One leg at a time (5×8 – 3/21/11)

Monday inspiration, the war in Libya, uttering the ‘N word,’ the 140-character war, and tears for a polar bear.


This week’s Monday Morning Rouser. I used to think nobody ever aged better than Paul Newman. Now I think that distinction belongs to Emmylou Harris. She turns 64 a week from Saturday.

If you’d like more EmmyLou, she performed a small concert for NPR in a hotel at SXSW on Friday.

1) YOUR MONDAY INSPIRATION

Anthony Robles is your new national collegiate wrestling champion. Robles was born with just one leg and didn’t take up wrestling until high school. He finishes the season undefeated.

2) THE 140-CHARACTER WAR

The United States is now involved in three wars — Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya’s civil war. Last week, when Congress could have been having a discussion about the U.S. role in Libya (there was one taking place at the United Nations), Congress was debating whether public radio stations could pay National Public Radio for some of its programs.

In the span of two hours on Saturday morning, the U.S. launched $63 million worth of cruise missiles. On Thursday, Republicans in Congress insisted funding public radio — about $50 million — would prevent the U.S. from beginning to get its budget deficit under control.

There’s certainly an argument to be made for coming to the aid of some people who want to overthrow their government, so why didn’t the nation have it? In the span of just a few weeks, Libya emerged from the cloak of utter irrelevance to an international target. Most of the discussion about jumping into a war took place on Twitter. Social networking has gotten deserved credit for focusing attention on the peaceful protests in recent months; in this case, however, it created a far too simple picture of the role of military intervention.

CNN’s national security correspondent penned an article, “Why Libya 2011 is not Iraq,” over the weekend.

The high level of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world that was generated by the Iraq War is unlikely to be replicated by U.S. military action against Libya, because Gadhafi is widely reviled in the Arab world. His antics on the world stage have earned him the enmity of even his fellow autocrats — who will not be welcoming him if he chooses to “retire” to Saudi Arabia as other murderous dictators of his ilk have in the past (think Idi Amin).

But there’s another way in which the war in Libya is not like the war in Iraq. We had a national debate before Iraq. But should there be such a debate?

Sen. Paul Wellstone certainly thought so, when he cast his “no” vote in the Senate just before the U.S. invaded Iraq:


This debate must include all Americans, because our decisions finally must have the informed consent of the American people, who will be asked to bear the costs, in blood and treasure, of our decisions. When the lives of the sons and daughters of average Americans could be risked and lost, their voices must be heard by Congress before we make decisions about military action.

There are, of course, big differences: France is taking the lead, for example. And there are no plans for soldiers on the ground in Libya. But these things — wars — seldom go the way people plan them to go. And the U.S. had plenty of money in 2002; it’s tapped out, the politicians tell us, in 2011.

There are also the same dangers Wellstone warned about, specifically a widened war in the Arab world. The Arab League, for example, that called for a no-fly zone, is now deploring the scope of the westerners’ intervention.

And, today, Yemen’s civil strife is percolating anew.

How is this supposed to end? Officials don’t seem to know.

3) UTTERING THE N WORD

Some Woodbury teachers and students were featured on 60 Minutes last night. They were discussing the decision to print a version of Mark Twain that eliminate the “N word.”

But what was most surprising — and shocking — was when the reporter actually said the “N word,” which proved it’s not just another word.

4) THE POWER OF PAPER CRANES

More than half of the University of Minnesota students studying in Japan have returned home, the U of M Daily reports. Members of the Japan Student Association are watching the continuing disaster, and have come up with their own way to help: origami.

5) KNUT CUT

News Cut is closing in on its 5,000th post. That’s a lot of information, but no post has received more attention and traffic over the years than this one. Three years later, it remains a popular page. We think it’s because of this picture:

polar_bear.jpg

That’s Knut, who was abandoned by his mother in a zoo in Germany and captured the hearts — obviously — of more than a nation. Knut is dead.

TODAY’S QUESTION

Web-based news outlets have surpassed newspapers and now draw more consumers than any medium except local TV news. The New York Times intends to start charging a fee for its Web content. Are you willing to start paying for news on the Web?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Afghanistan this week and noted significant gains in the fight against the Taliban. But one critic says the war in Afghanistan is harnessed to a strategy that is bound to fail.

Second hour: Jazz singer Jane Monheit.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Michael O’Keefe, who served as human services commissioner during the Ventura administration, explains the challenges involved in slowing the growth of Minnesota’s human services spending.

Second hour: Minnesota Orchestra conductor Sarah Hicks, in a recent conversation from the Bright Ideas series, recorded in Minnesota Public Radio’s UBS Forum.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: TBA

Second hour: TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - When writer Sarah Stonich was young, her father impressed upon her the value of having some land. She shrugged off her what she thought of as her dad’s obsession at the time. Yet years later, as a single mother with a son, she bought some undeveloped property near Ely in northern Minnesota. Her new book “Shelter” started off as a journal about building a cabin, but it soon spun off in many directions as life took over. MPR’s Euan Kerr will have the story.

MPR’s Brandt Williams will outline the findings of his four-month investigation into the sources of guns used in Minneapolis crimes.

  • jon
  • Bob Collins

    Folks: There’s no sense in posting long links — or even short ones. The instructions on how to post a link are just before the “name” field on the comments field.

  • David Wilford

    The amount of time left to debate intervening in Libya was zero given that Qadhafi’s forces were about to overrun the main rebel-held city of Benghazi. So it was either do it or forget about it. Congress unfortunately these days is a dysfunctional debating society, and it’s telling that the U.N. Security Council was better able to get it’s act together and make a decision.

  • Al

    Love that Emmylou Harris & Mark Knopfler tune! I stumbled on the CD of their duets, “All the Roadrunning”, last year. Definitely one of my favorite public library finds

  • Bob Collins

    //So it was either do it or forget about it.

    In this case, foreign policy was dictated by the rebels who started an uprising against Libya’s leader, buoyed by the success — presumably — in Egypt and Tunisia.

    But we should be clear that the circumstances that led to U.S. intervention were not an ongoing assault against Libya’s people, it was the result of a decision to have a civil war in the first place.

    That’s not to say that’s not tragic; it is. That’s not to say the lives of those involves aren’t important; they are.

    But the “we didn’t have time” argument is a thin one given all the other civil wars out there in which we also didn’t have time, but didn’t intervene.

    Why this one?

  • chris

    I don’t know much about wrestling, but if he’s missing a leg, doesn’t that mean that his weight class is “different” by about the weight of a leg? He certainly looks “bigger” in the upper body than the other wrestler in that video.

  • David Wilford

    Bob, as to the reasons why behind the decision, my own opinion is that the rebellion in Libya was broadly based and that the only thing keeping Qadhafi in power is his own personal army. Not intervening meant Qadhafi would regain power and purge any and all suspected rebels, but that would just make him even more hated and would make Libya even more unstable. Western self-interest in Libyan oil is definitely a factor, as while we were willing to buy oil from Qadhafi for decades, it’s clear that he’s lost popular support in Libya and can only remain in power through repression. That sort of thing can lead to blown up pipelines. But it isn’t just the oil, given events in both Tunisia and Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world. It’s about moving away from authoritarian rulers like Qadhafi and towards democratic government. I know there’s plenty of reason to be cynical about how much of that professed desire on the part of the U.S. to promote democracy is just a cover for neo-colonialism, but I don’t think what’s happened in Tunisia and Egypt is just putting someone we like in power. Considering how Iraq is now a more democratic nation than it’s neighbor Iran, I don’t think it’s so much lip-service. And finally, I think the Arab street is less worried about U.S. motives than they’re sick and tired of tyrants like Qadhafi.

  • Bob Collins

    Right, but the pretense for our intervention was simply to create a “no fly” zone in the interest of protecting Libya’s citizens, let the people on the ground sort it out.

    //And finally, I think the Arab street is less worried about U.S. motives than they’re sick and tired of tyrants like Qadhafi.

    And that’s their right, of course. Why don’t *they* do something about it?

  • David Wilford

    The purpose of the no-fly zone was to protect the rebels, but when Qadhafi’s forces had pushed right up to the outskirts of Benghazi and started to attack the city, it became necessary to bomb said forces to keep that from happening. That attack (as well as the assault by Qadhafi’s forces on rebel-held Misurata) was happening even as Qadhafi was saying he was ordering a cease-fire.

    As to the Arab world doing little themselves about Libya, only Egypt has the capability to do anything significant militarily and perhaps that may happen, but my feeling is that by not intervening now that Egypt could later provide a peace-keeping force in the event that Qadhafi goes out violently instead of peacefully. It’s not as if Egypt is all that settled at the moment either.

  • JackU

    I think the issue on why there was no debate has to do with the perception among some members of the Obama National Security team that there was the chance of humanitarian catastrophe if nothing was done. Here is a Politico column that points to some other articles, including one I read in Saturday’s NY Times, that talks about why the administration made a somewhat sudden about face on supporting a No Fly zone.

    One name that came up in the Times article was Rwanda. There was a feeling by some that if the international community didn’t do anything Libyans could suffer the way Rwandans had in 1994. Nobody wanted that to happen.