Sunday, March 20, 2011

Out of Libya

Recently at West Point, President Obama’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that “any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.” Gates was opposing any US intervention – big or little - in the civil war in Libya – but here we go again.

At that time war talk about Libya came from the architects of the misbegotten Iraq war, Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, Paul Wolfowitz and his fellow neo-cons. Now the President has been persuaded by Senator John Kerry and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that we must fight a third war against a Muslim nation.
We were able to pressure the dictators who run the Arab League to support war against Libya even though Saudi Arabia has invaded Bahrain while denouncing Libya for defending itself against rebels in its own country. The Arab dictators rule their rebels with iron fists.
As we write this blog, eleven US warships and a cloud of airplanes are attacking Libya from the Mediterranean; US planes are bombing Libyan airfields and military installations. If Qaddafi does not surrender, ground troops will surely follow even though Libya is hardly a threat to the United States. With only 6 million people, a persistent rebellion and little industry, Libya is outgunned and outmanned by an enormous margin. However, Libya has 2% of the world's oil reserves, giving it plenty of cash and making it mighty attractive in some quarters. Since September 1, 1969 it has been ruled by Dictator Gaddafi in a brutal and dictatorial manner. In 2003, Libya improved its international relations somewhat, stopping biological chemical and nuclear weapons development, signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, accepting responsibility for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, UN sanctions were suspended; the US soon ended all sanctions, re-established diplomatic relations and began to purchase Libyan oil.

Libya’s military dictatorship is an outgrowth of its tribal rivalries and Gaddafi represents the dominant tribes centered around Tripoli. The perennially rebellious minority tribes live in or about Benghazi in Eastern Libya. The invasion by the US and its Allies is designed to change the tribal order, reversing control in a manner that virtually guarantees continued strife.

Although US forces are already on the attack, there has been no declaration of war by Congress as required by the U.S. Constitution so the legality of the war could be challenged. Of the 250 wars the US has fought only five have been formally declared. So much for our declared respect for the Constitution. No supporter of the US war against Libya claims that Libya threatens the US. Al Qaeda is not involved. The basis for the attack is stated as humanitarian, the spreading of democracy, the saving of Libyan lives. Opposition is based on the cost of the war at a time when US domestic expenditures are being cut. An attack for whatever reason on another Muslim country while we attack Muslim Pakistan with drone airplanes could stimulate anti-crusader attitudes and another attack on the US homeland. Once again it establishes US military intervention as the prime element in our foreign policy, concentrating US power in the presidency without traditional constitutional controls.

Libya does not threaten the US or our allies. Follow the advice of Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The oil isn't worth the trouble and the loss of reputation. The tribes of Libya will have to work out their differences themselves.


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