The John Bolton column that we destroyed on Tuesday is just one of hundreds of incoherent, overly partisan and/or emotional cases for military intervention in Libya. Yesterday, the Obama administration made its first real misstep with respect to the crisis in the Middle East, by reportedly pushing the U.N. Security Council to approve the enforcement of a no-fly zone in Libya.
The misstep was enormous, and could prove to be the biggest mistake of a presidency that is already littered with dozens of them.
As we've said before, the United States has absolutely no strategic interest in Libya whatsoever. During the leadup to the Iraq war, President Bush at least attempted to make the case that because Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (he didn't) and had a shady alliance with al Qaeda (didn't have that either), he was a clear and present danger to American security. President Obama has not attempted to do this, because any suggestion that Qaddafi is a threat to the United States is laughable.
As we also noted, Qaddafi has been a reliable partner in combating radical Islamic extremism in Libya -- once a hotbed of terror -- and in fact has been critical of Saudi Arabia for what he perceives to be acquiescence of Wahabi extremism.
But there are more problems with a Libyan intervention.
If, to liberals, Iraq was an unwarranted war -- despite the fact that Saddam was a butcher who killed by some estimates 300,000 of his own people -- what is it that makes Libya different? Qaddafi, while a despot, doesn't have nearly the abysmal human rights record of Saddam. Why is intervention suddenly warranted? And why wasn't it warranted in Iraq?
What is the strategy in Libya? Is it merely the implementation of a no-fly zone? Is it the removal of Qaddafi from power? Is there even a plan at all?
What is the consequence if Qaddafi wins? If the rebels reach his stronghold, he will fight back. And then what? Does the UN send boots into Libya to aid the rebels? Where does the mission end?
What is the consequence if the rebels win? Does the administration or the international community care to understand what potentially dangerous factions are lurking amongst these "freedom fighters"? How can we be certain that a new government, if one exists, won't be worse than Qaddafi? (We can't.)
Going forward, what is the new standard for military intervention? When organic uprisings happen again, and happen they most certainly will, does the UN (or President Obama) plan to support similar intervention?
If Saudis take to the streets of Riyadh, and if the Saudi royal family engages in despotic acts similar to Qaddafi, then what will America do?
This is the problem with engaging in countries on the sole basis of "humanitarian" grounds. We are set up to look like fools in other countries where American interests are directly at stake.
And the most critical one for Americans: Does Congress' power to declare war mean anything anymore? The last time Congress declared war was in the 1940s. The imperial executive has now sent us into war in Korea, Vietnam, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya while completely sidestepping the constitutional requirement of congressional approval. As Andrew Sullivan noted, Congress is entitled to a meaningful, open consultation as to the president's use of military force. Contrary to the position of the Bush administration, the president's commander in chief powers are neither unlimited nor open-ended.
Finally, the president's explanation that Qaddafi is destabilizing the region is laughable. The protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen are equally if not more destabilizing than what Qaddafi is doing. There is no rational argument to be made that what's going on in Libya was worse than what has happened recently in those countries. So why in the world is military intervention suddenly warranted?
The administration has showed great restraint to this point, but is sadly bending to the pressure of liberal humanitarians and neocon interventionists, and succumbing to the noise machine to implement a policy that will serve no strategic American interest whatsoever.
The best-case scenario is that the threat of international intervention will convince Qaddafi to back off. The more likely scenario is that the United States will be bogged down in yet another unwinnable war in the Middle East, further over-extending our military and leading to even more unnecessary American casualties.