The handshake between Tony Blair and Libyan Dictator Muammar Gaddafi (choose your spelling) stuck in the throats of a lot of people, not least the families and friends of those who were murdered on Pan Am 103 by Mr. Gaddafi’s people. But we’re going to have to live with it whether we like it or not.
Too many foreign policy issues are debated with a sense of idealism that causes far more problems than it solves. Woodrow Wilson marched off to Versailles arguing that every nation has a right to self determination, and the reward was two generations of anti-colonialism and civil wars that have left the colonized worse off than before.
Now that we in America are the single hyper power, it’s time to do a little growing up, and maybe we can drag Europe along in our wake. We are going to have to make deals with the bad guys — get over it. We sent weapons to Stalin to help get rid of Hitler – morally a neutral trade at best, but politically a wise move. We ousted an elected president of Chile, Allende, and put in a dictator, Pinochet, because our foreign policy bigwigs believed a right-wing dictator keeping Chile on our side was better than an elected president pulling Chile into the Soviet sphere. Morally offensive, politically sound, with apologies to the people of Chile.
And now, we have to accept Mr. Gaddafi, murderer though he is, because he has essentially done what we demanded when we slapped sanctions on him in the first place. Those who want world leaders to be pillars of virtue and moral icons need to try thinking about the alternatives: permanently keeping Mr. Gaddafi out in the cold, or forcing him out by violent means. The first condemns the Libyan people to further misery while the second will cost us lives and money.
I don’t dispute he’s evil, and I don’t dispute he deserves to hang. I merely dispute that those two facts are relevant in international diplomacy. I don’t like it, but I accept it.