At the London conference of the coalition involved in trying to dislodge Muammar Gaddafi from Libya, Hillary Clinton declared she had met with representatives of the rebels, doctors, lawyers, obviously people interested in bringing about a pro-American government, who have been recognized by France’s right-wing president. Yet almost simultaneously, our President sounded a more cautious note.
Why? Because as the changing fortunes of battle show, Libyans are not all determined to dump the baby with the bath water. As in Syria, many may simply want to make the left-inspired regime more democratic, rather than become part of the world capitalist system that has done harm on a planetary scale. That is why by offering his people more freedom within a Baathist (Arab socialist) regime, Bashar el-Assad will have a better chance of remaining in power than did Mubarak or Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, both staunch conservatives.
Obsessed with the War on Terror, and secondarily with the threats occasioned by the Sunni-Shi’a divide, Americans still do not comprehend that spreading the wealth is part of the message of Islam. Those fighting on Libya’s dusty roads, while others are comfortably ensconced in London, may simply want to get rid of a man who, while touting revolution, lived the life of a Sheik, as shown in pictures of one of his London homes this morning.
Unlike the neatly delineated Cold War, the right/left divide is now playing out across the planet, and across religious boundaries. That is why the President of the most powerful country has a more nuanced approach to each episode in this upheaval than his Secretary of State.