From Iran to Algeria and across the Middle East, a generation of young people has demanded that its voice be heard, calling for new or reformed governments. On either extreme of the spectrum of Arab revolutions, there are two different models for today’s uprisings: Morocco and Libya, each with implications for stability in the region.
America's support and involvement have wavered along a range, with serious implications, as well. We see the most drastic US action in the recent military strikes against Muammar Qaddafi’s forces in Libya, as part of a UN resolution authorizing a no-fly zone and other necessary measures to protect the opposition and civilian populations. But such an intervention is fraught with complications that not only jeopardize the US but also the very people the allied military mission seeks to protect.
While Libya’s dictator, Mr. Qaddafi has fought protesters with brutal force, leaving as many as 10,000 dead, by some estimates, Morocco’s King Mohamed VI has agreed to slight reforms, in an effort to appease the protesters. Morocco has been under a sea of protests for over a month now. Many of the protesters’ demands are not different from those recently heard around the Arab world: more jobs and lower food prices.
The Morocco model for change
Mr. Mohamed has responded with a speech in which he pledged to expand “individual and collective liberties.” He announced that he would give up power to name a prime minister. He also announced amendments to the constitution that include an elevated judiciary and a parliament drawn from free and fair elections.
But these reforms have not altered the very basics of the government as they have in Egypt, which experienced a drastic collapse of the government and an exit of its leaders. Morocco’s king will still retain most of his executive powers, and the nation remains a constitutional monarchy. Changes are much more conservative in nature: small incremental shifts that reflect the culture and times of the world without looking to radically alter or systematically change society in the name of ideology.
Though the chances that the Moroccan people will be completely and quickly lifted out of their poverty may still be slim, the compromise between the people and the ruling monarchy will make transition and eventual change much more stable.
Consequences of West in Libya
Qaddafi’s Libya is another world entirely. The United States, Britain, and France, in their latest cold war victors’ reunion, have begun bombing Qaddafi forces. Once seen as the new prince of peace, President Obama recently gave a speech that could have been written by David Frum and other hawkish neocons: "Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world." Somewhere in the White House there is a portrait of Dick Cheney smiling.
But there’s plenty of reason for Americans and Libyans to be frowning. The intention of Western forces to protect opposition groups and civilians from Qaddafi’s planes and artillery will still not protect the civilians and rebels from his tanks and ground forces, which are far better trained and more well armed then the rebels. Facing a situation where he must act in haste for fear of continued allied military action, it is entirely possible that more civilians will be slain due to a scorched earth policy. The Western allies must remember: This is a man who has been in power longer then any other Arab leader, over 40 years. He has already promised "a long, drawn-out war."
Complications of anti-US blowback
The West faces another complication from military intervention in Libya: blowback. When the first Western bombs fell on March 19, an estimated 48 people were killed and 150 wounded in a civilian area, according to Libyan TV. If the collateral damage of intervention is a few dozen Libyan children and family members, what kind of deep resentment and anger can the US expect from their cousins, brothers, sons, and fathers? Will they answer the call of the radical sect of Islam against the West?
Anti-Americanism appears to run high in Libya. According to a Center for a New American Security blog, “Libyans were apparently more fired up to travel to Iraq to kill Americans than anyone else in the Middle East.” Based on an analysis of the Sinjar Records (Al Qaeda documents), CNAS continues, “On a per capita basis...twice as many foreign fighters came to Iraq from Libya – and specifically eastern Libya – than from any other country in the Arabic-speaking world.” Blowback may be brutal from a people who have not yet seen the complicated impact of the American military on their lives and land.
US can't afford to fight this battle
The movement for a more democratic Middle East may be noble and in keeping with American ideology, but this battle is not America’s battle to fight. As the Western allies bomb Qaddafi’s forces to protect rebels and civilians, America is reeling from two other wars in the Middle East that have left it with 6,000 dead and 30,000 wounded and more than a trillion dollars in lost treasure.
Change in Arab governments may come conservatively, as in Morocco, or drastically, as in Egypt, or with the blood of thousands, as in Libya. However, it is not in the American interest to adopt Middle Eastern nations to democratize. John Quincy Adams once cautioned, "America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy." The United States must return to being or remain (depending on your worldview), in Mr. Adams words, "a well-wisher to freedom and independence of all…. the champion and vindicator only of her own.”
US intervention, like that being undertaken in Libya, may result in massive civilian causalities, anti-American blowback, and an hasten US bankruptcy.
Ryan James Girdusky is a senior at Queens College and former president of the Queens Young Republicans. He has previously been published on World Net Daily and is a frequent contributor on the radio show Living Truth with Gina Loudon.