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North Africa is a textbook example of the law of unintended consequences; the ripple effect. Every action has consequences and changes the world in some way. These changes then cause more effects, which further change the world, and so on. North Africa demonstrates this perfectly.
The people of Egypt were dissatisfied with Hosni Mubarak, and through their protests forced him to step down. In so doing,
Mubarak showed that he actually cared about his people, about his country, about something other than maintaining his power. Inspired by this example, the people of Libya realized that they, too, could overthrow their tyrant, and also took to the streets.
However, Moammar Gadhafi is no Mubarak. He vowed to maintain his power, and sent out his troops to break up the protests. Thus, Libya has effectively been in a state of war for the last several months.
It got so bad that Gadhafi apparently sent in fighter planes to bomb the protestors. Then, the U.S. and its allies stepped in, setting up a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace, shooting down Libyan fighter planes and taking out the country’s air defenses. Now, Libya truly is a war zone.
Soon, more than bombers may be necessary, and the U.S. Marine Corps may need to live up to the promise of its hymn, “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli / We fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.”
Some worry that Libya may become the next Afghanistan, a drawn-out engagement, working to bring down an ill-defined enemy, with ill-defined measures of success.
The people of Egypt are not in any way to blame for what happened in Libya. The Egyptians felt their government was not fulfilling the people’s needs, and took action to bring about change. They were completely justified in this action. However, it is not unfair to say that the revolution in Egypt essentially caused the crisis in Libya.
Thus, the Egyptians are causally responsible, but not morally responsible. To make the distinction clear, consider the following analogy: You come home one night and turn on the lights.
This startles a burglar in another room, who panics, jumps through a window, runs into the street and gets hit by a car. Are you responsible for the burglar’s death? You are causally responsible, because you started the chain of events that led to the burglar’s death.
However, you are not morally responsible, because you could not have anticipated that it would happen, nor could you have taken any steps to prevent it.
The Egyptians are in exactly the same position. They initiated the domino cascade of revolution.
However, they could not really have anticipated or prevented its impact on other countries, and were justified in their actions.
Still, they provided a perfect demonstration of the law of unintended consequences and the ripple effect.