Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On the Libyan intervention: It's complicated

It's complicated?

That's a Facebook relationship status, but it accurately describes my feelings about American involvement in the Libyan uprising.

I wouldn't mind if Mr. Gadhafi is forced to abandon Libya. He's not just a despot, he's a dangerously crazy one.

In the mid-1980s, Gadhafi sponsored -- or at least applauded -- terrorist attacks in Rome and Vienna. He gave aid and comfort to the Red Brigades, the Red Army Faction and the Irish Republican Army and was implicated in a 1986 bombing of a disco in West Berlin in which two American servicemen were killed and another 50 wounded. President Reagan ordered airstrikes against Libya in 1986 in retaliation -- and Gadhafi struck back by ordering the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 (the Lockerbie bombing). Few will forget the scene only a year and a half ago when Scotland released the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, because he was allegedly suffering from terminal cancer and had only three months to live. Megrahi was given a hero's welcome in Libya -- and, although it wasn't reported at the time, he may have stopped off on the way at Lourdes because he seems to have enjoyed a miraculous recovery. (Although Megrahi was reported to have lapsed into a coma in December 2010, other media reports referred to in a Wikipedia article concerning Megrahi have him living with his family as recently as last month.)

Anyway, there's history between America and Gadhafi. Supposedly, Libya's belated admission of responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing (in 2003) was prompted by America's invasion of Iraq: Gadhafi saw what we did to Hussein's regime and figured he might be next, so he decided to play nice for awhile. In fact, if memory serves, some in the Bush administration were allegedly pointing to Gadhafi's seeming change of heart as a happy consequence of our Iraq adventure.

But that Iraq adventure isn't over yet. And neither is our adventure in Afghanistan.

How many adventures can we have at one time?

And, speaking of George W. Bush, who doubts that if he were pushing this latest military effort, there would be demonstrators screaming "No Blood for Oil!" in our streets?

Mr. Obama presents a humanitarian case for our limited intervention in Libya: Gadhafi was murdering his subjects wholesale.

But North Korea has been starving its subjects for years and we don't intervene there. What's the difference? Could it be... oil?

And then there's our marvelous allies that begged us (supposedly) to intervene and that will (supposedly) be taking the laboring oar in the Libyan operation at any moment now. Only the Arab League seems now to be as much against the venture as for it. The Germans, too. And the Turks.

Of course, our friends abroad are no worse than our domestic politicians. The Republicans were demanding intervention when Mr. Obama seemed to be leaning against it; now that he's intervened, many of them seem to have changed their minds. And, oh yes, this is now "Mr. Obama's War."

And that bring up one more thing: I've danced around it in this post because everyone else has, too. But let's admit it: When we lob missiles at people or buildings or even tent complexes, that's an act of war. We are now at war with Libya. I'm really glad the U.N. thinks it's a good idea (although Russia's Vladimir Putin, who could have instructed his U.N. ambassador to veto the authorization for the use of force and did not, refers to the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya as like a call for a medieval Crusade) -- but what about the role of Congress in any of this?

Doesn't our Constitution say something about Congress having the power to declare war?

At least when Mr. Bush the Younger went into Iraq, there was a clear purpose: Mr. Bush gambled his presidency, or at least his legacy, on the alleged presence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. It turned out there weren't any -- and Mr. Bush lost his gamble (whether or not you believe he otherwise 'accomplished his mission').

But what is our purpose in Libya? And, if our motivation is entirely humanitarian, as Mr. Obama seems to be saying, then how do we justify not also bombing Pyongyang? How can we possibly keep every tin pot dictator who is a menace to his own people in check?

I'd like to see Gadhafi gone... but it's complicated.


Dave said...

I'm going to toss a quarter in the air. I'll bet the quarter that it lands on it's edge, not heads or tails.

Then there's Syria today. Maybe all this is a good thing with Libya just having a really crazy ruler, the rest realizing that it's time to pull the billions out of the vaults and retire to the despot equivalents of Florida.

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

you are right, very complicated. and then there is israel in the middle of all the other stuff. i don't think there can be any good outcome there. at all.

smiles, bee