Can We Actually Get this “War” Thing Right for Once? – How Libya is Different

A Middle Eastern tyrant is oppressing his people.  Cue cries of righteous Americans calling upon the government to intervene in the name of democracy.  America rushes to war.  Cue horde of same righteous Americans decrying the war as rushed, unplanned, bull-headed.  Haven’t we seen this before?  (Actually the answer is, not quite, as you wouldn’t have seen any neocons criticizing Iraq for a lack of planning.)

Disregarding the blatant hypocrisy of people like Newt Gingrich who can criticize President Obama for not bombing Libya quickly enough one moment, and criticize him for not using diplomacy the next – these are the same people who trashed President Clinton for not planning the Kosovo intervention but found no problem with the next president making a much bigger mess with Iraq –making comparisons between Libya and Iraq is irresponsible and ignorant of reality.  I don’t really see the similarity between a targeted bombing campaign and a ground invasion of 200,000 soldiers.  I don’t recall President Bush getting the UN Security Council to pass a resolution against Iraq before launching a unilateral invasion.  On the flip side, I don’t recall President Obama having to fabricate intelligence about Libya having not fully dismantled its nuclear weapons program in order to justify the current intervention.  Just because the last guy screwed up his war so badly, doesn’t mean this one is making the same mistakes.

Especially when you can see that he’s clearly not.  There are no international ground-based operations in Libya, only air and naval operations to enforce UNSC Resolution 1973.  The intervention was called for by the very people of Libya who would likely have been massacred by Qaddafi’s forces by now if it weren’t for the intervention.  There have been no coalition casualties so far (one F-15 crashed due to a mechanical failure – both pilots survived).  Command has been handed over to NATO.  The coalition is composed of notorious war-mongering nations…like France, Canada, Denmark, and Norway, and notorious Muslim-haters like Turkey, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.  Just a hunch, but I’m pretty sure if we were actually trying to conquer Libya and turn it into an American colony, we wouldn’t have gotten France to go along with it.

“But I thought it wasn’t American policy to intervene in places where there is a genuine need for humanitarian intervention?”  Well, that used to be the case.  It obviously shouldn’t be.  The biggest problem with getting bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan might not have anything to do with what happens in those two countries.  It’s what happens in other countries where America can’t intervene because its military is already stretched too thin, and an ill-informed public has been conditioned into thinking that every military intervention will turn out like Iraq.  It was the Darfuris and the Congolese who were killed while we were stuck in Iraq who are the real victims of our mistakes.  The least we could do is to not add thousands of Libyans to the list of people killed by tyrants who thought America was too busy to stop them.  In his column on Sunday, Nicholas Kristof framed the issue with a damning question: “Isn’t it better to inconsistently save some lives than to consistently save none?”  We went to war in Iraq when we shouldn’t have – the lesson shouldn’t be to eschew military force, but to apply it where it is needed.  The international community stood by and watched two of the worst genocides in history in Rwanda and Darfur.  But it’s not too late to save the people of Libya.  Especially when the leaders of the powerful nations of the West have actually taken action for once.  Let’s not stop them from starting to make amends for the many, many times we’ve gotten the important decisions wrong.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *