Libya: How to Win Allies in the Arab World

A Libyan anti-government protester holds his old national flag in front of a wall covered with graffiti against Libyan leader Moammer Gadhafi in the eastern city of Tobruk on February 24, 2011.

After helping Afghan forces push out the Soviets in the '80s, we left. Having helped them gain their freedom, they were ripe for a little help in rebuilding and could have been an ally in the region. Yet we left, and years later attacked us, using some of the training we gave them.

After we crushed Saddam Hussein's forces pushing them out of Kuwait, we goaded the Shiites in his country to rise up against him. While we watched, they were slaughtered. Years later the rancor was still so deep that many of those Shiites joined the insurgency that raged in Iraq for so many years after Bush took us there. Speaking of Kuwait... do we have a more staunch ally in the Islamic world? I'm sure Desert Storm has a little something to do with that.

From the looks of things, the Libyan resistance was on the road to being overrun by Gadhafi's better-trained and better-armed forces. Had British, French and American forces not intervened, instead of reports of rebels taking back cities they lost last week, with pictures of them celebrating over burnt out tanks torched by British Brimstone missiles, we might have been hearing stories about mass graves and scores of rebel leaders scrambling out of the country and asking for asylum. We'd have to suffer through reports about the triumphant Gadhafi making even more of his insane rants on state run television, instead of increasing reports of him sending feelers out to countries that might accept him should he flee.

In some cases, words can be enough to make an ally. We certainly could have been more publicaly supportive of the Egyptian uprising once it seemed apparent it wasn't just a flash in the pan. There are going to assuredly be some diplomatic consequences with the dithering, and vaguely positive light Mubarak got from some in the Obama administration early on in Egypt.

But see the difference in Libya. Like many, I think we should have more aggressively pushed for action against Gadhafi, instead of waiting for the circumstances on the ground to get so bad that the outcry was too loud to ignore, but the president came to his senses nonetheless and we pushed for action.

As the rebels took back the city of Ajdabiya recently, did we hear "death to the infidels!" or other similar rants calling the West or United States the great Satan? No, we heard people praising the United States, President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, before pressing their attack on Gadhafi's retreating forces, who have moved back to the nearby city of Brega.

This is the Islamic street, praising the United States, praising our president, not burning him in effigy. They say this is going to cost upwards of a billion dollars to participate in this action. I say this is the best billion we've spent militarily since we pushed Saddam out of Kuwait in 1991.

Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.