On March 19, 2011, over 110 American and British cruise missiles struck Libyan soil. In response to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, the United States, along with Canada, France, and the United Kingdom, began using missile as well as air strikes to cripple Muammar Qadaffi’s army. This action was taken to help ensure that no further civilian blood would be shed in the Libyan civil war. Since March, many politicians, media personalities, and everyday citizens have criticized President Obama for allowing our military to take part in this operation. Before condemning the president’s actions, it is advisable to examine American history.
Two hundred thirty-four years ago the United States of America didn’t exist; instead there were 13 different colonies along the eastern seaboard ruled by King George the Third of the United Kingdom. The British imposed taxes on the colonists without proper parliamentary representation, restricted international trade by the colonies, and quartered soldiers in colonists’ homes. These reasons and others led the colonies to rebel against what was, at the time, the most powerful nation in the world.
America’s military at the beginning of the Revolution was ill-equipped and poorly trained and the Navy was non-existent. Britain on the other hand, had the best trained, most experienced soldiers as well as the finest Navy in the world. Outclassed, America’s leaders realized that victory required assistance. Congress sent emissaries to France in an attempt to convince them to send their Navy as well as their soldiers to defeat Britain. During negotiations, Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian drill master, came to train the continental army during the winter of 1777-78 in Valley Forge. This helped level the playing field, but the deciding factor came when the French Navy showed up at Yorktown, preventing the British escape. With General Cornwallis’ surrender, the war was effectively over.
Now compare this to the situation the Libyan people are in. They have been under the control of Muammar Qaddafi for 42 years. During that time, he placed Libya’s many natural resources under his own consolidated control. While his people were starving, he was living a life of decadence and luxury in his palace. Not only did he hurt his country economically, he removed freedom of speech. Anyone who voiced dissent was automatically thrown in jail for three years, and those who formed a political party were executed.
The Libyan people’s grievances were much greater than the American people’s were in 1776. The Libyan people wanted what Americans have, a nation where people can be free. Like the United States, they have faced an army that outclassed them in every way, even more so due to advances in modern technology. Qaddafi had over 2,000 Soviet-era tanks, over 400 various types of aircraft, ranging from fighters to bombers, as well as over 600 heavy artillery pieces. Just like America was during its own revolution, the Libyan rebels were completely outclassed.
The joint strikes by NATO are like the French fleet showing up at Yorktown. Both events gave those who were outclassed in every militaristic way a level playing field. Instead of criticizing the President, carefully consider the benefits of what has been done. An entire country is now free from oppression, and its people can now have some of the rights that Americans cherish so much, such as freedom of speech. What America has done is not something evil, it is something good not just for the people of Libya but for all of Northern Africa.
America, being the world’s superpower has an obligation and a duty to ensure that those who seek freedom have the opportunity to achieve it. As the famous 18th century philosopher Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” The United States of America is a symbol to the world, so the question is: when an oppressed people ask for help, can this country really stand by and do nothing?