Critics castigated George W. Bush for his Manichaeism, especially after the Axis of Evil speech. The same progressives and realists who were silent while North Korea, Iran, Saddam’s Iraq, Turkey, and nearly every Arab state invoked crude rhetoric against the United States, blew a gasket when Bush called the three brutal dictatorships evil. Muammar Qaddafi’s mass murder should be a wake-up call.
In this YouTube clip, Saif Qaddafi, a partner for progressive and realist engagement throughout the Bush years, holds an AK-47 while telling the crowd: “Those who are facing you are nothing but kids. Today, at night, I want you [to finish them off.]” The mob chants in response: “Allah, Muammar and Libya,” “You despicable Aljazeera, we want no one other than Muammar,” “The people only want Muammar the Colonel.”
If President Obama learns any lessons from Qaddafi’s actions over the past few weeks, they should be these:
- Evil exists.
- There is nothing sophisticated about moral equivalence.
- Engagement does not change dictators; regime change does.
- Think twice before apologizing for America, because you look foolish when those you are apologizing to are guilty of far more than the university-club cocktail circuit can imagine.
- What Arab autocrats (and their sons) say behind closed doors is irrelevant; what they say to their own people is what we should judge them by.