Benghazistan – a neologism rich in intertextual resonance

28 03 2011

I remember when the USSR’s involvement in Afghanistan was called Russia’s Vietnam. And ever since the fall of Saigon in 1975, the spectre of “another Vietnam” has given Washington ample pause before adventuring forth into “other people’s battles”.  Early in Gulf War One, I remember reading an article that purported to explain why Iraq was not Vietnam (and thinking it a case of “doth protest too much methinks”).

In a sense, the US is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. Consider the dilly-dallying that went on before and during the slaughter at Srebrenica. Consider too the consequences of non-intervention in Rawanda: Bill Clinton has many times reiterated that his failure to intervene in Rwanda was, in moral and human terms, the worst decision of his presidency.  Even if the USA did not conceptualize itself as the world’s peace-keeper, many nations habitually expect Western intervention in others’ internal affairs when the spectre of civilian slaughter is too overwhelming. Arguably, Sudan may not have been left alone to suffer for so long were it located closer to Europe.

My eye was caught today by an interesting article, by William Galston, in The New Republic, on the topic of American intervention in Libya.

Galston writes:

“… the endgame is murky at best. There’s a non-trivial possibility that Qaddafi will be able to hang on to power in a substantial part of Libya. If so, we and our allies may have committed ourselves to protecting “Benghazistan” against retribution for the indefinite future. We’ve seen that movie before. Let’s hope this one ends better.

This is a newie – “Benghazistan”. I note Galston uses inverted commas to mark it as a neologism. It’s like an update to the “another Vietnam” syndrome. If Afghanistan is another Vietnam (first for the Russians, then for the US+ Allies), then the Libyan rebel battle to hold on to Benghazi may become so protracted, especially with outside intervention to bolster the rebels, that we have a new sphere of military stagnation – Benghazistan.

With luck, the war in Libya will be over fast enough for the new moniker to be dropped. Time will reveal all – or some, at least.