Sunday, April 03, 2011

He Has a Point

President Obama's justification for intervening (half-heartedly, anyway) is that Khaddafi was on the verge of committing a massacre if his troops captured Benghazi. Isn't that an exaggeration?

Remember when a crusading president, acting on dubious intelligence, insufficient information and exaggerated fears, took the nation into a Middle Eastern war of choice? That was George W. Bush in 2003, invading Iraq. But it's also Barack Obama in 2011, attacking Libya.

For weeks, President Obama had been wary of military action. What obviously changed his mind was the fear that Moammar Gadhafi was bent on mass slaughter -- which stemmed from Gadhafi's March 17 speech vowing "no mercy" for his enemies.

Chapman says there was no reason to think that the speech foreshadowed mass murder.

We'll move past the problem of his slam at the Iraq War. The fact is that we had plenty of reasons to suspect in 2002 that Iraq had chemical weapons and other WMD programs at some level of activity (and before the war, Saddam clearly had missiles with ranges exceeding what they were allowed under the 1991 ceasefire).

But it is factual to say that we had little real reason to think Khaddafi was about to massacre 100,000 people or more. Sure, you can say that we couldn't risk it, but you are way past George W. Bush levels of justification, eh?

As the article states, Khaddafi didn't go into mass murder mode after capturing other rebel-held cities. Yes, he went after former rebels and regime opponents, but that's all in a day's work for any typical despot on any given day anywhere in the world. You might say that Khaddafi's use of his air force to kill civilians proves his intent. Well, no. I followed the news, and reports of Khaddafi's use of air power almost always had them directed at armed rebels or military arms depots captured by rebels. Civilians no doubt died in those attacks, but they were military targets either because they were armed rebels or were at a military target.

The author's insistence that we had no reason other than humanitarian to intervene aren't quite right, however. Libya may not have been a direct threat to America, and his regime was not a vital interest, as Secretary Gates said, but we do have interests, as he also said.

One, Khaddafi is a despot so it is not morally wrong to act against him. This applies even if there was no chance of mass murder.

Two, we have scores to settle with Khaddafi over American blood he spilled and terrorism that he supported and committed in past years.

Three, intervening was an important interest to our NATO allies (stopping refugees and starting oil exports), therefore it was an interest of ours to back our allies when they needed help. France may have waved bon voyage at us as we sailed off to get Saddam, but don't forget that Spain (before the March 11 Madrid bombing) and Italy did send troops to Iraq to help with the post-major combat operations mission.

Four, once President Obama said Khaddafi had to go, our prestige was put on the line. For America's sake, Khaddafi must go and we couldn't just hope he'd go on his own. Whether we are doing enough to achieve that is another question altogether.

Five, while you may say that it sends a bad message to current despots who might want to come in from the cold because Khaddafi "flipped" (after witnessing that we destroyed Saddam) and gave up almost all of Libya's WMD programs and stockpiles (nuke stuff is safely in America, now; although some poison gas in non-weaponized form is still in Libya--assuming we didn't bomb it already), Khaddafi has been backsliding in recent years. I say that it is a good message to send to despots that when you flip, you'd damn well stay fully flipped. Flipping should not be a time out to avoid destruction that allows you to gradually resume standard operating procedures.

So we have reasons to destroy the Khaddafi regime. And aside from whether those reasons make it a good idea to intervene, our intervention is morally justified regardless of whether we preemptively stopped a massacre.

But Chapman has a point, you must admit. There was almost certainly no impending mass murder to justify intervention. So it is appropriate to question the president's stated reason for starting a war (apart from whether he intends to finish it)--unless you have decided that you believe in the Doctrine of Obama Infallibility (via Instapundit), of course. But that's a whole different issue, now isn't it?