Week in Review

by by David Adler, Anna Matejcek & Emma Whitford

illustration by by Robert Sandler

Operation Odyssey Dawn-s

Saturday, March 19 marked the beginning of Operation Odyssey Dawn—an assault led by American forces on the Qaddafi regime through a series of tomahawk missiles—moving forward with the U.N.-approved “no-fly zone” policy to cripple Libya’s air defense centers. With this next level of violence, however, has come backlash from the international and domestic community alike.

In the course of Libya’s uprising, it has become increasingly clear the downfall of Muammar el-Qaddafi will not guarantee a bright future for Libya and its people. Libya does not display the same sense of unity against tyranny as countries like Egypt; Qaddafi aside, internal tension could well produce a civil war. Qaddafi himself recognizes this: in his letter to President Barack Obama, he is no longer directly concerned with asserting his innocence; instead, he is pleading with the United States and its allies to bear in mind the potential consequences of violence against him. “You will regret it if you take a step toward intervening in our internal affairs,” he warned. Qaddafi emphasized in his address to Obama that he is “confronting Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb”—a radical Islamist militia that he believes could take Libya by force in a post-Qaddafi weakened state. The hasty use of force by Western nations has thus caused many nations—Italy and Norway among them—to suspend military operations.

Meanwhile, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has referred to Obama’s decision to interfere in Libya an “impeachable offense,” as he acted without the approval of Congress. He repeated a quote from Obama from 2007 back at him: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Others in the U.S. are concerned that military involvement in Libya sets a bad precedent with respect to similar revolutions in the Middle East—if Qaddafi’s violence against the rebels won’t be tolerated, it would be hypocrisy to fail to defend protestors in countries like Bahrain and Yemen.

Much like the decision-making that led to a military operation sharing a name with a Yes album, the intentions of the United States in Operation Odyssey Dawn remain incredibly ill-defined. Obama claims that the operation is intended to protect Libyan citizens under attack by pro-Qaddafi forces, but the endpoint of OOD is murky— reminiscent of other U.S. military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq. Looking forward, the actions of the U.S. will reflect much more than its policy concerning Libya. In an era where the foreign policy motives of America has been almost entirely discredited, the role of the U.S. in this string of Middle Eastern revolutions may be a turning point to send a message to the international community as well as a domestic populace disillusioned with war—to intervene or not intervene, to enforce democracy or respect autonomy. –DA

She’s the No Woman

Hillary Clinton’s take-home message this week is simple: nothing lasts forever. Last Wednesday Clinton gave Wolf Blitzer the same blunt answer to a barrage of questions about her next political move:

Blitzer: Do you want to serve a second term as Secretary of State?
Clinton: No.
B: Would you like to serve as Secretary of Defense?
C: No.
B: Would you like to be Vice President of the United States?
C: No.
B: Would you like to be President of the United States?
C: No.

Even if America is under the impression that Clinton is a contender for these positions, she’s adamant about bringing her public, political life to an end.
So what lies ahead for Clinton? There’s the possibility of another autobiography, this one focusing on her 2008 primary campaign, her loss to Obama, and her tenure as Secretary of State. She has also alluded to the possibility of teaching, or starting a foundation focused on promoting international women’s rights.

And then, just maybe, Chelsea will have a baby. Clinton admitted to Blitzer that, due to the currently volatile international political climate, “There isn’t anything that I can imagine doing after this that would be as demanding, as challenging or rewarding [as serving for the Obama administration].” But, at the end of the day, “I love babies.” –EW

Saving the Internet
Junior senator Al Franken (D)—formerly of SNL, currently of the state of Minnesota—assigned the techies, creative types, and media entrepreneurs assembled at this year’s SXSW Interactive festival in Austin a rather daunting task: “Save the internet.” In light of recent internet privacy debates, the Wikileaks scandal, and, perhaps most disturbingly, Rebecca Black’s viral video “Friday,” you may have found yourself thinking that the internet needs saving. According to Franken, and several other independent media analysts, you’re right.

In its current form, the internet is characterized by the basic principle of net neutrality—telecom companies providing internet access treat all data sources equally, regardless of the creator’s financial means. As Franken warned in his half-hour speech, addressed to a crowd of largely liberal, young web creators and entrepreneurs, this may soon change.

In a House panel held last week, lawmakers passed a billthat, if approved by Congress and the president, will make it impossible for the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the internet in the interest of maintaining net neutrality. According to the New York Times, large telecom corporations like Verizon have spent the past few years readying themselves to profit from this change.

Josh Silver, CEO of the non-profit Free Press, and contributor to the Huffington Post, agrees with Franken and argues that passing the bill would “turn the internet into something akin to the cable TV tiered system,” where the distribution of information and media is determined by corporate interests, rather than the personal whims of each internet user. Certain internet content would cost more, while governments, companies, or individuals would be able to pay telecom companies to make their content more easily accessible than that of less financially blessed competitors.

According to Silver, ending the FCC’s regulatory power is liable to create an internet industry that self-regulates in the same way the big banks of the recent global financial crisis did—i.e., not at all. Franken’s prediction that the death of net neutrality will become “the First Amendment issue of our time” sounds ominous enough, but for those of us less concerned with constitutional issues, be warned that increased corporate control of the internet may well herald the death of indie music, meaning that we’ll all be “stuck listening to the Black Eyed Peas and reminiscing about the days before you had to sell out to make it.” Scared now? –AM