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It’s part of human nature to admire bravery and reward it. We’ll avidly follow the daily doings of Charlie Sheen, but from a sitting position. We’ll rise for a Medal of Honor recipient.
I’ve always believed the reason the Soviet Union let Finland remain independent after World War II – in startling distinction to the Soviet enslavement of every other Eastern European country, wartime friend and foe alike – owed to Moscow’s animal reaction to Finland’s incredible courage in resisting the Soviets. Naïve? I defy even Henry Kissinger to offer a better explanation. The Soviet Union, a country the size of the moon with hundreds of millions of people, found it next to impossible to subdue Finland, by comparison a sliver of land with a population half that of Chicago.
America is defaulting on its debt to the courage of the Libyan rebels. (Tunisia and Egypt had protesters; Libya has rebels!) Former Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo once laid out a complicated legal doctrine in three words – “Danger invites rescue.” The very notion of rebels unarmed or lightly armed throwing themselves at Gadhafi’s powerful army, militia and foreign mercenaries, while America brags about sending two cargo planes with 4,000 blankets and some plastic sheeting, is a confession, nay, a PROCLAMATION, of American cowardice. It’s hard to reconcile with the America that stormed Normandy and dozens of Iwo Jimas and knocked the tyrants of the early 1940s sky-west and crooked and four ways to Sunday.
My friend George was a high-fashion New York hair stylist. You traditionally prosper in that profession by sounding and acting utterly effeminate and, if you have any, keeping your heterosexuality to yourself. George was different. He was a hulking, husky Russian marine, multi-decorated for fighting the Nazis in World War II. In a rich Russian accent you could cut with a rusty machete, George spent many hours mesmerizing me with his stories of the Russian front. He told of the months of stalemate with both sides dug in a few hundred yards from each other. They would trade serenades at night. The Germans would sing for half an hour or so and then the Russians would sing back. George told of a shiny new lieutenant fresh in from the military academy who was almost lynched by his own Russian troops his first week there. Why? He took aim and shot a German water carrier across no-man’s-land. “We liked that guy,” George explained. “We saw him every day. We pretended his name was Fritz, and he was like our pet.”
Does any Russian history department of any major university tell you this? No; no more than they’ll tell you George’s story about liberating the czar’s famous Summer Palace outside Leningrad. Everybody knows about our indispensable ally in that war, the legendary Russian winter. On one of the coldest days of all, George and his men attacked the formidable German positions in T-shirts, accompanied by battle cries just unloaded from hell. One look at those charging maniacs, and the Germans caved.
We’re talking motivation. The Libyan rebels have shown it. They deserve more from what FDR called “the arsenal of democracy” than blankets. “Avoid clichés!” is a major journalistic commandment, so let’s skip over the appropriate rage and ridicule our pusillanimous president and secretary of state deserve for landing America behind even France in any demonstration of national courage regarding Libya. (France is shipping relief supplies directly to rebel-held Benghazi; not handing out blankets at the border.) A line from Jewish scripture encapsulates all that need be said about America’s leadership: namely, “What do you expect of an ox except beef?”
We don’t want to get into a third war in the Middle East. Fair enough. What’s our excuse for not getting arms to the rebels? I’ve never set foot inside Libya, and I left the army as a private first-class, but I could, nonetheless, ad-lib an effective plan to even the odds on the battlefield right here from the safety of an American computer.
Contact the provisional rebel council that ordained itself last Sunday. Ascertain their needs. Bundle it up and, from bases in Italy or Kosovo or Israel, fly it in and, if no secure airstrip is available, parachute it onto pre-agreed coordinates in the Libyan desert. Just review how America did it before we got sick. It’s called “re-supply,” and Americans did a masterful job of it for Israel in 1967 and 1973.
Now let’s get ready for the “historian” who reminds us how enthusiastic we were in 1979 to re-supply a valiant anti-Communist fighter in Afghanistan named Osama bin Laden. Sure, painful. But do you abandon sports after one loss, food after one bad meal or romance after one bad date?
On a human level, the Libyan rebels have earned our help. On a national-interest level, the case for arms aid is even more concrete.
Never before have we been so close to letting dictators know their day is done. If we fail, if Gadhafi wins, the message will be: “Gadhafi had it right. Mubarak had it wrong. To maintain power, you shoot them down. You don’t bore them to death with rambling speeches.”
America, are you a man or a mouse? Squeak up!