You see, it was all fine and good that societies halfway around the world, or at least beyond Europe's line of sight were convulsing in popular protests, unseating dictators and autocrats that were only recently lauded as regional bulwarks of stability and hedges against forces of intemperate variants of political Islam. Mere weeks ago, it was downright uncivilized, in certain circles, to suggest that all who cherish liberal freedom should hold our collective breath before throwing our lot in with revolutionary forces we do not fully understand, but which may usher in governments that are aggressively Islamist in composition, with consequences unknown.
It is another matter altogether when Europe itself is faced with the prospect, merely an undefined potential, at this point, for a radical Islamist threat to develop within stone's throw of its own shores. It seems that no civilized country (or continent, no matter how rich and powerful, and Europe is both) is prepared to allow a rocket-lobbing Islamist terror state to exist on its periphery - except for the one, small Jewish state being forced to do so. Enter Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, who, while addressing EU Foreign Ministers warned...
...of the potential danger of a power vacuum [in Libya] leading to the formation of an Islamic state in the east of the country. Mr Frattini predicted that the collapse of the regime would lead to the “self proclamation of the so-called Islamic emirate of Benghazi”.I've never before heard of the "Islamic emirate of Benghazi", and I'm quite certain, neither have you. This is partly because I don't know very much about Libya, modern or ancient, and have not really cared to know more than I do, focused as I am on matters that directly concern me more. However, I'm prepared to accept that the Italians, who have been fighting, dying, trading and colonizing in Libya since Roman antiquity, might know more than I do about the social, political and religious movements which might threaten them, and Europe, following an uncontrolled dismemberment of Qaddafi's vile regime. I am similarly prepared to accept that well-meaning Frenchmen, Germans, Norwegians and others know much less than they think they do about the intricacies of Israel's conflict with the Arabs; a struggle of only peripheral and intermittent interest to Europe, as it is to much of the world.
He said: “I’m very concerned about the idea of dividing Libya in two, in Cyrenaica and in Tripoli. That would be really dangerous. “Can you imagine having an Islamic Arab emirate on the borders of Europe? This would be a really serious threat.”
Nor is Italy the least sensible member of Europe, given the relative support and understanding the country has shown for Israel's perpetual balancing act between principles and interests; between ensuring human rights and democratic norms in a generational struggle against adversaries who value neither rights nor lives which stand in their way, all the more so Jewish rights and lives, and providing basic security for its people.
Europe's interest-laden ambivalence at seeing the last totalitarian regime in North Africa be swept aside is a direct challenge to the continent's traditionally unrestrained and uncompromising support for human rights near and far. Though, more far than near, as we must point out that such support does not appear to have been extended to freedom-seeking Libyans in the last four decades of Qaddafi's reign of rape and terror; certainly not on the scale with which it has been lavished on Israeli human rights organizations confronting a democratic government making largely the better (and more humane) of bad choices.
It would appear the world is more complicated than it often seems from picturesque Parisian cafes; a world where support for human rights and vital interests may diverge, with moral tension pulling equally on one as on the other, and still imperfect choices must be made, and then accounted for. Empowering another people's freedom accomplishes just that, their freedom to be and act as they choose, including against you, should they so choose, and nothing more.
The Libyan unrest has set in motion Europe's return from heady irresponsibility to a world where another people's human rights are necessarily balanced against vital European interests, where difficult choices must be made among imperfect options, even at the cost of relinquishing moral purity. Europe has responded to a hypothetical threat created by a week of anti-government violence in a country separated from it by hundreds of miles of open sea by questioning the wisdom of removing from power a mass butcher and child rapist who has condemned generations of his people to despair and sponsored bloody acts of terrorism abroad.
Israel isn't perfect, but the balance its policies have achieved, between respecting the human rights of its adversaries and ensuring it's own, moral interests, is starting to look more reasonable by the day.