Monday, March 28, 2011

Libya--not a civil war

We had a civil war, with armies of each side going at it until one won. Nazi Germany did not have a civil war with its Jews. The Nazis just butchered most of them. But what if the Jews had tried to defend themselves with old hunting rifles and kitchen knives against the Wehrmacht's Panzer divisions? Would that have made it a civil war?

Not.

What you have today in Libya is a guy and his family, aided by some tribal alliances but mostly by foreign soldiers brought into the country because Qaddafi didn't trust most actual Libyans--trying to kill everyone who complains to the guy's kleptocracy, and after the first few massacres, the massacreees-designate trying to defend themselves. from being slaughtered, as Qaddafi expressly declared he would do.

I submit that it's not a civil war when one side had nearly all the ordnance and the trained military. Otherwise using the term "civil war" dilutes its traditional meaning to the point of worthlessness. It just gives the appearance of moral cover for those who want to avoid spending money and manpower on the situation there.

It's certainly possible to argue against any involvement in Libya. But to say it's strictly an internal matter, a "civil war" is intellectually dishonest.


And it's equally dishonest to say that President Obama did something unconstitutional in intervening--that he declared war, usurping Congress's prerogative.

If he'd waited for Congress to hold hearings and debate the issue at hand--the imminent overrunning of Libya's second-largest city by Qaddafi's mercenary army--there would have been no need for the hearings, because the issue would have been moot. The thousands of people the President was trying to save would have been dead. In fact, it took so long to corral the international support he wanted that it would have been moot anyway if the French hadn't jumped in.

Sometimes there's no time to wait for every Congressman to stand in front of hundreds of empty seats while CSPAN patiently trains a camera on him and he pontificates for an hour on the subject, followed by another, and another...

Today the world community--outside its dictatorships--agrees that no nation has a right to massacre its own civilians. Nor that no nation has a right to intervene in an immediately impending massacre unless it produces and ratifies a formal declaration of war. Modern communications and military technology has seen to that.

It is also true that some massacres are easier to prevent than others. Iran has been committing judicial murder of tens of thousands of Iranian minorities, dissidents and others for decades, but it would take a major war to stop them at this point. China in Tibet is another example. Even little Ivory Coast, which is also massacring civilians, would be harder to stop, if just for logistical reasons--though it may yet be possible there.

The Libyan massacre we could and did stop, though. The fact that others are harder to stop is no reason why we shouldn't stop the ones we can. Tolstoy said "We must help those whom God has set before us."
That's not a bad way to look at it, even if you treat "God" as a metaphor in this case.


Let's debate this and other issues honestly, instead of throwing up fake facts and false reasoning. If someone doesn't mind thousands of civilians dying deaths we could have prevented, just say so. Don't hide behind specious arguments.

1 comment:

n1ck said...

My opinion is this: if we're going to go in there, shoot down aircraft, bomb soldiers and structures, and generally police Libya, we should just do it 100% and target Gaddafi.

I'm not worried so much about the money: we're already broke. I'm not worried so much about the rebels: they aren't ruthless dictators with track records of killing civilians.

But I am worried about IF we're actually going to help these people, or just prolong a conflict and actually cause more casualties.

Let me explain: before 911, doctors without borders set up in Afghanistan. Their mission was noble - give medical aid to ANYONE who was wounded because of the civil war going on there.

Now, while this sounds great on paper, you have to remember that these people don't get shot, and then get a retirement pension back home. If they get fixed up, they go back out and try to kill more enemies.

Sometimes, its best for everyone if you just pick a side. The doctors should have just given aid to whichever side they thought was the "good" side. Otherwise, all they are really doing is prolonging a conflict.

Right now, NATO/the US should just bite the bullet, say we're there until Gaddafi is out, so he knows his best bet is to take a few billion he has stolen and retire somewhere, rather than prolonging this conflict.

I have a feeling that Gaddafi is going to either go into exile, or be killed. Rather than trying to slap his wrist, we should tell him that he either goes into exile, or we're going to take him out of power one way or another. Otherwise, he has every reason to stay and attempt to hold power.

At this point, I have more hope that Gaddafi realizes that he has no long-term probability of success and abdicates. Otherwise, this may be a very long NATO exercise.