Obama never made a real effort to sell the Libyan war to the American people or even to explain why we’re there at all. Since that inauspicious start, Obama has refused to get approval from Congress and has badly bungled the war effort. In other words, we’re mired in a poorly conceived effort, that has nothing to do with our national interest, and minimal public support, for reasons no one seems to understand.
Moreover, sure Gaddafi is a monster, but there’s no reason to think that the rebels would implement democracy or even be any better. Truthfully, we don’t even know if defeating Gaddafi’s forces would end the fighting. We don’t have any idea what would happen if the rebels won. It could be a democracy, a dictatorship, an Al-Qaeda friendly theocracy — there could even be a civil war between the rebels. Whatever happens, it’ll undoubtedly take years to get everything straightened out.
Of course, that’s assuming that we win on the battlefield, which seems likely, but isn’t going so well right now with NATO’s war by committee approach to fighting:
Throughout parts of Libya under rebel control, people are frustrated with NATO. Between its slow pace of attacks and the errant strikes that have killed rebel fighters, the speculation now is that the Western coalition lacks the resources and resolve to help the rebels topple Gaddafi.
The chief problem plaguing both NATO and the rebels is lack of coordination. Rebel leaders complain that they must jump through hoops to reach NATO officials. Field commanders requesting air strikes and relaying troop movements have no direct communication with the alliance’s military command in the region, much less headquarters in Brussels, which must issue the ultimate orders. Instead, they call their senior officers via satellite phone at a rebel command center in Benghazi. The officers then relay the information to NATO officials in the same building, who only then contact Brussels. The byzantine process squanders valuable time in a war where seconds are precious.
Unable to order air strikes, rebels in the field are forced to wait for unannounced NATO bombings before they can advance. “I never know what to tell my fighters,” says Sa’adun Zuwayhli, 29, a field commander in Dafniyah, which is how far the rebels have advanced out of Misratah in their excruciatingly slow advance toward Gaddafi’s capital Tripoli. “Advance, retreat, hold — they are all guesses until we see the bombs from NATO,” he laments.
If you’re wondering why the US and Britain typically do all of the fighting in conflicts, this is why. Even though NATO owns the skies and is up against a mediocre military force, they’re still having terrible difficulty without us doing all the heavy lifting.
So what should we do about this? Jonah Goldberg, whom I like and respect, thinks we should settle in for the long haul.
Suddenly and sadly, the Libyan war may be one of the most consequential adventures in recent American history.
Libya’s not important because it is vital to our national security. Nor is it a particularly significant country. It’s important solely because the Washington establishment, led by President Obama, made it important.
If you set out to take Vienna, Napoleon advised, take Vienna. Similarly, if you invest America’s and NATO’s prestige in an obstreperous North African backwater, you’d better recoup a worthwhile return on that investment.
If Moammar Kadafi is left in power, he will pick up where he left off and finish the slaughter we said we started this war to prevent, and he’ll likely return to his international terrorist ways.
The spectacle of a U.S.-NATO humiliation will echo around the region and the world. Other tyrants — like Syria’s Bashar Assad, already busy slaughtering his people — will reasonably conclude that the West’s bark is worse than its bite.
And then there are our friends. If America pulls out without something like real victory (i.e., Kadafi in a bag), NATO could be dealt a mortal blow. Our allies, who’ve spent the last decade fighting alongside us in Afghanistan and Iraq, will wonder if America’s resolve will always melt so quickly when she’s not giving the orders.
Let me just respectfully note that Jonah Goldberg could not possibly be any more wrong here.
Afghanistan and Iraq? Those fights mattter. We’ve spent an ocean of blood and banks full of treasure in those nations. We will be rightly judged on whether we win or lose in those battles and so, both fights really matter. Whether we decide to stick it out in a nation where we’re playing a relatively minor role in a fight that has nothing to do with our national interest isn’t going to make or break our reputation. It might do major damage to NATO’s reputation, but at this point, NATO has already been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be the United States, Britain, and a pride full of paper tigers. It also might hurt Barack Obama’s reputation, which is really all we’re fighting for at this point, but we shouldn’t be spending hundreds of millions of dollars and risking American lives just because Barack Obama doesn’t want to look bad. Granted, we would PROBABLY be better off with Gadaffi dead than alive at this point, but even that’s no sure bet given the unpredictable hodgepodge of rebels that we’re aiding.
At the end of the day, we should have never sent troops to Libya, our national interest isn’t at stake there, and we shouldn’t continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars and risk American lives in what could be a very long military engagement, just because we don’t want to admit that this whole endeavor has been a fiasco since day #1.