Mission Creeping

In an op-ed in tomorrow’s New York Times and IHT,  The Three Emperor’s League President Obama, President Sarkoky, and Prime Minister Cameron call for Qaddafi’s departure and for the international community to nation-build in Libya.  Here are three snippets:

Our duty and our mandate under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove Qaddafi by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power.

However, so long as Qaddafi is in power, NATO must maintain its operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds.

Qaddafi must go and go for good. At that point, the United Nations and its members should help the Libyan people as they rebuild where Qaddafi has destroyed — to repair homes and hospitals, to restore basic utilities, and to assist Libyans as they develop the institutions to underpin a prosperous and open society.

I’ve been opposed to this war since the beginning, especially since mission creep was entirely predictable.  Let’s ask again: how is regime change and nation-building in the national interest of the United States?  And don’t give me the bogus argument that our reputation and prestige are now on the line.  This goes well-beyond the dubious enough notion of enforcing a no fly zone to protect “civilians” targeted by the internationally recognized government of Libya.

In foreign policy, official Washington is neo-conservative to the core – left, right, and center.  The sound you are hearing is Washington, Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Grover Cleveland, the members of the Anti-Imperalist League, George Kennan, and every dead realist in the history of the Republic spinning even faster in their graves (some of these started spinning in about 1898).

3 thoughts on “Mission Creeping

  1. Before online social media, it was easy to isolate dissent and crush it; now dissent is organized online where it gains momentum until it manifests itself physically. The dictator cannot maintain power by divide and conquer tactics. This is key, because online social media isn’t going away, so dictators will have to. Therefore, even if Gaddafi HAD finished slaughtering rebel resistance, it would restart and return better organized than before.

    As revolution spread across the Middle East, it became apparent that the former U.S. policy of sleeping with dictators no longer was going work in its economic interests — these days are over. Not wanting to be on the wrong side of the new regime(s), America tried to right old wrongs by being on the winning side.

    Especially given the anti-American atmosphere in the Middle East, not supporting the emergence of a new democracy would make the U.S. an even easier target to demonize, especially after invading Iraq in the name of “democracy”.

    1. The problem is we’ve been down this road before (Taliban, anyone?). Just because someone claims to be the opposition doesn’t mean they’re good people and we should support them militarily. What we SHOULD do is stop financing and propping up tyrants in these countries. That would go a long way toward improving our image and it would do so at almost no cost.

  2. What I’m saying is that democratic change is going to happen in the Middle East one way or another, and so popular impression is going to be key to diplomacy. This is not the Taliban vs the USSR, and I think that’s an important distinction to make.

    You’re right, though, in hindsight. The US should never have involved itself in the region in the first place. Unfortunately it already has, and you can’t just disconnect from the past and say, “alright, NOW we’re about freedom and democracy in the Middle East”. There needs to be consistency in the American message, or else organizations like Al Queda will point to the INconsistency, continue blame all the East’s problems on the West, and keep the cycle growing.

    It would not have been the responsibility of the West to deal with Gaddafi had the West not supported him for so many years, and before the POPULAR uprising, it would have made a terrible impression to arbitrarily remove this one dictator out of so many. But the opposition (in this case, the people, as opposed to some fanatic guerrillas claiming to represent the will of the people) would have seen the U.S. as having been on the side of tyranny for so long, and not on the side of freedom and democracy when the call for help came. This would have been a great story for sowing the seeds of anti-American sentiment all over the new regime, and can’t be told in Libya anymore. I still think the U.S. did a lot for piecing back together its shattered international image by engaging in this conflict.

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