To be sure Muammar Qaddafi is a devil incarnate. For 41 years he has ruled Libya with an iron fist. He has repeatedly participated in terroristic endeavors, even against his own people. As recently as two weeks ago it looked like he was a goner as rebels had taken hold of much of Libya, knocking at Qaddafi’s door in the capital, Tripoli. Then, being the survivor that he is, Qaddafi rose from the dead as his mostly foreign mercenary forces fought back retaking much of the country and driving toward the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Apparently, his warning that he would show “no mercy” to the people opposing him in Benghazi was the last straw for the United Nations. This remark pressured that body into passing a resolution calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Qaddafi from carrying out his threat.
On the surface, who could argue with stopping a madman from butchering potentially tens of thousands of people? But under the surface, the U.N. resolution and the Obama administration’s adherence to it is dangerous for the United States.
In the first place, unless America is under imminent danger, the president has no authority to launch a military attack against another sovereign nation. Obama is not an emperor endowed with unlimited power to pursue military adventures wherever. He is a president operating in a system of checks and balances, restrained by a written constitution. Since the end of World War II American presidents have generally ignored the rule of law when it comes to conducting military campaigns, and this has produced a state of almost constant war at huge costs to the nation in terms of human life, reputation, and financial resources. These latest actions by Obama are no different and will almost certainly lead to all of the aforementioned costs.
Another danger for the U.S. is that this mission is more than just the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya. This is a full-fledged combat mission. We are not just destroying anti-aircraft batteries and Libyan aircraft capable of bombing civilians. We are fully engaged in targeting tanks and killing Qaddafi’s fighters on the ground. With that comes the loss of civilian lives. As a matter of fact, Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who originally called for the U.N. to impose a no-fly zone, has become critical of the military actions taken in Libya so far. Speaking on Egypt’s official state news agency, he said, “What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians.” Thus, once again the U.S. is being portrayed in the Arab world as invaders and killers of Arab civilians. This is certainly not the image we want to maintain in light of the fact that Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups will be more than willing to use this portrayal for recruiting purposes.
Lastly, the president’s decision to commence combat operations in Libya without congressional debate/authority is dangerous because an exit strategy has not been developed. According to U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, how coalition forces extricate themselves from Libya is “very uncertain” and the whole affair could end in a stalemate with Qaddafi. If the latter were to happen would we end up staying in Libya indefinitely protecting the Libyans against the brutal dictator? Are we headed for another quagmire?
At the end of the day it seems like a no-brainer that a coalition sanctioned by the U.N. should step in and prevent the Libyan Madman from perpetuating further atrocities against his own people. But, why is it that the U.S. must once again lead that effort? Aren’t we already overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan? How much war can our collective soul take? Finally, are the dangers inherent in this operation really worth it? Given the rotten condition of our economy, our fear of future terrorist attacks, and the broken institution which is our federal government, the answer would have to be an emphatic no.
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