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Wonderment
03-18-2011, 05:23 PM
Disturbingly empty....

The president’s speech was disturbingly empty. There are, it appears, only two reasons the US is going to war, without any Congressional vote, or any real public debate. The first is that the US cannot stand idly by while atrocities take place. Yet we have done nothing in Burma or the Congo and are actively supporting governments in Yemen and Bahrain that are doing almost exactly — if less noisily — what Qaddafi is doing. Obama made no attempt to reconcile these inconsistencies because, one suspects, there is no rational reconciliation to be made.

Secondly, the president argued that the ghastly violence in Libya is destabilizing the region, and threatening world peace. Really? More than Qaddafi’s meddling throughout Africa for years? More than the brutal repression in Iran? And even if it is destabilizing, Libya is not, according to the Obama administration itself, a “vital national interest”. So why should the US go to war over this?

None of this makes any sense, except as an emotional response to an emergency. I understand the emotions, and sympathize with the impulse to help. But I can think of no worse basis for committing a country to war than such emotional and moral anxiety.

operative
03-18-2011, 05:31 PM
I have to say that I don't think the administration has had a coherent policy on Libya--it's gone from fairly hands off and disengaged to suddenly far more engaged. This is in contrast to Egypt, where I think Obama did the best job that anyone could've hoped for him to do. Perhaps Obama should spend less time on his brackets and more time on foreign policy, a subject in which he has never shown particular depth.

Perhaps Clinton is finally getting through to Obama that if Gadhafi manages to hang on to power, he will likely enact a very lethal crackdown on opposition, murdering tens of thousands of people, maybe more.

Wonderment
03-18-2011, 05:58 PM
Perhaps Clinton is finally getting through to Obama that if Gadhafi manages to hang on to power....

There is no legal mandate for removing Gaddafi from power. The Sec. Council resolution limits force to protecting civilians and promoting a ceasefire.

Regime change is NOT what the UN authorized, although some French, Brits and Americans are trying to conflate civilian protection and overthrow of the regime.

A divided Libya is the best the UN can achieve legally. Regime-change violence would be illegal under international law (and prosecutable for war crimes).

None of this, of course, should be interpreted as defending Gaddafi, who is clearly a mass murderer. He will hopefully be processed through the ICC, as authorized under the previous UN referral.

operative
03-18-2011, 06:03 PM
There is no legal mandate for removing Gaddafi from power. The Sec. Council resolution limits force to protecting civilians and promoting a ceasefire.

That's great and all, but what if Gadhafi decides to ignore it?


None of this, of course, should be interpreted as defending Gaddafi, who is clearly a mass murderer. He will hopefully be processed through the ICC, as authorized under the previous UN referral.

Worse dictators have gone, and continue to go unpunished (Mugabi, Omar Bashir, etc.) so what makes you so optimistic that the woeful international structure will suddenly spring into efficacy with Gadhafi?

Wonderment
03-18-2011, 06:09 PM
That's great and all, but what if Gadhafi decides to ignore it?

We'll see. Hopefully, there will still be a resolution with minimal violence, but the UN resolution is an escalation, and the major players are now engaged in a high-stakes game of chicken.

Worse dictators have gone, and continue to go unpunished (Mugabi, Omar Bashir, etc.) so what makes you so optimistic that the woeful international structure will suddenly spring into efficacy with Gadhafi?

Where did I say I was optimistic?

operative
03-18-2011, 06:13 PM
We'll see. Hopefully, there will still be a resolution with minimal violence, but the UN resolution is an escalation, and the major players are now engaged in a high-stakes game of chicken.

It seems to me that we're concerned that Gadhafi plans on unleashing a bloodbath, and as such we are using these measures to signal to him a credible commitment to remove him from power.

Now, let's say that Gadhafi remains in power (odds are in favor of this) and then begins a cleansing campaign (this we don't know). Would you support military intervention?



Where did I say I was optimistic?


He will hopefully be processed through the ICC, as authorized under the previous UN referral.

I interpreted that as optimism.

Wonderment
03-18-2011, 06:36 PM
It seems to me that we're concerned that Gadhafi plans on unleashing a bloodbath, and as such we are using these measures to signal to him a credible commitment to remove him from power.

I repeat: we have no authority to remove him from power. No UN authority, no Congressional authority.

Now, let's say that Gadhafi remains in power (odds are in favor of this) and then begins a cleansing campaign (this we don't know). Would you support military intervention?

I would not. He's been running a cleansing campaign for several decades. Also, I have no reason to believe that a post-Gadaffi regime would be any better than his.

Perhaps, after we bomb the shit out of Libya, ferret out the Gadaffi clan, straighten up the oil industry, and build a new state with bazillions of US taxpayer Dollars, we can have a French Viceroy lead a transitional government to democracy. Libyans would hold elections, be free, and live happily ever after.

operative
03-18-2011, 06:44 PM
I repeat: we have no authority to remove him from power. No UN authority, no Congressional authority.

I don't find legalistic defenses to be particularly moving. Legalism kept Romeo Dallaire from intervening to the extent that he could have during the Rwandan Genocide. In a situation in which international order doesn't really exist, I'm far more concerned with the essential morality of the action, not the legal x's and o's.



I would not. He's been running a cleansing campaign for several decades.

What in the world does that matter???


Also, I have no reason to believe that a post-Gadaffi regime would be any better than his.

Ok, now this is a line of argument that I think is far more defensible. Tbh I don't know what a post-Gadhafi regime would look like, either; I don't even have a good handle on exactly who the rebel forces are.

But I also am not swayed by the argument that uncertainty over the future leadership ought to prevent us from intervening if we had very good reason to suspect that Gadhafi was poised to unleash a bloodbath that could result in, at a minimum, tens of thousands of deaths, because it isn't very likely that whoever would come to power would be eliminationist.

I suppose this comes down to what we consider our purpose to be. I'd like us to work toward a system that minimizes human-caused suffering.

AemJeff
03-18-2011, 09:03 PM
I repeat: we have no authority to remove him from power. No UN authority, no Congressional authority.



I would not. He's been running a cleansing campaign for several decades. Also, I have no reason to believe that a post-Gadaffi regime would be any better than his.

Perhaps, after we bomb the shit out of Libya, ferret out the Gadaffi clan, straighten up the oil industry, and build a new state with bazillions of US taxpayer Dollars, we can have a French Viceroy lead a transitional government to democracy. Libyans would hold elections, be free, and live happily ever after.

Who said anything about "bombing the shit" out of Libya? I'm not endorsing a "No-Fly" zone in this case, but Gadaffi's already bombing civilians. What if fewer die as a result of a disciplined NATO reponse?

Wonderment
03-18-2011, 09:51 PM
Who said anything about "bombing the shit" out of Libya? I'm not endorsing a "No-Fly" zone in this case, but Gadaffi's already bombing civilians. What if fewer die as a result of a disciplined NATO reponse?

First of all (minor quibble), I don't see why it's NATO. It's more like another "coalition of the willing."

Second, Obama pledged not to get us involved in military actions unless the safety of Americans was at imminent risk or he had an act of Congress. Neither holds here.

Third, where is the evidence of the grave ongoing humanitarian crisis, bordering on genocide? I haven't seen any. I've read about casualties in a civil war. Certainly, no evidence of genocide or grave crimes against humanity has been presented to Congress. "Responsibility to Protect," the UN anti-genocide doctrine, is not a license to speculate. The case against Gadaffi is similar to the case against Sadam (crazy dictator, committed previous atrocities, might do anything, has shitloads of oil) and it's similar to the case against dozens of world leaders who "might" go on murder sprees.

Fourth, by what friggin' MORAL authority does the USA (or France and England) for that matter go on bombing missions in the Muslim world yet again? If the charge against Gadaffi is "killing civilians," look who's talking! The USA that has charges of civilian massacre pending in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq? The USA that runs Guantánamo (another example of Obama's failure to keep his word)?

Finally, regarding your what-if question, nobody knows the algebra of military intervention. Of course, you can ponder whether more lives will be saved by bombing than lost otherwise, but there are a few problems with that: a) it's purely speculative, b) things could quickly spin out of control leading to a prolonged conflict with a set of unintended consequences, c) it based on the (false, in my view) assumption that diplomacy is futile, only force can work, the Libyan people have no chance without resorting to their own violence and relying on the foreign violence of others.

Wonderment
03-18-2011, 10:02 PM
Why does the USA need to be involved at all?

Why can Germany take a pass and the US cannot?

Don't the regional Arab neighbors have air forces and armies?

Isn't Egypt rolling in billions of bombers you and I paid for?

Can't Saudi Arabia afford it? Didn't they already invade Bahrain on the side of freedom and human rights? (Opps, they were on the side of oppression and no rights there).

I do not believe for an instant that USA involvement is vital to the enterprise, even assuming -- for the sake of argument -- that the enterprise is legitimate.

Let the French do it, if it's so worth doing.

AemJeff
03-18-2011, 10:15 PM
First of all (minor quibble), I don't see why it's NATO. It's more like another "coalition of the willing."

Second, Obama pledged not to get us involved in military actions unless the safety of Americans was at imminent risk or he had an act of Congress. Neither holds here.

Third, where is the evidence of the grave ongoing humanitarian crisis, bordering on genocide? I haven't seen any. I've read about casualties in a civil war. Certainly, no evidence of genocide or grave crimes against humanity has been presented to Congress. "Responsibility to Protect," the UN anti-genocide doctrine, is not a license to speculate. The case against Gadaffi is similar to the case against Sadam (crazy dictator, committed previous atrocities, might do anything, has shitloads of oil) and it's similar to the case against dozens of world leaders who "might" go on murder sprees.

Fourth, by what friggin' MORAL authority does the USA (or France and England) for that matter go on bombing missions in the Muslim world yet again? If the charge against Gadaffi is "killing civilians," look who's talking! The USA that has charges of civilian massacre pending in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq? The USA that runs Guantánamo (another example of Obama's failure to keep his word)?

Finally, regarding your what-if question, nobody knows the algebra of military intervention. Of course, you can ponder whether more lives will be saved by bombing than lost otherwise, but there are a few problems with that: a) it's purely speculative, b) things could quickly spin out of control leading to a prolonged conflict with a set of unintended consequences, c) it based on the (false, in my view) assumption that diplomacy is futile, only force can work, the Libyan people have no chance without resorting to their own violence and relying on the foreign violence of others.

I think there's clear evidence of civilians being deliberately targeted by their the Libyan with weapons of war. That's more than enough to convince me that the moral authority exists to take action; and I think a no-fly zone is a relatively minimalist action (within the context of such things.) I'm not convinced that it's the right thing to do; but I've no reason to believe the opposite, either. Obviously we can't compare any outcome with a counterfactual, but that cuts both ways.

AemJeff
03-18-2011, 10:22 PM
Why does the USA need to be involved at all?

Why can Germany take a pass and the US cannot?

Don't the regional Arab neighbors have air forces and armies?

Isn't Egypt rolling in billions of bombers you and I paid for?

Can't Saudi Arabia afford it? Didn't they already invade Bahrain on the side of freedom and human rights? (Opps, they were on the side of oppression and no rights there).

I do not believe for an instant that USA involvement is vital to the enterprise, even assuming -- for the sake of argument -- that the enterprise is legitimate.

Let the French do it, if it's so worth doing.

Why should we pass? I don't think that would change the moral equation at all, assuming somebody takes the mission on. I sure as hell don't want to see the Saudis do it, and the Egyptians are a pretty bad choice, too - not that either of them would see it as remotely in their own interest. We definitely have a great deal of real world experience with this sort of mission, and that's not nothing, especially when civilian lives are what's at stake.

Wonderment
03-18-2011, 10:33 PM
I sure as hell don't want to see the Saudis do it, and the Egyptians are a pretty bad choice, too - not that either of them would see it as remotely in their own interest.

So why is it in our, i.e, your, interest? Just because you're a good person?

I'm not being facetious. This is being done in your and my name. Do you think we, as Americans, have a special calling for this sort of duty?

AemJeff
03-18-2011, 10:50 PM
So why is it in our, i.e, your, interest? Just because you're a good person?

I'm not being facetious. This is being done in your and my name. Do you think we, as Americans, have a special calling for this sort of duty?

I haven't said that it is in my interest, although I could make a case that enforcing certain civilized norms, when they're violated as egregiously and blatantly as they have been here, is in everyone's interest. I'm, at best, ambivalent about this particular action.

If this sort of thing is to be done, then I think America, given its history and strategic position (dominant, well armed, logistically competent) has a place among those who go about doing it. I felt good about our interventions in former Yugoslavia. I was (and still am) convinced that we had to go after the Taliban in 2001.

I'm not sure we'll (the West) do less harm than good in this case, but I think there's a chance that if we do it well that we might.

Wonderment
03-18-2011, 10:55 PM
Why this?:

I didn’t find President Obama’s remarks on Libya comforting. The point of the speech, as I understood it, was both to announce that we were engaging but also assure America that our engagement was going to be limited. But consider the promises made. “The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya. And we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal, specifically the protection of civilians in Libya.” Those two sentences are at war with each other. Protecting civilians might well require more than bombing runways. If Gaddafi is deposed and the state collapses into tribal warfare, does our pledge to resist ground troops trump our pledge to protect civilians? Or will it be the other way around?....

The easy response to this is to ask how I can be so diffident in the face of slaughter. But consider Obama’s remarks. “Left unchecked,” he said, “we have every reason to believe that Gaddafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die.” Every year, one million people die from malaria. About three million children die, either directly or indirectly, due to hunger. There is much we could due to help the world if we were willing. The question that needs to be asked is: Why this?

Wonderment
03-18-2011, 10:58 PM
Destined to own the outcome:

The problem is that we still don’t know very much about who the rebels are or what they ultimately want. Libya’s internal politics were opaque to the West even before the war. We don’t know how much international involvement will be required to ensure Gaddafi falls, or what level of commitment the United States, as the world’s only superpower, will ultimately be forced to make. In other words, none of the key questions looming over the crisis have been answered — even though we’ve already learned the hard way in Iraq what happens when we fail to plan for the peace before we start a war. All we really know right now is that America is destined to own the outcome in Libya.

AemJeff
03-18-2011, 11:59 PM
Here are some very good reasons to agree with Wonderment:

http://www.amconmag.com/larison/2011/03/18/libyan-cease-fire-and-the-moral-hazard-of-intervention/

The resolution called for a cease-fire and the grounding of all aircraft, and this appears to be what the Libyan government just agreed to do. The intervening governments may have caught a lucky break in that Gaddafi’s desire for self-preservation has given them a way out of going through with the folly of attacking Libya. This is temporarily a good outcome for Libya’s rebels, but there are several reasons why this may still prove to be bad for the U.S. and our allies. Intervening governments that have committed to providing defense for civilian areas in Libya and enforcing a no-fly zone are now stuck with that commitment for the foreseeable future. That could tie up military resources for as long as the conflict continues, and there’s no telling how long that might be. We can expect to see a lot more agitation from hawks here and in Europe that Gaddafi cannot be allowed to remain in power, and they are likely to see Gaddafi’s acceptance of a cease-fire as an unacceptable maneuver to buy time. Interventionists sold a Libyan war primarily on humanitarian grounds (“saving” Benghazi, etc.), but they will not be satisfied at all by a cessation of hostilities.

Alan Kuperman (http://blogs.shu.edu/diplomacy/files/archives/Kuperman%20-%20Rethinking%20the%20Responsibility%20to%20Protec t.pdf) (as quoted by Larison):

The emerging norm, by raising hopes of diplomatic and military intervention to protect these groups, unintentionally fosters rebellion by lowering its expected cost and raising its likelihood of success. Intervention does sometimes help rebels attain their political goals, but it is usually too late or inadequate to avert retaliation against civilians. Thus, the emerging norm resembles an imperfect insurance policy against genocidal violence. It creates a moral hazard that encourages the excessively risky behavior of rebellion by members of groups that are vulnerable to genocidal retaliation, but it cannot fully protect these groups against the backlash. The emerging norm thereby causes some genocidal violence that otherwise would not occur.

Florian
03-19-2011, 01:13 PM
Let the French do it, if it's so worth doing.

Apparently, they think it is. The French clown, as of a few hours ago, has already sent planes to southeastern Libyia to enforce a no-fly zone. With the full support of the British.

I share your concerns, but Quadaffi needs to be nudged a bit out of his delusions..... if diplomacy is ever to work. It is all very well to talk about the need to talk, but if one of the parties shows no inclination to talk, then it is sometimes necessary to make him sweat a little.

bjkeefe
03-19-2011, 02:32 PM
Apparently, they think it is. The French clown, as of a few hours ago, has already sent planes to southeastern Libyia to enforce a no-fly zone. With the full support of the British.

I share your concerns, but Quadaffi needs to be nudged a bit out of his delusions..... if diplomacy is ever to work. It is all very well to talk about the need to talk, but if one of the parties shows no inclination to talk, then it is sometimes necessary to make him sweat a little.

Looks like (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/world/africa/20libya.html) it has started.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2011/03/20/world/20libya2-span/20libya2-articleLarge.jpg

Wonderment
03-19-2011, 03:48 PM
I share your concerns, but Quadaffi needs to be nudged a bit out of his delusions..... if diplomacy is ever to work.

I must admit "nudging" is one of the most elegant euphemisms for bombing people that I've heard in a while, but that aside, is this a psychological intervention with the hope it will dissolve delusions and restore Gadaffi to sanity?

When the purpose of a war is muddled from day one, there likely to be considerable lunacy and chaos down the road. The UN authorized a narrow intervention to achieve a ceasefire and avert a humanitarian crisis (i.e., mass murder of civilians, mainly in Bengazi).

But even before the action started, half the hawks were saying regime change had to happen and Gadaffi had to leave, suggesting that the war would expand to fit an emerging Western agenda "in the region."

I hope you are right, and Gadaffi will be "nudged" to sanity and civilized behavior (he has such terrific role models in the US and Europe!), but I'd be more worried that once cornered he or his surviving cohorts will be capable of pulling another Lockerbie or the murder of 1200 prisoners that he ordered at Abu Salim in 1996.

Under the best of circumstances, he will leave behind thousands of battle-trained loyalists who will likely be forever committed to vengeance against soft Western targets.

Ocean
03-19-2011, 03:53 PM
When the purpose of a war is muddled from day one, there likely to be considerable lunacy and chaos down the road. The UN authorized a narrow intervention to achieve a ceasefire and avert a humanitarian crisis (i.e., mass murder of civilians, mainly in Bengazi).

But even before the action started, half the hawks were saying regime change had to happen and Gadaffi had to leave, suggesting that the war would expand to fit an emerging Western agenda "in the region."
...

Under the best of circumstances, he will leave behind thousands of battle-trained loyalists who will likely be forever committed to vengeance against soft Western targets.

Sadly, both possibilities are likely.

Wonderment
03-19-2011, 03:56 PM
The American warist right not to be outdone calls for unilateral US war on Libya (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-pn-bolton-convention-20110319,0,6261658.story).....


Bolton told fellow party members that had he been in charge, he would have moved far more swiftly and would have unilaterally declared a no-fly zone in Libya during the early stage of the crisis.......

"This is the great diplomatic successor to the Bush administration? Are you kidding me?" Bolton scoffed to laughter Friday night. In addition to his tenure as U.N. ambassador during George W. Bush's second term, Bolton also served as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security in Bush's first term,

In a broad-ranging and well-received critique of Obama's foreign policy, Bolton said Obama was "still not qualified to be president" two years into his term. He suggested that the president had underestimated the threats in North Korea and Iran and "doesn't see the rest of the world as terribly threatening to American interests," while placing his faith in international institutions to provide security for the United States.


"He is our first post-American president," Bolton said.

operative
03-19-2011, 05:02 PM
I must admit "nudging" is one of the most elegant euphemisms for bombing people that I've heard in a while, but that aside, is this a psychological intervention with the hope it will dissolve delusions and restore Gadaffi to sanity?

When the purpose of a war is muddled from day one, there likely to be considerable lunacy and chaos down the road. The UN authorized a narrow intervention to achieve a ceasefire and avert a humanitarian crisis (i.e., mass murder of civilians, mainly in Bengazi).

But even before the action started, half the hawks were saying regime change had to happen and Gadaffi had to leave, suggesting that the war would expand to fit an emerging Western agenda "in the region."

I hope you are right, and Gadaffi will be "nudged" to sanity and civilized behavior (he has such terrific role models in the US and Europe!), but I'd be more worried that once cornered he or his surviving cohorts will be capable of pulling another Lockerbie or the murder of 1200 prisoners that he ordered at Abu Salim in 1996.

Under the best of circumstances, he will leave behind thousands of battle-trained loyalists who will likely be forever committed to vengeance against soft Western targets.

Does Gadhafi really have that much in the way of support? I'm inclined to believe the stories of him having to hire mercenaries to assist him. We have examples of other kleptocratic regimes falling due to force without forces loyal to the ousted leader persisting in fighting (I'm thinking about Congo, for example).

I find your skepticism a little confusing, because it seems like at a broader level you are very optimistic about the potential for human cooperation. We may well be witnessing a wave of democracy in the mena region, and I think we should be optimistic instead of pessimistic about the likelihood of its success.

operative
03-19-2011, 05:04 PM
The American warist right not to be outdone calls for unilateral US war on Libya (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-pn-bolton-convention-20110319,0,6261658.story).....

That seems to put Bolton in line with John Kerry and Bill Clinton more than the 'warist' right. I in some ways like Bolton, but he's in no way a serious presidential candidate. He's just angling to be secretary of defense.

This really isn't a partisan issue right now: you have interventionists on both the left and the right, and then skeptics on both the left and the right.

Wonderment
03-19-2011, 05:37 PM
If Bolton becomes Sec of Defense, I'm packing my bags and emigrating to Pluto.

operative
03-19-2011, 06:23 PM
If Bolton becomes Sec of Defense, I'm packing my bags and emigrating to Pluto.

There is nowhere you can go to escape the reach of John Bolton and his Mark Twain mustache.