The Right-Wing Noise Machine is pulling President Obama from both sides. On the one hand, they’re badgering him for intervening in Libya, enforcing the UN-sanctioned no-fly zone and engaging Libyan units in aerial combat. On the other hand, they’re saying Obama doesn’t care about democracy because he hasn’t intervened on behalf of pro-democracy protesters in Yemen and Bahrain. I’ve long dismissed conservative pundits as modern pre-Socratic sophists, throwing all the mud they can and hoping some of it sticks, regardless of the twists in logic—if it exists in their arguments at all. It’s contradictions like this that turned me off to them a long time ago.

NeoCon pundits are a known quantity. What I have a hard time reconciling is, why are many of the same liberals who excoriated the Bush administration for starting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq now defending Obama’s use of air cover to help the Libyan rebels?

This is one case where nearly every American becomes a hypocrite if he favored intervention when one party was in the White House, but opposed it when the other was in.

I’ve tried to wrap my brain around this, and though I voted for Obama and still believe, despite Republicans trying to trip him up at every opportunity, he will ultimately be remembered as a solid American and a good President, I can’t go along with him on this, for the same reasons I couldn’t support Bush when he invaded Iraq in 2003.

I remember when Bush addressed the nation in ’03 as battleship groups set themselves up in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. I was reluctantly supportive of the act in its initial stage, considering it a necessary evil. As the war drug on, and all the nasty little evils men do to one another mounted and mounted, I was vocal in my opposition—nay, detesting—of the way the war was handled, between use of contractors that shot civilians for fun, profiteering, waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Halliburton, and all the other critters that we saw crawl when we lifted the rock. I generally oppose war, period, and pretty much all wars in human history were fought for bullshit reasons; this was just one more.

Let me add a little more depth to this. Concerning the Middle East, I’ve been opposed to most every American incursion. From Reagan’s bombing of Tripoli in 1986, to Desert Storm, to Afghanistan and Iraq, to today, I believe American policy in the Middle East has been wrongly enforced and should be scrapped. During the Cold War, the US propped up despots for their own interests (protection of Israel and, more importantly, protection of the flow of cheap petroleum), turning a blind eye to the tyranny they imposed on their own people. While Americans still cringe at the thought of the Ayatollah Khomeini assuming power with the flight of the Shah of Iran in 1979, I’ve come to realize it was an event 25 years in the making, starting with the US installing the Shah in the 1950’s and overthrowing what was then a fledgling democracy.

That’s the hard lesson Americans have to learn, and with Obama’s actions in Libya, it looks like they still haven’t. Since the 1950’s, the US has either turned a blind eye to Middle Eastern tyranny, outright supported it, or manipulated politics to ensure it, for the sake of its own ends, and at some point, you had to believe the people there would eventually get pissed off enough to fight back. What we’re seeing in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and elsewhere in the region is a mass movement, an entire generation of Middle Easterners, who want to free themselves from despots who have overstayed their welcome, in many cases because Western powers, particularly the US, benefited. Have a prisoner you want to interrogate without getting your hands dirty? Send him to Egypt, our buddy Hosni Mubarek has no problem rendering them for you. Need to keep the fundamentalists in Iran in line? Arm Saddam Hussein in Iraq, let him fight a war of attrition that has arguably been the bloodiest war since World War II, and shake his hand until he becomes inconvenient. Who cares if women are second-class citizens in Saudi Arabia, who cares if most of the hijackers from 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, gas is getting up past two bucks a gallon, so the Saudi family gets a pass.

In terms of the Middle East, Americans have to decide what is more important, maintaining the status quo and thinking only in terms of national interest, or allowing these countries to sort out their own affairs and create governments of their own making?

Truly, the protests in Tunisia and Egypt that led to the overthrow of governments and heads of state that were American allies for decades demonstrates that citizens can indeed organize themselves, defend themselves, and even oust the tyrants, all by themselves. It’s an argument that tosses the grand argument of the previous decade, that Iraq and Afghanistan inherently need America to kick the bad guys to the curb, out the window.

Don’t misunderstand me. I want the rebels in Libya to oust Moammar Qadhafi as bad as anyone else does. I root for the everyday man, the working class stiff, the guy who is overworked and underpaid, because that’s most of the world, and there’s something far more noble in a day of labor than a day of leisure. As such, I want the people of Libya to forge their own destiny, one that may or may not include the United States, and for the US to respect that destiny and not warp it for their own selfish cravings.

I will always root for self-determination; that should be a staple principle in all things American. Our history, however, proves us lacking in commitment to that ethic.

If democracy is something we seek to spread throughout the world, it should be through our example, our championing, our excellence in the craft. It should not have to be something we enforce at the point of a gun. Were democracy truly something to treasure, we wouldn’t have to force countries to accept it; they would steal it, just as they would any other precious commodity. They should see the shining example America is setting and say, that’s what we want for our own people, let’s overthrow the bastards and do it for ourselves, even if we have to die trying.

Maybe, once upon a time, we set such a shining example. Now? Eh…

This is a fight for the Libya people to fight, but it was also a fight for the Iraqi people to fight, the Afghani people to fight, the Tunisian and Yemeni and, back in the day, the Iranian people to fight. As Lyndon Johnson said (and later renigged), we shouldn’t be sending American kids thousands of miles around the world to do what Asian kids (or Libyan kids, for that matter) should be doing for themselves.

While I understand and even enjoy the thinking that led the Obama Administration, the French and British governments, and the UN to the resolution that installed the no-fly zone over Libya, it doesn’t matter. As much as anyone, I want Qadhafi gone, and I want the Libyans to create a government of their own choosing, but it’s THEIR government of THEIR choosing.

That’s what self-determination, as foreign a concept as it might seem to Americans, is all about.

So let the conservatives play the contradictions and pull Obama from both directions. Let the liberals support Obama for doing more or less the same thing they criticized Bush for doing. War makes hypocrites of us all. The consistent view is the rare view, and if you’re beholden so tight to your party or ideology that it blinds you, you have to accept your hypocrisy for what it is. Don’t play spindoctor, don’t overexplain yourself, just acknowledge and move on, hopefully with a little more humility than when you started the day.