Earlier tonight, President Obama laid out his case justifying the need for U.S. military intervention in Libya, where coalition forces under the auspices of a United Nations resolution have been knocking out the air defenses of its brutal dictator. The United States and its allies are working to prevent Muammar al-Gaddafi from continuing to kill the citizens of his country who protest his regime.
These actions have had the effect of bolstering the opposition forces in their efforts to overthrow the government.
In Bahrain, it’s a somewhat different story. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has found himself the subject of protests by his people, and he too has resorted to violence. But unlike the Libyan strongman, the Bahraini king has received a little help from his friends: the Saudi royal family.
Local residents say they saw Saudi troops driving across the causeway that links the two countries early on Monday.
There was no official comment on the presence of the troops, but a Saudi official said “the force will work under the directions of the Bahraini government and protect vital facilities like oil and power.”
The Saudi troops are in addition to the brutal crackdown that began a couple of weeks ago in Bahrain’s Manama Square.
So what’s the difference between the situation in Libya and the situation in Bahrain? The hypocrisy of the United States government with regard to a government’s violence against its citizens.
On the one hand, there is Muammar al-Gaddafi, a brutal dictator/terrorist who has been a thorn in the side of civilized society for the better part of the past thirty years. He’s been considered a pariah by Western nations since the 1970’s for the brutal repression of his citizens and involvement in state-sponsored terrorism. The international community has now decided to protect Libya’s citizens, a decision that seems very reasonable given the circumstances. Certainly, there is very little public sympathy for Libya’s tyrant.
But let’s not forget that in 2009, Senator John McCain led a delegation to Libya where, among other things, American military equipment was delivered to the regime. The visit was after the now-famous meeting between President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice with Gaddafi, following Libya’s removal from the list of states sponsoring terrorists.
In August 2009 he led a delegation of senators, including fellow hawks Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, on a trip to visit the Libyan leader in Tripoli. Discussed during the visit was delivery of — get this — American military equipment to Gadhafi (a man with American blood on his hands no less).
On the other hand, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has employed similar violent tactics against his citizens and invited the Saudi army to back him up.
It should come as no surprise that the king has received training and instruction by the United States Army. From his official government biography:
On June 21, 1972, H.M. the king joined the US Army Command and Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the United States of America.
He was awarded the military honor certificate from the United States of America for his achievements in military affairs since 1968 and his name was enlisted in the college’s lieutenant honors list.
Seems we may have heard the story of an American trained/educated/backed foreign leader before (Saddam Hussein, anyone?) So why would the United States look the other way in one case but employ air strikes in the other?
Perhaps the reason the Obama Administration looks the other way is because Libya only exports two percent of the world’s oil while Saudi Arabia is an ally (we have a major air bade in Riyadh) who is the world’s largest exporter of oil. And as late as 2009, the United States was still the world’s largest consumer of oil, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“I know there are clashes between your interests and your values. Where is your democracy values? Where is it? We want to see these values,” he said.
Where are our values, indeed? Either we support free speech and the rights of people to redress their grievances, or we don’t. Considering those values are included in our Constitution, which politicians of all stripes like to reverentially quote, it’s fair to say that Americans support these fundamental rights.
So why not engage in Darfur, where the Sudanese government has systematically killed countless civilians for years? What about Myanmar (Burma)? It’s not like there aren’t other repressive regimes in the world.
Reasonable people will argue whether or not the United States should get involved in the internal politics of another nation, even when a repressive regime kills its own citizens who exercise such rights. Certainly our nation cannot and should not police every human rights violation in the world. However, before making decisions to commit military personnel and equipment to such a cause, the President has an obligation to determine whether that action is consistent with American foreign policy actions, not just rhetoric.