Stay out of Libya

When announcing the U.S. involvement in the U.N.-approved action in Libya, the President stressed that we would not be sending ground troops. Now, we have a diplomat on the ground discussing possible humanitarian and financial assistance to the Libyan rebels. I suspect that soon there will be U.S.-based aid organizations in Libya, funded in large part if not entirely by the U.S. government.

That’s mostly good, I suppose, but when members of those organizations become casualties you will hear many in this country crying out for us to “send in the troops.” I’m not convinced that President Obama (or any other President in recent memory, come to think of it) has the strength to say no to those cries if it looks like sending in the troops will help him win re-election in 2012. The same goes for every Congressman and Senator who will be standing for re-election.

I supported President Bush and Congress when we sent troops to Afghanistan. I thought the idea was to remove the Taliban, who openly assisted the terrorists who carried out the 9-11 attacks, and to dismantle al Qaeda by arresting or killing its leaders and support network. For reasons that aren’t clear to me, we’ve not been wholly successful in that. However, I still believe that supporting the action was correct.

I also supported us going into Iraq because I believed in the President’s assessment that there was a clear and present danger. I also thought that we had a plan. It turns out that the “clear and present danger” was most likely inferred by selectively paranoid interpretations of incomplete intelligence reports, and our “plan” consisted of “kill the bad guys and gather everybody else around the campfire to sing Kumbaya.” I was wrong to support our involvement in Iraq.

I won’t say that our action in Iraq has done nothing positive, but the most important and visible outcome is that we created a power vacuum in the region and there’s only one country with the power to take advantage of it: our good friends in Iran. The Iranian leaders curse us publicly, but I have to believe that in private they thank us every day for removing any possible regional threat to their power. We’re the best friends the Iranian leaders ever had.

We should not be getting more involved in Libya. There is even talk of providing arms for the rebels. Of course, with those arms will almost certainly come “advisors” to show the rebels how to use the weapons. But I suppose those aren’t considered “ground troops,” any more than humanitarian aid workers are. Right? I predict that, if the conflict in Libya draws out, those “advisors” will soon be augmented by other special-purpose personnel who are also, ostensibly, “non-combat troops.” Interesting, though, how often those “non-combat troops” are carrying weapons and actually firing them. Must be one of those definitions of “non-combat” that I’m not aware of.

Let the people of Libya figure it out for themselves. Yes, Gadhafi and his henchmen are slaughtering civilians and armed rebels alike. The same has been happening throughout Africa, Asia, and parts of South America since I can remember, and rarely do we do anything about it. It’s a tragedy, but it’s not our place to stop it. The U.N. seems to think that they have the responsibility to prevent these kinds of atrocities, but the organization is so hampered by politics and bureaucracy that it’s amazing they ever get anything done, even as ineffectively as they do.

If it is our place to stop these kinds of atrocities, then we should stop them: quickly and decisively. Otherwise, we should stay the hell out of it because when we go in pussyfooting around, we invariably make things worse than they would have been had we stayed out of it. Since we don’t have the political will to take decisive action, we should keep the troops–all the troops–at home.

President Obama, now that you’ve shown the world that you have the balls to commit troops and drop bombs, show us that you have the brains to bring the guys home before you get us stuck in another conflict from which we have no good way to extricate ourselves.