Dear Mosa’ab Elshamy

America has supported dictatorships, corrupt regimes, and intransigent nations (i.e. Israel) for too long. Such policies may have been justified in WW2 and the Cold War, but times have changed. There is no good reason for the US to try to run the world. Globalization is a good thing, and we should seek to have good, respectful relations with China, Russia, India, the Arab states, Europe, etc.

Our history in the Middle East, which is still ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the most troubled of anywhere. I voted for Obama, in large part because he had opposed the war in Iraq (which I foolishly supported at the time), and because he promised to approach and engage the world in a different way. Although, untangling or drawing down our presence in Iraq and Afghan might take some time. Fine.

Then came the Arab Spring. It was, and still is, exhilarating. Real freedom is coming to such countries that have never(?) enjoyed it. And, best of all, it was internally driven. There was no US or Soviet outside interference. It was not even “about” us; you all were not revolting against the US, or for the US, or about anything other than your own legitimate aspirations. For once in my lifetime, we were appropriately sitting on the sidelines. Where we belong. Great!

Then came Libya. Following all these trends and instincts, at first Obama steered clear of it. Denounce the dictator, and let the Libyan people manage their own affairs. As the situation rapidly worsened, pressure to intervene increased: the Arab League, France, Aljazeera, some US commentators like Nick Kristof.

Internally, within the US, there were lots of voices and arguments against. “Not a threat to our own security.” (That IS, after all, the reason countries have armies. To defend themselves.) And more generally, those opposed pointed out that, time after time, for what seemed like good reasons or humanitarian reasons in the past, we had intervened all over the world. And such interventions always turned into bigger problems down the road. Also, it can be hypocritical to “help” Libyans, but not Yemenis, Bahrainis, Syrians, or Ivorians.

I have been following news from the Middle East very closely. I was proud that Obama had kept us out until, basically, the world community was asking for our help, and we (supposedly) were going to be part of an effort that included global and Arab support. Even understanding history and perspective, this seemed like a different case, and a worthwhile one.

Not exactly.

First, Amr Moussa started talking out of both sides of his mouth. Then the highly touted Arab military support ended up being a few Qatari and Emirati jets. Now, Abdel Fateh Younis is blaming us (NATO).

I’m sick at these developments. Your skepticism is well founded. Those who opposed this intervention were right. We, the USA, are going to get burned. I don’t know exactly how, or exactly when, but this is going to turn against us. For God sakes, there are already protests in Benghazi, “NATO isn’t bombing enough.”

There is no hope for this kind of American involvement overseas. We should do what Obama promised, not what he is actually doing. My heart goes out to all the people of your region, and I truly, sincerely, and deeply hope all your countries progress toward more democracy. If the US can help with humanitarian aid, or technology, or anything but military intervention, we should do it. And that means we, the US, should wind down our participation in the NATO No Fly Zone as soon as possible.