I’m not going to mince words: It was a grave mistake for our country to lead a military action against the forces of Libya’s ruler since 1969, Muammar Gaddafi. And after the debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan, it was also a sign of collective lunacy among our policy makers and politicians.
Here’s what’s wrong with the move, which of this writing consists of massive bombing with the promise of ground forces in which the American role is still undefined:
There is no goal. What does this French-British-American-led war hope to accomplish? Free elections? Less repression and a more open economic system? Overthrow? What’s the plan when Gaddafi falls? Who replaces him? Remember the thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars lost because we didn’t have a plan in Iraq. Remember, too, the utter destruction of Iraq and the death of 151,000 Iraqis. (by the count of the Iraqi Family Health survey; other estimates, by the way, range as high as 600,000!)
Why Libya and not other dictators? As we Jews would say at the Passover Seder, ma nish tanah?, which roughly translates into “Why is this any different?” Why haven’t we invaded North Korea or Iraq for mistreating their people? Why haven’t we invaded Saudi Arabia for keeping its people in totalitarian darkness? Why didn’t we invade Guatemala and Nicaragua in the 60s and 70s, and in fact lent support to the regimes that were suppressing the people? What about our good old buddy and financier China? To those who say their difference is the degree to which Gaddafi is hurting, even torturing, innocent people in his crackdown on protest, my response is: Before we get into another dirty and potentially endless war, perhaps we should first prosecute those in our own country who approved of and created our reprehensible torture gulag.
I think what’s happened is that the U.S. (Hillary?) made a deal with Europe, who really needs Libyan oil much more than we do, and China to be the world’s policeperson, in return for unnamed economic concessions. But that surmise merely locates the source of the lunacy. It doesn’t tell us what the leaders of the so-called free world were thinking when they decided to plunge headlong once again into the internal battles of sovereign nations on other continents.
There is a lot we could and should be doing to help the Libyan rebels short of invasion. But it seems as if our government prefers to shoot first and ask questions later.