President Obama made much recently of having read President Reagan’s biography. Lets hope Obama paid particular attention to Reagan’s strategy for winning the Cold War against the “Evil Empire” of Soviet communism, including generously aiding those struggling for freedom and democracy.
Sometimes that aid meant direct military action, as in the Grenada invasion of 1982, but mostly it was multiple overt and covert measures designed to reassure freedom-seeking dissidents of U.S. support and to help them maintain secure communications among themselves and with the outside world.
Reagan knew that no regime could long survive against a populace convinced of the superiority of freedom and democracy to tyranny, and armed with the truth about themselves and their oppressors, regardless of the ideology from which they sprang.
Reagan’s strategy was most effectively applied in Poland where direct U.S. military intervention was out of the question. Even so, sustained official expressions of American support for Solidarity and criticism of the Soviet puppet regime’s actions, combined with a continuous stream of assistance throughout the 1980s, eventually led to democratic elections in 1990 and Poland joining the Free World.
There has been no such clarity of speech or policy from President Obama regarding the revolutionary movement spreading across the Middle East against many of its most dictatorial regimes in 2011.
Obama’s reticence is in part a product of the “Blame America First” foreign policy mindset that insists the U.S. must not “dictate” anything to other nations. As a result, whatever influence the U.S. may have exercised behind the scenes during the Egyptian crisis, Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mostly displayed the same feckless vacillation and indecisiveness this year that undermined a clearly democratic revolt against the dictatorship of the Iranian Mullahs in 2009.
But now that Libyan dictator Muammar Ghadafi has slaughtered hundreds of his countrymen and promised to fight to the death to remain in power, U.S. timidity must end.
Temporizing and hand-wringing in the face of evil is an accommodation of evil. And because we elect presidents to lead as commander-in-chief, it is Obama who must step up to the task.
Nobody wants the U.S. to become involved in yet another ground war in the desert, but, as Reagan helped Poland, there is much we can do officially and otherwise to bolster freedom-seeking Libyans, beginning with a formal demand that Ghadafi step down, followed by an offer to recognize an interim government that commits to democratic elections, and announcement of U.S. medical aid and other forms of non-military assistance.
We must, in short, be active agents on behalf of a peaceful, democratic conclusion to the Libyan crisis.
“Tripoli is burning," Libya’s Ambassador to the U.S., Ali Suleiman Aujalisaid, declared earlier this week. "The people are being killed in a brutal way … Please, please help the Libyan people. Help them. They are burning. They are being killed in their streets, their houses."
The U.S. simply cannot ignore such an appeal, or, worse, merely respond with meaningless diplomatic protests through the UN, and expect to remain the beacon of freedom to the world.