Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Moral certainty in Libya?

For a while, Libya seemed like a perfect place to bomb from afar. The setup was perfect - repressed people revolting against a tyrant, riding the jubilant waves of other successful revolutions. The despot's cabinet and head military officials defect, the rebels seize some towns, the world looks on with adoration. He's on the ropes! Then the dictator gets pissed and bulldozes, shoots, and bombs his own people to smithereens.

The brutal injustice stings, and you feel their pain and wish you could help. Yes, we know our own military is stretched too thin for a ground invasion, so why not do the next best thing? Join up some other super-powered nations and shoot missiles at the bad guys from far, far away. The bad guys get hit, we are safe and the civilians get to root for the U.S.

It seemed like that very, very rare thing - moral certainty. This was a good thing.

But then it wasn't. First the Arab nations changed their minds and started booing. Then the Republicans chastised Obama for moving too slowly. Then Democrats knocked him for moving too quickly. Finally, Jon Stewart of all people bashed the president for acting illegally without the permission of congress.

Don't know what to make anything anymore....


shesthesheriff said...

I think its worth noting that air strikes rarely achieve their stated goals and there are always shit tons of reported civilian casualties that are categorically denied.

Its also worth noting that the US has been silent about the uprising in Yemen--mostly because Yemen's government has been helpful in the war on terror apparently.

So again--we're picking and choosing which dictator to get rid of based on our strategic needs, and going about it the wrong way.

Jonathan Rubin said...

I agree with point B about Yemen, but I disagree on the airstrikes, which can be amazingly accurate and basically go down a chimney of a military bunker, hitting only those within. Those would probably create fewer civilian casualties then sending tons of troops marching through a town....

shesthesheriff said...

So, I know we don't see eye to eye on this--but if we look at what we've seen in the past 20 years, it seems like the story is always the same.

Part 1--The good cause (Democracy, hunting al qaeda, WMDs).

Part 2--This will be quick. We are assured that we will be using the smartest of smart bombs and that we'll be hitting only military targets.

Part 3--The capital falls. celebration, but by this point reports of civilian casualties from coalition air strikes--even massacres by ground troops, are starting to coalesce into a pattern.

Part 4--This is going to take longer than we thought. Pro dictator forces are amassing in the boonies, or secondary cities, and the crippled infrastructure and death toll is fomenting anti western sentiment. The military, much less the media and the american public, have no idea who is on whose side. Its becoming clear that we intervened without a true understanding of the tribal/sectarian conflicts.

Part 5--Enter private contracting dollars to rebuild the country. Deals being made with everybody, even the bad guys we initially went in to invade.

I know the US is saying its trying to scale back its end of the leadership--but we do have to keep this in mind I think.

Jonathan Rubin said...

Well stated.... but I still hope you're wrong....