The White House calls it a “limited” action, claiming “We Have Already Saved Lives.”1 Many of us are calling it a bad idea that we should have been asked about. It is much too early to know whether the U.S. is being scammed by honoring the Arab world’s request for military aid in Libya, but influential senators have seized the moment by suggesting the U.S. up the ante and toss more of the Middle East into the mix.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry compared our actions to tearing down the Berlin Wall:
How we respond today, right now, will shape our strategic position in the Middle East – and how Muslims around the world see us – for decades to come.
Twenty-two years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. Central and Eastern Europe were freed from the oppression of Soviet rule and the constant subjugation of the police state. 2
Past experience tells us that bombing Libya will not cause radical Muslims to look upon the U.S. with fawning eyes. Western military invasions are the sort of things that arouse Arab wrath, and U.S. nation-building that starts with cruise missile strikes sets a precedent that will be judged harshly when the smoke clears and the bodies are tallied.
Kerry drew Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman into the discussion as part of a surprising alliance with an even more surprising goal:
Senator Kerry also discussed legislation he is developing with Senators McCain and Lieberman that will support the transition to democratic rule in Egypt and Tunisia, encourage movement toward democratic reform in the Middle East, and spur sustainable economic development throughout the region.3
We can credit Kerry with honesty lacking in our president and supporters of the Libyan mission who stress the humanitarian motives behind bombing an Arab nation. Kerry is frank about his political agenda, and however ill-advised his intentions or incorrect his interpretation of events, he at least lets us know what he believes:
Now, because the people of the Middle East have spoken, we have an opportunity to help shift the course of regional history toward greater reform for them and greater security for us.4
McCain and Lieberman were equally frank in endorsing the ouster of Libya’s dictator:
Qaddafi must go, and that requires the United States not just to develop and review possible options, but to take meaningful actions that urgently answer the growing calls of the Libyan people for help before it is too late.5
In contrast to this show of misplaced idealism, Indiana Senator Dick Lugar showed himself to be a realist by proposing that we call a war by its name, and that the Arab League pony up for the cost of the action:
If the Obama Administration is contemplating this step, however, it should begin by seeking a declaration of war against Libya that would allow for a full Congressional debate on the issue. In addition, it should ask Arab League governments and other governments advocating for a no-fly zone to pledge resources necessary to pay for such an operation.6
Kudos to Mr. Lugar for figuring out why the Arab League must pay for what they claim they want. When the mission is over and the fingers start pointing, at least the U.S. will have an Arab signature on a check to fall back on.