Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Libyan Intervention Won't Fly

President Obama should be a lot more aggressive in pushing his domestic agenda and challenging the Republicans on budget issues and union busting, for example.  But I appreciate his careful approach in foreign affairs.  Thus, as intervention in Libya is being pushed by a wide swath of political leaders, from Bill Clinton to Bill Kristol, it seems to me that Obama is taking an appropriately prudent approach.

Undoubtedly, watching Muammar el-Qaddafi attack his own people while we doing nothing is painfully hard.  At the same time, it is pretty easy to throw around terms like "no fly zone" as if it were some kind of easy, cost-free solution.  But what would be required to institute a no fly zone, what would it really accomplish, and if it didn't work, what would we do next?  And, more fundamentally, should our country be acting alone without support not just of our European allies but the governments in the region?

On Sunday, Gen.Wesley Clark, writing in the Washington Post, answered these questions.  He contended that "before we aid the Libyan rebels or establish a no-fly zone," we should review what we have leaned "about intervening since we pulled out of Vietnam."  And after doing so, Clark concluded as follows:
To me, it seems we have no clear basis for action. Whatever resources we dedicate for a no-fly zone would probably be too little, too late. We would once again be committing our military to force regime change in a Muslim land, even though we can't quite bring ourselves to say it. So let's recognize that the basic requirements for successful intervention simply don't exist, at least not yet: We don't have a clearly stated objective, legal authority, committed international support or adequate on-the-scene military capabilities, and Libya's politics hardly foreshadow a clear outcome.
As Kevin Drum put it in a post last week, while we would all like to see the end of Qaddafi's rule, "Americans really need to get over the idea that we're the ones who control the fate of every hot spot in the world."


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