Many readers will recall one of the most famous headlines in modern American newspaper history -- the 1975 New York Daily News headline "Ford to City: Drop Dead."
Substitute "Arab League" for "Ford" and "America" for "City" and you've got the perfect headline: "Arab League to America: Drop Dead."
I always thought the best illustration of "chutzpah" was that of the boy who kills his parents and then pleads with the court for mercy, on the grounds that he is an orphan.
But given that that is only a hypothetical example, we now have a better illustration of chutzpah because this one is true.
Witnessing the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's large-scale killings of Libyan civilians, the Arab League begged us, the Europeans and the Security Council to militarily intervene on behalf of the Libyan people.
So, despite the fact that America is rather weary of fighting Muslim mass murderers, is militarily overstretched and has a devastating national debt, America said yes. We are the most decent country on Earth, and even a liberal-left Democrat in the White House feels the moral pull of America's legacy, values and unparalleled strength.
But no sooner have America and the Europeans intervened than the Arab League officially protests our intervention on the grounds that Libyan civilians -- 48 claimed, 0 confirmed at the time of the protest -- have been killed by the intervention requested by the Arab League.
What exactly did the Arab League, most of whose dictators have murdered thousands of their own people for political reasons, think would happen once the U.S. and the Europeans intervened militarily? Did they assume not one Libyan civilian would get killed? Has there been a military action in history in which no civilians died?
Amr Moussa, the outgoing secretary general of the Arab League, claimed in his statement that "What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians."
Perhaps Moussa did not read the Security Council resolution. It does not limit anti-Gadhafi military activity to "imposing a no-fly zone." The resolution authorizes U.N. member states "to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi (italics added)."
Perhaps President Obama should hold a press conference and make this announcement:
"Given the Arab League's protest, we are immediately ending our military involvement in Libya. Apparently, Mr. Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, assumed that military intervention is possible without the killing of a single civilian. He should have told us so. Under that condition, we would never have put our blood and treasure on the line. So now, we are out, and the blood of every Libyan killed and tortured by the Libyan dictator is now on the Arab League's hands. On behalf of the American people, I ask the Arab League, and especially Mr. Moussa, to never again appeal to us to save Arabs from their dictators. Shukran."
(The president likes using Arabic words when he addresses Arab audiences, so his using the Arabic word for "thank you," shukran, would add a nice flourish.)
What does this Arab League protest mean?
It clarifies once again that tribal values outweigh moral values in the Arab world, including among much of its educated elite such as Moussa. In many Arabs' eyes, it is better for an Arab tyrant to slaughter any number of Arabs, and to allow that tyrant to retain power, than for Westerners to kill a dozen Arabs in order save tens of thousands of them trying to topple that tyrant.
In much of the Arab world, saving Arab lives and spreading freedom pale in comparison to two other passions.
One of these is power -- especially despotic power -- as David Pryce-Jones shows in his brilliant book on the Arab world, "The Closed Circle." Strong and cruel Arab leaders -- from Gamal Abdul Nasser to Saddam Hussein to Hamas and Hezbollah -- have been adored by the famed "Arab street."
The other passion is hatred of Israel. That's the one thing that unites nearly all Arabs. They no more love Palestinians than they love Libyans or the tens of thousands of Syrian victims of the two Assad regimes in Damascus. They defend Palestinians because they are necessary for demonizing and ultimately delegitimizing Israel.
And Moussa is among the Israel haters. As The New York Times reported, "Hosni Mubarak removed him (Moussa) as foreign minister after a song called 'I Hate Israel and I Love Amr Moussa' became a pop hit in 2001." To hate Israel is to love Moussa.
It gets worse. Moussa is favored to win the Egyptian presidential election.
But look at the bright side -- thanks to Moussa and the Arab League, we now have a real-life illustration of chutzpah that outdoes the classic fictitious one.