Some interesting critical takes on the situation in Libya from the left (David Rieff writing in The New Republic) and the right (George Will in The Washington Post), both of whom make strong cases against America’s confused, rudderless involvement in the United Nations actions in Libya. Rieff, who has written an enormous amount on humanitarian interventions, has a few questions for liberal internationalists (Remember them?) who supported both the war in Iraq and strikes against Libya.
This war—let us call it by its right name, for once—will be remembered to a considerable extent as a war made by intellectuals, and cheered on by intellectuals. The main difference this time is that, particularly in the United States, these intellectuals largely come from the liberal rather than the conservative side. Presumably, when the war goes wrong, they will disown it, blaming the Obama administration for having botched it, in much the same way that many neoconservatives blamed Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld for his strategic errors, rather than blaming themselves for urging a war that never had a chance of transforming Iraq in the way that they hoped. The judgment of history will almost certainly be that it was Iran, not the United States, which won that war. And Libya? Anything is possible, of course, but the odds of this war, so grandiose in terms of the moral claims made for its necessity and so incoherent in its tactics, turning out in the way its advocates are promising seem remarkably small.
Like most of those blogging and writing opinion pieces on the crisis, Rieff is writing about intellectuals for intellectuals. And much of the blogosphere muttering about Libya is tedious back-and-forths about who’s being hypocritical; what so-and-so said about Iraq and what they are saying today; how Iraq and Libya are different (or the same); what effect the strikes will have on Obama’s election chances in 2012, etc.
While some of this stuff is interesting—and some of it important, like those debates of congressional authorization of military action—a few rather distressing things have been happening on the ground in Libya. As Time magazine reports (and most everyone could have predicted), despite the air cover provided by American, British, and French planes, the anti-Qaddafi forces haven’t moved an inch. They are surely brave men, but they don’t appear to be particularly good soldiers. So while the administration says that their goal isn’t “regime change,” but they would be quite happy to see the drape-wearing Colonel disappear, it’s a mystery as to just who will take the lead in removing him, especially when they seem rather content dug in in Benghazi. Untrained, underequipped fighters can survive when provided air cover from the USAF, but it sure sounds like a recipe for a stalemate and a country split in two.
So there you have the clever arguments of Rieff and Will. How about the not-so-clever arguments of Pat Buchanan, who on MSNBC today wondered about those emotional broads in the administration—Susan Rice, Samantha Power, and Hillary Clinton—who pushed the president to act. Or this masterpiece of stupid, from The Nation magazine’s Robert Dreyfuss, former “Middle East intelligence” director for Lyndon LaRouche’s Executive Intelligence Review. It's only necessary to quote a single line:
Meanwhile, Qaddafi is making some good points.
I’ll let you click through to read Qaddafi’s “good points”—no spoilers!—which, as you might have guessed, don’t actually qualify as good points.