Reason Writers Around Town: Shikha Dalmia on How Altruism Is Driving Our War in Libya

Just as with President George W. Bush’s Iraq war, the Obama administration’s “kinetic military action” in Libya is arrogant, reckless, cowardly, wasteful, foolish—and possibly illegal, given the lawsuit that a bipartisan group of lawmakers filed against it yesterday. But it is not a malevolent plot to secure cheap oil for the American economy, notes Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia in her latest column at The Daily:

The idea that oil lust drives America’s Middle East policy is a perennial—and tired—saw invoked by U.S. critics both at home and abroad. But why, then, does America keep spurning this oil through sanctions on hostile regimes? In the decade between the two Iraq wars, America wouldn’t let Saddam Hussein sell any oil except for food. Washington’s sanctions on Iranian oil are costing America $38 billion to $76 billion annually in lost revenue. And America had sworn off Libyan oil until Gadhafi abandoned plans to develop weapons of mass destruction and compensated the victims of the Lockerbie terrorist bombing.

 Read the whole thing here.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Dalmia takes on the "blood for oil" meme. Apparently we mostly get our military dick into conflicts that aren't going to affect our economic prospects (beyond the cost of the conflict itself).

  • ||

    I particularly liked the Administration's argument that this isn't a war, because

    (1) We don't have ground troops. So I guess Pearl Harbor wasn't an act of war, either.

    (2) The Libyans aren't shooting back at us. So we're killing people who don't pose a threat to our forces? Delightful.

  • Rich||


    Autism is driving our war in Libya.

  • cynical||

    It's like how it's not assault as long as you knock someone out with one unprovoked sucker punch. As a lawyer, you should know about that loophole.

  • Isildur1||

    "possibly illegal, given the lawsuit that a bipartisan group of lawmakers filed against it yesterday"

    Given that???

    The war could be entirely illegal regardless of what a bipartisan group of lawmakers deemed.

  • Richard||

    If they were serious, they'd impeach him. Instead, they want a court to decide when a war is really a war and, I dunno, issue a restraining order or something. Pathetic.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Let me start by saying we shouldn't be in Libya, it was a bad decision.

    To pin every war on the greed of corporate capitalism has the virtue of parsimony, but it is false. Greed is arguably more a force for timidity than belligerence in the world.

    This is a bit of a strawman. No one blames all wars on greed, but if control of resources isn't the only reason nations go to war, it is certainly one of if not the most common reason. Similarly, while timidity might serve greed so does belligerence, so even if trade is the better route to control of resources much of the time, this doesn't mean that nations aren't sometimes willing to take by force what they need.

    The other problem I have with the article is the lack of nuance. The "blood for oil" meme is about controlling the access to oil, so there is room in that game for sanctions that play one source off the other. If we had no interest in controlling our access to oil, humanitarian concerns would not drive the level of involvement we have in the middle east. The middle east is an important region in world politics because of its resources. While Afghanistan has shown that there are other ways to become a focus of the world military, I think this article's attempt to downplay the connection between resource management and war falls short in the end.

  • ||

    I'm gonna just go ahead and call bullshit.

    It's not about altruism, it's about politicians' ceaseless quest for the love and validation of strangers.

    These sick, pathetic pukes should all be institutionalized.

  • ||

    What is tired is the baseless asseveration that oil plays no role in our incessant war making in oil producing countries.


  • ||

    That really does make a whole lot of sense dude. Wow.

  • ||

    "America lost 1 million barrels a day during hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the US economy barely hiccuped."

    Dalmia does dopey.

  • Spoonman.||

    This is stupid. Otherwise we'd be in Syria too.

  • ||

    I don't know why the hell we're bombing Libya, but altruism is the only possible reason that I can completely rule out.

  • CE||

    It's more than "possibly illegal", by the plain text of 50 USC, 1541-1544:

    1541: (c) Presidential executive power as Commander-in-Chief; limitation
    The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to
    (1) a declaration of war,
    (2) specific statutory authorization, or
    (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

  • CE||

    And 50 USC 1542:

    The President in every possible instance shall consult with Congress before introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and after every such introduction shall consult regularly with the Congress until United States Armed Forces are no longer engaged in hostilities or have been removed from such situations.

  • CE||

    And 50 USC 1543:

    (a) Written report; time of submission; circumstances necessitating submission; information reported
    In the absence of a declaration of war, in any case in which United States Armed Forces are introduced—
    (1) into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances;
    (2) into the territory, airspace or waters of a foreign nation, while equipped for combat, except for deployments which relate solely to supply, replacement, repair, or training of such forces; or
    (3) in numbers which substantially enlarge United States Armed Forces equipped for combat already located in a foreign nation;
    the President shall submit within 48 hours to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the President pro tempore of the Senate a report, in writing, setting forth—
    (A) the circumstances necessitating the introduction of United States Armed Forces;
    (B) the constitutional and legislative authority under which such introduction took place; and
    (C) the estimated scope and duration of the hostilities or involvement.

  • CE||

    And 50 USC 1544:

    (b) Termination of use of United States Armed Forces; exceptions; extension period
    Within sixty calendar days after a report is submitted or is required to be submitted pursuant to section 1543 (a)(1) of this title, whichever is earlier, the President shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces with respect to which such report was submitted (or required to be submitted), unless the Congress
    (1) has declared war or has enacted a specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces,
    (2) has extended by law such sixty-day period, or
    (3) is physically unable to meet as a result of an armed attack upon the United States. Such sixty-day period shall be extended for not more than an additional thirty days if the President determines and certifies to the Congress in writing that unavoidable military necessity respecting the safety of United States Armed Forces requires the continued use of such armed forces in the course of bringing about a prompt removal of such forces.

    Seems like a pretty clear series of violations of the law.

  • jtuf||

    In the Liberal hierarchy of sins, war is not as bad as being selfish.

  • ||

    What??? Altruism??? Are you kidding me? I think Vietnam was altruism too. We Americans, determined to kill ourselves (and other too) with kindness.


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