Libya and the Moment

In Issues and Debate on March 2, 2011 at 7:20 pm

courtesy The New York Times

As Moamar Gadhafi digs in within the boundaries of Tripoli, some poignant questions across the Western World are beginning to take shape. From the likes of Anderson Cooper, Richard Engel, and numerous correspondents camped out near or within Libya report, the revolutionary forces in Libya have much further to go before Gadhafi’s brutal reign comes to an end. For us witnessing this unfold from afar on our televisions, we wonder what this means for the Arab and North African regions and what is the endgame?


From the annals of academics attempting to analyze what has occurred in Egypt, Tunisia, and now Libya we are confronted with some sense of realpolik. The overwhelming sense that political sea-changes in the Mid-East will be felt across the globe and the pragmatic reality of might be left in its wake. President Obama finds himself in a precarious position as he walks a tightrope in an attempt to avoid the hawkish mistakes of his predecessor while being decried as an American apologist from his right flank. In contrast, recent polls of the American public demonstrate a growing support for Obama’s more patient approach to foreign policy and the nature of multi-lateral diplomacy.

Adding to the concern of Western observers is a nascent sense that America has not done enough to sew the seeds of revolution in the Arab world. As expected, this sense has come from Republican Leadership who have perfected the art of subtlety by arguing to the point of, but never actually revealing their support for, an American military intervention in the region. The more unexpected tone against the Obama Administration’s chosen response to the current Mid-East crisis is from more liberal-minded Arab-Americans who believe that America has lost a chance to shape the moment in the name of democracy and human rights. Once such observer is Ahmad Tharwat, who writes that

American youths, who used the social network to elect the first black U.S. president, have been missing. They are on the social network mainly to be entertained and to pursue happiness as an empty zero.

Tharwat’s analysis misses anything resembling  facts concerning his currently negative view of ‘American Youths.’ Without facts his voice is that of a pundit, little better than the talking heads on cable news programs. Tharwat goes further to add

America’s youths, however, are nowhere to be found, except spending ever-more billions of minutes on Facebook. American women spend more hours watching cooking on TV than actually cooking, liberating themselves from the kitchen to the couch.

Tharwat’s continued frustration would have me wonder; what exactly would he have ‘America’s youths’ do in this moment in history?

Further on his diatribe Tharwat continues to toss blame in America’s direction, accusing the nation that he lives in with relative comfort, of hypocrisy concerning everything from the treament of women to propping up dictators for oil and even throwing down the term financial jihadists with respect to Wallstreet. While his views contain some truth, Tharwat misses the point of debate and has a difficult time separating the message from the messenger. The message is one of equality, tolerance, and acceptance of the differences one has with one’s neighbors. I agree that the United States falls far short of this grand ideal, but that does not diminish the truth of that ideal. In Tharwat’s mind the current Arab uprising is a demonstration of the Arab youth expanding upon and improving the technicues and technology of the West to provide a greater social good. His words are an attempt to placate his own sense of displacement while competing with the West. No such competition exists. Facebook and Twitter were not created to solely entertain their varied users. The diversity of views displayed on both allow for an exchange of cultural ideals never before possible. The Youth of America do not wish to compete with their counterparts from the Arab world, they wish to have solidarity with them from revolutionary ideals to the more solemn moments of everyday life. The modern tools of organization created by the West were not created to divide, but to unite and foster greater understanding. Until those ideals are realized en masse across the globe, Tharwat’s thinking will remain and we will be no better off.



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