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Written by Joshua Patton,
When former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek stepped down and ceded the power of his office to the military in Egypt, many saw victory for the peaceful protestors. I was concerned, however, because once the military takes hold of a country it is often difficult for them to let it go. In fact, I thought in the vacuum left by no opposition leader, no rallying figure to unite the people, that perhaps a flamboyant Colonel might take power and Egypt would end up looking like Libya.
Yet, the opposite happened. Egypt has just held what is perhaps the first election in decades in which the outcome was not already known. They have seemingly embraced this breakneck pace to representative democracy and have taken steps to elect those who will write the new Egyptian constitution. In fact, democracy has taken hold so well that some of the original protest leaders already feel that those running for office are out of touch with Egypt’s populace. Across the Middle East, uprisings like those in Egypt and Tunisia seemed to herald a wave of democracy much like many in the Bush Administration said would happen after the invasion of Iraq.
Only, Libya is what it looks like when it goes wrong. Gadhafi is a megalomaniac that has a history of terrorism and violence. Ronald Regan ordered the bombing of Libya in 1986, an attack which resulted in the death of Gadhafi’s young daughter. Now, he turned his military against his own people. The Libyans chance for a peaceful revolution died with the protestors who first felt the sting of Gadhafi’s army.
However, the US and our allies have since launched 124 Tomahawk missiles into Libya, hitting military targets with a prime focus on establishing the no-fly zone and protecting the rebel forces and citizens of Benghazi. Adm. Mike Mullen made the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows to establish that this is a joint effort and that he hopes that soon the US will take a “supportive” role and the end game of the mission is to make it safe for “humanitarian” missions to help the people. President Obama also reiterated that the US would not be committing ground forces to Libya, prompting IAVA founder Paul Rieckhoff to comment, “Good. I really don’t want to have to add a[n] L to IAVA,” on his Facebook and Twitter pages.
The Arab League has condemned the actions of the Allies and has promised to convene to reexamine their support for the activities in Libya. However, the meeting may be all for naught. Gadhafi called for a cease-fire shortly after the initial bombing, however his forces still advanced. There is a report of another call for a cease-fire, but the US is waiting to see if Gadhafi’s forces actually do lay down their arms considering Gadhafi referred to the US and allies as “new Nazis.” His son and adviser, Saif Gadhafi, appeared on This Week with Christine Amanpour and saying that the west was helping “terrorists” and that the armed militia was comprised of “gangsters.” While this is patently false, it does nip at the heels of the real question that we must face as a nation: how far does this go? Will there be a coalition to step up and take the lead on this, and, if so, what support will that coalition need? The only certainty is that Gadhafi will not quietly slink away like Mubarek, but instead seems determined to defy the will of the world at any cost.