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Libya: How Far Will the U.S. Go?

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WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 01: Libyan demonstrators display the pre-Gaddafi Libyan flag while standing outside the offices of the Libyan ambassador to the United States March 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. The demonstrators were trying to take down the current flag at the offices and replace it with the pre-Gaddafi one. But after the Libyan government replaced Ambassador Ali Aujali for speaking out against the regime he was replaced with a loyalist and the flag exchange did not take place. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 01: Libyan demonstrators display the pre-Gaddafi Libyan flag while standing outside the offices of the Libyan ambassador to the United States March 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. The demonstrators were trying to take down the current flag at the offices and replace it with the pre-Gaddafi one. But after the Libyan government replaced Ambassador Ali Aujali for speaking out against the regime he was replaced with a loyalist and the flag exchange did not take place. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

It didn’t take long for the democratic uprisings in the Middle East to draw the United States from interested bystander to a potentially integral player in the protests.

It seems Libya will be the testing ground for exactly how much the United States wants to get involved with the uprisings and potential regime changes in that part of the world.

But my two questions are the following; how far do we, as American citizens, really want to get involved and why would we get involved in Libya, but not other African nations?

First, while 99% of Americans likely agree that they would like to see Moammar Gaddafi toppled out of power, I’m quite confident that the percentage of Americans that actually want us to do the dirty work is far lower.

American forces have yet to leave Iraq, and the situation in Afghanistan is far from decided in our favor. I don’t need an official Gallup poll to figure out if Americans would support prolonged actions in Libya, even if it meant getting rid of a hated leader.

Even if our support of the situation is limited airstrikes, answering Gaddafi’s airstrikes against his own people, that seemingly basic action will raise the issue of my second question.

If we are willing to intervene in Libya, apparently due to a despotic leader’s treatment of his own people, where do we draw the line on other nations throughout the turbulent continent?

Why was Sudan allowed to linger in a genocidal civil war for years while Libya is getting threatened with a No-Fly Zone one week into the insurgency? Granted, Libya produces far more oil than Sudan, but is that really the only reason we would want to get involved?

I think the support for greater involvement gets even thinner as be move beyond the “oil producing nation” point.

While we may be seeing a domino effect of democratic uprisings in the Middle East, future democracies are not guaranteed to be allies of the U.S. While Gaddafi is a hated terrorist supporting despot, he may be no better than the next person to run Libya. American involvement does not guarantee Democratic paradise will follow.

In a nutshell, even though Gaddafi’s imminent demise seems like a tantalizing reason to get involved, I have to imagine that the last thing President Obama wants to be known for is the guy who got the United States into a third war in the Middle East.

Yes, threatening a No-Fly Zone, especially one that Russia and China will protest, is far from starting a third war. However, if this humble blogger can figure out we don’t really want to be in this fight, then I think everyone else can too.

And if everyone else knows the reality about the cards we are holding, our bluff will simply not work.

One overriding theme from protests throughout the Middle East is that the protesters, while wanting freedoms Americans enjoy, do not want American help in order to attain them. We should abide by their wishes, hope they can build a constructive new future and let them win this victory on their own.

We’ve tried the other strategy. It’s time we give a new one a try.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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