Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tyranny, the West, and the Rest

by Josef Joffe

The New Republic

March 5, 2011

When Casablanca’s corrupt police captain Louis Renault closes down Rick’s Bar Américain to please Major Strasser, he huffs: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” A second later, the croupier hands him a pile of money: “Your winnings, sir.” It took the West and the Rest 42 years to be shocked by what has been happening in Muammar’s Café Libyien. And it wasn’t gambling.

Now, it’s no more U.N. Human Rights Council for Qaddafi. Now, the International Criminal Court is investigating. Now, the E.U. is cutting off arms supplies and freezing bank accounts. Even the supple Swiss are getting religion, sequestering funds thought to belong Gaddafi and relatives. The U.N. Security Council, no assembly of choirboys, suddenly performs as the world’s conscience. It has imposed an asset freeze and a travel ban on the Qaddafi clan. Foreign ministers vie with one another in the shrillness of their indictment of a tyrant variously called “mass murderer,” “state terrorist,” or “psychopath.” “Outraged,” President Obama demands, “He must leave.” The U.S. and Britain are mulling “no-fly zones” to pin Qaddafi’s air force to the ground.

There is no reason to be “shocked, shocked.” Everybody—and that goes for the West as well as for Arabs, African, and Asians—has been able to see all along what’s been happening in Libya. But the Human Rights Council did not seem notice—perhaps because it was too busy passing 32 resolutions against Israel since its creation in 2006, almost half of the total it’s issued. The Council must have acted in a fit of dizziness when it elected Libya as a member.