Editor's Note: This week, Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. is providing the question and joining in the discussion.
Last week, as we debated whether the U.S. should intervene in Libya, contributor Robert Killebrew slipped in a crucial reminder: "The real prize here is Egypt."
We cannot make the right choices in Libya if we lose sight of the wider regional stakes. That's especially true because Libya's eastern neighbor is not only the most populous and influential country in the Arab world, but also a nation in the midst of a delicate transition to democracy.
Though divided by borders, the Arab nations are linked by ancient bonds of language, ethnicity, and faith, all of them tightened by the modern technology of Twitter, Facebook, and Al Jazeera. The pro-democracy protests started in Tunisia and raced east like rows of falling dominos. The question this week centers on whether that interconnection might send the repercussions of a failed Libyan state, prolonged civil war, or triumphant Qaddafi rippling throughout the region as well.
For instance, if Qaddafi is successful in quelling protests and rebellion with extreme violence, might that spell the end of the pro-democracy movements in the region? Might a clumsy Western intervention to contain that civil war tar the pro-democratic movement as a tool of the imperialists, and again, provoke a regional backlash? Or if Western and Arab governments actually manage to work together to help bring some measure of peace and freedom to Libya, might it create a powerful and positive new model for the Middle East?
As you ponder these important questions, please consider what U.S. policy would best serve not only the Libyan people, but also rest of the Arab world and U.S. interests in the region.