Reagan Makes Kadafi a Hero of Arabs

<i> Daoud Kuttab is managing editor of the English-language Palestinian weekly Al Fajr in Jerusalem. </i>

Ordinary people, as well as the experts in this part of the world, are trying to figure out what single result can come out of the American bombing of the two largest cities in Libya.

Will it stop the vicious cycle of violence in the Mediterranean, Europe and the Middle East? Will it result in the collapse of the Libyan government? Will it produce world peace? Will it bring an end to indiscriminate injury and killing of innocent people? Will it spread throughout the world a new set of principles of human rights, human dignity and respect for human life?

The answer, to all of the above, is no.

Rather, the raids will most certainly accelerate the present cycle of violence and counterviolence. More and not fewer innocent people will be made victims as a consequence of President Reagan’s trigger-happy, militaristic actions.


Unfortunately, the American people have been sold a nicely prepared package of half-truths. Col. Moammar Kadafi has been portrayed as a two-legged monster, and American raids on Libya are offered as the perfect cure for international terrorism. But if terrorism can be defined as inflicting injury or harm on innocent people, then the U.S. President has become the latest member in this unwanted group. By attacking civilian targets and residential areas, Reagan can no longer be seen as any saner than Kadafi.

Neither will the accelerated cycle of violence be confined to the Mediterranean. Countries like Great Britain, which have aided the United States, will certainly now be the targets of counterviolence. Here in the Middle East, the Israeli government will take the American action as a clearvindication of its own policies of state terrorism against Palestinians, both in Lebanon and in the occupied territories. Meanwhile, the lack of a solution of the Palestinian problem continues to be a source of despair and tragedy, with the chances of a Middle Eastern peace effort more remote than ever.

The U.S. action also will not result in the collapse of the Kadafi government. The people of Libya will be united in supporting their government in the face of what is seen as a hostile enemy. In his TV appearance after the raid, Reagan attempted to distinguish between Kadafi and the rest of the Libyans, whom he said he respects as decent people who are ashamed of their leader. But the attacks will have a reverse effect. We have a saying in the Arab world that “even if my brother and I fight against our cousin, all three of us will unite in fighting the common enemy.” Whether Reagan likes it or not, he has made Kadafi a national Arab hero.

The President’s claim that his actions are meant to bring peace to the world has an empty ring here in the Middle East. How can such a violent action produce the peaceful result that he claims to favor? The bombardment of the Lebanese mountains from the battleship New Jersey is still fresh in people’s memories. In the Arab and Third World, the latest American action will only increase anti-American hostilities. Soviet-American relations, which appeared to be slightly warming up, now appear to be deteriorating. While Reagan looks the gun-toting cowboy, Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev looks the sober statesman and scores points with his call for mutual superpower withdrawal from the Mediterranean.


But perhaps, some would say, the American raid will produce a new world order--a higher standard of civilized relations among nations and people. Unlikely. If anything, Reagan’s actions destroy existing understandings between people and nations of the world. Instead of dealing objectively before international bodies with any evidence of Libyan complicity in terror, Reagan and his war cabinet have declared themselves judge, jury and executioner. Unable to persuade Western allies to carry out a boycott of Libya, the American President has taken upon himself the role of world policeman. Tragically, the new world order set by Reagan is the old jungle law--might makes right, and the rich will devour the poor.

If the President did not succeed in accomplishing all of the above, why did he approve the operation in the first place? Despite all the stage-managing carried out by the former Hollywood star, the real motives behind the raids were much different. They weren’t meant to stop international terrorism or ensure the safety of the peoples of the universe. Simply put, Reagan’s actions were politically motivated to appeal in a demagogic way to the Rambo symptom now so strong among Americans. For this policy the only issueof concern is to hit a “villain” who is in the enemy’s orbit.

As far as Reagan is concerned, it doesn’t matter whether a country is democratic or totalitarian, whether it is run by the will of the people or by a dictator. What matters is whether the country can be counted on to be under the wings of the United States. And if it’s not, it is fair game.