No Matter Who Leads It, Intervention in Libya Is Folly

No Matter Who Leads It, Intervention in Libya Is Folly
Daniel Larison
Thu, 17 Mar 2011 22:10:19 GMT

If the Security Council authorizes intervention in Libya, Obama deserves a significant share of the blame, and blame is the appropriate word. Years ago, I concluded that Obama’s instincts tended to favor military intervention overseas, which was why there was no U.S. intervention that Obama opposed except Iraq, but more recently I had started to think that I had emphasized this too much in the past. It seems that I was right the first time. I had started to think that the people in the administration couldn’t possibly be so dense as to become entangled in a Libyan civil war in any way, but clearly I overestimated them.

Outside military action in Libya is a bad mistake. If it is mainly European and Arab governments making that mistake, that relieves the U.S. of most of the burden, but it will still be folly. Even though it was carried out by a regional government, Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia to install the U.N.-approved government of Somalia has proved to be ruinous for Somalia and harmful to regional security. Military “solutions” to other states’ internal conflicts typically don’t solve those conflicts, but simply give them another dimension. The U.S. is still a moving force behind the resolution that will apparently authorize such action, and that makes us partly responsible for whatever comes next.

U.N. authorization gets around one of the technical legal objections to U.S. participation in yet another unnecessary war. It does not get around the fundamental problems that most Americans want no part of this war, it has nothing to do with the United States, and it is an inexcusable waste of limited resources that will strain the military even more. There must not be any U.S. involvement in military action against Libya unless Sen. Lugar’s conditions of a full debate and vote on a declaration of war are met. The American people are weary of endless warfare. If two-thirds of them no longer believe that the war in Afghanistan is worth fighting, which is arguably the only remotely justifiable war the U.S. has fought in the last twenty years, I fail to see how they will ever support the War for Sarkozy’s Bad Conscience (or perhaps it should more accurately be called the War for Sarkozy’s Desperate Damage Control).

Looking at the list of supporting governments on the Security Council, one will be hard-pressed to find any state other than the U.S, Britain, and France that wields significant political clout. It is telling that every other major and rising power currently on the Council is expected to abstain. Along with Russia and China, India, Brazil, and Germany are all expected to abstain, which is a remarkable vote of no-confidence from two major strategic allies of the U.S. and the leading democracy in Latin America. The success of going through the Security Council in this instance will simply encourage interventionists to push for military action in more situations than before in the hope that the Council will confer some measure of legitimacy on their latest obsession.

Update: As expected, UNSCR 1973 was just adopted 10-0 with five abstentions.

Second Update: Andrew Exum reacts to the news:

It really does seem like we are going to go to war with another country in the Arabic-speaking world. I should be thankful for the broad international coalition we have put together, but I mainly just have a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach.


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