtering his opponents. My doctor might call this approach “treating the symptoms, not the problem." It has been tried before. Napoleon was exiled to Elba, only to escape, renew his wars, and cause the deaths of thousands more. In living memory, Saddam Hussein was left in power following the first gulf war, although that coalition encouraged the Iraqis to rebel. Some did, and were annihilated. That coalition lacked the will to victory. It won the war and lost the peace. The Iraqi people are still paying for that lack of vision and determination.

Thus the question: is the coalition committed to removing the Colonel and seeing to it that he is replaced by a stable civil society that respects the rule of law and does not threaten its neighbors (also known as “nation building”) or is this action a mere “punitive expedition,” in the best colonial tradition, intended to impress on the Colonel, and others of his ilk, that the “civilized world” will stomach just so much brutality. But, so long as he doesn't cross that threshold, he is free to do as he pleases. Based on the latest pronouncements, the latter is the case. Dictators will be permitted to continue to brutalize their nations, provided they spout properly anti-American rhetoric and offer a reliable source of supplies upon which the developed nations rely – such as the French dependence upon Libyan oil.

Somewhere Clive and Rhodes and Kitchener, those epic builders of empires, masters of the exploitation of native peoples for the benefit of Western powers are rolling on the floor laughing, for the First Black President has clearly taken up The White Man's Burden.