Armageddon and Intervention: Europe Intervenes in the American Revolution

By Jay Holmes

The United States and many Western European allies are presently involved in multiple military interventions around the world. In any country with a reasonable population that has access to something approximating free speech, military intervention will always be controversial. In my view, it is foolish for any nation to run to war too quickly. The costs and possible outcomes should be considered by those who pay for those interventions, as well as for failures to intervene. The taxpayers and their kids.

To do a minimal bit of justice to the subject, I will be publishing short articles in a series in which we will review several past interventions, their costs, and their impacts before considering the current interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Cote D’Ivoire. Then, we will look at a few of the potential cases for military intervention in the near future.

Fortunately, with history, we often have verifiable facts about the outcomes of an event, and we can view these outcomes without staging a second battle of Guadalcanal or Bastogne. One can prepare for war, fight in war or read about war. Having tried all three, I would say that preparing is somewhat tedious, but can, at times, prevent a war, and reading about other people’s wars is, in my view, the best of the three options. It’s great that, except in catholic school and military academies, there are no drill instructors forcing us to read the next page, and the book will usually not kill us (although some porn store customers might debate that point). And come to think of it, I did consider dying rather than finishing Steppenwolf in high school, but that’s the topic of another blog.

So, without bearing the expense of any real interventions, any consequences of not intervening, or any bullets, bombs, or aggravating journalists while intervening, let’s enjoy some arm-chair executive power and safe-distance “generalship” and dice up a few interventions. Feel free to disagree with any conclusions I might propose. Unchallenged ideas always remain imperfect, or may, in fact, simply be stupid. So unlike the youngsters on the obstacle course, you should feel free to appoint yourself Field Marshall, Admiral of the fleet, or Dictator for a day and decide how you might have better managed or avoided past interventions. Unfortunately, this promotion to dictator does not come with countless cowering servants or the treasury of any nation so you still have to clean your dishes tonight, but enjoy yourself nonetheless.

Let’s start with an American intervention. Not Yankees intervening somewhere else, but rather Europeans intervening in America. . . .

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a Franc?

At Lexington, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775, some stubborn men and adventurous boys blocked an advancing British force of seven hundred well-trained British soldiers. The British were attempting to catch the Americans by surprise at Concord and capture their weapons and ammunition depot. Unknown to the British, the precious and scarce supplies had already been moved.

The British habit of planning operations at the dining room table in the company of their wives, mistresses, and servants was a valuable intelligence opportunity for the colonials, and on this and other occasions, timely intelligence saved the day. It is my unconfirmed suspicion that one unspoken reason the colonials took a stand at Lexington was to cover the success of their intelligence operations against the British camp. If so, they succeeded, and the British continued their careless Headquarters security habits.

The Battle of Lexington is usually considered the start of the American Revolution combat phase. But long before those stubborn Red Sox fans decided to exchange fire with the advancing British, the conservative rebel leaders were hard at work trying to gain the aid of European nations in their struggle against Great Britain. When Patrick Henry said, “. . . but as for me, give me liberty or give me death,” he may have been expecting more liberty for Americans and more death for the British. Henry and other members of the Congress were aware that, as an 18th century superpower, Britain had many enemies, and that chief amongst them were France and Spain.

Most Americans learn that the French Navy sent Admiral de Grasse to assist the colonies, and that the French fleet managed to win a battle against a British fleet in Chesapeake Bay, thanks to favorable winds and the late arrival of British naval reinforcements. We also know that many young low-ranking officers from France and other parts of Europe were quick to come to Philadelphia to seek commissions as high-ranking officers in the Continental Army. Many of those eager European officers were available because they lacked the talent to succeed in their own regiments at home.

However, two excellent European volunteers were Baron Friedrich von Steuben of Prussia and the loveable idealist, French cavalry officer Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Rocha Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, or simply “Lafayette” in the USA. Neither Lafayette nor Von Steuben was “sent” to the colonies by their governments. They both came at their own risk and expense. Von Steuben had a tremendous positive impact in the training of colonial recruits. As for Lafayette, he is best remembered for his courage and leadership on the battlefield, but his greatest service to America might well have been his influence in obtaining loans for financing the war and direct military aid from France.

It’s easy to understand why France, The Netherlands, and Spain were eager to see the Americans succeed against Great Britain. It’s also easy to understand why they hoped to keep their assistance covert as long as possible while publicly declaring neutrality toward the Colonies. In fact, the neutrality was broken before it was ever even announced. Long before de Grasse brought his fleet and French Army soldiers to fight in the colonies, France was clandestinely financing and supplying the Colonials.

Both King Carlos III of Spain and his cousin, King Louis XVI of France, were nervous about aiding a revolution against a ruling European monarch. As it turned out, Louis’ fears were well founded. But both countries were trying to prevent British hegemony in the Caribbean and the North Atlantic, and they both knew that a protracted American war with Britain would present a marvelous opportunity for their own countries.

While France has enjoyed its well-deserved recognition for intervening on behalf of the colonial rebels, Spain’s involvement was much quieter and more advantageous to itself. Spain maintained no illusions about America becoming a staunch ally of any European monarchy. Spain made loans of cash and supplies based on the assumption that they would eventually be repaid approximately 0% +/- zero of any investment made. Spain kept Great Britain guessing in the Caribbean, and actively engaged the British in the Mediterranean. As a result, Spain was able to use the opportunity provided by the American Revolution to remove British colonists from Central America and defeat the British Military units that were sent to capture Central America from Spain.

At the same time, Spain was shipping supplies from New Orleans across the Mississippi and overland to the rebels. In fact, during the first two years of the revolution, Spain supplied much of the rebels’ gunpowder via the Mississippi. During the revolution, Spain was able to evict Britain from her strongholds in Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida.

The Netherlands were allied to Great Britain at the outbreak of the American Revolution. The Prince of Orange had no intentions of assisting the Americans against the British, but the wealthy bankers and merchants of Holland undermined his policies. Dutch banking houses and merchants were quick to organize assistance in the form of money and contraband trade with the American colonies. The British quickly discovered this “silent conspiracy by vast committee” and ignored the Prince’s assertions of allegiance to Great Britain. Great Britain declared war on The Netherlands. The Dutch managed to fight the British navy to a draw, but while the British were capable of bringing in naval reinforcements, the Dutch were not, and The Netherlands signed a peace treaty that included the loss of their colonies in India.

The fledgling United States prospered immensely from the interventions by The Netherlands, France, and Spain. The early financial assistance from Dutch banks and merchants greatly benefitted the US early in the revolution. The financial support and direct military intervention by France helped tip the balance and made victory at the Battle of Yorktown possible. Spain supplied valuable weapons, powder, shot, supplies, and gold while keeping the British occupied in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Central America. They also kept a third of British forces in continental North America busy during the revolution. While The Netherlands lost from their involvement, and France “joined in” to the revolutionary spirit more than King Louis XVI would have cared for—it cost him his throne and his head—Spain handled itself adroitly.

Spain’s intervention in the American Revolution stands out as a remarkable example of skilled, rational statesmanship. Spain took the time to see the American revolutionaries accurately and accept them for what they were. King Carlos and his crew skillfully avoided clouding their judgments with wishful thinking or cultural biases about the Dutch, the French, the British, the American colonials or the native Americans in the new world.

A reading of the historical records of Spanish diplomatic and military communications from Madrid to the New World reveals a startling picture of 18th century statesman accurately predicting the results of both events that they could impact, and events that were beyond their control. King Carlos had excellent intelligence information, but more importantly, he and his government used that information dispassionately to form an amazingly accurate picture of a war that was fought thousands of miles from Madrid, long before the telegraph was invented.  Two and a half centuries later, we Americans would be well served by following their example.

Who are the Libyan Rebels? Part II

By Piper Bayard

The rebels in Libya are not a single unified group that shares the same complex agenda. In fact, the only clear, common agenda that they have thus far demonstrated is a desire to boot Papa Gadhafi and all his little Gadhafis from power. On Thursday, in Part I of the answer to the overriding question, “So who are these people, anyway?” we looked at the Libyan National Council, which is the closest thing to leadership that the rebels have presented to the West. Today, we’ll give a glance at the other “teams in the league.”

Contenders in Libya

Al-Qaeda continues to attempt to take control of the rebellion in Libya, but they have thus far had little success. My view is that their current strategy is to try to enhance their ties to the Libyan Islamic Front, but serious differences between the two groups and past betrayals by Al-Qaeda complicate that relationship. That doesn’t mean that they won’t work together to seize power from the more urbane, educated, cosmopolitan Libyans that are seeking to form a government.

Iran has high hopes and expectations concerning its own ability to influence events in Libya, but to its surprise, Cyrenaica (eastern Libya) and Tripolitania (western Libya) are not carbon copies of Sadr city in Iraq or the Gaza Strip. If you ever feel frustrated at the tendency of Westerners to view all Islamic nations and their inhabitants as being the same, it should comfort you to know that Islamic populations make the same mistake even more frequently when they view each other and the world outside of Islam.

Iran will not gain influence in Libya unless it does so after a home-grown Islamic radical group comes into power. The Iranian junta can broadcast whatever propaganda it wishes concerning Libya, but it has even less credibility with North Africans than it does with its own citizens. The regime in Tehran is not quite as secure and self-assured as it was a few months ago, and its most urgent need for action is much closer to home than Libya.

Some may be wondering where Western oil companies stand with the various factions in Libya. Who would they like to back? That’s the easiest question to answer today. Unlike mere mortals, Western oil companies will not be forced to limit their futures by choosing sides. They will, instead, take the simple approach of hiring a vast, well-dressed array of professional ass-kissers to attempt to smooch every potentially important buttocks in and near Libya. And with each kiss, they will sign a guarantee that that particular behind is their favorite of all. When you have as many billions as BP or Exxon does there’s no point in choosing sides. You can simply attempt to purchase every key member of every side. The only political question that matters to oil companies is, “How much oil can we pump today?” With gasoline prices in the USA hovering at $4.00/gallon, money is no obstacle for them.

Now, let’s consider a few more of the people directly involved in the rebellion in Libya. The six and a half million people who live in Libya are a diverse group. Unlike many rebellions, the people in Libya are a significant, active force in the Libyan “revolution.” The fact that unemployment in Libya is over 30% may very well be a driving force in the unrest, but the Libyans are not singular in their politics, in their religious zeal, or in their view of the West.

One very interesting tidbit that occurred this week in Libya bares examination. When NATO failed to deliver timely air attacks against Gadhafi’s forces in the Misrata area, a variety of rebels from different areas were anxious to blame Turkey for constraining its NATO allies. This is significant. A variety of Libyans are choosing to blame not NATO as a whole, but Turkey in particular, a country currently lead by a theocratic Islamic party.

This is not a response that Al-Qaeda or its allies would have engineered. Although the desperate and frustrated Libyan rebels are still blaming outsiders for the events within Libya, it’s a pretty strong clue that Al-Qaeda and its clones have not gained control of the average Libyan.

What the Libyan people will tolerate as an outcome to their rebellion is not yet altogether clear. I find myself more hopeful about the future of Libya than many Western “experts.” While I recognize the fervor and well-practiced ruthlessness that Al-Qaeda and other Islamic radical peddlers bring to the fight in Libya, I remain less convinced of their ability to subvert the people of Libya. It is my hope that too many Libyans are a tad too educated and worldly to be easily sold the Islamic Fundamentalist stone-age model of government.

The future of Libya remains uncertain. While that might sound frightening to some, to the US administration and Western governments in general, it should sound like a marvelous opportunity to encourage progress in Libya. Not “progress” as defined solely by oil companies or strictly Western values, but progress that will leave Libyans, their neighbors, and Westerners with a better shared future.

One hopes that Western leaders are hearing better briefings than I can supply, and that they will all act wisely. The West has the greatest financial, military, and diplomatic resources available for influencing events in Libya. How well those resources are used will in large part determine the West’s future relationship with that country.

Who are the Libyan Rebels? Part I

By Jay Holmes

Since the middle of February, when the fledgling protest movement coalesced into an active rebellion in Libya, many Western observers have been asking, “Who are the Libyan rebels?” Many Libyans, North Africans, and Middle Easterners are wondering the same thing.

A variety of prognosticators have offered up plenty of answers, but most of the answers they are peddling appear to be products of wishful thinking, or they are tainted by agendas. One way to recognize the degree of wishful thinking or propaganda in any given answer is to recognize the observer’s degree of certainty and confidence in his definition of the Libyan rebels. The most confident presenters with the simplest answers must be the least realistic analysts because there is, as yet, very little certainty available to any realist observing the events.

If and when a new government takes over in Libya, we will be able to observe its actions and compare them with the preceding rhetoric. In the meantime, all we can logically do is take a dispassionate view of the facts that are available and make an educated guess.

First, we should acknowledge that “the rebels” are not a single unified group that shares the same complex agenda. The only clear, common agenda that the rebels have thus far demonstrated is a desire to remove Uncle Momo and his various monkey spawn from power. So far, the closest thing to a leadership group that the rebels have presented to the West is the “National Council.” However, there are several other “teams in the league.” In Part I of this two-part installment, we will look at the Libyan National Council, and in Part II to be published this Sunday, we will give a glance at the other contenders.

Libyan National Council

The Libyan National Council is completely aware of the West’s questions concerning its agenda, and that likely influenced its choice of Mustafa Abdel Jalil as its leader. Jalil is a judge from eastern Libya and was Gadhafi’s Justice Minister. He had frequently publicly disagreed with Gadhafi during his tenure, but tribal affiliations made it convenient to keep him in office.

When Gadhafi announced that protesters would be “crushed,” Jalil resigned from the Libyan government. It seems clear that Jalil had contact with other members of the fledgling council prior to the February protests. His selection as head of the committee is likely based on the committee’s belief that he represents the best chance at gaining acceptance by the most Libyans from all of the various tribes and urbanized areas of the country. He was a member of the government that the rebels seek to destroy, but he has credentials as a dissenter.

The other two most visible members of the Libyan National Council are Ali al Eisawi and Mahmoud Jabril. Both of them are well-traveled and well-educated, and they were both involved in the opposition to Gadhafi prior to the February uprising. They both present a believable voice of reason to Libyans and to concerned Westerners. None of these three individuals are tainted by any known affiliation with Al-Qaeda, the home-grown Libyan Islamic Front, or radical factions within the Islamic brotherhood.

At present, there appear to be 31 members of the ruling committee of the National Council. They seem to be attempting to gain the broadest possible support from the widest variety of tribes and factions within Libya. On that note, the Council does include at least one Islamic Jihadist with direct ties to Al-Qaeda.

There is also Gadhafi’s recently “ex” Minister of Interior, Colonel Abdel-Fatah Younis. Younis’ defection may be motivated by his perception that the Uncle Momo Show was being canceled, and by his personal ties to eastern Libya. He offers the explanation that he quit the regime because he disapproved of the regime’s attacks on the protesters. However, he has been the chief organizer of crackdowns on opposition groups in Libya in the past. If Colonel Younis has something like a conscience, it would appear to be newly acquired. Where and why he got it is any ones guess. What he currently offers the National Council is vast experience at surviving opposition.

 

Publicly, the National Council states that it does not want any one individual to take control in Libya, that it wants democratic reforms, and that it is adamantly opposed to theocratic government. Though we have no way of administering lie detector tests to the National Council leadership, when we compare what we knew about its key members’ actions and reputations prior to February of this year with their current behavior and rhetoric, they do seem to be consistent in their position.

The Libyan National Council claims to want a constitution that guarantees secular democracy and human rights. It claims to envision peaceful relations with the West and with their neighbors in North Africa. It has been silent on any position toward Israel, but it has much to lose and nothing to gain by announcing any intention toward that country.  The Council would not want to further incite Al-Qaeda type radicals within Libya by announcing neutrality toward Israel, nor would they want to alienate the West by openly opposing Israel when they have yet to insure their own survival. While the Council and Israel will both remain silent about Israel (for now), Israel is likely doing its best to quietly establish a dialogue with these potential leaders of Libya. It is also likely that the National Council is quietly presenting more detailed positions to Western governments and to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates, but, for the short-term, they will need to keep those details quiet to enhance their own chances for survival.

The degree that the Libyan National Council is in charge and the percentage of the rebels who would claim to be represented by them are unknown, but there are signs this week that the Council is becoming more organized with each passing day. Nevertheless, as I mentioned, there are other teams in the league, and we will take a look at them in Part II this Sunday.

Who is Watching in Libya, What are They Learning, and What Does That Mean To Us?

By Jay Holmes

China, Syria, and Iran are watching the military operations being conducted by NATO forces in Libya with great attention.

China sent the 4,000 ton frigate, Xuzhou, into Libyan waters, supposedly to assist in evacuations of Chinese citizens from Libya. However, its real mission was likely an ad-hock attempt at quietly conducting SIGINT (SIGnals INTelligence) and ELINT (ELectronic INTelligence) operations against the Western powers involved in air operations in Libya. China will invest massive human resources into the analysis of any information it gathers, but it will use that information for long term planning and development rather than in any political decision making.

China expects no conflict with Western nations in the near future, and there is no reason to panic about China’s SIGINT efforts. Great Britain, Japan, and the United States conduct SIGINT and ELINT operations against China from international waters and air space every day of the week. In the last half century, China has come to understand that these operations do not foretell a pending invasion by Western powers. At the same time, we realize that any attempt by China to take possession of Hawaii will be conducted with real estate agents and stock brokers rather than frigates.

In the case of Syria, what they will learn is simple. They are (re)learning what their defeat would look like if NATO ever decided to invade Syria. The air power and missile barrage brought to bear in Libya are very minimal as compared to what a NATO launched attack could be. In Damascus, even the most politically connected, untalented general will have realized that moving or supplying Syrian forces anywhere in Syria will be nearly impossible with NATO air forces present.

The Syrian Air Force is far larger, better equipped, and better trained than the Libyan Air Force. But Syria is aware that the air power NATO is using in Libya is a token force by the standards of alliance, and that in any major conflict with NATO, the missile attack on Syria would be approximately four times larger and would destroy much of Syria’s air force within the first hour of war.

What Syria observes from the Libyan conflict will cause no major change in its strategy. It will simply continue with its sensible course of not provoking the West to invade, which, given the West’s generally defensive strategic stance, will not be difficult. The lessons learned from Libya will simply confirm the validity of that current strategic stance.

What Syria has newly learned from watching Libya is that it should avoid public threats to conduct genocide against its own citizens as protests are arising in Syria. That is a lesson that Gadhafi and his overconfident gangsters learned too late.

In the case of Iran, the Iranians will analyze information gained by observing the Libyan conflict with great interest. Unlike Syria and China, Iran does not assume there will be no conflict between itself and Western nations.

The two things about the tactical aspects of NATO operations that most interest Iran are the command and control methods of NATO air forces, and the effectiveness of the upgraded Tomahawk missiles employed against Libya. The strategic question of even greater interest to Iran concerns the fact that Western powers mobilized military force against Libya without waiting for the Western political tortoise race to conclude.

While the effectiveness of the air power of NATO nations and of the Tomahawk missiles will cause no great shock in Tehran, the fact that an attack took place in spite of the lack of complete agreement by Western powers is bad news for the ayatollahs and their generals. Iran may find itself recalculating the exact position of the “line in the sand” in their neighborhood.

In the twisted minds of the junta in Tehran, a military conflict with the West may seem like a glorious opportunity to be relished, rather than a threat to be feared. They see that as an improving opportunity over time as Iran improves its military capacity and accomplishes its goal of obtaining a nuclear weapon.

It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall in the weekly ayatollah update meetings in northern Iran this week. I would absolutely love to hear the well-educated Iranian generals trying to explain the implications of the conflict in Libya to the mostly-functionally-illiterate Supreme Council. Nothing in their years of memorizing the Koran and debating its obscure aspects have prepared the mullahs for leading a near nuclear power like Iran.

The Revolutionary Guard leaders are, no doubt, well-practiced in the art of smoothing over the most awkward of conversations between the megalomaniac ayatollahs and the frightened generals. After all, disagreeing with an ayatollah can cause spontaneous separation of the head from the neck.

I wonder how they draw lots to pick the poor fools that have to deliver the report to the all powerful and none-too-wise mullahs? Perhaps the medals that we see on the chests of Iranian admirals and generals were awarded for surviving some number of meetings with their political leadership. As long as Iran is unequipped by nuclear weapons I can enjoy laughing at their internal leadership situation. A nuclear weapon in the hands of the ignorant ayatollahs would not be quite so laughable.

Special Edition Libya: What’s Lost if the Devil is Deposed?

By Jay Holmes

In short, what happens if you sell your soul to the devil, and the devil is deposed? European businessmen, the UK, and Italy are in exactly that quandary.

European businessmen and the UK government, under Labor Party’s Gordon Brown, did a deal with Gadhafi. It went like this. Gadhafi promised British Petroleum (“BP”) that it would continue to let it pump more oil, around $900 million, out of Libyan oil fields. He also promised BP and the UK government that he would give UK companies preferential treatment when international sanctions were lifted. In return, the UK would send home Abdel Al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.

In August 2009, Scotland did release Al-Megrahi, supposedly on humanitarian grounds. He supposedly had prostate cancer and was going to die within three months. He left the UK on a hospital bed and was miraculously healed during his flight to Libya, regaining his ability to walk. He is still alive today.

BP and the UK have yet to fully collect on their bargain, and you can bet some of them are biting their nails to see their back room deal in such peril of falling through with Gadhafi on the brink of being deposed.

The other European country currently gnashing its nails is Italy. While Holmes would dearly love to never, ever drive in Rome or Milan again, lots of folks in Rome and Milan feel differently about that, and they want their oil.

Since WWII, Italy has gotten approximately 70% of its petroleum products from Libya. Also, a natural gas line, the Greenstream Pipeline, that was completed in October 2004 runs straight from Wafa, Libya, to Gela, Sicily. Italy’s energy company, ENI, says Italians only get 10% of their gas from this line, but some sources believe Italy’s current dependence on Greenstream may be as high as 20%. On February 22, the Greenstream Pipeline was temporarily suspended.

From the Libyan perspective, Italy is the biggest importer of Libyan gas, taking 38% of the Libyan gas pie. Germany is also a big player, getting a 19% slice. In fact, Gadhafi’s current worries could be the one thing that finally gets Berlusconi in bed with Angela Merkel, something he has craved for years.

As an aside, this does explain a lot about Berlusconi’s infamous sex life. Having spent more than one unpleasant night in bed with Gadhafi, we can understand his urgent need sleep with beautiful young women to erase that traumatic, prison-like memory. But be sure he’s not holding one of his famous bunga bunga parties over this Libyan situation.

So again, here’s our question for you. What becomes of souls traded to the devil when the devil joins the unemployment line? Anyone have any experience with corporate soul purchases?

All the best to all of you for valuing your souls.

What Is the World Situation, and How Do We Ensure Democracy?

By Jay Holmes

Hi, Samuel. Thank you for your thoughtful response. You covered many topics. Let me start with your two questions:

  1. What kind of situation is the world in for in the immediate future?
  2. What changes can be made to our foreign policy to assure peaceful and democratic rule?

The future is not clear, but I will give you my personal guess. I think the White House will take a reactive approach to the current crisis and will simply try to negotiate with whatever power takes over in any of the countries in question. In the meantime the president will spend more time on the phone then he would care to.

The junta in Tehran is terrified that the USA will act forcefully in the Mediterranean and in Arabia. While I enjoy their grief, I think they are wrong. Remember, Obama ran on an “anti-interventionist” platform. Like any president seeking re-election, he must not lose his voter base. If he intervenes forcefully, his liberal democrat base abandons him, and nothing he does will gain him many votes from the pro-military option crowd.

If an Islam-fascist junta does not come to power in Egypt, then one is not likely in Libya. Libya has the oil and the cash, but Egypt has the military might to topple any Libyan junta if they should decide to. The Egyptians will be less conservative in their response to what happens to Libya.

In Iran, I think the majority of Iranians will remain outside looking in at power for the immediate future. The Iranian junta has a more fanatically loyal military than either Libya or Egypt. The junta has the guns and is always ready, and actually ecstatic, to use them. Killing dissidents represents nothing more than the ongoing daily entertainment for the barbaric and ruthless Iranian junta.

I say “junta” because President “Imadinnerjacket” is no more in charge of Iran than I am. He is the junta’s best attempt at a charismatic mouth-piece that looks good in a suit. They missed on both counts. He looks like he visits the same tailor that Uncle Momo does. I think his speech writer must be Charles Manson. I hope that I am wrong about Iran. The Iranian people deserve a better government and a better life.

As to your second question, the short answer is that there is no magic bullet for ensuring democracy in other nations. We are still struggling to ensure it in our own nation.

The question has been prominent in the minds of every US administration since Woodrow Wilson. I am sure that the French Socialists would remind us that France invented the practice of exporting democracy (no doubt in a conference room at Diem Bien Phu) along with inventing oxygen, sunlight, and fashion. The French don’t actually do any of it. They simply like to tell the rest of us how we should be doing it. The British would point to the Magna Carta, but the British are a bit more realistic about the realities of the democracy export industry. All of the Western world’s great political minds have thus far not come up with a surefire plan for guarantees of freedom and democracy. Nonetheless, I am glad that most of us support the notion that we should.

On the economic side of things, expect higher gasoline prices. BP never gives up easily, but they might pull out of Libya in the next few days. If oil production decreases by as much as a drop, the oil companies will, with a well practiced straight face, announce that they have to increase prices. They will cry all the way to the bank, and like the gasoline addicts that we are, we will grumble as we fork over the cash.

I am curious about your “cohort.” If he/she knows about nonpublic information concerning both the State Department and the CIA your cohort would have to be well placed. Are they a member of the National Security Council or a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee or similarly placed? If so, they should not be sharing classified information. I think that you and I share a respect for, and a hope for, democracy. Based on that common value, I encourage you to report anyone releasing classified information to the FBI. Regardless how any of us may have voted, most of us do not want to make the administration’s job harder by violating secrecy in the middle of a crisis.

If they are not so well placed, you might ask them what they mean by “completely blown it again.” Both of those government entities make mistakes frequently, but both of them have publicly been warning us about unrest in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, and Yemen for several years. In my opinion the State Department has acted unwisely by waiting so long to issue travel warnings for Libya. The catch is that we do not get to know what the State Department advised the White House, or when they advised the White House (at least not for a while). The warnings are routinely approved by the president before they are issued. I am curious about who made the decision to issue that warning so late in the day. Although I am always up for a bit of good old fashioned State Department bashing, I have to admit that this might not have been their fault.

You raise some concerns that are on the minds of many Westerners tonight. I share your enthusiasm for spreading democracy, and, more specifically, freedom and justice. From my personal experiences, I will say that it is easier said than done, and successes are never obvious, but failure always is. Much blood suffering and treasure was expended in Central America trying to convince despots to become less despotic while trying to keep worse despots from taking over. We succeeded more than we failed, but at a high price. The highest price was paid by civilians.

Not everyone in the USA feels that we should be using our resources to influence events in other nations. The USA has always had a strong instinct for isolationism. We do not ignore that instinct easily.

To what extent the USA attempts to influence political events will remain a contentious debate in congress forever, as it should. Personally, I am not an isolationist because I want to survive, and I want my grandchildren (and yours) to have a free and decent country to live in. I want that for every child in the world. I believe that most Westerners would want that as I well. Unfortunately, most of the world’s new children will not be born into freedom or justice tomorrow morning. I hope that, when the dust settles a bit over the next few months, despotism and cruelty toward innocents will have been reduced.

Let me share a fond memory with you in the hopes of providing a laugh. Upon returning to the USA from a trip to Bosnia, someone in the White House said to me, “If we can bring a little law and order there, it will really be a great achievement.”

I responded enthusiastically with, “Yea, when we’re done there, can we send a few troops to Los Angeles or Detroit to establish a little law and order there? A little law and order here in the district would be nice too.” I laughed, then he relaxed and laughed. Then I got a few hours of sleep and went back to work.