Libya and the American Interest
It appears Muammar Gaddafi has called a ceasefire following the announcement of a UN no-fly zone:
Libyan Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa said the regime would halt all military operations immediately, as Britain and France deployed fighter jets to bases in readiness to strike Gaddafi troops attacking rebel positions.
“Libya has decided an immediate ceasefire and an immediate halt to all military operations,” Mr Kussa told a press conference in Tripoli.
He said because Libya was a member of the UN it was “obliged to accept the UN Security Council’s resolutions”.
The backdown came after Gaddafi said in an interview aired on Portuguese state television that the Security Council had “no mandate” for such a resolution, “which we absolutely do not recognise”.
According to The Guardian, however, Libyan forces are still attacking rebel locations.
So, I admit to seeing the appeal of intervention in Libya. Nor do I buy lines like this from Greg Scoblete:
When the Bush administration wanted to wage a war of choice against Iraq, it at least spent several months building a public case. The Bush administration had to resort to some wild rhetoric about the possibility of the United States getting nuked, but at least it was making a case built (however absurdly) on American security interests. What has the Obama administration said? What interests are at stake? Why is American security at risk if we do nothing?
The Bush administration wanted to invade Iraq. There was no immediate humanitarian crisis like the one facing Libya. The whole point of intervention now is to stop a massive slaughter of citizens in Libya. Bush needed to make a case for Iraq because there was relative stability in that country when we invaded.
This doesn’t make the no-fly-zone (and whatever else we may use in Libya) the correct course of action. However appealing the idea of British and French fighter jets swooping down out of the sky to rescue the besieged rebels may be, we need to assess the risk – and the risk is enormous.
Nobody wants to see Gaddafi win this fight, especially since it will mean the murder of thousands of his own citizens, but we really don’t know what this will mean for America, in blood or treasure, in terms of years or depth of involvement. Even if Obama didn’t bother to make the elaborate case Bush made for Iraq, the more important factor is that we didn’t take the time to ask all the right questions about our involvement in Libya.
The case, I would suggest, is fairly obvious – this is a humanitarian intervention to stop an ongoing conflict. Justifying that this is our responsibility is another question altogether, and nobody has appropriately made that case.
P.S. Reports have Yemeni officials firing on protestors as well. And of course, there is the Saudi/Bahraini assault on protestors in Bahrain, where they have demolished Pearl Monument. Conflicts exist all across the globe – the Ivory Coast, for instance – and we cannot intervene in all of them. That is why – however sympathetic the cause may be – we need to always evaluate the American interest when it comes to committing American troops. Yes, the continued dictatorship of Colonel Gaddafi is a problem for America and the West – but not a problem that requires military involvement.