As the bombing of Libya escalates, those who supported the attacks might want to ask themselves the following questions: What is next?
The death toll will mount and so will the structural damage to the country. Regardless of the hatred for Gaddafi, there will be inevitable resentment from Libyans upset at seeing the invaders of Iraq and Afghanistan target another Arab country. If the bombing does not work and Gaddafi continues to wage war against the rest of his country, will our intervention have helped or made the already bad situation worse? Do we then ‘stay the course’ to ensure freedom for the Libyan people?
These are questions that have yet to be answered by the authors of this new war, echoing the moral certainty of Bush and Blair and the disregard for public opposition.
Obama’s decision to involve the US smacks of a cynical attempt to boost his popularity at home by appearing tough – an age old trick used when the economy is in the doldrums and nothing appears to be working politically. Obama’s pledge to use the military sparingly when in power seems to be another one of his campaign soundbytes crafted to appeal to a war weary population at the time, but completely disposable when political opportunism arises. It is a sad use of his gifts and one that may have tragic consequences because the decision to go to war with Libya may not pan out in Obama’s favor. He may have moved to fast, too soon. Writes Andrew Sullivan:
Going to war with only 25 percent public support, with no Congressional buy-in, and opposition from the defense secretary is, to my mind, a form of madness. Even the war-hungry neocons will never give Obama any credit; they will insist, even if this succeeds, that Obama should have gone in earlier; and they will mock him for following the lead of the French. The more opportunistic Republicans will exploit every failure and misstep in the war, and ask questions similar to my own. Heritage has already gone there.
As we have learnt from Iraq and Afghanistan, war is rarely quick, and it is never easy. The ramifications of Obama’s move may seriously affect his ability to win in 2012 if it goes wrong, and it doesn’t appear that he has an exit strategy from a political or military point of view. If it is a limited campaign, as he assures Americans it is, the results must be clear and decisive. If they are not, Obama will look incompetent and weak. Gaddafi is promising a long fight, and we would be wise to take him at his word. The ruthless dictator is no dummy, and he still retains the advantage of knowing his terrain far better than we do.
From an economic standpoint, the new war is also reckless and completely unjustifiable. Bob Cesca points out:
When will the CBO score the No Fly Zone for its impact on the deficit? We deserve to know why Libya is more worthy of deficit spending than is just about every social program in America, including the National Parks, NIH, CDC, Planned Parenthood, WIC, tsunami warning stations, NOAA and all the rest of it.
There is always an endless supply of cash to bomb other people’s countries, occupy and rebuild them. But never enough for libraries, schools and medical care at home.
This is the quandary of the modern American empire, an increasingly irrational place built on deficits, war and shopping. While we bomb Libya from the skies, Americans will be encouraged to keep borrowing and buying. For most of them, the new war is simply another event to watch on the evening news – impressive footage of fancy planes and big explosions interspersed with commercials for Pepsi and PlayStations.
President Obama was supposed to be different, but it turns out the lure of an impressive military victory has been too much for him too.
This is another war against another enemy we know little about. While politicians and media commentators pat themselves on the back for their brave rhetoric, they are not the ones fighting and dying. If they were, you can bet we’d know a lot more about the country most Americans couldn’t place on a map.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.