Five To One, Baby, One In Five

I was going to provide a handy-dandy spreadsheet, going point by point through the President’s remarks on the “kinetic military action” in Libya to offer guidance about when we can and cannot fight against another nation, however despicable its leader and government might be. But Jon Stewart mined the speech for comedy and sad irony much better than I could:

Watch all three clips, especially the second one, for a historical comparison of Obama with most of the post-WWII Presidents, the bulk of whom made the same sorts of decisions after advancing lofty but apparently contrary rhetoric (excepting the ones who got bogged down in Vietnam).

Much as I dislike Khadaffy Quadaffi Ghadhafy Gadaffi, not least of which is the fact that blogging about him is damned inconvenient since the English language is not adequate to spell his name, the fact of the matter is that we’ve intervened in a civil war, the results of which would not have functionally affected our national interests at all since Libya had been pretty much behaving itself for the past fifteen years or so (dare I say it, “sanctions were working“?). We’ve looked the other way at humanitarian tragedies inflicted on people by their own governments in the past, many times. Clearly, we can tolerate it when people of other nations get slaughtered by their governments.

We’re supposed to believe that if we shoot off a bunch of cruise missiles that we weren’t planning on replacing anyway (we will probably upgrade them to the next generation of faster, cheaper, more destructive cruise missiles currently in development), someone else is going to do the job of effecting regime change in Libya for us. Only that hope no longer looks realistic, at least as things stand now. Maybe if we’d started whaling on Gadaffi like the rebels’ proxy air force two weeks before we did, it would have all been over by now. But we’re in the world we’re in, not the one we could have been in.

The rebels have small arms and some recoilless rifles mounted in the beds of pickup trucks, an established method of battlefield transport in the Saraha. They don’t have RPG’s or other anti-armor weaponry. So they can’t easily take out installations or heavy infantry without outside help; they lack military training. To get that stuff to them, someone is going to have to ship it in to Benghazi or another rebel-held port along with some Green Berets or their equivalents to start training up the rebels and turning them into a force that can go mano a mano with Gadaffi’s trained military. That takes time, that takes at least some boots on the ground, which means, of course, that although regime change isn’t a goal of our military action, it will inevitably creep into the mission.

Hmm.  “Creep.”  “Mission.”  I seem to have heard those words with reference to a war with an ill-defined mission that politicians hesitated to call a “war” before this one. Didn’t work out so well.

We are trying to take out Gadaffi because we can and for no other reason. Not necessarily because we’ll be better off with him gone and a new kind of government in his place. Maybe that new government will be democratic and friendly to the West. But maybe it will be democratic, but taken over by Islamist fundamentalists who will give al-Qaeda a safe haven and a piece of the petroleum bankroll. No one has really thought that part of it through. Or maybe it will be quickly taken over by a military strongman who will install himself as a ruthless dictator. Plus la changement

I hope it ends soon. I hope it ends with minimal loss of life. I hope Gadaffi falls and a friendly democratic government takes over Libya. But that’s not how I see it ending. I see it dragging out for many months. I see Green Berets in country first, then “advisors” and then regular combat troops. But not a lot. I see a line of control being established roughly halfway down the middle of Libya and the nation effectively fragmenting into two countries, Tripolitanan Libya ruled by Gadaffi from Tripoli and Cyrenaican Libya ruled by, um, someone, from Benghazi.

Maybe that’s the real goal here — more nations, hostile to one another, that we can play off against each other. Which, if true, means that the triumphant policy architect of our new war in Libya is none other than Mr. Realpolitik himself, Henry Kissinger.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.