Fouad Ajami on respecting the end of a despot "The end of despots is always odd," writes Fouad Ajami in The Wall Street Journal, "exhilarating to those who suffered their tyrannies," and "anti-climactic" when we see that "these tyrants were petty, frightened men after all." Muammar Qaddafi grew up poor and came to power in "an era when the Arab world still believed that rough men from the military would dispense justice, upend the old order of kings and notables, and bring about a 'revolutionary' society." He "modeled himself" after Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and when Nasser died, many saw him as "inheritor of the revolutionary mantle." Oil gave him power, and slowly he set up a police state. Western powers deferred to him because of his oil, wealth, and flattery, Ajami says, but then Arab Spring broke out in Tunisia and Egypt. Qaddafi's mistake was to threaten a "bloodbath" in his own rebellious city of Benghazi, allowing America and others to take action. Obama hadn't sought this conflict, but the threat against Libya's people and the urging of Britain and France settled it. And, in fact, Tripoli should hold historical meaning for Americans, Ajami writes. Our nation's first foreign battles took place there. Americans aren't now in the mood for foreign conflict. "This awakening -- the Arab Spring -- is being second-guessed at every turn. Islamists stalk these rebellions, we are told." But America didn't start this movement, and we owe it respect. "We needn't dispatch our forces to all lands of trouble, but our burden of celebrating liberty on foreign shores endures."
Lisa Jackson on Republican polluters This year, "Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and our nation's environmental laws," writes EPA administrator Lisa Jackson in the Los Angeles Times. "[J]ust last week they voted to stop the EPA's efforts to limit mercury and other hazardous pollutants from cement plants, boilers and incinerators." The Republicans have rolled back environmental protections, claiming they prevent job creation, a job plan which Jackson calls "too dirty to fail." Republicans want to give polluters "a pass" on regulations with which many plants already comply. "The measures would indefinitely delay sensible upgrades to reduce air pollution from industrial boilers located in highly populated areas," and that could mean "the difference between sickness and health -- in some cases, life and death -- for hundreds of thousands of citizens." Many of the pollutants that could be allowed in the air cause life-threatening diseases, and Republicans want Americans to choose "between their health and the economy," even though "No credible economist links our current economic crisis -- or any economic crisis -- to tough clean-air and clean-water standards." Better, she says, to heed President Obama's idea for agencies that will revise unnecessary regulations "while ensuring that essential health protections remain intact." We could even employ Americans in installing pollution controls in outdated plants, simultaneously preventing "asthma, respiratory illness and premature deaths." In the past, Americans have treated environmental protection as "non-partisan matters." "Our environment affects red states and blue states alike. It is time for House Republicans to stop politicizing our air and water. Let's end 'too dirty to fail.'"