Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Was It Worth It?

Naturally, every sane person is celebrating the quickly approaching demise of Qaddafi.Who wouldn't be? He is after all, an objectively terrible person and no friend to anyone anywhere (well, with the glaring exception of Venezuelan BFF: Hugo Chavez).

That said, over at Foreign Policy, Blake Hounshell asks whether the intervention was worth it.

Despite his assurances to the contrary, I have to say "No. No it certainly was not." From his piece:

But these problems seem manageable over time, and it is in any case hard to imagine any Libyan government worse than Qaddafi, whose rule was not only deeply repressive and arbitrary at home but also destabilizing abroad. I disagree strongly with those, like CFR's Richard Haass, who would like to see some kind of foreign stabilization force -- not only is it not going to happen, but it's best if Libyans handle their own affairs as much as possible. They will make mistakes, but these will be their own mistakes. It's now their country once again.

And that's the best news about the fall of Qaddafi

He notes correctly, that the United States managed to effect the overthrow of Qaddafi for a mere $1.1 billion. And I don't say that to be snarky. Compared to the costs of Iraq, that's definitely regime change at bargain basement prices. That's certainly well and good.

And undoubtedly, it's wonderful that the Libyan people will be able to live out from under the yoke of their dictator. Granted though, how they intend to live, whether it be in a pluralistic democracy or a state of civil war remains to be seen. The point is that it's their problem to determine how their society will progress.

That final point however, is unfortunately one that undermines his argument.

The situation in Libya has always been a Libyan problem. To be sure, it certainly had regional ramifications (specifically in terms of refugees fleeing to other countries including NATO ally; Italy). However, strictly from a security perspective, this civil war had NOTHING to do with the United States. Neither our allies nor ourselves were in anyways threatened by actual physical danger.

And yet, off we went to war. Or off to "kinetic military action" or whatever the administration chose to designate it. The point is that the President chose to involve the United States in the affairs of another country despite a lack of threat. This is not to say that the President shouldn't want to involve the United States militarily in other countries. However, prior to this particular engagement, there was the now quaint notion of getting Congress' approval for such actions. In fact, there still exists a dusty law mandating that the President seek such approval.

And it was ignored.

So when asking the question as to whether the Libyan war was worth it and tallying up the costs/benefits, it is sadly incomplete it one does not consider the obsolescence of a law preventing a single man from committing American blood, treasure and quite frankly, morality to war.

Amidst the triumphalism surrounding the fall of a truly terrible tyrant and the hopes (as yet, very much unrealized) for a friendlier, less batshit-crazy Libya, it's important to note that none of this makes it any more legal.

Things went well this time. What of the next? Presidents apparently can now declare wars without the consent of Congress. Unfortunately, the fact that this conflict seems to have gone well only cements that.

Glenn Greenwald:

But the real toll of this war (including the number of civilian deaths that have occurred and will occur) is still almost entirely unknown, and none of the arguments against the war (least of all the legal ones) are remotely resolved by yesterday's events.  Shamelessly exploiting hatred of the latest Evil Villain to irrationally shield all sorts of policies from critical scrutiny -- the everything-is-justified-if-we-get-a-Bad-Guy mentality -- is one of the most common and destructive staples of American political discourse, and it's no better when done here.

No comments:

Post a Comment