A Few Thoughts on the War with Libya

So — Hillary got her war, and despite early promises it’s a real shooting match.

Sorry, I shouldn’t have led with that. Presidents, secretaries of State — they don’t get wars. America gets wars and now we’re in a third one. We got into this one without a strategy I can discern. A couple weeks ago, the president said Gaddafi “must” go, but then worked behind the scenes to prevent a British-led no-fly zone. And doing nothing seemed to be the preferred method of putting some muscle behind the “must,” right up until it wasn’t.


According to The Daily, Clinton led the effort to get the UN resolution, even though there was zero enthusiasm for action in the White House. There wasn’t any enthusiasm to stay out, either — just a dithering president being led around by his secretary of State.

The UN Resolution “demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians.” But apparently Gaddafi didn’t get that message, what with the 25 dead civilians after a bombing run earlier today. A no-fly zone might do a good job of preventing more attacks like that one, but it won’t stop the fighting — only boots on the ground can do that. There’s just one little problem:

The Arab League chief told Reuters on Friday that the U.N. Security Council resolution on Libya was aimed at protecting civilians without backing any invasion, and said he did not want any side “to go too far”.

Last week, the Arab League provided us with the political cover necessary to impose the NFZ. But now the League doesn’t want anyone going “too far.” However, that doesn’t exactly square with the Resolution’s promise to “take all necessary measures” to protect civilians. Of course, the Resolution doesn’t square with itself because that very same sentence finishes by forbidding any “foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.”


Is an “occupation force” different from a “we’re only here for a little while” force? Will the Arab League back that up? Or will the League do what it usually does, and turn and snarl at the West as soon as anything turns sour?

We don’t know. There hasn’t been any kind of public debate about our involvement. No presidential addresses to the nation, no Congressional hearings, no “authorization of force” votes, nothing. Clinton walked into the UN and we weren’t at war with Libya, then she walked back out and we were. We just got led into a war by an outgoing secretary of State. That has got to be a first.

It’s safe to assume that we’ll be taking action before any of these debates are held — because we can’t continue to sit idly by all while all those civilians we’re now pledged to defend are still being slaughtered of Gaddafi’s rent-a-thug outfits. Or maybe an Anglo-French coalition will do the boots-on-the-ground stuff which the UN may or may not have just authorized us to do. Or will we fob this off on the Egyptians?

Is there a rebel government we recognize? Will it send a delegation to the UN? Or is Libya to become a UN protectorate until elections can be held? If so, who does the protecting? What do we do if (when!) the rebel factions turn on each other and kill civilians? Are we pledged now to protect all Libyan civilians from all attacks, or just from attacks by Gaddafi’s forces? Is this a war of necessity, Mr. President — or is it a war of choice?


Why — why haven’t we been discussing these issues since shortly after February 25?

The only thing we know for sure is that we’re at war. Again. So here’s to hoping we can win quickly and get back out just as fast.

Update: Also read up on Obama’s statement on Libya at the Tatler.


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