Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Libya?

So we're at war with Libya now.

It's caused a lot of debate and rightfully so, about our role, and what (if any) positive role our military can play in the conflict.

Until I got a chance to read more about the situation, my first initial thought was, why Libya?

I mean, there's no question Gaddafi is nuts, and he seems to have taken things to another level recently, but claiming that we're doing this "to prevent another rwanda" is a pretty ludicrous premise, considering how we do nothing when our despots engage in similarly horrific acts.

Eugene Robinson:
I have to admit that I, too, would have found it hard to stand idly by as Gaddafi drenched the streets of Benghazi in blood. But what makes it any easier to watch other despots do the same thing?

In Yemen, forces loyal to dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh have slaughtered dozens of defenseless protesters seeking democratic reform. Saleh, who has ruled the nation for 33 years, clings desperately to power despite having been abandoned by many of his political supporters and some of his generals. He has shown nothing but defiance. “Every day we hear a statement from Obama saying, ‘Egypt, you can’t do this, Tunisia, don’t do that,’” Saleh said in a speech earlier this month. “Are you president of the United States, or president of the world?”

But there has been no U.S. military intervention. Saleh has been seen as a valuable ally in the fight against al-Qaeda, which has perhaps its most active — and potentially dangerous — base in Yemen. Attacks against the United States have been planned and staged there. Saleh, therefore, is a useful tyrant. He gets nudges, not bombs.

In Bahrain, the ruling al-Khalifa royal family has responded to peaceful demonstrations with violent repression. While the world’s attention was focused on the unfolding tragedy in Japan and the looming tragedy in Libya, Bahrain’s leaders brutally cleared Pearl Square of its protest encampment and even destroyed the towering monument that had become the pro-democracy movement’s most powerful symbol.

But for Bahrain, too, we have polite words rather than decisive action. Why? Because the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet is based there, astride the Persian Gulf shipping lanes through which 40 percent of the world’s seaborne oil shipments must pass. The base gives the United States a way to counter Iran’s growing power.

Also, the al-Khalifas are close allies of the Saudi royals, who are desperate to keep the protests in Bahrain from spilling over into the nearby kingdom. The Saudi rulers sent troops to help crush the Bahrain demonstrations and have banned any kind of pro-democracy agitation at home. For the House of Saud, however, the White House has barely managed to choke out a tsk-tsk.
And that's before you get started onour closest ally Israel, who may not have been killing "their own people", but were freely using chemical weapons on a civilian area in a way that would make monsters like Gaddafi proud.

The bottom line is that even these made for TV wars were we drop a few nightvision bombs, only kill the bad guys and declare victory in the morning, nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

What if it a few quick strikes?

Who are the people we're helping?

Will we be arming them?

How can we be sure our bombs only hit the bad guys? (Answer: You can't.)

What if our involvement actually empowers Gaddafi because we're so hated in the region?

Does the hypocrisy of our involvement in Libya vs support of other monsters in the region mean that even more people will hate us?

Clearly doing this under the banner of the UN can help with several of these concerns, and Obama is saying all the right things about how he won't escalate our involvement beyond what it is now. And obviously there are no easy solutions here, but I tend get uneasy when the press and new republic liberals get all "America FUCK YEAH" about shooting tomahawk missiles at a bad guy.

A few takes I've been reading if you want to learn more:
And these amazing segments on the situation from Jon Stewart:



  1. It's also a nuclear non-proliferation disaster. Can you see us doing this in North Korea?

  2. eh... there are arguments for as well
    1) the situation in Libya is way more violent than in Bahrain or Yemen. Ridiculously so. If we were going to pick one to bomb, I get why it was Libya.
    2) I'm not sure "dozens" killed by police is more than would be killed by a U.S. military intervention. This being the case, it doesn't make sense to intervene militarily
    3) there is a better chance of governments that we're friendly with responding to diplomatic channels. This was never the case with Gaddafi. Combined with point (2), this is why we're still on the "tsk, tsk" stage with those countries. Mind you, I'd prefer the "tsk, tsk" was a great deal louder...
    4) since the other cases are less severe than Libya, there would be less international support for any intervention, meaning more of it would fall on our already stretched military.
    5) do we really have enough of an army to fight 3, let alone 4 or 5 wars at once? If we're going to intervene, it's not a good idea to do it in multiple places at once. That means Libya's it.
    6) I thought we were supposed to be broke? Where are we getting the $$$ for all these tomahawks?

  3. On point # 6 - we're only broke if it affects women, those making under $50,000 and Gays

  4. point #6 was in question format for a reason, and kind of sarcastic. The point was that after all of this talk about "needing" to cut various social programs because "we're broke", suddenly money is no object when it comes to blowing shit up. This does not mesh. (the first Stewart clip also points this out - "You can't simultaneously fire teachers and tomahawk missiles")