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The Mess in Libya

It looks as if those of us rejoicing over the overthrow of the Great Loon will have to accept something less than perfection from his successors.  NY Times readers were shocked this morning to discover that Mustafa Abdel-Jelil, the interim leader of the North African country, is calling for a return to polygamy as Libya returns to its more pious and traditionalist roots.  That, plus the sightings of the flag of Al Qaeda flying over the Bengahzi courthouse that was the symbolic center of the revolution, is taking some of the fun out of the after-party.

Problems like this were only to be expected, and the extremely poor probability that Libya would emerge from the conflict with anything westerners would recognize as a good government is one reason I was less than enthusiastic about the decision to attack.  Libya was not exactly a bastion of progress and freedom before the Great Loon got hold of it, and for four decades he was busily at work destroying its institutions and degrading its people.

The NATO forces who helped overthrow the Loon do not have all that much influence over the political process in Libya now.  Ultimately the people of Libya have to govern themselves, and if that means they will allow men to have up to four wives, there is not much the rest of us can do about it.  If the new Libya is a reasonably peaceful place, is open to business with the rest of the world, and does not harbor terrorists, we should count our blessings that we have so much, rather than grumbling because Libya has not suddenly turned into Denmark.

What we can and should do is work to ensure that the next generation of Libyans, including the women, has the education it needs to make well informed choices.  Education is the best form of foreign aid, it is the best way to promote both democracy and prosperity, and while it doesn’t always show many benefits in the short term, in the end education is an irresistible force.  Bringing Libyan scholars into the mainstream of world university culture, offering many opportunities for Libyans to study in other countries, and ensuring that young people of modest means have the opportunity to learn English should be our priorities as, hopefully, Libya settles down.

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  • Mark Michael

    Walter, you say education is the long-term is the best hope for the evolving of a better Libya. You’ve heard the saying, “If you educate a scoundrel, you just have a more dangerous scoundrel!” Education is a neutral term. It all depends on what you teach the person. I’d further suggest that what modern “progressives” typically teach in our colleges & universities does little or nothing to foster moral and ethical behavior in their students’ daily lives.

    How about the idea that every traditional religion, East or West, has the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!” as the foundation of its code of personal ethics. It is the underlying principle of British common law, which we Americans adopted as we set up our Republic. Laws the treat everyone as equals before the law, are more likely to promote peace, happiness, and general well-being.

    The morality of the common man is critical. Not how much he knows about Einstein’s laws of relativity or higher mathematics. Or English, or even history so much, altho a case can be made for the proper teaching of history (of course).

    In the 19th Century, American elite took it for granted that ethics and high moral behavior needed to be taught to the citizenry if we were to retain a decent democratic Republic. Ohio University in Athens, OH, has a slogan stating that engraved on its main administration building. I don’t recall the exact wording at this moment. But the 1787 Northwest Ordinance had this in it:

    “Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

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