It does look as if, sometime in the next day or two, the United Nations will authorize either a no-fly zone over Libya or additional military intervention for the country, including possible ground or air attacks. The Arab League has already endorsed all of these options, so the Security Council has some cover if they choose to follow. And the United States appears to be running the show on this effort.
With Gadhafi’s forces poised to overrun the eastern stronghold of Benghazi, such intervention to save Libyan lives from the murderous ambitions of its ruler perhaps makes sense. But nobody has adequately explained where this ends. Will the no-fly zone, which doesn’t seem to be a solution to the actual problem in Libya, lead to airstrikes against Gadhafi’s military forces? A ground intervention? And who will lead that effort? The Arab League seems to be doing a lot of cheerleading from the sidelines. Will they commit troops? Keep in mind that one member of the league, Saudi Arabia, has sent troops to Bahrain to quell a protest for the ruling regime.
I don’t buy this manufactured dissent from The Daily for a second, but I’m sure there are some warhawks in the Administration who relish the idea of another invasion of a Muslim country, this time for “good” reasons. And maybe Hillary Clinton is one of them. These are the “do-somethings,” and the implications of their desires usually don’t register:
There is a rising, bipartisan crescendo of calls for President Barack Obama to intervene in the Libyan crisis, including, potentially, through military means. Instead of a healthy sense of skepticism about what American arms can hope to achieve, there is a growing sense that the U.S. must “do something” to respond to the violence in Libya — and that U.S. credibility is on the line if we fail to do so [...]
What seems particularly unhelpful about many of the impassioned calls for U.S. intervention is that restraint is being depicted as some sort of character flaw, as opposed to a judicious response to a crisis that is tangential to U.S. national security interests. What’s more, a military intervention in Libya would be America’s third in a Muslim country in the past 10 years. As is all too often the case, the “do something” crowd would sooner shoot first and worry about the ramifications later.
Even stranger is the notion that failing to act would be seen as a sign of American weakness, when it was the lack of restraint in deciding to invade Iraq that critically undermined America’s image and credibility — and not just in the Arab world.
Indeed, the Libya debate is disturbingly disconnected from the recent historical record. One would imagine that the ongoing U.S. troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan would lead to greater humility in calls for utilizing U.S. military force today. And yet many of the biggest cheerleaders of the Bush-era interventions are among the loudest voices advocating for a military solution in Libya today.
If the Arab League wants to intervene on the side of rebels in Libya, I’m sure some training and supplies can be scrounged up for them, particularly if they get international legitimacy from the UN. But to suggest that it’s a question of personal manliness to engage in another military operation in the Arab world is ridiculous. And Richard Lugar makes an inconvenient point: Congress has a say in this as well.
In Congress, lawmakers were split on whether the United States should support a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing military intervention in Libya. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called on the council Thursday to pass such a resolution immediately. But in a Thursday morning hearing on the issue, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), the senior Republican on the committee, said the administration “should first seek a congressional debate on a declaration of war” against Libya before agreeing to any military intervention.
Isn’t that novel, a declaration of war.