The UN, having obtained US Support, has now moved to create a “no fly” zone over Libya. Oh, what can we say.
Obama is now getting on the train he couldn’t get off after saying–unwisely in my opinion–Kaddafi must go. That’s the problem with threats . . . they cascade upon themselves. This appears chiefly an emotional reaction to disturbing and violent news from the region, coupled with a self-fulfilling prophecy of presidential rhetoric. There is no real moral reason to intervene here and not, say, Iran a few months ago or Bahrain or Egypt or many other places. And the reasons here are many times less compelling than Iran, which has, unlike Libya, been hostile to the US in very recent times.
We should all be concerned that Obama is moving without any congressional authorization. Indeed, there’s been almost no debate. It’s weird. Wake up one day, and we’re at war. This is a terrible precedent, not so different from what the first President Bush tried to pull in the First Gulf War, though he ultimately did get a congressional resolution. Obama spoke out against this sort of thing when he was in Congress. But like most presidents, he has fought to preserve and expand the power of the office once he was in it, even as he has used that increased power to undermine America the nation. But even strong presidents have generally recognized in the momentous matter of war, the people’s representatives deserve a say.
Obama is turning against the one thing he had going for him in the last campaign: relative realism and restraint on foreign policy. Contra my putatitively conservative brethren, I do not embrace the US-as-global-cop role. It is expensive, it does us little good, and it allows small regional conflicts to become global ones. Many Americans agreed in 2008, fed up as they were with the indeterminate outcomes of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the antagonism these wars fueled in the Muslim world. Now we have a President who eloquently spoke to these themes going down the road to permanent war counseled by the psychotic duo of Senators McCain and Lieberman. And worse, he is doing so at the insistence of Britain and France, nations whom we should respect, but not nations whom we should follow into every hare-brained European-style human rights war.
Worst of all, we have no strategy here. Though legally required, a congressional debate may not do any good, because, in both parties, we see a reactive, emotion-laden, and vaguely Wilsonian approach to the world that has no end game, cannot distinguish the important from the irrelevant, and, through a misplaced concern for “human rights,” makes no distinction between a genuine threat to the global order from what used to be called “internal affairs.” So today we go to war with Libya. Iran, not so much. We are this big, lumbering, powerful country, but our leaders’ thinking is worse than that of children. It’s like that of adolescents: impulsive, overly self-satisfied, contemptuous of risk, ignorant of potential pitfalls, forgetful of recent failures, and a product of peer pressure.
Finally, in Europe and in America we have this confused idea that “no fly zones” are something short of war. It’s true, they’re much safer for our guys than a land war. In Kosovo, we had zero casualties, even as we bombed Serbian bridges and cities. In that sense, air strikes are sometimes the right tool to use. But they are still acts of war, with bombing and killing and violations of another nation’s sovereignty, as well as some risk to the life and limb of Americans. Yes, Kaddafi is a bad man. He killed Americans back in the day and was punished for it (or made recompense in the case of Lockerbie). If this were a merely retaliatory raid, I might be more sympathetic. But American no longer does retaliatory raids. Every campaign is wrapped not in the flag but in the mantle of concern for democracy. This is the Democratic Party’s version of neoconservatism, plain and simple, where the lack of national interest is held up as proof of our purity of motive. But this type of “freedom” is no formula for peace, as it makes a potential enemy of every nation on earth that is not governed like us.
While I am no pacifist, for moral and self-interested reasons, I must prefer peace to war. Peace is not just a state of mind. It involves something tangible and fundamental: not undertaking aggressive military action unless it is a last resort connected to national interest. The concern for the national interest, if widely shared and enshrined in international law, limits the effect of war. It certainly limits the impact of war on our own nation.
A strong principle once existed for condemning war unless it was a defensive act. This was the European system of the last 400 years, particularly after the Congress of Vienna. But it’s been degraded since the end of the Cold War in the name of human rights. It faced an earlier challenged in the name of ethnic homogenization, as in the Franco-Prussian War. But even this principle had natural limits, and it was thoroughly discredited (or rendered irrelevant by ethnic cleansing) after World War II.
Now even this limiting principle is gone. Americans will suddenly go to war for Rwandans and Libyans and Chadians and God knows who else. We can’t go to war for everyone everywhere, and say we’re for peace. If we’re engaging in “humanitarian” wars without even a patina of concern for national interest, then our nation is acting like naked imperialists. Just because a handful of nations, in the name of Europe, team up and say they’re in the right doesn’t make this conglomerate non-imperialist. It’s just cooperative imperialism. It doesn’t change the reality.
I genuinely felt sick during the Kosovo War. I knew what it meant to be “ashamed” of your country. It was a new feeling for me. Not only was our nation getting into an unnecessary war, but it was doing so for stupid reasons, badgered by confused Europeans, swindled by propaganda, and we were on the wrong side. Today it’s the same. While I feel much less sympathy for Kaddafi compared to Christian Serbia, it’s otherwise a nearly identical situation.
Iraq, at its worst, still had some arguable connection to national interest, even if the war ultimately proved unnecessary or based on a mistaken premise. Afghanistan clearly had such a connection, even if it’s dragged on too long, having metamorphisized into a democracy-building campaign. But Kosovo? Somalia? And now Libya? These are the military interventions of an idiotic national leadership, Republican and Democrat.
Obama, after waxing and waning, has made a choice. He neglected to tell the American people why this is so important. And now, showing solemn regard for the seriousness of war, he is off . . . to Brazil!?!