WKU’s open forum on Libya delves into United States’ role in conflict

Taylor Harrison

As problems in Libya continue to escalate, WKU is not ignoring the country’s struggles.

An open discussion took place Thursday afternoon about Libya’s civil war and United States intervention in the conflict at the Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility.

Dr. Eric Bain-Selbo, head of the philosophy and religion department, led the discussion. Bain-Selbo is also the co-director of the institute.

He started off by organizing the discussion into two parts: What’s going on now, and what should happen next.

Articles about the Libyan rebels fighting against their current leader, Moammar Gadhafi, were provided as well as articles about how other nations were participating in the war.

Bain-Selbo said the discussion was for students and faculty to be able to discuss important issues and share their opinions.

Topics were brought up such as no fly zones, exit strategies and whether this situation is similar to U.S. intervention in Iraq.

But one question in particular continued to come up: Does the U.S. have a moral obligation to help other countries in need?

Some students said that the U.S. should only help countries when it would benefit them politically. Others questioned why the U.S. would help in Libya when they failed to do so in countries such as Darfur and Somalia.

That particular debate led to more questions.

“When you start intervening in these things, how far into the future does that obligation go?” Bain-Selbo said.

The students also asked about whether the U.S. should rebuild countries after helping settle disputes.

“If we allow a regime change to occur, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a pro-U.S., or even a pro-Western regime,” said Roger Murphy, another professor in attendance.

When students said that the U.S. should help countries facing genocide, Murphy, an associate political science professor, brought up the question, “What defines genocide?”

He said that usually about 100,000 people die before murder is recognized as genocide. While Murphy called this “appalling,” he said it is also the norm when you look at historical evidence.

The third instructor in attendance was Khaldoun Almousily, who teaches Arabic part time at WKU. Almousily, who is originally from Jordan, keeps up with not only the news from Libya in the U.S. news, but in the Arabic news as well.

Almousily said that most of the U.S. only sees part of the story. They don’t have access to the first-hand experience that Arabic reporters get.

Almousily also said U.S. intervention in Libya’s particular case is a good thing. He said that since Qaddafi has armed all of his civilians, there will most likely be a civil war without military intervention.

Chicago senior Pedro Alonso said he enjoyed the forum.

“It was interesting to hear different people’s perspectives regarding our involvement in Libya,” he said.