Right Thinking From The Left Coast
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Once More, Unto the Breach

Well, so much for the right wing crabbing that the President wasn’t going to do anything:

Joyous Libyan rebels in Benghazi erupted with fireworks and gunfire after the U.N. Security Council voted Thursday evening to impose a no-fly zone and “all necessary measures” to protect civilians.

...

The resolution was approved with 10 votes, including those of the United States and the United Kingdom.

There were no opposing votes on the 15-member council, but China, Russia, Germany, India and Brazil abstained. Germany said it was concerned about a protracted military conflict.

U.N. member states can “take all necessary measures ... to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force,” according to the resolution.

The Arab League and NATO are saying they want to be involved and have been the most open supporters of this.  But let’s be realistic—the burden is going to be mostly on the United States. We’re the only guys on the planet who can project the kind of air power needed to enforce a no-fly zone without flying into a tree.  This resolution would have gotten nowhere if the UN weren’t certain that we would be shouldering the burden.  Indications are that the Obama Administration has been quietly moving toward this and has briefed members of Congress on their plans.  It could go even further than a no-fly zone, however.  The Administration is noting, correctly, that a no-fly zone is unlikely to have much impact on the Libyan civil war.  There is a potential to escalate this into attacking Qaddafi’s ground forces.  And, as we’ve learned from past interventions, once we get a foot in, we can’t accept failure.

I am very dubious of this.  The initial cost is estimated to be $15 billion a year and that’s assuming no escalation.  Our military is already stretched in two theaters—indeed the Air Force is saying they will have to divert resources from Afghanistan for this.  And what are we doing this for?  So we can look “decisive”?  So we can make friends in the region?  So that we can create the happy situation that now exists in Iraq?  Libya is highly tribal.  It’s very possible this could explode into an internecine mess.  What’s our exit strategy?  Fuck, what’s our entry strategy?  And where does it end?  There are other civil wars going on, other brutal crackdowns going on.  The reason for getting involved in Libya’s civil war is sounding an awful lot like the reason for getting involved in Iraq—because we can.

At the very least, the President needs to explain his intentions and his motivations—to the country, not to select members of Congress.  And he needs Congressional authorization if we’re going in.  I have had it with Presidents engaging in open-ended military action without following the War Powers Act, let alone the Constitution.  I have a feeling this is going to go on a lot longer than 60 days.

Maybe this will work out.  We seem to have a lot more cooperation than we did with Iraq.  And comparisons to Iraq are somewhat dubious to begin with.  We are not overthrowing a regime but (maybe) helping others do so.  A more apt comparison might be what we did in Serbia (which worked out so well).  But after two grim struggles in Islamic countries, I think we’re at least owed an explanation and a debate to answer the fundamental question that we should ask before any military action: what are we doing that is worth the loss of American lives and treasure?

I’ll say one thing.  Someone, I think it was Reason—called this.  I remember reading a commentary when Obama was elected that predicted he would get more aggressive on foreign policy since that’s the realm where the President has the most authority.  Well, he’s acting all right.  Let’s just hope that he and Gates and Clinton aren’t as stupid as Bush, Rummy and Powell were.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 03/17/11 at 06:31 PM in War on Terror/Axis of Evil  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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