Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Thoughts on Libya

As the situation in Libya escalates, I find myself unsure how I feel about America's military involvement.

Right away I disregard the idea that we have to intervene for humanitarian reasons. That's not to say I don't think it's good to try and stop people from being abused by dictators, but I just don't think it's a compelling enough justification in and of itself. There are plenty of places where people are suffering, but America doesn't feel the need to intervene in those places. Why? Why is the suffering of people in one place more important than the suffering of people in another?

Eugene Robinson in his article In the Mideast, U.S. policy is still driven by realism:
Anyone looking for principle and logic in the attack on Moammar Gaddafi's tyrannical regime will be disappointed. . . . Why is Libya so different? Basically, because the dictators of Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia -- also Jordan and the Persian Gulf sheikdoms, for that matter -- are friendly, cooperative and useful. Gaddafi is not. . . .

Gaddafi is crazy and evil; obviously, he wasn’t going to listen to our advice about democracy. The world would be fortunate to be rid of him. But war in Libya is justifiable only if we are going to hold compliant dictators to the same standard we set for defiant ones. If not, then please spare us all the homilies about universal rights and freedoms. We'll know this isn’t about justice, it's about power.
I would never make the argument that since we do ignore some suffering we should ignore all suffering either. I'm just hesitant to try and support any claim that our country is overly humanitarian towards Arab countries or their people. Plus, dropping bombs tends to kill civilians and that doesn't seem overly caring.

I also have a hard time accepting that there's no end plan set for our newest military action. If Iraq and Afghanistan taught us anything, it should be that exit strategies don't just fall out of the sky magically on their own.

Stephen Walt's What intervention in Libya tells us about the neocon-liberal alliance:

The only important intellectual difference between neoconservatives and liberal interventionists is that the former have disdain for international institutions (which they see as constraints on U.S. power), and the latter see them as a useful way to legitimate American dominance. Both groups extol the virtues of democracy, both groups believe that U.S. power -- and especially its military power -- can be a highly effective tool of statecraft. Both groups are deeply alarmed at the prospect that WMD might be in the hands of anybody but the United States and its closest allies, and both groups think it is America's right and responsibility to fix lots of problems all over the world. Both groups consistently over-estimate how easy it will be to do this, however, which is why each has a propensity to get us involved in conflicts where our vital interests are not engaged and that end up costing a lot more than they initially expect.
I guess at the end of the day I just feel like military action, or "illegitimate Western interferences," is wrong. While I would never want people to suffer, it appears a lot of the Libyan rebels aren't even aware of what they're fighting for. And as Walt's post explains, Libya would be in a really unstable position if Qaddafi was taken out of power. So the question of greater military presence is really important.

I just don't know. Glenn Greenwald has a great post on the issue.

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