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Opinion

Fighting for democracy before America intervenes

Protzmann is a junior English major and can be contacted at kevin.protzmann@drake.edu

Along with the events of the Middle East and North Africa, the situation in the West African nation of the Ivory Coast has been rapidly degenerating into civil war. The incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo has refused to step down after the opposition leader Alassane Ouattara won the 2010 Presidential elections. Over the last four days, armed combatants from both sides have been engaging in combat throughout the nation, culminating in opposition forces proceeding into the capital in an attempt to remove Gbagbo and install Ouattara.

Within the last 24 hours of writing this piece, the French have sent over 2,000 ground troops into the Ivory Coast. They have already occupied the airport in Abidjan, the commercial heart of the Ivory Coast, and are preparing to intervene in the escalating conflict in the capital city to help install Ouattara as president, being the internationally recognized victor in the elections. To me, this event typifies the new foreign policy being exercised by the world powers in an attempt to foster democracy in the undemocratic world.

NATO intervention in Libya also reveals this new trend. In both of the African nations, there are armed conflicts between two groups: one supporting the old regime and the other supporting a new democratic regime. And in both cases, the Western powers believed that military intervention would be necessary to achieve the democratic goals of the opposition groups. Unlike the events of the Bush era, armed engagement is being used not to start democratic movements, but to finish them.

What is also clear, is that most Americans are sick of policing the world. Many people, on both sides of the political spectrum, believe that our involvement in the Libyan Revolution is costly and unnecessary. They make the argument that President Obama is continuing the Bush policies of expensive wars of aggression that serve no good and further degrade our image to the world.

It is true that our limited intervention in Libya is costing us copious amounts of money. It is true that people are dying in Libya because of our actions. It is true that now, for all intents and purposes, we are engaged in three different operations in the Muslim world.

What is also true is that we are not forcing democracy on the Libyans. What makes our actions in Libya different from Iraq or Afghanistan is that the people of the country in question have begun the process of establishing democracy without our help. Our presence is not to force democracy on them but to help them achieve their own goals of establishing a democratic regime.

While there were many reasons why our occupation of Iraq went wrong, it cannot be denied that one of the major ones was our forcing the creation of democracy through the barrel of a gun. Democracy, by its very nature, means that you cannot force people to be free. In Libya, however, the people have tried to create their freedom by their own power. Unfortunately, they are not strong enough to defeat Gadhafi’s tyranny. By intervening there, we are not repeating the mistakes of the past. Rather, it shows that we have learned from our mistakes and realized the way to bring democracy to the Muslim world is to allow the people of the Muslim world to create it themselves.

Our intervention is only to ensure that the democratic movement succeeds. Yes, it will cost lives and cost money, but if we do not intervene, democracy in the Middle East could very well be crushed before it has a chance to mature. If we do not intervene, tyranny will have one the day and many more lives could be lost.  We cannot sit idly by while innocents are being or will be massacred by an insane tyrant desperately clinging to power.

When we began our operations in Libya, the revolutionaries began to turn the tables on Gadhafi. Once our engagement began to scale back as it has in the last week or so, Gadhafi began to regain territory. Truly, the only way the Libyans can hope to be liberated from tyranny is if the Western powers continue their intervention.

We cannot consider intervention to be a reprisal of the past; rather, we should consider it to be a step toward the future. When NATO intervenes in Libya or when France intervenes in the Ivory Coast, democracy is not a seed being forcefully planted with the deaths of innocents but a sapling being watered with the blood of tyrants. We cannot fail our sisters and brothers of the Earth and allow them to be massacred because they stood up for freedom. For the first time in decades, we are fighting a just war. Let us not be bogged down by the false rhetoric of misappropriating past failures to current actions. Instead, let us finally stand up for what we truly believe and help the people of Libya achieve the freedom they so desperately desire.

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