The President used his weekly talk to outline U.S. goals and objectives in what he described as the limited military operation in Libya. President Obama talked about how the U.S. could not and should not be expected to intervene every time there is a crisis in the world. He then goes on to try to explain why we are intervening in Libya. In my opinion he did not make the case, and he has faced reasoned objections from both left and right. On the right Pat Buchanan points out the obvious: we have NO vital U.S. interest at stake. So I guess the answer is that we are there on humanitarian grounds, ostensibly to prevent Gadhafi from massacring his own people after winning the Libyan civil war. On that basis I would anticipate bombing attacks on Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, and other regimes that are currently suppressing and killing their own people. This insanity that says we must respond to every issue in all parts of the world, while neighbors who DO have vital interests just watch, is contrary to the true national interests of the American people. Buchanan asks a pretty good question in his second column:
Why doesn’t Egypt, whose 450,000-man army has gotten billions from us, roll into Tobruk and Benghazi and protect those Arabs from being killed by fellow Arabs? Why is this America’s responsibility?
Not sure what the answer is to that, but I would love to hear someone address it. John Kerry, in a Wall Street Journal piece, tries to answer the question about responding to similar situations.
Every potential conflict is unique, and there is no simple formula for when to weigh in with force. It is fair to ask, why Libya and not other humanitarian situations? The truth is that we must weigh our ideals, our interests and our capabilities in each case when deciding where to become involved.
The key phrase there is “no simple formula”. Kerry calls opposition to the Libyan intervention “ignorant” in his column. I beg to differ. Has anyone explained to the American people who the Libyan rebels represent, or what would follow Gadafi? Does anyone even know? Aside from the effort to secure U.N. support, as well as Arab League support, the similarity to the Iraqi post WMD rationale is striking. The United States must be the guarantor of democracy, and we must eliminate brutal dictators, except when we shouldn’t. That is what years in power can bring: the ability to pump out 1000 words on a vital subject and say nothing, nor worry about massive inconsistencies in approach that will obviate any benefit of giving the world a consistent yardstick by which to judge potential American responses.
Bob Herbert, in his last column for the New York Times, talks about the misplaced priorities
So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.
I guess the answer to Herbert is that the Libyan adventure is not really going to cost that much, and that NATO is taking over now anyway. I haven’t looked lately, but I would be curious about how much the U.S. pays, on a percentage basis, of NATO’s overall budget. And by not cost a lot I mean in the billion dollar range. I guess borrowing that money, since nobody has the guts to ask the American public to pay for the folly of Washington, is preferable to funding teachers, libraries, police, and fire in our own cities. Herbert has it right:
The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.
One need look no further than the escalating price of gasoline at the pumps, the presence of viable oil fields in any particular country, and the willingness of the beseiged leader of that country to attack those oil fields, to discern whether that country has the right “formula,” Mr. Mayor. (See: Iraq, Hussein, Presidents George H.W. Bush (1991) and George W. Bush (2002); also see Libya, Gadhafi, President Barack Obama (2011)). I just wish one of these politicians, from either party, would have the guts to admit it.
Problem is, in my opinion, that the thirst for oil gives us conflicting desires. We want to root against “dictators” but those dictators, like Gadafy, keep the oil flowing. So we preach values, but then prop up the royals in Bahrain and Saudia, and Jordan. In Libya we don’t know who the rebels are, (likely some elements of Al Queda), and are dropping bombs without a clear strategy, without a mapped out endgame, and without knowing who will assume power after Gadafy is deposed. Not a well thought out move, and again I ask the question “what vital interest does the U.S. have in deposing Gadafy”?.