This is a serious question for all of Ricochet and anyone who wants to help me try to come up with a good answer to this, because I honestly don’t know what the answer is or should be. Daniel Pipes just wrote this:
Many are ready to party about the political demise of the hated, eccentric, and foul Mu’ammar al-Qaddafi as rebel troops move into Tripoli. I am not partying. Here’s why not.
The NATO intervention in March 2011 was done without due diligence as to who it is in Benghazi that it was helping. To this day, their identity is a mystery. Chances are good that Islamist forces are hiding behind more benign elements, waiting for the right moment to pounce, as roughly happened in Iran in 1978-79, when Islamists did not make clear their strength nor their program until the shah was well disposed of. Should that be the case in Libya today, then the miserable Qaddafi will prove to be better than his successors for both the Libyan subjects of tyranny and the West.
I hope I am wrong and the rebels are modern and liberal. But I fear that a dead-end despotism will be replaced by the agents of a worldwide ideological movement. I fear that Western forces will have brought civilization’s worst enemies to power.
My question: How exactly do we know that NATO did not perform due diligence? Would not publicizing the results of whatever intelligence operations they conducted have risked compromising their sources and assets? I am not saying that they did conduct due diligence: I do not know, could not know, and basically believe I should not know. I’ve made a democratic compact with my government. I trust it to keep some things secret from the world–and thus, given reality, from me–in certain spheres. I trust it to enter into treaties with other governments that do the same thing.
How would we recognize the signs of “due diligence” when it comes to something like this?
Here is my most rational, first-principles argument for thinking he is right: Bureaucracies, especially ones that are never exposed to daylight, are sclerotic turf-aggregation machines that tend to overstate their abilities. I’ve seen that too many times, in too many contexts, across too many cultures, to be in much doubt that it’s true. I don’t know that I trust any secretive bureaucracy to perform due diligence, and I doubt, a priori, that anyone really knows what’s going on well enough to meet a reasonable legal standard of due diligence as would be defined in US law and culture.
Beyond that, I just don’t know. I’ve never set foot in Libya and I reckon it’s massively complex, like any human society–or any human being, for that matter. As a general guide, past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior, more so than any words anyone uses. If I had to place bets, Libya will resemble its past, but I don’t think I’m expressing much more than a cliche by saying that.