President Hamlet makes a decision: we intervene in Libya

Posted by: Phineas on March 19, 2011 at 7:31 pm

**Posted by Phineas

Yesterday, President Obama finally made up his mind that we should intervene in Libya’s civil war — but only after passing a Kerry-esque “global test.” Fine. In this case, I happen to agree with him: America’s moral values and national interests intersect in Libya. Morally, Qaddafi is a maniacal, brutal dictator who shown in the past few weeks he is willing to slaughter however many of his people it takes to stay in power. He also has American blood on his hands, having repeatedly launched terror attacks against us. Res ipsa loquitur — the thing speaks for itself. The world will be a better place with Qaddafi gone.

Strategically, instability in even a 2% supplier of the world’s oil can lead to chaos with skyrocketing prices; it’s in our interests to see this thing ended quickly. And there is a decided national interest in seeing another state-sponsor of terrorism and possessor of WMDs removed. Beyond that, once Western and Arab nations aligned against Qaddafi, even before deciding on a no-fly zone, a line was crossed and it became clear we could not let him remain in power. As Marc Thiessen wrote a few days ago at The Washington Post:

If the Libyan dictator survives, he is not likely to resume being the benign Gaddafi of recent years, who handed over his weapons of mass destruction, renounced terrorism and made nice with the West. More likely, he will be the brutal Gaddafi of old — the state sponsor of terror who blew up Pan Am 103 over Scotland, killing 270 people; destroyed a French passenger jet over Niger, killing 171 people; bombed the La Belle discotheque in West Berlin, killing two U.S. soldiers and injuring more than 50 American servicemen; established terrorist training camps on Libyan soil; provided terrorists with arms and safe haven; and plotted to kill leaders in Saudi Arabia, Chad, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia and Zaire. If he succeeds in putting down the rebellion, Gaddafi would probably emerge angry and emboldened — a dangerous combination.

If Gaddafi survives, he would almost certainly put a halt to the destruction of his programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, begun during the Bush administration. Since 2003, Libya has handed over the key components of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and allowed the destruction of more than 3,300 aerial bombs designed to disperse chemical weapons. But Gaddafi still has stockpiles of chemical weapons — including mustard gas and chemicals for the manufacture of sarin and other nerve agents — that were slated for internationally supervised destruction. These are deadly toxins that terrorists are desperate to acquire.

If Gaddafi survives, his regime will probably not achieve a decisive victory. That means a stalemate in which eastern Libya could become a lawless, ungoverned area. Moderate rebel leaders — who pleaded to the West for help but failed to secure it — could be pushed aside by radical elements. Al-Qaeda could step in to furnish the weapons and training that America refused to provide — and be rewarded with sanctuary in exchange. As the United States continues to put pressure on al-Qaeda in the tribal regions of Pakistan, terrorists could migrate to eastern Libya, where several al-Qaeda leaders have roots, turning the region into a new terrorist haven.

Now, in spite of being a foaming-at-the-mouth neocon*, I recognize there are substantive arguments against intervening in Libya: we’re stretched as it is, we’re in a time of fiscal crisis, it’s not really our fight and we may in the end see an Islamist government take over, etc. And, while I respect those arguments, I cannot agree. Roger L. Simon frames it best for me at Pajamas Media:

I know there are some extreme libertarians that think Libya is none of our business — that we, and the international community, should stay out and let the locals blow each other to smithereens until the next dictator takes the throne or the old one keeps it and locks his enemies in torture chambers. Attractive and consoling as that idea may be, the world is nowhere near that simple. We live on a tiny globe that is shrinking by the moment for a myriad of reasons from instant communications to limited energy to a global economy. The bloodshed in Benghazi affects the refineries of Texas just as the tsunami at Fukushima rocks the boatyards of Crescent City. And those are only a couple of the most obvious instances this week.

We’re all in this together. Sorry.

And I have to tell you one other thing. Remember this: We’re Americans. Good is what we are supposed to do.

Thus, yes, I support our President’s decision to finally get involved and stop voting “present.”

But it’s not unqualified support, nor do I give it with equanimity. If there’s one thing Obama’s efforts overseas have shown us, it is that he is a Leftist ideologue who lacks a strategic vision and is in over his head. Whether it’s because of an innate passivity, a disinterest in foreign affairs, or a Left-liberal reluctance to act like an “imperial” and “colonial” power, our policy lacks any sense of coherence or strategy. I seriously doubt he has asked himself and his advisers “What outcome do we want?” From that one question would come answers that would shape the nature of our intervention, giving it direction and logical consistency. We would know how to proceed.

But I just don’t see that from Barack Obama, which means the outcome is likely to be muddled and costlier to reach than if we had acted with clarity and decisiveness when Daffy Qaddafi was still on the ropes.

So I wish bon chance and good hunting to whatever forces we send into the fray; you’ll do your job well, whatever the assignment may be.

I just wish you had a leader worthy of you.

*At least in foreign affairs.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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8 Responses to “President Hamlet makes a decision: we intervene in Libya”


  1. Sean A says:

    You indicated that Roger L. Simon at Pajamas Media frames the justification for intervening in Libya best for you, but I have to say YOUR post is what has framed it best for me. Since the Wisconsin ruckus finally died down, I haven’t had time to pay as much attention to politics as I normally do and I am just now catching up with what’s been happening in Libya (although the fact that Obama has been engaged in his usual protracted inaction was no surprise). Thanks for getting me up to speed and posting such a succinct and persuasive argument in favor of intervention that I cannot agree with more.

    You are a terrific writer which is why I have found myself visiting your blog every day. Keep up the good work!

  2. Tango says:

    Phineas, I am under no illusions. The intervention will almost certainly result in a “half a loaf” outcome at best. The odds of actually getting rid of Khadaffi, his sons, and ending up with something other than the next thug-du-jour-for-life are staggeringly long indeed.

    I don’t believe our forces are well-led, and that being the case, I pray for their well being. It stinks to be a man at arms placed in a carefully orchestrated no-win situation. A pox on the politicians who have hatched this debacle.

  3. Paul says:

    Obama is always a day late and a dollar short in my book !

  4. Carlos says:

    All I can say is that I hope the politicians let the military run this operation to accomplish the stated objective.

    Of course, that’s like wishing for the sun to come up in the west – that just ain’t gonna happen.

  5. Great White Rat says:

    Now let’s see whether all the militant anti-war leftists start with the usual demonstrations.

    Let’s see if the liberal nutjobs show up the next time Hillary testifies in front of a congressional committee and tries to smear fake blood on her.

    Let’s see if the MoveOn crowd breaks out the giant papier-mache heads and screams about Duh-One being a war criminal.

    Because if they don’t, that’s conclusive evidence that they don’t mean any of it, and we’re justified in telling them to STFU the next time they start those antics with a Republican president in office.

  6. NC COp says:

    Now let’s see whether all the militant anti-war leftists start with the usual demonstrations.

    Let’s see if the liberal nutjobs show up the next time Hillary testifies in front of a congressional committee and tries to smear fake blood on her.

    Couldn’t have said it any better myself, GWR. The silence of the anti-war crowd is defeaning. No protests, nothing.

    Is Obama the only Nobel Peace Prize owner who has launched cruise missles at a country that did not attack us?!?!?!

  7. Carlos says:

    At least Billy Bub, when he was prez, only waited up to 18 hours every time he had to make a decision, so his pollsters could check to see which way the wind was blowing…