I know that soccer can engage and enrage the senses. And doubtless there have been other occasions when sports fans have killed and been killed in the frenzy of a game … or after. In Boston seven years ago, after a Red Sox win over the Yankees that clinched the American League pennant and was being celebrated in the streets, a 21-year old college student was killed and 16 others were wounded by police trying to control the crowds.
This is a subject about which we’re not supposed to speak. Or write. Well, I suppose we can allude. But not in detail. So, even though bloodletting is a daily occurrence in the orbit of Islam, discussing it is forbidden. At least among the sensitive, the sensitive left most notably. By which I mean, firstly, folk who think of themselves as universal souls but see others, Americans and Brits, French and Germans, Italians and Dutch, also the bulk of English speakers wherever they are, as retrograde. Patriots, for God’s sake, patriotism being not only a dirty concept but a dirty word.
Forgive the corny metaphors. But it was not I who framed developments in the Arab world with the sequence of the seasons. Still, you need only glance at the papers to recognize that Arab Spring is now Arab Winter without really ever having passed through summer or fall. Spring is, as ever, a romantic memory. As I write, Reuters reports from the Cairo morgue that 33 to 46 protestors were killed by the police since Saturday—and that nearly 1,300 were wounded and maimed.
Colonel Qaddafi is dead, and he was apparently killed by Libyan liberation forces although there is a slight chance that the actual death-weapon was another truly decisive contribution of NATO in the war against the more-than-mad dictator. If this hypothesis gains currency, watch for the clamor of complaint from the Russians, the Chinese, the Cubans, the Venezuelans, and a bunch of African states that were on the tyrant’s payroll that justice has been pre-empted by the trigger-happy Western Europeans.
The U.S. economy being what it is, it should come as no surprise that most Americans, including the minority with a keen interest in foreign policy, have been focused on domestic issues. What is less understandable is why that internationally-minded remnant should have been so concerned with events in Libya to the virtual exclusion of any other part of the world. This has been particularly true of mainstream liberals, and the media outlets that reflect their views, above all the New York Times, CBS, ABC, and NBC.
The Arabs of Palestine have always nurtured a strategy to avoid negotiating a peace deal with the Israelis; and it is that they won’t negotiate at all unless Israel meets so many Palestinian preconditions that the map from which they and their Arab neighbors launched their wars would be completely restored in advance of talks. Poof: There was no Six Day War in 1967 and there was no Yom Kippur War in 1973. Forget both of these and smaller battles in between and after. Then, OK, let’s meet and see where we can go from here or actually there.
Four months after American submarines began launching missiles and U.S. pilots began flying sorties, does anyone, perhaps even including President Obama, really know what we are trying to do in Libya? It is true that, compared to Afghanistan, a major war whose outcome is generally agreed to hang in the balance, and to Iraq, from which we have not yet completely withdrawn, and even to Somalia and Yemen, where the tempo of our counterinsurgency operations have been steadily increasing, both directly and by proxy, Libya may seem minor.
The defection of Libyan oil czar Shukri Ghanem has reignited hope that Muammar Qaddafi’s regime is inching toward collapse. Yet this supposedly “high-level defection” was anything but. Ghanem, the chairman of the National Oil Corporation, was a marginal, American-educated technocrat recruited to ingratiate Libya with an international community suspicious of the eccentric Qaddafi and wary of his 20 years of support for terrorist groups.
As Muammar Qaddafi wages war on his own people, whatever international support he once enjoyed has almost entirely dried up. The first to go were his powerful friends in Great Britain; former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who helped rehabilitate the Libyan dictator after he surrendered his nuclear weapons program in 2003, privately urged him to step down.
Had the purpose of an air exclusion zone over Libya been solely to protect the people of Benghazi and of other insurgent-controlled areas in the east from being massacred by Colonel Qaddafi’s advancing forces, opposing it might still have made intellectual sense, but it would not have made moral sense, which is what should count most. Qaddafi had promised a slaughter in the evening before the United Nations authorized the Western intervention, and there was no sane reason not to take him at his word.