We live in an increasingly smaller, more interconnected world — and the recent situation in Libya highlights this. It also spurs the question: What does the likely fall of the Muammar el-Qaddafi regime mean for Tennesseans?
For Tennesseans who serve in the U.S. military, a quick end to Qaddafi's bizarre, often brutal dictatorship will mean less chance that they may be killed or injured themselves, and that they will not be involved in operations that result it Libyan civilians ending up dead, wounded or homeless, however unintentionally. A major problem with U.S. military operations overseas is that our soldiers (and, therefore, our government and nation) end up being blamed for civilian casualties, which are almost inevitable when bombs and missiles start flying. So the sooner we end military operations in Libya, the better.
For all Tennesseans and for our brothers and sisters in Libya, there is the hope that a more stable Libyan government will emerge, and that hostilities between our nations can finally end forever. But of course every revolution carries the risk that someone just as bad (or perhaps even worse) will end up in power. So the coming days will likely be fraught with both hope and fear, especially for the people who live in the region.
Perhaps what we see happening in Libya suggests that the U.S. needs a “Reagan Doctrine” of limited military objectives and methods when we are not under direct attack. Ronald Reagan did use American military power at times, but he kept us out of major ground wars.
When Qaddafi sponsored terrorism in the 1980s, Reagan ordered our military to attack Tripoli, but he didn’t try to invade Libya and institute a democracy.
When suicide bombers killed 241 American marines on a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon in 1983, Reagan withdrew our troops from the region.
The first war against Saddam Hussein was fought with the limited objective of forcing Iraq to remove its military from Kuwait and honor its borders. While these operations were not perfect, they did not result in thousands of American deaths and trillions of American taxpayer dollars vanishing down the drain.
In Libya, the Obama administration didn’t repeat the mistakes made by the George W. Bush administration, when Dick Cheney said “Deficits don’t matter” and Donald Rumsfeld promised that the war in Iraq would be over in no more than five months. Hopefully we have learned an important lesson: American military power has its limitations and no amount of firepower can force other nations to welcome and embrace democracy.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.