“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Oh how the times have changed. These were the words of then-candidate Obama in 2007 before he decided to intervene in yet another oil-producing Arab nation. He and his party have gone from one of anti-war doves to full-on warmongers. Even President Bush went before Congress before invading Iraq, an alleged threat to the United States.
To their credit, however, many liberals and democrats are aghast at his decision to commit military aid without the approval of Congress, including Dennis Kucinich, Jim Webb, and others. Politico reported that just last week during a convening of House Democrats one lawmaker angrily protested. “They consulted the Arab League. They consulted the United Nations. They did not consult the United States Congress.” It is also worth noting that in last week’s edition of The Northern Light, Eli Johnson who typically takes a left of center approach argued in his column that America cannot afford the intervention in its current budget crisis.
Even if the budget deficit for this year wasn’t $1.5 trillion and we weren’t $14 trillion in debt, the decision to intervene in Libya is still the wrong course to take for several reasons.
One of the most compelling reasons for the war’s supporters is that it has international support behind it. We’re just following the UN resolution to impose a no-fly zone to protect civilians they say. We have both the Arab League and international community behind the operation; the U.S. government is not taking a leading role. But this “go along to get along” mentality is proving to be a failure.
The Arab League is already reversing its support for the operation. Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa was shocked and dismayed to learn that civilians were killed in ally airstrikes. Well, what did he expect? With any sort of military engagement there will be civilian casualties. When dealing with the Arab League, this comes as no surprise seeing as how unreliable they have been in the past, yet they were praised as an instrumental asset to the operation.
What of the other powers? Well, Germany is long gone after a dispute with France; Russia denounced the intervention as a “medieval crusade”; China and Brazil are calling for a ceasefire and Turkey and India have remained unfavorable from the beginning. Three cheers for the multilateralism!
Of the countries still actively involved in the Libyan war, there is still some confusion in the chain of command. President Obama made sure to reiterate a few weeks ago that America was merely “one of the partners among many.” But then who should lead? At this point nobody is quite sure. Norwegian aircraft were ready to strike from Crete but refused to send them anywhere until it figured out who’s in charge. There is a crisis of leadership that only America seems to be able fit to fill, leadership which the President seems adamant to refuse.
And why should the UN determine whether the U.S. goes to war in the first place? It sounds incredibly high-minded to say that we’re not acting out of national interest, but because the “international community” told us to. Put more simply, we’re basically allowing our foreign policy to be determined by China, France, Russia, the U.K. and all the others collectively. Sure, we always seem to compose the largest force with the most resources but it should be the world that decides when we engage in war, not simple-minded Americans and their representatives, the ones who will actually be paying the bill and sending their soldiers off to die.
Apart from the moral abdication of allowing the UN at the helm of American foreign policy decisions, President Obama has not outlined any sort of vital interests at stake. At the very least, before engaging in a preemptive war which is already somewhat dubious in and of itself, there has to be some sort of national interest at stake, and as far as I can tell there are none.
Supporters of the war claim that we’re not acting out of self-interest but to prevent the slaughter of civilians. But if this were true, then why pick Libya? Sudan is in the same bloody neighborhood. Its leader Omar al-Bashir has already been charged with genocide by the International Criminal Court, but nobody is talking about toppling his regime. I suppose the President is still waiting for someone else to take the lead on that one. If the only requirement for U.S. intervention is massacre of civilians, then we better prepare for endless war in impossible scenarios. The brutal Syrian dictator Assad cracked down on peaceful protesters last week killing dozens, but we didn’t even get a word of condemnation from the administration, and in fact, Secretary of State Clinton praised Assad as a “reformer”. How nice.
The last and possibly most important question not being asked about this entire debacle is why should we help the rebels? Do we even know their goals or what they stand for? If we have learned anything from our past of arming rebel Arab armies it is that we ought to look carefully into their aims. We keep hearing how they are “freedom fighters” but where in the history of that region has any sort of free democracy ever flourished? Is the freedom they want simply to impose their own version of theocracy on each other? It may be possible that the rebels want to establish an even worse government than Gadhafi’s oppressive regime, and before arming them we should actually find out.
We also shouldn’t forget our foray into Afghanistan so quickly, where the U.S.-backed government in Kabul has “democratically” passed Sharia-style laws, allowing officials to put to death Muslim apostates. The same goes for those “freedom loving” Egyptian revolutionaries who are apparently aiming to elect Muslim Brotherhood candidates in a swift election this September. Remember them? They’re that harmless “secular” political party whose goal is to establish Islamic rule.
We can only hope President Obama sees the mess he has got us into and removes U.S. forces from the equation as soon as possible. And if he wants to intervene in another Middle Eastern civil war in the future, he should consult Congress beforehand or at the very least know something of the combatant’s goals. But then again, we’re broke.