Stay out of Libya

It’s good to see
that the Pentagon is unenthusiastic about military intervention in Libya. But
that hasn’t stopped armchair generals such as Sen. John Kerry from pushing for
a no-fly zone over that country.

Kerry thinks he can
make his plan more appealing by couching it in internationalist terms, but we
know the American people would bear the brunt of the burden. Kerry is joined by
Sens. Joe Lieberman and John McCain, the Senate’s two most obnoxious
militarists. Regarding the military’s reluctance to take on another country,
McCain said, “[They] always seem to find reasons why you can’t do something
rather than why you can.”

Maybe the Pentagon
is acknowledging something that McCain, Kerry, and Lieberman seem to ignore:
They are calling for war on a country that has not attacked the United States.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized the discussion about a no-fly
zone as “loose talk.” He added, “Let’s just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone
begins with an attack on Libya. That’s the way you do a no-fly zone. And then
you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot

Gates’s cautionary
language is welcome after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s and President
Obama’s press secretary had referred to U.S. action as a live option. In typical
Clinton fashion, the secretary said, “We are taking no option off the table so
long as the Libyan government continues to turn its guns on its own people.”
Really? No option? Does that include a full-scale invasion? How about tactical
nuclear weapons? Drones armed with Hellfire missiles have been particularly
effective at killing innocent people in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Are they on
the table too?

Gates was not alone
in his warning. Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command, and other
officials said that taking out Libya’s air and missile defenses would be no
small operation; hundreds of airplanes would be needed. Gates said he was
advised that a no-fly zone “requires more airplanes than you would find on a
single aircraft carrier.” It would be, he said, a “big operation in a big

None of that stopped
the Senate from unanimously passing a resolution prodding the UN Security
Council to take up the question of a no-fly zone. And two U.S. amphibious
warships were headed to Libya through the Suez Canal, supposedly for
humanitarian purposes. But they aren’t called “warships” for nothing.

For all the bluster
about a no-fly zone, it’s not quite clear what difference it would make.
Libya’s Col. Muammar Qaddafi is using ground forces primarily to battle rebels
trying to drive him from power. According to the Associated Press, “Adm. Mike
Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that despite media reports
of Libyan aircraft attacking rebel areas, the Pentagon had not confirmed any
air attacks.”

So a no-fly zone
would be little more than symbolic. But it could be a costly symbol. Mullen
cautioned against underestimating Libya’s air defenses. Moreover, establishing
a no-fly zone would be an act of war, with consequences no one can foresee.
Haven’t we had enough of American politicians, sitting safely in their seats of
power, sending young people off to war?

The case against
U.S. intervention in Libya, however, goes beyond the prudential. There is no
doubt that Qaddafi is a brutal and now desperate dictator willing to send
mercenaries to mow down civilians seeking freedom from his iron grip. But that
does not justify U.S. intervention, which would require the taxpayers to
finance yet another open-ended military operation in the Arab and Muslim world.
Regardless of how Obama and Clinton would intend the operation, the rest of the
world would see it in the context of the long U.S. imperial record in the
Middle East.

American presidents
have sought to police the globe for generations. What has it gotten us? Endless
war abroad, and big government and economic hardship at home. Instead of being
a beacon of liberty, the country is a symbol of militarism and death. Obama,
the fraudulent peace advocate, has followed the same interventionist course. He
should not be allowed to extend it to Libya.

* Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The
Future of Freedom Foundation ( and editor of The Freeman magazine.

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One Response to “Stay out of Libya”

  1. Peter Jesson says:

    Well, thank heavens, we now have a no fly zone with French jets flying over Libya; so much for the American people bearing the brunt of the burden.

    H’mm, The Future of Freedom Foundation – libertarianism and Austrian economics; it seems Chadds Ford Live is continually worshiping at the feet of two false gods.

    The article states: “They are calling for war on a country that has not attacked the United States”. Technically it may be war but what is being proposed is really containment. This is the Clinton policy that brought Iraq to its knees (the prime reason – more or less obvious in advance – that we did not find anything when we got there).

    The article further states: “For all the bluster about a no-fly zone, it’s not quite clear what difference it would make. Libya’s Col. Muammar Qaddafi is using ground forces primarily to battle rebels trying to drive him from power”. Wrong again, NATO has significant experience in such operations — its warplanes successfully enforced no-fly zones over Bosnia in the early 1990s and over Kosovo in 1999 to end crackdowns by Serb forces on civilians. If Gadhafi’s air force was to flout a U.N. flight ban, experts say his air force would almost certainly be shot to pieces. Since the 1980s, chaotic purchases of equipment, poor maintenance and inadequate training have shrunk his fleet of more than 400 fighter-bombers, light attack jets and helicopter gunships to a few dozen aircraft.”This would be a fairly simple operation, much easier than NATO’s aerial missions in the Balkans in the 1990s,” said Marko Papic of the Stratfor intelligence analysis group in Austin, Texas. “Unlike the mountainous and heavily wooded Balkans, Libya is flat, without foliage or places to hide equipment, and the Libyan air force is a joke.”

    And again from the article: “So a no-fly zone would be little more than symbolic”. Total rubbish; let’s compare notes in a few months.

    And yet again: “American presidents have sought to police the globe for generations”. Not really true, we have for over 100 years engaged in naked aggression against third world countries from Hawaii to Iraq, finding no compliant dictator that we couldn’t learn to love. The misguided objective was to aid and abet the exploitation of these countries by our corporations. Except in the minor cases of Hawaii and Puerto Rico, this policy is in shreds and the chickens are coming home to roost.

    The situation in Egypt was perhaps the first occasion on which did the right thing instead of the instinctive thing (support the Dictator).

    We are now engaged in an operation to do the right thing in Libya.

    Finally the article gets something right (but not with respect to the Libya situation) “Instead of being a beacon of liberty, the country is a symbol of militarism and death”. This has certainly been true for the last 100 years

    Obama was faced with two unnecessary wars when he entered office. One because it involved criminal genocide on the Iraqi people with murder of 1 million innocent Iraqis and the spending of $3 trillion in turning Iraq into an Iranian satellite. The other (Afghanistan) because Bush basically won a legitimate war and then through incompetence, neglect and the blood lust of Iraq let the victory to turn to defeat.

    Obama has got it all right: Staged withdrawal from Iraq and a reasoned attempt to see if competent individuals can defeat the Taliban/al-Qaeda axis of evil (staged withdrawal will surely follow here if we cannot seize victory from the jaws of defeat).

    Obama and the Allies stand behind the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people for freedom, democracy and human rights.

    (Editor’s Note: On Saturday the US led a Tomahawk Cruise missile strike and even former US Rep. Joe Sestak is worried that the US will commit ground forces.)

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