Should the U.S. employ military force against Kaddafi?

An interesting piece in the March 8 New York Times about the debate in Washington over whether to intervene militarily in Libya. As the article tells us, even the strongest advocates of intervention, such as Sen. Lieberman, admit that the fall of Kaddafi might unleash chaos:

Mr. Lieberman and others argue that the risks of waiting may be far greater than the risk of an early, decisive military intervention. He acknowledged that as in Iraq, the United States might unleash an uncertain future of tribal rivalry and chaos, in a country that has no institutions prepared to fill the vacuum if Colonel Qaddafi is driven from power.

Yet, he argued: “It’s hard to imagine any new government growing out of this opposition that is worse than Qaddafi.”

Really? How about a government like Somalia’s, i.e., no government but vying warlords plus a Qaeda-like group ruling part of the country? How about a government like Afghanistan’s before 9/11?

By contrast with those horribles, Kaddafi has frequently been praised by U.S. politicians in recent years, especially following his declaration after the invasion of Iraq that he was giving up his nuclear program. The U.S. made some friendly moves in Kaddafi’s direction. Conservatives crowed that Kaddafi was an example of the success of President Bush’s policy and that Libya was now part of the U.S. sphere of influence. I’m sure that Lieberman, a supporter of Bush’s Iraq policy, said something along those lines about Kaddafi at the time. Yet now Lieberman says that Kaddafi is so bad that no government could be worse, and therefore the U.S. ought to help overthrow the government of a Muslim country that has (in recent years) done nothing to us or our allies.

Lieberman reminds me of a fellow freshman of mine on my dorm floor during the troubles at Columbia University in the spring of 1968. He was what you might call one of the “homegrown radicals” of that time, with a big head of curly hair, and he said we needed to overthrow “the system.” I asked, “What will we replace it with?” He said we couldn’t know that now, and it didn’t matter.

That’s the same level of thinking that’s coming today from a respected U.S. senator.

Or, better, Lieberman’s logic is like that of Daniel Pipes (see entry posted earlier today), who after suggesting that a successor government in Libya might be “Islamist,” says that we should help overthrow Kaddafi anyway.

Now get this, from the same article:

The biggest voice of caution has been the most prominent Republican in Mr. Obama’s cabinet, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates. It was Mr. Gates who laid out last week the strongest case against intervention—a case that even some in the White House say privately they think may have been overstated to make a point about how military actions that look easy can quickly become complicated.

Mr. Gates forcefully warned Congress during budget testimony that the first act in imposing a no-fly zone would be an attack on Colonel Qaddafi’s air defenses, and that the step should only be taken if the United States was ready for a prolonged military operation that could cover all of Libya. He cautioned it might drain resources that are already overstretched in Afghanistan and Iraq, because Libya is such a large territory.

In interviews this week, even some military officials called Mr. Gates’s portrayal extreme. Executing a no-fly zone would not require covering the whole country. Most of the Libyan action would be along the coast, where the major cities now held by rebels are. Even so, the opening mission of imposing a no-fly zone would almost certainly include missile attacks on air defense sites of a sovereign nation, which some would indeed regard as an act of war.

I love that: “some would indeed” regard the U.S. bombardment and destruction of Libya’s air defense facilities as an act of war! Respectfully, I say that it would simply be an act of war—against a country which, despite committing two terrorist attacks against America and the West in the 1980s, has apparently not committed terrorism against the West since then, a period of over twenty years in which the U.S. has had diplomatic relations with Libya’s government and has not denied its legitimacy. What possible grounds could we have now for waging war against Libya and toppling its government?

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Paul K. writes:

Pro-global democracy liberals and neocons suffer from an alarming failure of the pessimistic imagination.

Sen. Lieberman, 2011: “It’s hard to imagine any new government growing out of this opposition that is worse than Qaddafi.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz, 2003: “It’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army.” (Wolfowitz speaking to House Budget Committee just weeks before the invasion of Iraq, as reported at CBC News.)

LA replies:

And let us remember that Wolfowitz made this remark after a year during which various State Department bodies had predicted massive disorder in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government and presented various practical plans for dealing with it, based on their experience in dealing with societies suffering from natural disasters. The Defense Department shoved aside all these warnings and proposals. The pro-intervention people today, such as Lieberman, such as McCain, such as the neocons and Bushites, have learned nothing. They are more ideologically blinded than old-time Communists, who in fact had some relationship with reality. The democracy promoters have essentially none.

Bill Carpenter writes:

Universal democratization is the unthinking slogan of the interventionists, as if the awful costs of our democratizing adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan were completely unknown. If there were a case that we need to intervene to prevent something bad for us from happening—the establishment of an Iranian puppet state for example—it would be a different story. Or if we were to intervene to return Libya to the sphere of Western Christendom after 1300 years, it would be a different story. But our recent interventions seem to favor jihad rather than oppose it.

John P. writes:

Apparently the Arab League is in favour of a no-fly zone over Libya. They have air forces, well equipped if not very good, yet they want the West to enforce it. What a bunch of cowards. This says a lot about everyone outside of Europe and its diaspora. Every time, we should pay to do what’s right (if it is). You may remember that wealthy Arab countries contributed very little (with a few exceptions) to the tsunami disaster in Indonesia. Arabs have done nothing about Somalia either.

Always, always, we are the ones who should pay. Enough is enough.

Daniel S. writes:

The neoconservatives and other hyper-interventionists have learned absolutely nothing from the past decade. Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan are all failed states dominated by either Muslim radicals or criminals, and all of this is due to the democratic system that the U.S. so carelessly thrust upon these non-Western nations. [LA replies: to say that “all” of these problems are due to democracy promotion is an overstatement.] Instead of acknowledging the obvious failed nature of these states, we are instead bombarded with propaganda from the neoconservatives that the “surge worked” and that Iraq is a beacon of liberty and democracy in the Arab world (while radical Shi’ites backed by Iran run the country and the remaining Christians are bombed into extinction). In Kosovo we too heard about “moderate Islam” and that the Albanians were secular, pro-Western folks who would welcome the Americanization of their humble little country. The truth is that Kosovo is a narco-state, that the “moderate” Albanians ethnically cleansed Kosovo of its Christian Serb inhabitants, and that more and more Albanians are turning to radical Islam. In Afghanistan, the media loves stories about girls’ schools and other feel-good nonsense, but that fact is that Afghanistan is now a Taliban-lite state that still executes adulterers and imprisons those who convert from Islam to Christianity. Oh, and don’t forget what democracy did for the Palestinians.

Now to Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt. In the case of the later two countries, it is hard to know exactly how things will turn out, but of the early events are any indication, then neither country is headed in a very good direction. In Egypt a mob of thousands of Muslims attacked Coptic Christians recently, destroying houses and churches and killing several people. Meanwhile, the radical, pro-jihad cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi is back in Egypt (Egypt’s Khomeini?) and the Muslim Brotherhood is coming out of the shadows. In Tunisia banded of Muslim vigilantes roams around killing Catholic priests and threatening secular Muslims. Again, the Tunisian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood is back in the country and operating openly. As for Libya, Kaddafi is a horrid monster and deserves to be strung up, but what comes after him? Will the Muslim radicals seize the political reigns? This is what is happening elsewhere, so such a fear is more than justified.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 10, 2011 04:42 PM | Send

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