Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Libyan quagmire

War in Libya
What a mess!  The situation in Libya, spawned from the so-called "Jasmine Revolution" erupting throughout the Arab world, has turned into a dangerous quagmire.

Synopsis of developments

Prospects seemed bright, at first.  Libyan rebels, no doubt encouraged by the success of their neighbors in Egypt, arose in revolt against Muammar Gaddafhi and his regime.  The rebels seized Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city relatively quickly, and high-level government officials and military commanders defected from Gaddafhi's regime to join the rebellion.

But then Gaddafhi, crafty, ruthless desert fox that he is, went to work.  Using his well-armed military, an indeterminate proportion of which is foreign mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa, he has gone about brutally crushing the rebellion.  There are reports of indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas and barbaric acts of desecration.  With his troops poised on the outskirts of Benghazi, Gaddafhi vowed that there would be "No mercy, no pity."

Just as he was about to drop the hammer, the United Nations, led by France, and with the supposed blessings of the Arab League, passed a resolution calling for a "No Fly Zone" over all of Libya.  Within a day of the resolution, French, British, American, and other NATO air forces struck, destroying much of Gaddafhi's anti-aircraft defenses and effectively grounding Gaddafhi's air force.  (At least, that's what the reports from NATO military commanders suggest.  Who can know the truth of it?)

Now, it looks like both sides are digging in for an extended conflict.

Is there a moral position?

As a conscientious humanist, I'm struggling to find a moral position for this situation.  It's not easy.

On the one hand, Gaddafhi has demonstrated many times in his 40+ year dictatorship, that he is not at all averse to getting innocent blood on his hands.  And, to the extent that NATO or anyone else can prevent him from doing that, I'm all for it.

On the other hand, only a country bumpkin fresh off the turnip truck might imagine that NATO and the Arab League aren't motivated by their own selfish interests.  France, especially, has a long history of heavy-handed interventionism in Africa and the Mediterranean, which French governments have long viewed as part of their hegemony.

President Obama, for his part, seems reluctant to involve the United States.  The last thing he wants is to destroy the inroads he has made into the Muslim world.  And yet, as a NATO ally, there is an obligation. 

But, aren't we already involved in enough wars?  And will military intervention really solve anything?  If the ineptitude and corruption of the Bush administration taught us anything, it is that while US military power can dominate nearly any battlefield, it can do little or nothing to create stable, peaceful environments, let alone establish democracies.

Libya is a quagmire, pure and simple.  I don't have a clue how to find a moral solution.  If there is anybody out there who does, I'm listening...


Anonymous said...

Ugh. More people dying and another $100M/day adventure. Yeah, that's just what we need. Like previous engagements, I suspect this is probably more about oil than about liberty, democracy, or human rights. I didn't see us (US) jumping in both feet to the rescue of Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe or even Tibet.

I believe in "provide for the common defense" but in my interpretation that means defending off our own shores. Get them home from all fronts!

Ridwan said...

Hi Dade:

Wilson provided the moral answer to messing in the domestic politics of a sovereign state.

It is time for Qaddafi to go but not this way.

The US and its allies has no business in Libya.

If this is an issue of humanitarian intervention what about the oil=less Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Ivory Coast ...

Sad time for peaceful diplomacy (South Africa sold out by joining the war-mongers).

Just my 2.5 cents

Peace Dade,

UnitFour said...

Each Tomahawk missile launched costs $575,000 to replace.

In the opening salvo, we launched 84 of them.

Yet we are being told that "austerity measures" require us to cut back Social Security, de-fund humanitarian programs at home and throw our teachers under the bus.

I think France and the rest of the coalition have this one covered. We're not needed, and we shouldn't be opening another front.

Wayne said...

What's done is done, we're involved. If it goes like Obama says, and we hand off and fade back, we've helped enforce a UN mandate asked for and supported by the Arab league with little or no harm done to the civilians we went in to protect. No harm, no foul. But, the second it looks like this coalition is going beyond the mandate, we should start screaming and push for pulling out of it.

We need, right now, to concentrate on getting out of Afghanistan and Iraq and pushing congress to cut the DOD. particularly our overinflated Navy back at least 30%. We are not the cops of the world and there is no reason the 160 odd other nations cannot support UN resolutions.

We have a more than adequate military, and the largest and best armed coalition of allies in the world. There is no threat now or in the next 10 years of any country or group of countries posing a viable threat to America.

It's time to take that money, start paying our debts, and investing in the people and infrastructure of this country. Foreign wars have been used in the past to distract people from the problems at home. We can not afford for that to happen here or now.

If very costly steps are not taken now, this decade, America will soon be reduced to a nation of rich and poor with no middle class and no future other than becoming a thieving empire.

If we left Iraq, why do we still have tens of thousands of troops there in one of the largest military bases in the world? The only answer I can see is to have a launching point for future wars.

Why are we still fighting in Afghanistan? An army to deal with a handful of terrorists and religious fanatics? Destroy the poppy fields and leave and let the Afghans fight their own civil war.

Support the UN resolution as a minor player, and back out if it goes beyond that.

A decade of pointless war is enough.

It's time to come home and rebuild America.