15 March 2011

John Bolton's incoherent case for war

The short-term U.N ambassador and self-styled presidential candidate has taken to the interwebs to pile on the Obama administration for its refusal to intervene in Libya.

Bolton: First, Gadhafi has never faced his richly deserved retribution for numerous acts of terrorism against innocent Americans.

Perhaps Bolton's former boss, President Bush, should have thought about this before normalizing relations with Libya back in 2005. A question for Bolton: As these State Department cables indicate, and as is common knowledge in foreign-policy circles, Qaddafi has actually been a reliable partner in combating radical Islamic extremism. So is making sure Qaddafi sees "his richly deserved retribution" worth helping install an Islamist government made up in considerable part of the very extremists we've spent the last decade fighting?

Bolton: U.S. victims of Gadhafi’s terrorism still deserve to be avenged.

Maybe. But this isn't a serious foreign policy. If not for Qaddafi's assistance, brokered by the guy who put John Bolton on the map, it is quite likely that northern Africa would be much more friendly to al Qaeda. This sentence suggests that a Bolton administration would be focused on carrying out a foreign policy that is based not on strategic American interests but rather on the sole policy of serving retribution. Using Bolton's twisted logic, perhaps Obama should lob a few ICBMs at China for its support of the Viet Cong 40 years ago.

Bolton: Second, either a Gadhafi victory or a protracted, low-grade civil war, both of which are entirely possible outcomes, could again make Libya a base for terrorism.

Wrong. The State Department cables note:

"Libya has been a strong partner in the war against terrorism and cooperation in liaison channels is excellent. Muammar al-Qadhafi's criticism of Saudi Arabia for perceived support of Wahabi extremism, a source of continuing Libya-Saudi tension, reflects broader Libyan concern about the threat of extremism. Worried that fighters returning from Afghanistan and Iraq could destabilize the regime, the GOL has aggressively pursued operations to disrupt foreign fighter flows, including more stringent monitoring of air/land ports of entry, and blunt the ideological appeal of radical Islam."

There is no recent evidence to suggest that Qaddafi's policies have relaxed the atmosphere for al Qaeda. In fact, the Economist article we cited a few days ago demonstrates that Qaddafi has treated radical Islamic extremists and Western-looking democratists as a singular enemy, which has led to the strangest of alliances among Libyan rebels. If Libya is "a base for terrorism," it is assuredly in spite of Qaddafi, not because of him. Furthermore, Bolton's concern that Libya may become "a base for terrorism" is precisely why it is such a terrible idea to intervene at all. Right now, Libya is not a base for terrorism. So why intervene?

Bolton: Of course, there is no guarantee that a successor regime to Gadhafi would not also support terrorism, but given a choice between Gadhafi and uncertainty, uncertainty is more likely to be the safer choice.

This is incomprehensibly stupid. Given the choice between a leader who has been a key strategic partner in the war on terror and a successor regime that might be made up of Islamic extremists, the successor regime that might be made up of Islamic extremists is the safer choice? That might be the most illogical sentence in the history of the internet.

Bolton: Options include a no-fly zone (now belatedly endorsed by the Arab League) and possibly a no-drive zone for Gadhafi’s military vehicles, plus recognizing Libya’s opposition as its legitimate government.

A "no-drive zone"? I'd offer the following questions to Bolton: What support for invading Libya and installing a "no-drive zone" do you find in either codified international law or in statements from Libyan rebels or the Arab League? What is the objective standard a Bolton administration would implement for putting boots on the ground in a foreign country? How can you be certain that whatever interim government replaces Qaddafi will be equally as willing to partner with America in combating radical Islamic extremism? If you can't, why are you agitating for yet another Arab land war? When American troops die, and die they will if your "no-drive zone" is implemented, what explanation would you offer to the American public? Most critically, other than your lust for retribution, what strategic interest is advanced by spilling American blood and treasure in Libya?

John Bolton embodies the worst neoconservative excesses of the Republican Party. His unfortunate presidential candidacy will ensure that the destructive ideas of Bushism will live on, at least for one more election cycle.

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