I was informed it was first and likely the only time that phrase would be uttered in that office.
I DID do Russian TV yesterday along with an academic who was in Cairo and another who was in Paris. The host of the program is a former American (grew up in the Northeast, college in California) who has lived in Eastern Europe and now Russia "for more than half of my life."
The issue was: Does the U.S. have a clue about what's going on in the Middle East and North Africa?
I suggested that I hadn't seen any evidence that anyone has much of a clue and that includes the nations of the Middle East and North Africa.
One of them said that the United States has been very good at talking about what ought to be done (starting with Egypt) but not very good at helping to affect the outcome. Gaddafi, he pointed out, has been a brutal dictator since 1969 and the U.S. has not helped the oppressed Libyans to get rid of him.
I said I was unclear how committing military resources to get rid of Muammar Gaddafi was in America's national interest. Humanitarian interest, maybe. But that's about it.
The other then launched into a tirade against the U.S. for our invasion of Iraq - even though, at the time there was plenty of reason to believe that was in our national interest.
We then got into a discussion about the United Nations and how he felt that vibrant organization was the right forum to decide what to do. I made the point - I might have interrupted the guy in Paris who held this view - that the U.N. was such a worthless, hollow, meaningless organization that until last week Libya - the same Libya which has run by Muammar Gaddafi and his band of thugs and murderers for lo all these years - was an elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
I also pointed out that America supports the Egyptian military to the tune of $1.3 billion per year, and inasmuch as Libya is Egypt's next door neighbor, maybe the Egyptian military could - in the name of Arab Freedom - actually drive to Libya and help force Gaddafi out.
Alas, it doesn't appear that, notwithstanding all the noisy adherents of freedom in the region, very many of them are racing into Libya to help the rebels. There are, however, a lot of people trying to get out.
France has jumped into the fray, recognizing the Interim Governing Council of the rebels as the true leaders of Libya and being the loudest voice in support of establishing a no-fly zone.