The arrogance of power….Libya edition

I am ambivalent on our going after Gaddafi – spelled Moammar Kadafi in the L. A. Times, Muammar el-Qaddafi in the N.Y. Times, Muammar Qaddafi in the Christian Science Monitor, and Gaddafi in Al Jazeera: I’ll go with Gaddafi – and that is really what we are doing. I am bouncing around like a ping-pong ball in a garbage disposal. He is a madman killing innocent people; we should intervene.  This is really a war between two Libyan tribes; we shouldn’t be involved. By doing very little, we can make a big difference; we should help. We are already fighting two wars, we really don’t need to get in another one; we shouldn’t go to war. The Arab League wants us to stop the carnage: we should get involved. Now the Arab league says we are doing too much; we shouldn’t get involved. And back and forth I go.

I am not so sure that Gaddafi is a madman but he sure seems to be brutal and sure seems to be killing who ever he can who doesn’t worship him. But, in Syria, where protesters set fire to the ruling Baath Party headquarters and other government buildings, police are killing people; and in Bahrain – where our Fifth Fleets calls home port – King bin Isa Al Khalifa, who said  a foreign plot against his kingdom had been foiled, got help from the Saudis in killing protesters . Should we go there also?

Aside from being able to find Libya on a map and knowing that they are on the UN Human Rights Commission – incredible in itself – I didn’t know much about Libya until a couple of weeks ago. From what I read now, Libya has a very strong tribal structure and to a great extent, this war is a Civil War between Libyan tribes. As bad as Gaddafi is, should we really be picking sides in a Civil War?  We have done that in Iraq and the outcome is not looking like Jeffersonian democracy.

The theory is we can do alot of good by doing very little. Except that it never ends up being doing very little. Wars – interventions – always grow.

We are already fighting two wars and we really don’t need to get in another one. True, but this does seem to be one case where the heavy lifting is being done by somebody else. Although this will not be done on the cheap: on the first day alone, the Navy launched 110 cruise missiles and they cost about  $500,000 each.

Before we did get involved – a delicate way of saying before we started killing people – the Arab League wanted us to get involved. The problem here is that the Arab League should more accurately be called the Asshole and Badguy League. Its members include Bahrain’s King bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, the Saud family, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, Muammar Qaddafi – now suspended – and, until a few weeks ago, Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Egypt’s Mubarak. It should be no surprise to anyone that they are not flying planes or sending troops. They have not even offered to hold our coat while the west does the dirty work.

Where the arrogance of power comes in is Obama  – who was so critical of the abuse of Executive power under Bush – making this very difficult decision on the fly without taking it to Congress. Even Bush went to Congress over Iraq. In the end, I realize that I get to be loftily ambivalent and Obama does not have that luxury; but I am troubled by his taking us to war by fiat. Power does corrupt.

By the way, the incredible picture at the top was shot by Goran Tomasevic.

5 thoughts on “The arrogance of power….Libya edition

  1. Love the new site! I like the gray right margin. And (just too much agreement here, but what can you do?) am ambivalent about Libya (can be pronounced a bit like the last resident of the oval office: lib-ya). The main saving grace in my eyes is the UN support for this action.

    1. Thanks, Richard, Michele will be very happy that you like the site. I agree, the UN agreement helps. It does bother me that Russia, China, and Germany abstained.

  2. I agree that the complexity of all the current international strife can be mind-boggling at times. There are too many moving parts and histories – generations, even millennia in some cases – that color and shape the world as we see it today. Today’s world is often brutal, illogical, and seemingly run by the wrong people (can you say “kakistocracy”?). The endless shades of grey in the spectrum of what is wrong and what is right tend to conceal more than reveal answers. Much of what we are witnessing today are symptoms of past bad decisions that seemed logical at the time, and decisions that were never made at all. It is likely that we will not be able to properly judge the decisions we make today for years, decades, or even generations. If there is any “litmus test” for the paths we follow today, it must be based on finding the core of most strife, which I believe is lack of justice, compassion and understanding in how we treat each other as individuals and, in turn, as societies. Our history as humans with diverse beliefs has led us to this moment – how will we measure the value of our decisions we make today, and how will they be judged by our children?

    1. Kakistocracy, Vern, that’s a word I never heard before. I am definbetly going to add it to my vocab. It sure seems to fit.

      I also like your comment that “we will not be able to properly judge the decisions we make today for years, decades, or even generations” Lately I have been sort of obsessed with how presidential actions that made sense at the time have come back and bite us in the ass. In particular Eisenhower’s decision to dump Iranian democracy – because it was anti-BP and bad for the oil biz – for the Shah and Truman’s decision to go to war in Korea – calling it a police action – without Congress. It would be a very different and – I expect – much better world if Iran had been a real democracy for the last 60 years and we had only gone to war after Congress declared it.

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