Approximately 8 years ago America invaded Iraq after a year-and-a-half of lies, deceit and wrangling by the Bush Administration for the purpose of regime change. Last year during student protests in Iran and amid growing fears of a program to develop nuclear weapons, President Obama was criticized for not intervening to assist the pro-democracy uprising in the hopes of regime change. When Egyptian protests began in earnest, many Republicans chastised the president for supporting the protesters and not the corrupt leader Mubarak. Now with a civil war in Libya, there are Republicans criticizing the president for not arming the rebels or establishing a no-fly zone to stop Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces.
There is an old adage that says those who don’t learn from the mistakes of history are bound to repeat them, and it appears that the lessons of Viet Nam, Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan have eluded many Republican war-hawks who want the United States to intervene and attack another Arab country. Perhaps the hawks are serious about helping the rebels overthrow Qaddafi so democracy can flourish, or so they can get their hands on the Libyan oil, or more likely, they just enjoy using our Armed Forces to impose our will on a sovereign Muslim nation. Whatever their motivation, they have not learned one lesson from the history of meddling in foreign governments; the lesson is it never works and ends up costing American lives and resources.
Establishing a no-fly zone is not a guarantee the rebels will be victorious and it requires putting American forces in harm’s way. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was very blunt about the danger involved in establishing a no-fly zone over Libya. He said, “A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses…then you can fly around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down.” Earlier in the month Gates told West Point cadets that anyone advising the president to send an Army into the Middle East should have his head examined. The psychological health of conservative war-mongers aside, there are lessons from history that teach intelligent people that a no-fly zone will not necessarily give the rebels an advantage.
At the end of the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein used helicopters to massacre his own people in spite of a NATO enforced no-fly zone over the country. The ethnic-cleansing massacre of Bosnian Muslims by Serbs occurred under a no-fly zone; there is no guarantee that Qaddafi’s forces will lay down their arms and cede control to the rebels if they are restricted from flying. Destroying Libya’s fixed wing war-planes will mean American pilots will have to patrol the skies to shoot down helicopter gunships, and run the risk of being shot down. Libya has a huge arsenal of surface-to-air-missiles that could threaten American aircraft so the possibility of escalation is ever-present.
Conservative pundit Bill Kristol said on Fox News that President Obama’s response to the Libyan civil war is humiliating because the Arab League is taking the lead in promoting support for a no-fly zone. Kristol is like many conservative war-mongers in wanting America to have a more aggressive military posture in the region. Kristol was a proponent of the Iraq war and is of the mind that America has to unilaterally subject its will on the rest of the world through military action. Kristol is joined by Paul Wolfowitz, another historically challenged conservative and one of the architects of the Iraq war in criticizing the president for not intervening in Libya. Wolfowitz said that Obama needs to man up, arm the rebels and support a no-fly zone because it is “morally right and in America’s strategic interest to enable the Libyans to fight for themselves.”
There are Republicans and conservatives who subscribe to the notion that America must intervene in every conflict in the world regardless of the issues involved or the country being attacked; and make no mistake, establishing a no-fly zone is an attack. The war-mongers’ first inclination is to barge in with guns blazing and set things right whether it was Viet Nam, Korea, or Iraq. It is the “cowboy diplomacy” that prevents people like Wolfowitz from looking at the big picture and subsequent problems caused by intervention. If America arms the rebels, how do we deliver the weapons and who are the leaders? Will the leaders be worse that Qaddafi and does America need NATO approval? There are myriad questions the warmongers could learn from with careful analysis of previous interventions, but when their attitude is bomb first and ask questions later, we end up repeating the disastrous Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
America is not the police authority of the world, and with all the problems on our own shores it makes no sense to intervene in a third Arab country. Any attempt to establish a no-fly zone will no doubt involve civilian casualties and would undermine President Obama’s attempt to soothe anti-American sentiment in the Arab world. From an Arab point of view, America is an imperialistic, warmongering country that imposes its will on nations that do not acquiesce to Western demands, and intervening in Libya will ameliorate that sentiment. People like Wolfowitz should know better, but he does not have an accurate understanding of the Middle East.
A reformed interventionist, David Rieff, criticizes “the Messianic dream of remaking the world in either the image of American democracy or the legal utopias of international human rights law.” and, that after Iraq, “America doesn’t have the credibility to make war in the Arab world…our touch in this is actually counterproductive.” Rieff is referring to the recruitment assistance our interference and regime changing policies has given to Islamic extremists, and the ill-feelings toward America by Arabs. Indeed, there are many historical reasons not to take military action in Libya, but apparently some Republicans and conservatives are so enamored with war that they fail to heed history’s lessons.
John Quincy Adams said about America, “Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions, and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy…she is the champion and vindicator only of her own.” America’s own is not Libya, Iraq, or Afghanistan any more than Viet Nam or Korea were. The same conservatives and Republicans who would fight the monster Qaddafi are not defending freedom and liberty on American soil. Of course, protecting Americans’ freedoms is not as lucrative as protecting the military industrial complex, corporate wealth, or the oil industry who will benefit most from seized Libyan oil fields. The best example of the benefits of democratic government is protecting freedom and liberty at home; something conservatives will never understand and Republicans are incapable of.