Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Truth About Libya: Some Nation Building Projects Are Smaller Than Others

President Obama has explained his decision to intervene in Libya with the statement "America is different." In a lot of people's minds that leaves open the question, "How is Libya different?"

I posited a few days ago that were probably 20 nations that could benefit from military intervention, and below is my list, either where the international community could help struggling governments deal with terrorists or insurgents or could replace brutal dictators and restore human rights protections. Indeed, you could probably add another 20 countries to the list, which illustrates the scope and scale of problems facing the world.

Democratic Republic of Congo67,827,000
Myanmar (Burma)50,496,000
North Korea23,991,000
Ivory Coast21,571,000
Palestinian Territories3,935,249

The U.S. has been militarily engaged overtly or covertly in several of these countries already, most notably Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq since the Reagan and Bush administrations.

Where is Libya on this list? Near the bottom in terms of population. Let's lump together the seemingly intractable and intertwined problems in the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, and Syria. Libya is the country on the list that poses the smallest problem.

That may be the Obama strategy, to work the list from the bottom up. Once Libya stabilizes (along with its larger neighbors Tunisia and Egypt), the next on the list would be the pirate menace to international shipping of from Somalia. Then you work with the European Union and Russia to bring democracy and new elections to Belarus. Next comes normalization of relations with Cuba perhaps with help from the emerging economic powerhouse Brazil and the other members of the Organization of America States. Then you work with South Africa and the African Union on human rights in Zimbabwe.

The real promise to the new international approach that President Obama is touting would be creation of the additional leverage to allow the world to move forward on more of these problem countries simultaneously. Indeed, the U.S. might not be necessary in Belarus, if Russia and the European Union can join together.

Indeed, if China wants to show that it is ready to take a positive lead role on the international stage, it can take the lead in breaking the nuclear weapons impasse in North Korea and Iran. That would show the American people that they have something to gain from internationalism. A cynic would say that can't happen, but I'm ready to be proved wrong.

No comments: