good questions

George Will on Libya:

But if Khadafy can’t be beaten by the rebels, are we prepared to supply their military deficiencies? If the decapitation of his regime produces what the removal of Saddam Hussein did — bloody chaos — what then are our responsibilities regarding the tribal vendettas we may have unleashed? How long are we prepared to police the partitioning of Libya?

Explaining his decision to wage war, Obama said Khadafy has “lost the confidence of his own people and the legitimacy to lead.” Such boilerplate seems designed to anesthetize thought. When did Khadafy lose his people’s confidence? When did he have legitimacy?

American doctrine is that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. So there are always many illegitimate governments. When is it America’s duty to scrub away these blemishes on the planet? Is there a limiting principle of humanitarian interventionism? If so, would Obama take a stab at stating it?

I think the general consensus that Khadafy should be gone is correct.   The question should be how much the United States should be involved in another possible regime change situation.  It’s a question that requires much more thought than it’s been given by the Obama administration, and requires that we have a defined mission and objectives to determine what victory looks like.   Now my friends on the left are going to bring up Iraq and whether we had a plan for victory there.  If you believe that Iraq was a mistake (debatable but a fair position) and you have lost hope in Afghanistan, then it’s not possible to support the way the Obama administration has handled Libya.   If the United States calls for the removal of a dictator, the rest of the world generally expects that we will support all attempts to remove said dictator — even if that means eventually sending our own military to accomplish that goal.

The problem is that we have not committed to long-term military intervention.  Nor should we at this point.  The reasons we would get involved in this way should not have anything to do with the inclinations of our European allies.  The responsibility of the President of the United States should be to act in our best interest.   There are many areas of the world that could be candidates for our next humanitarian intervention – the Congo, Uganda, etc.   Where do we stop?  Where do we draw the line?  We can’t save everyone. It’s admirable to want to, and it’s one of America’s best qualities – to desire to reach out and help whenever there’s a crisis or people in need.

But our government doesn’t have unlimited resources.  There’s only so much we can do, and we can’t really afford to intervene everywhere.   We need to count the cost in Libya, and determine whether there’s something we can do without committing long-term, because we are still funding Iraq and Afghanistan.   The administration also should get the approval of Congress before going any further.  The Constitution requires it, and it would add legitimacy to the mission.  Getting further involved in Libya might be a tough sell to the American people, especially with Iraq and Afghanistan still on the board, but the President must make the case for it if he believes that the removal of Khadafy is important enough for our military to be involved in that process.