SYNDICATED COLUMN: Libya: Another War We Shouldn’t Believe In

Why Won’t Obama Explain His Third War?

U.S. forces fired 110 cruise missiles at Libya on the first day of the war. Each one cost $755,000 to build; $2.8 million to transport, maintain and shoot. Austerity and budget cuts abound; there’s no money for NPR or teachers or firefighters. Note to union negotiators: the government has lots of money. They’re spending it on war.

For people too young to remember Bosnia, this is what a violent, aggressive, militarist empire looks like under a Democratic president. Where Bush rushed, Obama moseys. No one believed ex-oil man Bush when he said he was out to get rid of the evil dictator of an oil-producing state; Obama, the former community organizer, gets a pass under identical circumstances. Over the weekend, also the eighth anniversary of the start of the Iraq quagmire, there were few protests against Obama’s Libya War, all poorly attended.

I spent the weekend in New York at Leftforum, an annual gathering of anti-capitalist intellectuals. “What do you think about Libya?” people kept asking. What passes for the Left is ambivalent.

In part this waffling on Libya is due to Obama’s deadpan (read: uncowboy-like) tone. Mostly, however, the tacit consent stems from televised images of ragtag anti-Qadafi opposition forces getting strafed by Libyan air force jets. We Americans like underdogs, especially when they say they want democracy.

Still, the President is not a dictator. He can’t declare war. And while he might be able to lie his way into one, he and his party will pay at the polls if he fails to explain why we’re attacking a nation that poses no threat to the United States.

There are a lot of questions we—and journalists—should be asking Obama. Obviously, we’re broke. Our military is overextended, losing two wars against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. How can we afford this?

Also:

1. Whom are we helping?

The U.S. and its allies are destroying Libya’s air force in order to tip the balance in the civil war in favor of anti-Qadafi forces. A similar approach, aerial bombardment of Afghan government defenses, allowed Northern Alliance rebels to break through Taliban lines and enter Kabul in 2001. It could work again in Libya.

But who are these anti-Qadafi forces? Rival tribes? Radical Islamists? Royalists? What kind of government will they establish if they win? What are their ideological and religious affiliations? If anyone in the media or the White House knows, they’re not telling.

Or perhaps, as in Iraq, the White House doesn’t have a governance plan for post-Qadafi Libya. Which, as in Iraq, could lead to chaos. No nation should go to war without considering the long-term consequences.

Before we pick sides in a conflict, shouldn’t we know for whom we are going billions of dollars further into debt?

2. Does Qadafi have the right to defend himself?

From Shea’s Whiskey Rebellion to Confederacy to the Red Scares to the Black Panthers and the Weathermen, the U.S. government has violently suppressed armed rebellions. How then can the U.S. claim moral authority to prevent other governments from doing the same thing? (“The U.S. is more moral than Libya” is not an acceptable response. Obama murders and tortures more people than Qadafi.)

3. What about self-determination?

If the Libyan people rise up and overthrow Qadafi, an authoritarian despot well past his expiration date, that’s great. Shouldn’t that struggle be a Libyan matter, to be settled between Libyans? Isn’t a government that emerges from indigenous internal struggle more likely to enjoy widespread support than one that results from outside intervention?

“Free men set themselves free,” said James Oppenheim. Can a people truly feel emancipated when they owe their freedom—and later, inexorably, their oil and gas—to a foreign superpower?

4. Why are we OK with some dictators, but not others?

Since the Middle East began blowing up we’ve heard a lot of talk about Obama’s dilemma: How do we reconcile American values with American strategic interests? In a good country—at least a non-hypocritical one—they are the same.

Obama is employing circular logic. “Why strike only Libya, when other regimes murder their citizens too?” asks Chris Good in The Atlantic Monthly. “Obama’s answer seems to be: because the UN Security Council turned its attention toward Libya, and not other places.” But the UN reacted in response to the U.S.

In other words: We’re agreeing to a request that we made ourselves.

Ideology and policy must be consistent to be credible. If we have a policy to depose dictators, then all dictators must be targeted. We can’t just take out those in countries with lots of oil. We ought to start with tyrants for which we bear responsibility: our allies and puppets. At this writing the U.S. supports or props up unpopular authoritarian regimes in Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Yemen, and elsewhere.

5. Is Libya our geostrategic business?

The United States has no substantial historical ties with, innate cultural understanding of, or geographic proximity to, Libya. Even under the imperialist doctrine of “spheres of influence” that governed international relations during the Cold War, Libya falls under the purview of other would-be interventionists. Italy, and to a lesser extent Britain and France, are former colonial masters. The Arab League and African Union have interests there. Even if you buy the sentimental argument—”Are we going to stand by and watch Qadafi slaughter his own people?”—why us? Why not the Africans or Europeans?

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

6 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Libya: Another War We Shouldn’t Believe In

  1. Is cowsteroids being serious, or tongue-in-cheek here?

    “It seems like you have forgotten the atrocities…unlawful confinement, murder, rape, sexual assault, torture, beating, robbery and inhumane treatment of civilians; the targeting of political leaders, intellectuals and professionals; the unlawful deportation and transfer of civilians; the unlawful shelling of civilians; the unlawful appropriation and plunder of real and personal property; the destruction of homes and businesses; and the destruction of places of worship…”

    –Umm…doesn’t that also apply to the heckuva job our soldiers are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan?

    “I rarely say this of our military efforts as of late, but that is one where I thought we actually got it right. I am glad we got involved.”

    –Maybe our troops were REAL HEROES then, and just caught the A-hole disease (for which the underfunded VA seems to have no cure) from those they fought in Bosnia.

    As far as the Nobel Peace Prize goes…well…let me put it like this: I’ve seen some Academy Award winning films, too, and often my reaction has been something like, “…Mehh…”

    Hey! Who wants a joke?

    What’s the difference between Colin Firth and Barack Obama?

    Colin Firth portayed a (figure)head-of-state who overcame his stammering problem at the moment he needed to most, prior to delivering a speech to his people explaining why his country was going to war. Afterward, for his compelling acting, he won the Academy Award.

    Brack Obama, for his compelling acting, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Afterward, once he began portraying a (figure)head-of-state, he developed a stammering problem at the moment he needed it least, prior to delivering a speech to his people explaining why his country was going to war.

  2. “For people too young to remember Bosnia, this is what a violent, aggressive, militarist empire looks like under a Democratic president.” Whoa, stop right there. If there was ever a justifiable cause for military action, that was it. Do you believe in intervening to stop genocide? This is my problem with the far left, you are great at pointing out hypocrisy but fail on coming up with solutions to real problems. Bosnia is a much better place now thanks to those actions, and think of all the lives saved because of our actions. It seems like you have forgotten the atrocities? “The ethnic cleansing campaign included unlawful confinement, murder, rape, sexual assault, torture, beating, robbery and inhumane treatment of civilians; the targeting of political leaders, intellectuals and professionals; the unlawful deportation and transfer of civilians; the unlawful shelling of civilians; the unlawful appropriation and plunder of real and personal property; the destruction of homes and businesses; and the destruction of places of worship.” I rarely say this of our military efforts as of late, but that is one where I thought we actually got it right. I am glad we got involved.

  3. Excuse me, but are you accusing a Nobel Peace Prize winner of being a “violent, aggressive, militarist!” GOLLY, I can’t imagine who would qualify as peaceful in your book.

  4. Obummer won’t explain his third war because he has no explanation other than the truth – something he and his political brethren are allegic to. The truth is he is a tool that the military/corporate/security complex uses to advance its greed and war mongering agendas. Obummer couldn’t care less about the well-being of the average, non-rich, non-powerful US citizen. He does the bidding of the power brokers in exchange for a mega post-presidential payday (6-figure speaking engagements, book deal, board of director gigs, head of World Bank, IMF or some Wall Street firm that he’s made beyond rich and regulation free).

    Obama’s community organizing background is not the reason he gets a pass. His biracial black face and Democratic party affiliation are the two reasons for the giant sucking silence among the usual Left suspects. Many whites who know better tread lightly with criticism for fear of being called racist. 95% of the black population have lost their freaking minds over a man who gives them the finger every chance he gets (please check out blackagendareport.com for facts and analysis on Obummer from the 5% of the black population who never drank the kool aid). A large portion of the so-called Left has turned out to be major posers whose main allegiance is to the Democratic party, not the people or what’s right and just.

    No money for NPR? Great. With few exceptions, NPR is as bad as its mainstream media cohorts when it comes to reporting the facts and offering diverse (i.e. not just the govt or corporate line) analysis and commentary.

  5. […] the government has lots of money. They’re spending it on war..

    The government recklessly borrows and prints lots of “money”, which it spends recklessly on war. There, fixed that for you.
    Other than that, a great article, Ted. It depresses me to see some of these “progressives”, best exemplified by the insufferable Nick Kristoff from the NYT, beating the war drums, for “humanitarian” reasons. Funny, I don’t see any of these heroes of the people taking up arms and joining the rebels in Benghazi, Darfur or what have ya, like folks in the ’30s did in Spain. No, let’s just loot our neighbors to pay for spraying bombs on foreign people, just like the neocons, but this time we’ll do it with a heart.
    Fat deal of good that did in Kosovo.

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