…thus says Iman Bugaighis, a Libyan professor and a spokesman for the opposition, as reported in the New York Times.   Meanwhile, Qaddafi forces are closing in on the last main stronghold of the rebels, Benghazi.

Libya and Arab unrest (Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, etc.) have been pushed aside in the news cycle for coverage of the Japanese earthquake and the damaged nuclear reactors that may or may not melt down.

But long-term, Japan’s geophysical earthquake will not impact the United States nearly so much as the Arabian sociological earthquakes still violently shaking.   Japan is not the future.  Arabia is.  Demography is destiny.

Once Qaddafi (this guy’s name is spelled about a hundred different ways–this is the New York Times’ version) reasserts control over Libya, what then?  Obama said Qaddafi “must go”.  Is he prepared to invade to ensure that it happens?  Loose lips sink not only ships.   They can also sink international reputations.

George Bush I was similarly loose in his enunciations when he encouraged the Iraqi’s to overthrow Hussein after the first Gulf War, and then stood by as Hussein slaughtered them.   Considering how many Iraqi’s died as a direct result of Bush I’s mouthing off, there’s little wonder that he wasn’t welcomed back to the region with open arms after his presidency, as a plot to assassinate him during his visit was foiled just before its initiation.

The better strategy for any leader is to remain silent, until it is known exactly what is the best path to follow.  George Bush could have simply ignored, as his State Department told the Iraqis it would, the Iraq invasion of Kuwait as an internecine Arab struggle, and the US would have been about $2 trillion wealthier;  several thousand troops would still be alive, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis as well, if the cost in blood and treasure of both wars and the intervening and subsequent occupations are taken into account.

There is nothing America could have done to prevent the Japanese earthquake, and little it could have done to prevent Arabian unrest.  There is little to nothing it can do now to ameliorate either situation.  The Japanese will have to deal with their reactors and their homeless thousands as best they can.  America can provide some relief funds and supplies, but the onus is on the Japanese.  The Libyan rebels likewise have to reconsider the consequences of their uprising, as it appears Qaddafi is winning and likely will reassert control over the country.  America hasn’t the will to intervene militarily to overthrow Qaddafi, and Obama shouldn’t have instilled such false hope among the Libyan rebels. 

If nothing else, Japan and Libya offer stark clarity to the limits of American power.  America’s credibility would not have also been destroyed had its chief executive employed the simple expedient of keeping his mouth shut.  Any decent parent knows that you never threaten what you aren’t willing to back up with action.  Lose credibility and you lose whatever measure of influence you might otherwise have had.

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