The U.S. has a large stake in the outcome in Libya. Not because of its oil production but because of the dangerous nature of the Gadhafi regime—made far more dangerous by the current conflict—and because of the effect that Libya can have on the rest of the Arab world at a critical time in history.
Libya may not rise to the level of a vital interest, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and others have assured us, but preventing it from becoming a haven for terrorists if Gadhafi survives comes very close. And while Libya is not as important as Egypt, as Vice President Joe Biden has told us, what happens in Libya affects Egypt and much of the Arab world. Indeed, it affects Egypt directly because the fighting there has burdened that countrys weak economy with additional tens of thousands of unemployed that Egypt can ill-afford. The same is true for Tunisia.
Gadhafi’s fall would provide inspiration for the opposition in Syria and perhaps even Iran, whereas his survival would embolden the regimes in power there to cling on. The sooner Gadhafi goes, the greater the impact will be.
In Libya itself, the U.S. might gain a much-needed friend in the Arab world. A British diplomat in Benghazi, the unofficial temporary capital of free Libya, has said that it is the first time during his many years in the Arab world that he has seen American flags displayed in appreciation. Even in Tripoli, still under Gadhafi’s control, people go to the rooftops to whistle in celebration during NATO bombing raids. After a visit to Benghazi last month, Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman wrote: Imagine walking in the main square of a teeming Arab city and having people wave the American flag, clamor for photographs with a visiting American official, and celebrate the United States as both savior and model.
Appreciation for the United States in the Arab world is something to be welcomed at any time, but particularly now when demands for freedom are sweeping across the Middle East. Yet here in the United States, there seems to be little appreciation for this or for the brave Libyans who are fighting for their freedom with such courage.
Whole thing here.