Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Libyan Gamble

Libya. WTF? In a nation as polarized as we are, things aren't supposed to be this complicated. You're either Pro-War or you're in with Big Peace. You're either a neocon or a realist. You're either Pro-UN Internationalism or Pro-US Unilateralism. What do you do when your deliberative President reaches a similar conclusion to that of a "decider?" We're supposed to know exactly what to think, which party officials will do what, and which voting blocs will behave in what ways.

Karl Rove isn't supposed to "God Bless" Hillary Clinton.

Adrastos says it well:
[G]ood intentions are NOT sufficient. After watching the Bushies give Wilsonian internationalism a right wing twist, I'm a born again realist in matters of war and peace.

...

I *really* hope I'm wrong about this because I'd love to see that murderous brown clad shitbird Gaddafi toppled. But the way they've gone about this gives me the heebie jeebies.


I think this is the biggest gamble America's made in decades. Ousting Gaddafi quickly with the combined might of Allied air-power and United Nations mandate restores badly needed credibility to internationalism. America no longer world policeman? I'm down with that. A big plus would be the preservation of the Arab pro-reform movement sweeping the Middle East. If newly liberated Libyans are cheering in the streets and setting up a post-Gaddafi government, Bahrain and Yemen are more likely to cut some deals at the conference table. And that's all secondary to the elimination of one of the world's last true madmen.

But if Gaddafi wins? Everything falls apart. Internationalism and the United Nations will be worthless. The United States will have sealed the deal in establishing a new era of Great Powers (that is coming quickly anyway but why hurry it along?). Gaddafi will butcher people on state television and no one will be able to do a thing about it. The Arab Reforms stop in their tracks, as dissent is crushed by autocrats who never have to listen to anyone but themselves again, ever.

That's just what happens immediately, and I'm not seeing a middle ground.

How did we get here? Let us count the ways:

Somalia was such a disaster for internationalism that little was done about Rwanda & Burundi, the Sudan, and - of course - Somalia.

The Balkans were the messy win of internationalism at work: proving that thousands dead, genocide, and war crimes in the neighborhood will eventually push the Europeans to clean house and bring America along for the ride.

Afganistan was the base of operations for those who attacked us on September 11th, the USS Cole, and in Kenya and Tanzania; it was an ongoing human-rights disaster; and it was a mess we had no small part in creating. I don't argue about our nation going to war in Afganistan, though I wonder what strategies could have been used to end that war sooner.

Iraq. We've really been in a state of undeclared war with Iraq since 1991, when the triumphant coalition of international allies drove Hussein's armies out of Kuwait. But we never really left. This is the longest-running external armed conflict in US history, and we are now on President #4 trying to end this cycle. The American people are still arguing about the restart of this war in 2003, basically so we have something other than Vietnam to argue about. And we're arguing about it despite the fact that the troops have held together two invasions this most recent invasion and an occupation without a clear strategy from Washington; without the appropriate resources needed to take, hold, and rebuild a nation of millions; and without true international support. That is an amazing accomplishment that is usually ignored when talking about this war.

Because the talking is mostly arguing about why we went to war in the first place. And that argument, based on our intervention in Libya, apparently hasn't been settled or even acknowledged. Which is one of the ways we've gotten to where we are today.

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