Roger Simon / Politico – 2011-03-17 00:37:52
(March 15, 2011) — Why are we so eager to go to war in Libya? Why is the president on the verge of being stampeded into establishing a no-fly zone there that will create our third ongoing war?
Is President Obama worried that he will be accused of being “Obambi” again? Is he concerned that his critics once again will accuse him of being too detached?
It seems to me that when it comes to intervening in a civil war in which America’s security is not at stake, a president should be a little detached. And should move very, very carefully.
True, the Arab League has endorsed a no-fly zone. And some of the 22 countries that form the league have used the billions of petro-dollars they make to buy sophisticated weapons systems, including very modern jet aircraft, with highly trained pilots, some of whom have been trained in the United States.
And how many of these planes and pilots will those Arab countries use to help us maintain the no-fly zone over Libya?
None. Zero. Zilch. The Arab League countries don’t want to kill Arabs in Libya. They want the United States to do it for them.
“But there is much they can do,” one American official said recently of the league, “from providing airfields to gas and maintenance.”
But you have to cut the Arab League a break. It can hardly be expected to fight and die for democracy, since most of its members despise democracy.
So once again, even with NATO support, this will be our war, just as it is our war in Afghanistan and Iraq, even though we have a few allies.
We went into Iraq in pursuit of imaginary weapons of mass destruction. We went into Afghanistan to disrupt the ability of Al Qaeda to strike us again as it did on Sept. 11, 2001. We have been successful in Afghanistan, at the cost of many lives and much money. But we remain there, supporting a government that is probably no less corrupt at heart than Muammar Qadhafi’s.
But how can we fail to intervene in Libya? After all, Qadhafi is a cruel and corrupt dictator, and we don’t support cruel and corrupt dictators.
Except when we do, which is a lot. We do business with countries that have shameful records on human rights because we need what they have to sell or, like China, they buy up our debt and allow our government to function as flawlessly as it does.
But now the war drums are beating loudly in Washington. The United States must militarily intervene in Libya, because we owe it to the people. Or to the rebels. Or somebody.
And we owe it to them because democracy is our business and we export it whenever we can. Except when we don’t. We aren’t arming rebels in Saudi Arabia. Or even off our very shores in Cuba.
Egypt managed to have a revolution without us, for which the people deserve much credit. Will they form a lasting democracy? Maybe, maybe not.
In Libya, where we are about to risk American lives, surely the rebels believe in representative government and human rights, right?
Well, we don’t know. All we know is that they are fighting Qadhafi.
Qadhafi, unfortunately, has the heavy equipment and planes to fight back. The no-fly zone is supposed to keep his planes from flying, but it would do nothing about his helicopter gunships, artillery or tanks.
And even more unfortunately, Qadhafi might have surface-to-air missiles that would put our pilots at risk.
But Obama is edging closer to intervention in Libya. Why? For what? For whom?
For Marwan Buhidma, that’s who. He is a Libyan rebel, and he was quoted by Anthony Shadid in The New York Times on Sunday in a paragraph that illuminates a stunning amount not just about the Libyan war but about modern times and modern culture:
“‘Some guys consider this a lot of fun, and they’re hoping the war lasts longer,’ said Buhidma, a 21-year-old computer student who credited video games with helping him figure out how to operate a 14.5-millimeter anti-aircraft battery.”
The story ended on this:
“‘I don’t know what to call this,’ Mr. Buhidma said, his voice earnest. ‘Do you consider this war, or civil war, or religious war? It’s confusing to me, very confusing. I don’t know.'”
Well, Mr. Buhidma, the United States doesnâ€™t know either. We are equally confused.
But don’t worry; we are on our way. And we’ll bring some video games with us.
Roger Simon is POLITICOâ€™s chief political columnist.
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