April 19, 2011
Do Americans Really Want Humanitarian Wars?By J. Robert Smith
Humanitarian war-making (an oxymoron, indeed) is on full display in Libya. Reports persist that the Libya intervention, as it's commonly referred to, is bogged down. Is anyone really surprised?
There's been talk of the U.S. sending in ground troops as part of an international force to aid Libyan rebels, among whom are, undoubtedly, jihadists. Jihadists, as in enemies of the United States and the entire Western world. But if the U.S. doesn't pony-up troops, NATO may. Never mind that a humanitarian war was supposed to protect innocents, not support rebels. Doesn't taking sides violate a tenet of humanitarian war? Or will the U.N. sanctioned coalition overtly help the rebels in the name of humanitarianism?
Who knows? Who knows about humanitarian war's tenets? Liberals, being good relativists, are situational; aims are always malleable. But we do know this: winning at war -- or articulating victory as the goal of war -- is to be dismissed. Have President Obama and those mealy-mouthed functionaries at the State Department claimed victory as a war aim? Winning -- as in defeating an enemy -- defines traditional war, which liberals disdain. Traditional war is about protecting or advancing vital national interests, but national interests are narrow, squalid concerns.
So Libyan rebels shouldn't be cheered by the possible deployment of coalition ground troops; such may prove highly conditional and subject to change, particularly if the fighting gets tough and proves inconclusive. And if the coalition's constituencies back home begin to weary of the burden, goodbye troops, which is distinctly possible among Europeans.
The opening shock and awe phase of the Libyan fight was supposed to either kill Moammar Gaddafi (despite Orwellian pronouncements to the contrary) or send him packing, tail tucked between his legs. Instead, Gaddafi is proving wily and tenacious -- to a point. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is warning not to underestimate Gaddafi. Of course, neither should anyone overestimate the progressives who are running this war.
Why can't the mighty Western militaries that comprise the coalition quickly do-away with Gaddafi and his humble military? Answer: they aren't tasked to do so. It's not part of the U.N. mandate. Instead, coalition forces pursue a one foot in and one foot out plan that needlessly and inhumanely protracts the Libyan war. Inconclusiveness is a great killer.
Gaddafi suggests he's open to negotiating some sort of settlement. Anything that let's Gaddafi survive with some of his power intact is a victory for this odd and dangerous man. But don't be surprised if the coalition opposing Gaddafi eventually meets him at the table. It's easier to talk and settle than fight and win. Better to make a hash of the Libyan situation and claim a humanitarian "victory" than finally run down Gaddafi like the mad dog he is and make a manful -- yes, the use of the word is deliberate -- effort to bring civil, democratic government to Libya.
The humanitarian war in Libya is full of half-measures with incrementalism lurking in the wings (see ground troops). In the U.S., liberals' war-making was previewed in Vietnam decades ago. Didn't liberals learn anything from that long, bloody, losing affair? Apparently no more than liberals have learned about high taxes and big spending government. Americans, however, should know better on both counts.
Barack Obama's humanitarian war gambit in Libya is part of a grander scheme, of course: the transformation of the United States from world leader to just one voice among many. Diminishing the United States at home and abroad is gospel to the left. Obama, the left's long-awaited anti-Reagan, is dutifully going about trying to overturn every demonstrated Reagan success in domestic and foreign policy. This deliberate effort to un-Reagan the nation isn't unhinged -- figuratively, it's criminal. America may end up paying for decades in untold ways for Mr. Obama's and the left's chicanery.
So the United States, under Mr. Obama, has ceded leadership of the Libyan war effort to the U.N. and NATO. Smart anti-Gaddafi Libyans might just want to apply for refugee status now and get out of Dodge, unless they care to continue to gamble their lives on the U.N. and NATO.
The U.N. has its very own ruinous four horsemen: incompetence, corruption, impotence, and fecklessness. Expecting the U.N. to save Libyan innocents is like having expected the U.N. to save innocents in Darfur or Rwanda.
And NATO? The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was charted to stop Russian aggression during the Cold War, not serve as an all-purpose force to save the world. NATO may not have entirely outlived its purpose -- one never knows about the Russians -- but it's proving what the United States Postal Service proves in the United States: governmental organizations find ways to continue even when their missions have gone.
Is NATO being used principally by Western Europe to safeguard its energy interests in the Middle East? If the humanitarian war in Libya is just a cover for Western Europe to protect its vital interests, then the Libyan fight gives the lie to the very concept of humanitarian war, where disinterest to gain or advantage is a premium. But gain or conquest under a guise is nothing new to nations in history's annals -- most definitely in the annals of modern history, where communist regimes waged wars of conquest in the proletariat's name.
The Libyan intervention (let's get the language straight, shall we?) could well be a mish-mash of intentions, which fit nicely with the inadequate, mish-mashed coalition operations underway; is folly in the offing? Wars without clear-cut aims and a definitive end-game are nothing more than killing fields. Killing fields are moral abominations.
A muddled Libyan war, full of half-measures and partial solutions like no-fly zones and a dictator permitted to slip the noose, is worse than inhumane; it holds out hope -- a cruel hope -- to a suffering people that may never be fulfilled. But such is the record and promise of progressivism in the world; words and intentions trump hard results. Just doing a little something in Libya should make everyone feel good. Something was done toward righting injustice; some food and medicines were gotten to Libyan innocents; some protection granted. But the hard slog to victory? The sacrifices that come with waging war and trying to build a durable, truly just peace? Heavy-lifting isn't part of the progressive feel good crowd's M.O.
Nor are consequences listed on the progressive agenda. That humanitarian war might leave matters worse than what they were aren't factors to the progressive mind. They don't appear to be in Libya. Long range calculations don't matter a lot; they may force considerations and actions that demand too much.
The United States -- President Obama, in particular -- had no business committing to what seems to be a travesty in Libya. Doing so is morally inexcusable. Progressives -- not particularly God-fearing -- haven't accepted that the way to hell is paved with good intentions -- or, perhaps, intentions masquerading as good. In either case, progressives' notion of war-making hurts a lot of decent people, spends blood and treasure for naught, and leaves the world in a worse, not better, place.
Do Americans really want humanitarian wars?