History will judge

In a chill wind whistling through leafless trees, on a hill overlooking Washington DC, stands one reminder of why the administration thinks the way it does.

    There have been continuing calls from certain quarters for the US administration to forge more steel into their response to the Libyan crisis.

    If the US military is hesitant to enact a no-fly zone over Libya, they should perhaps arm the opposition, says Senator Joe Lieberman.

    That could yet happen via multi-lateral consensus, should the tide turn in Gaddafi's favour. The alternative is unlikely to be acceptable to the international community. But steady as she goes is the measured call from the White House – let's not act without knowing exactly what we're getting into.

    In a chill wind whistling through leafless trees, on a hill overlooking Washington DC, stands one reminder of why the administration thinks the way it does.

    On April 25 1980, President Jimmy Carter authorised a secret military operation aimed at rescuing American hostages held in the immediate aftermath of post-revolution Iran. It went wrong and eight American service personnel were killed.

    Now at Arlington National Cemetery, a large white stone marker bears a bronze plaque listing the names of the three Marines and five airmen who died.

    Clearly the situation in Libya is different, nevertheless a hostage situation had to be avoided at all costs.  A rescue mission would have been fraught with immediate danger and who knows how it might have spiralled. Hence the cushioned statements from the White House until US citizens had been evacuated.

    America's saddest acre

    Ongoing missions in Afghanistan and Iraq are a continuing reminder of the cost of war in foreign lands, financial and human. There's a quiet pocket of land at Arlington called Section 60 - it's been described as the saddest acre in America. It is the final resting place for those men and women who have died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Arlington holds the remains of more than 320,000 servicemen and women, from every war and major conflict in United States history, almost all fought on foreign soil.

    At the Tomb of the Unknowns a sentinel of the Third US Infantry maintains vigil around the clock, 365 days a year.

    Not far away burns the eternal flame above the grave of President John F Kennedy where the words "with history the final judge of our deeds ..." are quoted from his inaugural address.

    Right now it's anyone's guess how history will judge the deeds of the international community over Libya and a changing Middle East. The future has rarely been so uncertain.


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