Saturday, March 19, 2011

"To the Shores of Tripoli"

As our planes and missiles bomb Libya, we are back 200 years to the first foreign military action in American history, commemorated in the Marines' Hymn, intervention in a dispute over the throne between Arab brothers.

What we are doing in Tripoli now is, of course, sanctified by the U.N. and in concert with other powers, but it is a clear return to U.S. policy as "policeman of the world" advocated by Dick Cheney and Bush's Neo-Cons who led us into the Iraq disaster.

This time, however, instead of grey old men, the faces of intervention are those of three modern women of the Obama Administration, brandishing the best of humanitarian motives rather than dreams of American empire, but the risks of being trapped once again in a quagmire of nation-building are the same.

"The change in the region will not and cannot be imposed by the United States or any foreign power,” the President said yesterday. “Ultimately, it will be driven by the people of the Arab world.”

But the Arab world, as it usually does, is speaking only in whispers and behind a veil of deniability, while a Coalition of the Cautious--China, Russia, Germany, India and Brazil--abstain at the U.N., reserving the right to blame you-know-who if anything goes wrong.

Part of the Obama decision is traced back to Bill Clinton's regrets over failure to stop genocide in Rwanda, but that is an unsatisfactory reason for what we are doing now. History doesn't allow do-overs.

It used to be conventional wisdom that the military is always the first to push for use of arms, but they seem to be last on board for this intervention. For the sake of the Libyans and ourselves, let's hope they are being too modest about the possibility of a quick "cakewalk" over Qaddafi.

Otherwise, we could be trapped on the shores of Tripoli for a long time, as we are in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

Update: Memo to Secretary Clinton: Now that the U.S. has moved against Libya, our new-found friends in the Arab League are taking back their "support" for action against Qaddafi. Fill in the blank of the old saying, "If you have X for a friend, you don't need an enemy."


Atlanta Roofing said...

A Congressional declaration of war, not merely some alternative in the form of a resolution, ought to be required every time the executive enters into hostilities as a matter of policy—as opposed to instantaneous defense against attack. The wisdom of that Constitutional provision has been demonstrated repeatedly by the blunders it would have prevented if followed.
The current case in Libya may tug at the heart strings now, but will probably seem less sympathetic as events unfold. On what basis does anyone think the result will be better for the U.S. if Khaddafi is deposed now with our help, vs. losing power in a few years by death, mutiny, or some other cause?
Presidents undertake military initiatives because they feel politically pressured to do so. They don’t want to be called weak by political opponents. A better political solution would be to throw the problem back into the lap of the critics, as the Constitution intended.

Fuzzy Slippers said...

That's cute. So when conservatives declare that they are waging war for freedom (which has happened how often?), they are actually (and secretly) building an American empire, but when liberals say the same thing, they are actually . . . well, waging war for freedom? As I just read your "Hangovers" post ("Politics used to "stop at the water's edge," but apparently we now have conservative wars (good) and liberal wars (messy), and never the twain shall meet.:), particularly rich.