So, the United Nations has authorized its members to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians and civilian centers..
Oh, joy! Now we can put American troops at risk in Libya for….wait, why exactly are we sending American soldiers to Libya? Is it in our our interest to send our soldiers to Libya? Nobody thought it was six months ago. If it’s supposed to be in our interest today, it’s hard to know why that would be.
So why are we going to send troops to Libya?
Is it on humanitarian grounds? While there’s SOMETHING to be said for that, it doesn’t make sense to do it just for that reason. If we did, we’d end up sending our troops somewhere on the planet AT LEAST 2-3 times a year.
Are we doing it to stick up for our allies? No, because the Libyan people aren’t allied with us, nor are they particularly friendly to us, nor are they likely to be even after we help them.
Could it be to fight terrorism? Actually the Libyan version of Al-Qaeda is fighting WITH the rebels. So, yes, we will be sending in American bombers, at least in part, to protect Al-Qaeda from Gaddafi.
Are we doing it to spread democracy? It’s hard to make that case, since it’s far from certain that democracy will follow Gaddafi in Libya.
So, WHY ARE WE going to Libya?
Because we might be able to do some good and we think it’ll be easy? Well MAYBE, it’ll turn out to be easy. But if so, why are we needed at all? It’s not like we don’t already have our hands full. It’s not as if we haven’t already done our part to rid the world of dictators. It’s not as if half the nations that want us involved in Libya haven’t been kvetching non-stop about the way we’ve been using our military already.
Moreover, have we considered what might go wrong?
What if Gaddafi blows up Libya’s oil production in retaliation? What if Gaddafi crushes the rebels before we get into action? What if the only way to get the rebels back in the fight is with ground troops? What happens if we accidentally kill Libyan civilians? What if Gaddafi captures American troops? What if the rebels win and then they start fighting each other for control and we end up in the middle of a Civil War? What if we need thousands of ground troops in Libya for a decade to stabilize the country and keep it from splitting into different nations?
We also might wonder what message this sends to nations like North Korea when Gaddafi worked with the United States and gave up his WMDs, only to have us help oust him soon thereafter. Of course, if he had kept his WMDs, we wouldn’t have gotten involved.
At the end of the day, Gaddafi is a bad guy with American blood on his hands. Nobody should be sorry to see him sent to hell on a shutter. Moreover, we can certainly give moral support to the rebels — we should do that. But, the very first question that should always be asked before we use our military hasn’t been asked. We should always begin with, “Is this in our national interest? Is there anything there worth purchasing with American blood and treasure?” In Iraq and Afghanistan, the answer was “yes,” but in Libya, the answer is, “No.” Still, plenty of people think we should get involved because they believe it will be a snap. Maybe it will be. But war — and euphemisms aside, that’s what this is — can have surprising twists. That was certainly the case in Iraq and it could conceivably be the case in Libya as well.
With everything else we already have going on, this is not a risk we should be willing to take. Let some other nation or collection of nations handle it.