why Libya?

Quite a few of my Chinese friends have asked me why America is attacking Libya right now.

Yeah, that’s how they phrased it.

There’s basically three ways for me to respond to this: 1) Repeat the president’s official justification, 2) Explain why I think it’s happening, and 3) Widen my eyes, point to something just behind the person asking me and say, “Holy crap! What the hell is that??!!” Then run off when they turn around to look.

I usually take option 3.

But it is interesting to see the Chinese reaction to the situation. Because for me, my first impulse is always to support the plucky freedom fighters against an authoritarian and totalitarian regime. Especially when the leader of said regime is a thoroughly unrepentant douchebag.

That’s why I support the protesters in Wisconsin, anyway.

But as far as Libya is concerned, I really liked the idea of a revolution initiated and spearheaded by the people for the purpose of overthrowing their corrupt dictator. But when it started to look like they were going to be brutally crushed unless they got some external support, I was fully in favor of said support.

The Chinese don’t really understand this. As far as they’re concerned, each country should handle its internal affairs on its own, without external interference.

Hard to imagine why they feel that way.

But aside from the, ahem, obvious reasons of self-interest, it really is a fundamental part of the Chinese cultural outlook to avoid meddling in the affairs of others as much as possible. Contrast this to the general “Yay freedom” cultural outlook Americans tend to have.

Well, depending on who happens to be in the White House, apparently.

Yeah, it seems kind of funny to me to watch various individuals accuse each other of hypocrisy due to their various stances on the current situation. After all, how does one justify supporting this current action if they condemned the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and conversely how does one condemn this current action if they supported overthrowing Saddam?

The similarities are striking. After all, both involve attacking an oil-rich country in the Middle East ruled by a malevolent dictator who has no problems with massacring his own people and could, in theory, be a threat to America or American interests and some point in the future.

Also, both have the color green on their flags.

But there are also some very important differences. For one thing, the current action in Libya is the result of a UN resolution, while the legality of the 2003 Iraq invasion is still debated. But more importantly, with Libya our help was requested, both by the rebels themselves and by the Arab League.

In the interest of honesty, I’ll admit that I was strongly against the invasion of Iraq, while I’ve already mentioned that I support the current action in Libya. In my mind, this isn’t a contradiction because we’re coming to the aid of a group that has asked for our help, much like France and the Netherlands came to the aid of the American Revolutionaries when they fought the British for the right to drink coffee instead of tea and to get rid of all the superfluous vowels from our language.

Such is my understanding of the American Revolution, anyway.

Still, all this really proves is that human beings are good at rationalizing things. I would love to see a stable and democratic Libya allied with the United States in the future, but that outcome is by no means guaranteed. And I can’t pretend that America is doing this for purely altruistic reasons. After all, if we really cared so much about the lives of innocent civilians, why did we do nothing to prevent—or even mitigate—the staggering loss of life in the Second Congo War? Now you might argue that in the late 1940s we were just coming out of World War II and the Great Depression and were in no position to get involved in a war in Africa at that time, but if that’s your reasoning your knowledge of history is as bad as mine, because the Second Congo War started in 1998. And as of 2008, 5.4 million people have died because of it—mostly from disease and starvation. Had you even heard of it? I hadn’t until I came across the Wikipedia article while I was looking for something else.

5.4 million people, by the way, is only a little less than the current population of Libya.

So yeah, America only intervenes in conflicts when it’s convenient and in our own selfish interests, but that’s pretty much true for every country. After all, China doesn’t exactly continue to unconditionally support North Korea because they just love their wacky antics so much. But at the end of the day, I still support the action in Libya, even if it is a little hypocritical of me to do so. I really hope it ends up being a positive step for both the people of Libya, and the perception of America in the world.

For a much better analysis from a much brighter and funnier guy, I highly recommend Scott Adam’s post on the same topic.

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About Critical Awesomeness
I'm a 32-year-old American with a PhD in chemistry and a green hat. Only one of these two things is really important.

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