Gates: No vital US interests at stake in Libya
**Posted by Phineas
I’m not averse to the use of force in foreign affairs, in cases where it’s the best available option and clearly seen American interests are at stake. I also am not against going “John Wayne” on a maniac dictator and helping his people be free of him when, again, demonstrable American interests align with the desire to give said maniac what he deserves. I argued, and still do, that Iraq presented such a case in 2002-2003.
Otherwise, in the absence of vital American interests, there seems little reason to commit American blood and treasure.
So what am I to think when, on national television, the Secretary of Defense says he can’t think of any vital American interests in Libya, where we’ve just gone to war?
As the war in Libya moves into its second week, tag-team Sunday talk show appearances by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State suggest the Obama administration remains divided over the fundamental question of whether the war is in the United States’ national interest.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gates was asked, “Is Libya in our vital interest as a country?” He answered, “No, I don’t think it’s a vital interest for the U.S., but we clearly have interests there, and it’s a part of the region which is a vital interest for the U.S.” Gates’ statement wasn’t an entirely convincing rationale for a major military commitment, and moderator David Gregory responded by saying, “I think a lot of people would hear that and say well, that’s quite striking — not in our vital interests and yet we’re committing military resources.”
In that case, Mr. Secretary, let me ask a question: In a time of national fiscal distress when we’re borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend and when we already have major commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the latter involving frequent combat, why in Heaven’s name are we attacking Libya? If you and your boss can’t articulate a coherent reason for starting a war, what possessed you (and him) to think this would be a good idea?
And, no, “I dunno” doesn’t cut it.
Oh, but then acting-President and Secretary of State Clinton jumped in to offer a reason:
At that point, Clinton suggested that the U.S. went to war to repay NATO allies for support in Afghanistan. “We asked our NATO allies to go into Afghanistan with us ten years ago,” she said. “They have been there, and a lot of them have been there despite the fact that they were not attacked. The attack came on us…They stuck with us. When it comes to Libya, we started hearing from the UK, France, Italy, other of our NATO allies…This was in their vital national interest…“
So, our European allies asked us to attack Libya because they went to war when we were attacked, so we agreed to bomb Libya because they were… Wait. Did I miss a Libyan raid on Naples or something??
Hey, I can see a vital interest for some European countries in Libya — they get quite a bit of oil from there, much more than we do. But that’s their vital interest, not ours. And al Qaeda’s attack on the US triggered the Article V mutual defense clause of the NATO treaty, which is in play in Libya… how, exactly?
Clinton’s “explanation” reminds me of this corker from her boss:
And that’s why building this international coalition has been so important because it means that the United States is not bearing all the cost. It means that we have confidence that we are not going in alone, and it is our military that is being volunteered by others to carry out missions that are important not only to us, but are important internationally. And we will accomplish that in a relatively short period of time.
And again, emphasis added.
What, did this all start because of a phone call from Europe? “Congratulations! We’ve just volunteered your military for a little war in Libya! And, hey, Barry, you owe us.”
I’m all for allies sticking together, but, if intervening in Libya is a vital European interest, maybe the European states should start spending the money to create the forces they would need to defend those vital interests and not “volunteer” us.
Meanwhile, someone needs to give the administration lessons in not sounding like clueless idiots.
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)