by Sundar J.M. Brown
One alternative to the closing argument presented in today’s New York Times editorial, is that the United States should involve itself in the Libya situation only insofar as is necessary to effect the safe removal of all American citizens from Libyan territory. After verifying their safe removal, the U.S. should formally cut all ties with Libya, insisting that Libya manage and resolve its own mess.
Now, this is much easier said than done in entirety. Polities are very complex and complicated entities, and the politics between them even more so. The intermeshing of trade economics, foreign policy, and foreign relations, especially with other countries who may factor in as second or third tier considerations in the sovereign puzzle, cannot be instantaneously undone. An attitude of non-involvement and non-cooperation can be fully initiated, however, and that can be done immediately, merely by advocating it as a public position. Everything begins with this principle. Details of the fallout from the severed relationship can be dealt with, piecemeal.
As to the overarching principle:
Within Libya, the U.S. has no binding or dependent intelligence interests which reasonably improve its national security. Nor is the U.S. dependent on Libyan oil- in fact, only 5% of the oil used by the U.S. comes from the entire Middle East region. America doesn’t have a good reason to be involved in Libya at all right now, save and except to offer humanitarian assistance. American-sponsored/internationally-received humanitarianism is a theme replete throughout American history. It is also a practice that must come to an end.
The U.S. has, for years, particularly since the time of the Monroe Doctrine (1823), extended its assistance internationally, always at the risk of great peril to its own citizens, economy, security and reputation. In more instances than not, that risk of peril has been realized to the great detriment of America and her citizens. This depreciation has only grown in the past decade and America, and Americans, can no longer afford continual losses. (We’ve lost enough, especially in the wake of our recent financial crisis. But that’s another story entirely.)
Take a walk around any inner-city neighborhood- if it’s even safe enough to do so- and have a look at the reprehensible conditions under which American citizens are being educated, eating, working and living. Many, despite their best efforts, are receiving sub-standard educations, eating processed, chemical-laden foods, earning minimum wage (or less) and struggling to have running water, or to heat their homes in the dead of winter. Yet, countless millions of dollars in international aid are being spent to help citizens of other countries, people who have historically demonstrated that they would never extend the same assistance to Americans which we extend to them. To add insult to injury, the recipients of American aid regularly bite the hand that feeds.
While American citizens, people who are born on this soil and who contribute to this country’s greatness, suffer at home with little or no assistance, many others abroad enjoy the benfits gleaned from American tax dollars, money contributed in part by those same suffering Americans and then dispersed to gain international favor. That is, after all, how the game works. Though, in consideration of the depreciation of reputation to which we earlier referred having become so paramount, one thing is clear- that game is no longer working. We’re not winning; it’s time to stop playing.
Americans of all socio-economic classes are purported to have equal social value. This principle is stated forthright in this nation’s founding legal documents. One may even argue that this principle of social equality is the true “law of the land”. America, we are told by our leaders throughout the ages, prides itself on being a nation of laws. If that is true, then it’s high time we follow that law in both letter and spirit; and not just with the citizens of other nations, but with our own citizens, starting right here, right now, in our own backyard.
For those Americans currently not in the backyard, particularly those Americans stuck in Libya, let us see that everything is done to bring every one of them home safely. And then, let’s get to the business of taking care of our own. Because, we can’t take care of anyone until we take care of ourselves. That’s not selfish- that’s just reality.
There’s a wonderful phrase, coined by Charles Dickens, which has become appropriated as an American saying. It proclaims, “Charity begins at home.” The time has come to heed our own advice.
Libya will survive. More importantly, so will America.