It's hard to think about our imminent enforcing of a no-fly zone without thinking about Iraq and Afghanistan. There are differences, of course, not the least of which is that in those wars we began with full intention of using full force. Years later, the results of it all remain unclear, and Iraq is heading down a pretty undemocratic path.
If the no-fly-no-drive zone fails to protect Benghazi from Qaddafi, are we then obliged to intervene on the ground? What the UN Resolution seems to require is protection of civilians. But if the methods authorized fail to do so, do we then just give up and give Qaddafi not just a victory against his own people but also against the West?
On the other hand, what are the US's obligations if the protection of Benghazi is successful? Are we required to provide food or arms to the rebels? And if the UN Resolution passes, hasn't the US essentially told the rebels to fight on? Having done that, do we not have a moral obligation to support them in an open-ended civil war?
How much is this estimated to cost? What programs are being cut in order to afford this?
It seems to me that this new war ignores every single lesson of the recent past. There is no clear goal. There is no exit plan. The American public opposes it. However tarted-up the coalition is, in the end, we all know that this will become a US responsibility. And we do know that if we break it, we own it, do we not?
If we are prepared to do this in Libya, why not in Congo, where the casualties and brutality have been immensely greater? Or Zimbabwe?
Qaddafi is brutal and crazy, of that there's no doubt. The people rose up bravely, seemingly with freedom in mind. What's not to like? Other than the usual uncertainties of any uprising about ultimate outcome. And the idea that we'll now be at war in three Muslim countries simultaneously. Instinctively, I want the rebels to succeed, and it's hard to watch the slaughter without feeling like doing something.
Nevertheless, the extent to which I find my instincts on the same side as the neocons is discomfiting. As is the fact that, so far, the actions about to be taken seem a little too Bushian for my taste. I've said many times here, and I still believe, that you can't defeat terrorism with wars. Is this different, though? It's not about terrorists; it's about people risking everything for freedom.