The biggest problem is that we have no idea whether the rebels in Libya are freedom fighters at all. Some are, especially the English-speaking, western-educated young people who are prime targets for visiting journalists. But how relevant are they to the real power struggle? Who are the non-English-speaking tribal elders? Are they democracy loving freedom fighters...or just Qaddafis-in-waiting? It's a question to be asked not only in Libya, but also in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain. One hopes for the best--especially in Egypt, where there are signs that the Army is allowing at least a partial transition away from autocracy. But who knows, really? Even Iraq's democracy is looking shaky these days as Nouri al-Maliki seems intent on consolidating his power.
I do not doubt the sincerity and good intentions of those appalled by Qaddafi's brutality. Obviously, I share it. But this is where morality must address prudence if we are to make actual, real-life decisions in a fallen world. And if we haven't learned that these "societies" are beyond our understanding, that military intervention can bring unintended consequences, that democratic revolutions only have a chance if they emerge indigenously ... then what have we learned?
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