Hand-wringing is the new American pastime, that and union busting. The commentariat has just gone addled on Libya. Congress should have been consulted, there should be an exit plan, there’s no well-defined mission, there’s no plan for who will run a liberated Libya. There were no plans for Tunisia or Egypt either. No one suspected the entire Middle East would be lit up like a forest fire in the year 2011, although I’m sure there will be a few psychics stepping up to having predicted it.
The obvious lack of planning for Iraq was inexcusable, because a war of choice is not entered into as an emergency. Compounding the lack of planning for Iraq was the consequent starvation of the effort in Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to regroup and rebuild for eight years. Eight years, and Bin Laden is still at a semblance of liberty. It’s requisite to plan when you’re planning to do something. Sometimes you just have to act. Sometimes you need to act, like against Bin Laden out of international furry and sometimes like Bosnia out of humanitarian urgency. Curiously, the GOP now recycles the same criticisms it levied against Clinton on Bosnia that they now levy on Obama for Libya. Another two days of Gaddafi’s armored assault on Benghazi would have resulted in a humanitarian disaster.
One side of the Libyan conflict invited us to “attack” their country. Like the Kurds and Bosnians before them, Libyans welcomed us and a UN no-fly zone and “peacekeeping” missions to relieve beleaguered peoples under threat of genocide. Also like the Kurds and Bosnians, Libya has tribal and/or religious divisions. Very, very roughly, Libya is divided in support of Gaddafi east and west.
The diplomatic questions are rife. The national security doubts are troublesome. The ongoing wars of Bush’s choice have drained the treasury and hardened the American public to military adventures. We have problems at home that defy our present political capacity for resolution, and we don’t need to take on more problems overseas. All reasons enough to be wary of military entanglements in yet another Middle Eastern state. But we were asked to intervene by the Libyan rebels and the Arab League, and compelled to by the extremism of a population under sentence of death by their own government.
Citing the hypocrisy of our military support for Libyans versus our hands-off approach to Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, is absurd. No governments suffering protest have yet promised mass murder except Gaddafi. There is an enormous difference. It’s a matter of scale in suppression, not just a matter of suppression of revolts in concept. Head knocking and tear gas and fatalities, political arrests and torture are indelibly evil, but beneath a subjective bar don’t reach the level of international emergency. The danger to us all is in how high the consensus of that bar might be raised if left to tyrants. However high, outrage is still not the equivalent of atrocity.
A post-Gaddafi plan is not even an issue at this point. The plan is to stop mass murder.
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