An uncertain trumpet against a criminal war

Earlier today I observed that whatever opposition there has been to the Libyan intervention has been weak, passive, and indecisive. An example of what I mean is Bruce Thornton’s article today at FrontPage Magazine. Thornton doesn’t like the intervention, he finds all kinds of things wrong with it, but his quibbles and criticisms do not add up to a clear denunciation of what we have done there. He never simply says, “It is wrong.” And that is what has been desperately lacking since this mess began in March. As a result, there has been no national debate on the subject. There has been, on one side, Obama’s illegal military action in concert with Britain and France, actively supported by neoconservatives and liberals, and, on the other side (if it can even be called a side), there have been doubts, quibbles, and confusions; indeed, the single most frequently expressed quasi-dissent from the policy has been the pitiful statement, “I don’t understand what we’re doing there.” The absence of real opposition has left Obama free to carry out this criminal war, which in addition to being criminal has been deeply harmful to our national and civilizational interests.

UPDATE: Tonight I watched some of Hannity, and he repeated the reservations about the Libyan intervention that he has stated many times before. Back in the spring I admired the forcefulness and consistency with which he attacked this action, particularly the naive neoconservative assumptions about Muslims and democracy, and the way he kept pointing out that the people we are helping are not our friends. But tonight, watching him repeat the same arguments, I realized how he fits the pattern of weak dissent I had been talking about in this entry. Yes, he has all kinds of cogent complaints about the Libya action, all kinds of questions about whether this will work out in a good way, or whether we are just empowering jihadists (he obviously believes the latter), but, remarkably, he never comes out and says: “This policy is WRONG. We should not have intervened in Libya. I am against what President Obama is doing.” So what does Hannity’s position add up to? Whining and complaining about a policy that he does not actually oppose. With such “opposition,” Obama and the neocons own the field.

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Daniel S. writes:

Bruce Thornton writes:

Rather than building European NATO’s geopolitical prestige, the Libyan intervention has reinforced its hypocrisy and weakness, in addition to exposing the NATO nations’ willingness to put into power an unknown regime just to gain some moral prestige on the cheap. As for the U.S., a president who thinks a guilty America should cede authority to a bumbling transnational organization and flabby international law has implicated our country in the same hypocrisy and weakness.

All of this is undoubtedly true, and the points made here are ones that conservatives should be making, but as you noted, there is a fundamentally moral issue to be addressed here. The problem for conservatives like Thornton is that to address the morality of the war would be to undermine many of their own positions. A significant portion of conservatives have bought into the idea of using the US military to spread liberal democracy, which they have come to accept as the highest sociopolitical good humanity can hope to aspire to. This is why many conservatives (especially those of the neocon variety) were eager to support the ousting of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt so that a democracy could be established (as if man somehow becomes better if he lives in a democracy). So for conservatives critics of Obama’s war in Libya, the criticism ultimately boils down to that he fought the war the wrong way, rather than that he fought the unprovoked, unconstitutional war in the first place. Being so completely boxed in by their belief in revolutionary and univeralist democracy, most standard conservatives have no angle in which to criticize the war morally.

Kilroy M. writes:

By saying “I don’t understand what we’re doing there”, a conservative soi dissant opponent of a leftist idea/policy/programme has revealed that he does not actually oppose it at all, but is frustrated by not being able to see the rationale behind it, meaning that he is ready and willing to embrace it so long as it’s sold to him. Since most pop conservatives find logical reasoning, consistency, and deduction almost impossible, all it takes is a little crafty leftist double-talk to convince them that some leftist idea/policy/programme is sound. Hence the mainstream conservative capitulation to liberal imperialism abroad; after all, it’s all about “freedom” and “democracy,” and who other than a fascist or a leftist would oppose that?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 23, 2011 07:24 PM | Send

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