Our Nobel Peace Prize winner of a POTUS has gotten us into another war in the Middle East, and I suppose I should weigh in. I’m agin’ it, but by no means vociferously, and it was by no means an easy decision.
I’ll grant that I’ve got a neocon streak a mile wide, depending on how we define “neocon”, and freeing the oppressed people of Libya from QaDaffy by military force would be a good thing. Briefly, here are my reasons for opposing this military intervention, in no particular order despite their numeration:
1. We don’t know who these rebels are or what they want. We’ve been asked by some of them, not clearly representative of the rebellion in whole or in part, to intervene on their behalf in the name of democracy. This does not speak to their makeup or goals per se; our enemies would gladly have us use our superior forces to smite their enemies for them. I had hoped that our government would have a better handle on who these rebels are and what they want, but from what I’ve read that doesn’t seem to be the case.
2. The rebels are neither well-organized nor well-prepared. This seems to have been an opportunistic rebellion, and that does not bode well for success. If they can pull this off it will likely mean an ensuing power vacuum – in a nation and region known for strongmen. A ground presence and nation building would mitigate this problem, and the Afghanistan & Iraq experiences have demonstrated that it is unreasonable to expect a quick exit.
3. We’re late. The time to intervene would have been weeks ago; now the rebellion is substantially degraded. The probability that they will not be able to regain momentum, and that this will result in outright failure, slowly or quickly, is now much higher, as is the probability that there will be a prolonged stalemate.
4. The Democrats are in charge, and Democrats are weak and indecisive in matters of war. I’ve been concerned that, should we engage the Libyan regime:
4a) The Rules of Engagement would be so restrictive and vague as to hamper our war effort. That fear has been borne out: our mission is to “protect civilians”. How our pilots are supposed to discern this from the air will is left an open question. Erring on the side of caution at the cost of civilian lives is the only rational option allied pilots can make, lest they expose themselves to charges, justified or not, of exceeding their authorization and the boundaries of their Rules of Engagement. It’s no way to run a war.
4b) Democrats are notorious for their weak-kneed capitulation when we run into setbacks, and setbacks are a part of war. Cutting and running will make us look weak to our enemies, and Democrats don’t have the cojones they’d need to see it through. The clanging of POTUS W’s brass balls once had KaDaffy on his back peeing himself (i.e., preemptively surrendering his WMD programs); POTUS Obama’s finger-in-the-wind has been demonstratively less intimidating.
4c) POTUS Obama does not seem to be personally invested or interested in this military engagement. Since the passage of U.N. Resolution 1973 POTUS Obama has done a video with his NCAA bracket, gone to a Democrat fundraising gala, done a conference on childhood bullying, and gone off with family to vacation in Rio. Indeed, as the bombs began to fall in Libya our President was playing with children. At the very least these are bad optics; at worst they are indicative of his lack of interest.
4d) Democrats and their Liberal base seem somewhat divided over whether to support this course of action, and where they stand is important because they control the Senate and the White House. This division is not surprising given the lack of effort on the part of the White House to sell it to fellow Democrats, Liberals, or the nation. Will the kneejerk antiwar Libs mobilize in numbers and cause the Congress to follow suit, leading to the caving of the White House, or will the base coalesce into support for the POTUS with the Congress following suit? Domestic political winds could very well change the course of the war, unfortunately; again, the Dems, being a party heavily influenced on major policy decisions by polling data, are neither steady nor reliable when it comes to making war.
5. War is expensive and we’re deeply in debt, and going into deeper debt at a rate that can only be described as “freefall.” Our existing commitments are costing us dearly, and, as much as I’d like to free the peoples of the world, it’s not in the budget and the money isn’t there.
6. Libya has mostly kept to itself in recent years, and it no longer has WMD capability. Unlike some other hostile nations which have been actively causing trouble and/or waging war on us and our allies (Iran and North Korea spring to mind), regime change in Libya does not serve our national interests as well. Were our economy stronger or Libya more belligerent this consideration would be much less important.
That having been said, we’re in it now, and so we must see it through. I sincerely wish success in the mission to our armed forces and to the Obama Administration. Let’s acknowledge that there are two possible outcomes: the KwaDaffy regime is overthrown or the rebels lose and are crushed, with a prolonged stalemate only postponing one of these two outcomes. Let’s let the natives duke it out and not commit ground troops; whether the rebels win or lose this one our ground forces are not sufficient for a third land war.
The way to help them win this is to clobber Libyan armed forces until they are crushed, clobber the regime structure from the top down as best we can, and let the rebels take care of the rest. It’s been done before, in Afghanistan, although it’s worth noting that the resulting power vacuum necessitated nation building in order to prevent the Taliban from retaking power. The circumstances here are different and we need not commit to the replacement of the GaDaffy regime with a democratic republic. If the rebels win, then good luck with that, we gave them the chance and they’ll have to make the most of it. I am not supportive of committing ground troops, even if the alternative is that the rebels lose. If they lose, and QwaDaffy stays in power, then I’m prepared to take that loss and walk away.
This issue has prompted me to think over what I stand for, and what I want to see happen. I’ve been, for some years, in favor of using military power projection to overthrow oppressive regimes. The recent worldwide economic crises and our ballooning government budgets have also led me to reconsider my thinking on deficit spending; getting our economic situation rectified is now a priority for me. If it is in fact a priority then Libya has forced me to choose between goals. One conclusion to which I’ve come is that the bottom line, literally, is that we must get our financial house in order.
As an aside, this does not extend to our current commitments to Afghanistan and Iraq. In Iraq, we have been largely successful, we have met our commitments, and we are on a timetable to withdraw – an agreement hammered out between the Bush Administration and the government of Iraq, and continued without modification by the Obama Administration. Good enough.
I’m also not ready to quit on Afghanistan. I believe it’s a winnable war but I don’t believe POTUS Obama is committed to win it. The key to victory in Afghanistan is in establishing a reasonably strong government and armed forces, and the Karzai government is not making it happen. A priority for me here is not handing victory to the Taliban, which would be unacceptable. So, for Afghanistan, we must continue to expend blood and treasure-we-don’t-have to keep that from happening.
At any rate, I’ve also had to doublecheck whether my opposition to POTUS Obama, Democrats, and Liberalism have skewed my thinking. I’ve had to ask myself how sure I am that I am not opposed to this Libyan action simply because it’s Obama’s war. I’m also aware that the optics on this blogpost aren’t favorable to me either, what with my coming out against this just after my political opposition has gone and done it; it could be taken as a purely partisan positioning. I’m reasonably satisfied that I’m not fooling myself in this regard, and that my position is not partisan in nature. Your mileage may vary, but whatever you make of my motivations, I’ve tried to lay out my reasoning above.