Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Not just another conflict in the Middle East

When I saw on the news that the United States started launching tomahawk missiles at Libya assist the rebellion against the country's dictator Muammar Gaddafi, my reaction was quite different from when the U.S. was planning to invade Iraq. In the case of Iraq I was opposed from the start, and I knew that the Bush Administration's reasons for going to war were lies, and that it was a cover for a neoconservative wet dream. It was also a virtually unilateral act opposed by most of the international community. In contrast, I find myself much more conflicted on the issue of Libya. As a principle, my parents and I are generally anti-war. However the case of Libya is very unique and quite different from Iraq. There are valid arguments on both sides of the issue here, and as is often the case with foreign policy, people's views are not falling along party lines. Within the right wing, neocons are criticizing President Obama for not doing more and sooner, while libertarians are opposed to the action. Within the left wing, most support Obama except for those whose are staunchly anti-war. Here I will list the valid arguments both in favor of and against Obama's actions.

Arguments in favor of what America is doing are quite obvious, particularly the argument that what is happening in Libya is a potential humanitarian crisis, in which Gaddafi could slaughter large numbers of innocent Libyans if he is allowed. We have intervened in humanitarian crises before, notably the ones in Balkans and in Kosovo in the 1990s. In the same decade, we failed to intervene in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, which Bill Clinton has said was one of the greatest regrets of his presidency. It is likely that if there had not been any intervention, that Gaddafi's forces would have massacred the rebel stronghold of Benghazi by now, especially considering how poorly equipped the rebels are to fight on their own, which is another reason why they need assistance. Not only does the situation warrant intervention, but the action has the support of the international community, including the Arab League. This is not a unilateral action. Obama is also trying make as small an American footprint as possible, a clear shift away from the Bush Doctrine, which is better not only for affected countries but for America's image in the Middle East and as a supporter of democracy.

On the other hand there are multiple reasons to be cautious about action in Libya. The most obvious is the risk of America getting sucked into another foreign conflict when we don't want to. Not only is it costly financially on top of the two wars we are already involved in, but if events don't go smoothly there, we could end up having to stay longer than we want and more involved than we want to be, all of which can have adverse consequences. Another thing to consider is America's decision to intervene in Libya but not in other countries in which humanitarian crises are happening, such as Bahrain, as well as some cases in which America is actually backing the dictator. There is also the aspect of the action's constitutionality, given the fact that Congress was not consulted. As mentioned above, both sides of the ideological divide have people who are opposed; both Representatives Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Ron Paul (R-TX) oppose involvement in Libya, the former believing that taking such an action without approval of Congress is an impeachable offense (and while I generally agree with Kucinich I think that is a bit over the top).

After considering all the factors, I think that personally I am leaning in favor of the intervention as long as Congress approves and as long as the American role can be kept as small as possible. Still, it is a complicated matter and it isn't easy to take a side.

1 comment:

  1. A thoughtful assessment of the troubling situation in Libya.