Yesterday, President Obama explained his decision to wage war against Libya. In a nutshell, Obama made the following basic points.
- When U.S. interests and values are at stake, America has a responsibility to act. Failure to act would betray our values.
- U.S. action was necessary to prevent a horrific massacre in Libya. A broad coalition, including the Arab League, demanded action.
- Although there are many places where civilians face brutal violence at the hands of their government, that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what is right.
- America's role is limited. There are no ground troops. Responsibility for enforcement of the arms embargo and the no fly zone will transfer to NATO on Wednesday. The U.S. will play a supporting role.
- U.S. military will not be used for regime change. The U.S. will use other means to overthrow the Gaddafi regime.
For the record, I oppose the brutal Gaddafi regime. Innocent civilians should be protected. Yes. There are some situations that warrant the use of military force. However, where does America draw the line? The U.S. cannot be the world's policeman. The President argues that we must act when our values and interests are at stake.
Contrary to the President's argument, U.S. interests are not at stake. Does Libya pose a threat to American national security? Of course not. Libya abandoned its weapons of mass destruction program and established a better relationship with the West. Did Libya recently attack any of its neighbors? No. Libya is no greater threat to emerging democratic movements than Yemen, Bahrain or Saudi Arabia. Like Libya, those countries are brutally suppressing democratic movements.
Why doesn't Obama apply the same arguments for intervention to those nations. I guess the U.S. has no problem tolerating the violence of its allies. The U.S. did nothing when Saudi troops entered Bahrain to repress the people's democratic movement. Even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates acknowledged that no vital U.S. interests were at stake in Libya. Obama's beautiful rhetoric cannot negate that fact.
The Administration's hypocritical response to developments in Yemen, Bahrain and Egypt undermines its argument about values being at stake. Were American values at stake when we sat back and watched civilians slaughtered in Ivory Coast, Darfur, Gaza, Congo, Rwanda and other countries? What about the U.S. violating its own values, i.e. Guantánamo Bay, coddling and defending dictators like Hosni Mubarak, civilian causalities in Afghanistan, soldiers posing with corpses, etc.?
Although I welcome the news that the U.S. will now play a limited role in Libya, I wonder how long that supporting role will last. What does it entail? How much will it cost us in lives and money?
Instead of wasting money on a third war, we should use our resources to address problems here at home such as unemployment, failing schools, poverty and crime.