If you are a pacifist, I understand why you don’t want to go to war in Libya. If you believe wars should only be fought to defend the homeland, I understand why you don’t want to go to war in Libya. If you believe war is a legitimate instrument of public policy, however, I fail to understand what war could be more just, or more necessary, than the one we could be fighting in Libya right now.
Let’s enumerate the reasons:
- Muammar Gaddafi is a brutal and anti-democratic dictator. He has consistently brutalized his own people and deprived them of rights and elections; he is currently killing them by the thousands using tanks and aircraft. The humanitarian situation cries out for action.
- There is a viable democratic movement in Libya that has asked for our aid. This was not true in Iraq (not viable) or Afghanistan (not democratic). We would not need to carry the brunt of the war ourselves, nor should we.
- People are dying. We could help them. They have asked for our help.
- Freeing Arab people from the clutches of a brutal dictator — by helping an existing revolution and then getting out of the way — would give us enormous credibility in the Middle East. It would show young potential Jihadis that Americans care about their well-being.
Additionally, here are some reasons a war in Libya should be an easy choice politically for President Obama:
- Gaddafi is an anti-American. His Libya is a state sponsor of terror. He has personally sponsored terrorist attacks on U.S. citizens (the bombing of Pan Am 103 in Lockerbie); his palace portico sports a bronze statue of a fist smashing a U.S. fighter plane. I don’t care a bit whether he’s anti-American, but it should make the political calculus easier for Obama.
- An intervention in Libya would help U.S. oil markets. I don’t care a bit for U.S. oil markets, but it should make the political calculus easier for Obama.
- We could go to war under the aegis of the U.N., if we just pressed Russia a little harder. I confess I do care about the U.N., but more importantly it should make the political calculus easier for Obama.
I think this country has spent so long fighting immoral and ill-advised wars that we have forgotten what a noble and justified war looks like. Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that we should take the brunt of the fighting upon ourselves, or that we should play a major role in rebuilding the country. Instead, we should establish a no-fly zone, arm the rebels, and then get out of the way after they have reconquered their country. People are dying, and they need our help. Have we forgotten what it means to be an international good samaritan?