Michael Totten on foreign aid and the Arab world. I endorse this message wholeheartedly.
Egypt has nothing Americans need, not even oil.
Libya, on the other hand, doesn’t only deserve American help. It needs American help.
The country is on a knife’s edge. The central government doesn’t control all of its territory, nor does it have a monopoly on the use of force, as a healthy and stable government should. Patches of Libya are under the thumbs of ideological and tribal militias.
Libya is in a transition phase. The country will cohere under a strong central government or come apart. If it comes apart, al Qaeda could break off a piece, as it did in Mali in April. The last thing the West needs right now is an oil-rich terrorist nest a short boat ride from Italy.
Popular sentiment in Libya toward the U.S. and the West in general is the opposite of sentiment in Egypt and pretty much everywhere else in the Arab world. That shouldn’t surprise us. Gadhafi fed his cowering subjects a steady diet of anti-Americanism for decades, but most Libyans hated him. They hated him so much they hardly even bothered to protest once the Arab Spring started. They just picked up their rifles and aimed to shoot him out of his palace. They knew Americans hated him, too. He was a common enemy. It matters, and it matters a lot. Libya’s relative pro-Americanism is similar at least in that way to Eastern Europe’s.
It may not last. Libyans could end up joining the Arab world’s anti-American mainstream. For now, though, they’re standing apart from all that. They need American help against the militias, and they’re worth the risk. The alternative is worse by far than anything we’re seeing in Cairo.