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Michael Berube: Libya and the Left


Libya and the Left | The Point Magazine: I hope nothing I have written here will be taken as jejune triumphalism about the fall of Qaddafi—or that of Hosni Mubarak, or Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. It is not inconceivable that a popular uprising against a brutal dictator, some elements of which are supported by Western liberals, could produce an Islamist state whose policies are abhorrent to Western liberals. What is now called the Arab Spring might eventually become known as “the year 1979 went viral.”…

[O]ne thing does seem clear even now: when the Arab Spring began, American liberals and leftists generally cheered it on; American conservatives were torn, holding fast to Kissingerian realism or the desires of the Likudnik bloc or the firm conviction that whatever Obama was or was not or might be doing, it was wrong. (This last principle, infinitely elastic, is what allowed senior Republican statesmen and Deeply Serious People like John McCain and Newt Gingrich to take three or four positions on Libya in the course of a week; when Qaddafi was finally killed, the same statesmen graciously congratulated the French while chastising Obama for delaying the necessary regime change through his dithering.) When, however, the American military joined NATO forces in an armed defense of the Libyan rebellion and a counterattack on Qaddafi, suddenly thousands of leftists had second thoughts. With astonishing rapidity, the “Arab Spring” signs disappeared, and thousands of “Power to the People” signs were replaced with newly minted slogans about stopping the imperialist war machine and its wanton rape of Libya….

[F]or what I call the Manichean Left, opposition to U.S. policy is precisely an opposition to entities: all we need to know, on that left, is that the U.S. is involved. Then we know that the action is wrong, whatever it may be…