Finance Column » Your Money This Week » What Moammar and Charlie mean

What Moammar and Charlie mean

By Gregg Fields ·
Monday, March 7, 2011
Posted 10 am ET

It was hard to believe the day had come when Moammar Gadhafi wasn't the nuttiest creature on nightly news.

''All my people love me,'' the Libyan madman proclaimed, conveniently ignoring a great deal of contradictory evidence. But his show was stolen by another showman: Charlie Sheen. He produced not one, but two live-in girlfriends as evidence he's beloved.

The two men dominated newscasts, both unclear why they should lose their jobs. Sheen even demanded a raise. If he indeed gave up rock stardom on Mars for his current $2 million-per-week gig, it may be merited.

As they hogged the airwaves, America watched, and maybe worried. But with each situation it was the same conclusion: Intervention won't work.

For Sheen, that's a family matter. For Libya, it's of global significance. And Tripoli's troubles reflect the humbled straits of post-recession America.

President Barack Obama said firmly that Gadhafi must go. Just like he said to the foreclosure crisis.

A smiling Gadhafi told Christiane Amanpour: "America is not the international police of the world."

Not anymore. Washington used military dominance, political alliances and, yes, money to agitate for democracy in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. It didn't arrive overnight, but Washington could afford to be patient.

Now, the Arab equivalent of a Solidarity movement is underway, but American leadership is being provided by Facebook. Not to denigrate social media's powers, but foreign policy based on friending seems inadequate.

Intervention fatigue from many Mideast military missteps is understandable. But what of humanitarian aid, or development money? America's fiscal morass has reduced its global options from things it would like to what it can afford. Pain at the pump isn't the only price we pay.

That's humbling, but perhaps a wake-up call regarding economic stewardship. As someone once said, "Humility is just the ability or willingness to learn.''

Wisdom from Charlie Sheen. Who knew?

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