Foreign Policy

This Post Won't Make Sense to Europeans Who Believe That "Africa Begins at Rome."

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Will Cain of The Blaze, CNN, and National Review (now that's a trifecta!) looks at whether "your humanitarian war may be racist." He runs through the arguments which hold that foreign policy is always inconistent but then asks if humanitarian concerns are driving our action in Libya, just how did Gaddafi's hellhole jump to the top of the queue?

No one knows for sure, but by most rough accounts Quadaffi has killed about a thousand people in Libya. Granted, this is more than the dozens killed in fledgling humanitarian crises in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. But check out these numbers:

Democratic Republic of Congo – 5.4 MILLION(!) dead
Sudan – 400,000 killed in Darfur
Ivory Coast – 200 people killed and 450,000 displaced

By this standard, Libya doesn't even crack the top two.

Cain notes that most of the other arguments about why Libya is the one place we need to intervene in now—proximity to airbases and other hot spots; "do-ability"; etc—are just as weak as arguing that the scale of the possible tragedy.

So we are inconsistent, as I have learned, as to whom we militarily help through humanitarian crises.  But I don't understand how we pick those we choose to help. Why do we help Libya, but we don't help Congo, Sudan, Rwanda and Ivory Coast? Is it because those countries are black and poor? Is our humanitarian motive racist?

Probably not. In my heart-of-hearts I don't really think we have a racist mindset dictating where we'll send planes to stop people from murdering themselves.  But what else am I left with? If we continue to insist this is a humanitarian war, I don't see what makes Libya a priority over the Congo.

More here.

Well, among other things, Libya produces oil, which certainly helps it be more important. And Europe, particularly Italy, which is indeed nearby, is not only a huge user of that oil, it occupied Libya as a colonizer in the not-so-distant past. All of which suggests that this is in no way the United States' fight despite Libya's past crimes against our citizens (subsequently forgiven by our government, of course).

Even though I thought Obama's speech was truly awful on every possible level (and said as much last night on CNN and Fox Business), one thing I can agree with is the notion that not being able to intervene everywhere doesn't mean we can't intervene anywhere. The places and times we should intervene, I think, are vanishingly small, whether for security or humanitarian purposes (and I don't think that Libya rises to either threshold). But the idea that we either need to be everywhere or nowhere is a false choice, I think.

Here's my Reason.tv take on Obama's speech:

Text and more links, clips here.

NEXT: Charlie Sheen Vs. Washington When it Comes to Spending

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  1. …one thing I can agree with is the notion that not being able to intervene everywhere doesn’t mean we can’t intervene anywhere. The places and times we should intervene, I think, are vanishingly small, whether for security or humanitarian purposes (and I don’t think that Libya rises to either threshold). But the idea that we either need to be everywhere or nowhere is a false choice, I think.

    That doesn’t answer the question, though, really.

    If one concedes that you can’t intervene everywhere but might want to intervene somewhere, we still need a standard of value that helps us decide which where is somewhere.

    And if Obama’s is “TEH HUMANITARIANIZM!” it doesn’t make sense to choose Libya as the somewhere.

    If someone promulgates a standard for occasional intervention, we should at least be able to demand a sensible, consistent, and coherent application of that theoretical standard.

    1. Would getting those three harpies to shut the fuck up count as a standard for intervention.

      Because, seriously, until you’ve had Hillary, Power, and Rice all screeching in your ear, you haven’t really suffered.

      1. Because, seriously, until you’ve had Hillary, Power, and Rice all screeching in your ear, you haven’t really suffered.

        Just think of the horror. After a long day of that, going up to the Executive Residence, maybe thinking ’bout sneaking a smoke or something. I mean, long day, right?

        And then you enter the residence and what’s waiting for you? The Michellesaur. Its pissed. At you. As usual.

        I don’t envy that man one bit. He’s not hen-pecked. More like a herd of some giant, Miocene Ostrich precursors not pecking but stabbing. That poor bastard.

    2. First – Nick thanks for linking this. Reason is absolutely one of my favorite pubs. (Now that I’ve brown nosed…) I think Fluffy and a few other commenters below have their finger on the question. I’m not relying on consistency to disprove this humanitarian bs. I don’t think we have to go everywhere. I’m calling into question priorities. My guess is you’re right – this has to do with oil – Italian oil. Always worth risking American lives, right? But I’m not sure b/c no one is being honest.

    3. And if Obama’s is “TEH HUMANITARIANIZM!” it doesn’t make sense to choose Libya as the somewhere.

      Not all suffering is made equal. The suffering of Libyans under despotism is far more cruel than the suffering of North Koreans under despotism, while the suffering the Chinese under despotism is totally beautiful and serene.

      1. while the suffering the Chinese under despotism is totally beautiful and serene.

        Sent from my Chinese iPod

  2. libya has a coast. duh

    1. Yeah, that justifies everything!

      Moron.

    2. no a coast makes intervention much more likely to succeed…REMF

      1. Re: OO,

        no a coast makes intervention much more likely to succeed

        Again, that surely justifies everything – we only go after the “easy” targets. You know, like a bully.

        1. spoken like a civilian. support & logisitics are foremost in any military plan. or did u think the bay of pigs was a success?

          1. not to mention the shia uprising in southern iraq under bush 1.

          2. Alright it was a bad idea but I was on drugs at the time.

            1. hummm…i thought u were on marilyn

      2. “Charlie don’t surf”

    3. The Ivory Coast doesn’t?

      Yemen doesn’t? Bahrain doesn’t?

      1. Hell, Bahrain has the Fifth (?) Fleet HQ.

    4. North Korea has a coast.

      1. As well as a border with a friendly nation.

  3. Lord Humungous (the poster) was right, just give us the juice and put an end to the horror.

    1. We’ll never walk away, never!

  4. Well, among other things, Libya produces oil, which certainly helps it be more important.

    But that’s not it, because the left has not organized any protests that say “No blood for oil!”

    So there must be another reason. Got to be. Right?

  5. Plus we have no idea what kind of regime the rebels will install.

    My guess is that it will be more like Colonel Q’s regime than one run by George Washington.

    1. Re: Aresen,

      Plus we have no idea what kind of regime the rebels will install.

      Actually, it’s possible to figure it out, just by looking at all the other regimes spawned by a violent insurrection: in France, Latin America, Southeast Asia, Iran…

      1. …or the rebellion in the Thirteen Colonies 1774 – 1783.

  6. What’s even worse is that this mission is again put under NATO command.

  7. Maybe Obama wants to recruit Gadafi’s all-female bodyguard squad for the NCAA Women’s Final Four in time to help his bracket?

  8. Somebody here said that at least intervening with one country is better than intervening with none of them. The question is how should the lucky country be picked, like a lotto draw ?

  9. I’m reading Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, and there’s quite a bit of discussion about the French believing they had rights to Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. Why, you ask? Because some French people conquered those lands for some period of time during the Crusades. Really!

    I figure that some Europeans still see the world that way. Therefore, Libya, part of a former Roman province, is Italian and, by extension, European. This is just an act of reunification.

    1. Algeria was as close to an official French province as could be. Frankly, I think the Algerians blew-it: not by becoming independent but devolving into a military-theocratic crap-hole.

    2. That’s not really a unique Europoean view. Many Muslims see Spain as belonging to Muslims because it was controlled by them in 1300-1400s. Some Mexicans see the southwest US as part of Mexico because Mexico had it the 1800s.

      1. True enough, but it’s something people here don’t commonly get about Europe. They’re crazy, too. Even worse than we are.

    3. Fucking political borders, how do they work?

    4. Now you are just implying antisemitism.

  10. Hey Nick. I caught the last half (or so) of your appearance on Spitzer last night. That stupid woman K.V.H. looked downright -scared- when you made the last-minute joke about the Pentagon.

    Keep up the good work!

  11. I caught The Jacket and Kat van H on CNN last night. I can imagine Midwestern rubes tuning in to that freakshow and gettin’ all weirded-out…

    1. the jacket is midwestern…rube

  12. “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.” – John Quincy Adams

    1. And that’s why you’re not president John Quincy. We’re Americans. We need a good foreign adventure, preferably against a nation of brown people, to validate ourselves as a kickass country.

      Andrew Jackson understood that. Peace is for pussies.

  13. The Congo provides lots of valuable natural resources too, but it’s such a complicated clusterfuck that intervening successfully would be nearly impossible.

    This is intended as an argument against intervention in foreign disasters, not to justify intervention in Libya and not in the Congo.

    1. Most nations are complicated.

      It is only people standing outside with their Nation or Fox News summaries that think things are simple in other countries and can be solved by just ‘doing something’.

  14. The percentage of people in the USA who accept the idea of evolution declined from 45% in 1985, to 40% in 2005. Do you really want the American people deciding anything?

    1. And a large percentage of the British think lightsabers are real technology. Polls mean shit.

      1. My Death Star is nearly complete.

        1. See? Canadians believe in space stations that look like moons. Our sample is random and representative of the population at large.

          1. “Believe in!?”

            You are going to be SO surprised.

            – Emperor Aresen Palpatine.

            1. You were supposed to find my lack of faith disturbing.

      2. Still, the U.S. is the probably only country in the world where a woman of Michelle Bachmann’s meagre intelligence could seriously consider making a run for president. As Bill Maher said, Bachmann is the candidate for those who find Sarah Palin too intellectual. Maybe some countries just aren’t ready for democracy.

        1. You’ve obviously never heard Jack Layton (leader of Canada’s ‘New Democratic Party’) speak.

          For that matter, look where Tony Blair’s substance, charm and intelligence got the UK.

          1. Truly, calling Americans, by and large, uniquely dumb is, well, dumb. It’s the species, by and large, that has the problem. It’s actually a serious argument against incorporating too much democracy into a political system.

        2. Re: Max,

          Still, the U.S. is the probably only country in the world where a woman of Michelle Bachmann’s meagre intelligence could seriously consider making a run for president.

          Or the “Great Literary Genius” with the AWOL SAT scores…

          Oh, right – he is already president.

          1. You always leave out Constitutional Scholar, OM. That’s important because when it comes to the Constitution, he’s an expert.

        3. Three words: Senator Al Franken

        4. Max,

          I know right? We need another President like Woodrow Wilson! A PHD, President of Princeton. There’s a guy who knew how to make people shut up and get things done!

    2. were americans unaware of max’s existence in 1985?

    3. I blame government run public schools.

  15. “But the idea that we either need to be everywhere or nowhere is a false choice, I think.”

    I think that’s right.

    I also think whatshisname is giving the “do-ability” argument the short shift.

    In any investment, there’s how much you expect the return to be, and there’s how much it costs you to get in. If the cost of getting in is especially low, and the return is about the same as the others–then the wise investor chooses the investment with the lowest all-in cost.

    Anybody who doesn’t appreciate that is being childish. Why do I invest in some projects and not others? Am I being unfair to other stocks by only investing in some of them? I can’t raise one employee’s pay without raising the pay of all the others too?

    That’s a childish way to look at the world. Let’s all grow up.

    1. Sounds simple enough. Do the math on Libya and please show your work.

      1. I don’t know if you’re being factious, so I’ll just reiterate that I’m really sick of the government treating us like we’re all seven years old!

        …and seeing libertarians complain about things being too complicated for children to understand is pathetic.

    2. I’ll see you in a month and we can talk a little more about how “do-able” this turns out to be.

      1. The possibility of US casualties was almost non-existent.

        If there’s an open question on this, it’s on the other side of the equation.

        We’ll see in a month how well the benefit side of the equation worked out–that remains uncertain.

        …but the “do-ability” side is a no-brainer.

  16. The Congo provides lots of valuable natural resources too, but it’s such a complicated clusterfuck that intervening successfully would be nearly impossible.

    Let the Chinese defend their interests there. They have more at stake than we do.

    ——–

    Let’s all grow up.

    What the fuck is that even supposed to mean?

    1. It means he thinks he’s an adult, and the rest of us aren’t.

      1. I see this “grow up” comment fairly frequently here at H&R, and I think it means the person saying it is a pretentious ass.

        1. nope – its penis envy pure n simple

        2. If being a pretentious ass means being able to tell the difference between bombing some targets in Libya and sending ground troops into the Congo?

          Then I’m a pretentious ass.

    2. I thought I was pretty clear.

      The suggestion that different situations should be treated in exactly the same way is a childish notion.

      We attacked Libya so we have to get involved in the Congo?!

      Why?

      Growing out of that kind of thinking is part of growing up.

      1. Because we claim we’re doing it on humanitarian grounds. Now you need to explain why humans in Libya are superior and need protection while vile apes in Congo can go rot for all we care.

        What we need is for someone to honestly tell us what we’re doing and why…then you’d have some kind of standard which can be used to justify interventions in some places, but not others. But by making the “humanitarian” argument, we’re essentially saying some people are better than others and need to be saved.

        1. “Now you need to explain why humans in Libya are superior and need protection while vile apes in Congo can go rot for all we care.”

          No, we don’t need to explain any such thing.

          We do one thing in one place because it’s relatively inexpensive and because we think the consequences are good for American security.

          We don’t do the same thing in another place because it’s relatively expensive and because we think the benefits to American security would be relatively meager.

          What’s so hard to understand?

          People work for certain companies because they think it’s in their best interests to do so. They don’t work for other companies–can you guess why?

          1. We do one thing in one place because it’s relatively inexpensive and because we think the consequences are good for American security.

            We don’t do the same thing in another place because it’s relatively expensive and because we think the benefits to American security would be relatively meager.

            That’s the real-world explanation. But it’s not the explanation being given by any politician, which is the only thing most people, being stupid, will ever hear or believe. That’s what I’m saying. None of this will ever make sense unless someone in a “position of authority” within the gov’t just comes out and says what you just said. Otherwise, the only thing anyone gets is the “humanitarian” angle, which doesn’t make any sense because the only logical conclusion from that perspective is that some people are worth more than others.

            So, unless you want to continue to see endless hang-wringing and articles like this one, yes, we DO need to explain it.

            1. That should be “hand-wringing”.

            2. Also, I’d like to have it open for public debate on what exactly the definitions are for “inexpensive” and promoting American security. I know this isn’t true, but it sounds like you’re excusing the executive making this decision unilaterily.

              1. I could be as wrong as he is.

                The future is never certain.

                We make our choices, and we enjoy or suffer the consequences.

                The point is that Americans are a lot smarter than some of these people are making us out to be. I don’t think there are very many Americans who are confused about the Congo being a high cost, low return engagement of relatively little importance in terms of American security.

                It’s an ugly math that has us making decisions about who to try to help and who to leave to suffer, but that’s the way the world is. Somebody has to make those tough calls, and they should be made in terms of costs and benefits.

                Certainly, if one was seen as being of relatively little cost and high benefit, that doesn’t mean we have to take on every other engagement that’s of relatively high cost and a low probability of benefit.

          2. “People work for certain companies because they think it’s in their best interests to do so. They don’t work for other companies–can you guess why?”

            Umm…because you can only work full time for one company at a time?

        2. This is exactly my argument. It’s the motive that needs to be called into question. I think it’s either dishonest or immoral. And that has nothing to do with consistency, it has to do with priorities.

          1. that we can do a good thing (stop a massacre) so we did…is dishonest or immoral? what rubbish

      2. Why would Congo be so much harder than Libya?

        1. Whoa!

          The ethnic problems as a spillover from the Rwanda conflict are ten times as heavy as they were in Iraq for one thing.

          There’s no one political leader to unify against is another.

          There isn’t much in the way of military equipment to hit from the air–so you’re talking about ground troop deployments.

          …and that’s just off the top of my head.

          1. No tribal divisions in Libya?

            What does one political leader have to do with making it easy to stop a humantarian crisis?

            Gaddafi has assets that can’t be hit easily from the air, as he is proving today as he pushes back the rebels, and as he has proved other days as he puts his folks in cities and close quarters with civilians.

            The Libya adventure is proving very hard indeed.

  17. I can’t raise one employee’s pay without raising the pay of all the others too?

    That wouldn’t be fair.

  18. We attacked Libya so we have to get involved in the Congo?!

    Why?

    Growing out of that kind of thinking is part of growing up.

    I would say part of growing up is learning not to do stupid, pointless, destructive shit and then lying about why you did it after the fact.

    1. Perhaps.

      Like Gillespie wrote though, “But the idea that we either need to be everywhere or nowhere is a false choice, I think.”

      There are actually developmental disorder classifications for people who didn’t grow out of that way of thinking.

      1. That didn’t come out right…

        There are developmental disorder classifications for people who never grew out of thinking in the false choice way Gillespie described.

        The idea that we need to do everything the same everywhere–either all or nothing–is a very childish view of the world–and Gillespie was right to point it out as a false choice.

        1. I’d say the childish view of the world is that it falls on the United States to enforce human rights in countries that have never experienced the concept, or that wars for “democracy” are worth it.

          Get off your high horse. And haven’t Bob Gates etc. already said Libya is not a national security interest? And we have no way of knowing how expensive it’s going to be since our stated goals are so vague and amorphous. So you’re “it’s inexpensive and good for nat’l security” argument is kaput.

          1. I didn’t say he couldn’t screw it up.

            I didn’t say it would be a good call no matter how much resources he committed either.

            “So you’re “it’s inexpensive and good for nat’l security” argument is kaput.”

            If you don’t think Obama did this because he thought the benefits would be better than the cost of doing it, then can you explain why he did it?

            1. Well he didn’t say that the benefits would be better than the costs when he tried to explain the other night. Instead, he said it was necessary to stop a humanitarian crisis. We’re just taking him at his word.

              1. Yeah, that’s because he can’t say that saving some people or letting them die is all being considered by way of a cost/benefit analysis–not without provoking all sorts of condemnation from both sides…

                …but how we decide who to save and who not to? Somebody needs to run the cost benefit analysis anyway, right? I mean, surely it would be foolish not to consider the consequences of our action or inaction, wouldn’t it?

                1. So he’s a liar?

                  1. Oh no!

                    No.

                    How could anybody think Obama was a liar?

                    Politicians lying?

                    In the United States of America?!

  19. because we think the consequences are good for American security.

    Show your work.

    1. I already tried to get him to do that.

  20. People work for certain companies because they think it’s in their best interests to do so.

    Absurd analogies aside, what do we as a nation gain from the President’s use of our resources and military might to massage his own ego?

    1. Well I don’t think he’s doing this just to massage his own ego.

      And I don’t think that was an absurd analogy.

      We do what we think is in our interests to do. Just because the president can’t talk about saving people’s lives or letting them die on television without it being used against him in the next election doesn’t mean he isn’t making a good call using a cost/benefit calculation.

      I can’t even talk about figuring out what the likely costs and benefits are of using military force or not without being looked at as something of a monster–why would you expect the president to sign up for that?

      What he did was either a good call or not regardless of whether he explained it well on television. Just like ObamaCare. Just like everything else.

  21. Psst. Over here, kid.

    There’s a plan. Troops in Afghanistan. Troops in Iraq. Soon to be troops in Libya. Do the math. American conquest of the entire Islamic world is the next step. With the new caliph headquartered in Washington.

    Follow the troops.

  22. I also agree that just because we can’t intervene everywhere, that doesn’t mean we can never intervene anywhere.

    Is the argument that we fuck this shit up more than 50% of the time, and we haven’t even finished with our last two fuckups yet, a good enough argument? Because I think that is all that is needed for now.

    1. “Is the argument that we fuck this shit up more than 50% of the time, and we haven’t even finished with our last two fuckups yet, a good enough argument? Because I think that is all that is needed for now.”

      As long as we don’t commit ground troops, our downside is limited.

      As long as we’re out within a few weeks, out downside is limited to almost nothing.

      1. Remember WWI, it started with a guy getting shot by a nutcase and weeks later involved troops to be ‘home by Christmas.’ Year after that? It was still just getting started.

        Let me ask you this Ken. What if it becomes obvious Kaddafi is going to win?

        1. We can only lose what we invest here.

          If our investment is minimal, then our losses will be minimal too.

          1. So if the Libyan rebels get slaughtered anyways, you’re cool with that?

            1. No, I’m not “cool” with it.

              But it doesn’t change the fact that if we lose everything we invested there, we invested very little.

              1. We might not lose any American lives – indeed probably won’t if no more aircraft break – but it looks like American taxpayers will foot bill for a couple billion to kill probably several hundred people…for nothing. That’s in addition to the thousands more who die in Benghazi despite that being Obama’s stated triumph for doing this according to his own speech? Because that looks like what is developing over there as the rebels have tactically lost all their air-strike gotten gains and Kaddafi’s forces are about seventy miles from that city again and advancing towards it as we speak.

                In that case would you view this military adventure as a mistake that needlessly killed hundreds if not thousands of people at least? No small investment.

                Nobel Peace Prize indeed.

          2. Your comments shows a startling ignorance of the logic of warfare. Once you’re in, then you’re in to win, even if that requires elevated levels of engagement. History is replete with examples of wars that start as scope limited time limited engagements and then turn into large scale wars. There are barely any where a side starts small, doesn’t accomplish what it wants to, and then decides to actually pull out without first committing tons more resources to winning. If you can think of one, I’d love to hear it.

            1. I don’t know that there are very many actions we’ve undertaken where we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to do.

              We’ve had limited engagements before.

              There’s the NATO bombing campaign in the Kosovo War. And there’s what we did in Panama and Grenada as examples of that.

              I think we find it easier to walk away when we don’t commit ground troops and when we don’t declare war–I oppose doing both of those things in Libya for that reason.

              Obama has explicitly ruled out committing ground troops in Libya, and I think that’s all for the better.

              I’d oppose this whole thing if he committed ground troops–slippery slopes are fallacies though.

              1. In those cases, we achieved our goals through the limited means. Where we don’t achieve them (Vietman, Iraq, Afghanistan), we step up the game- we don’t pull back. Other countries get in the same bind- once you commit force, your national honor and reputation is on the line.

                What happens if, despite our bombing, Gaddafi pushes the rebels back and commits massacres? What if they get in a stalemate, leading to a refugee crisis? Those look like pretty likely outcomes and they will lead to clamoring to solve the problems that we helped create.

                Btw, there are undoubtedly ground troops there now, just in limited numbers. You don’t conduct a precision bombing campaign without spotters.

                1. Last time I checked, KFOR is still parked in Kosovo…thirteen years later. And Bosnia for that matter.

                  We owned the canal-zone in Panama back then and Noriega’s goons were taking shots and beating up US-MIL personnel. We were Committed – including on the ground – already…lol.

                  And we’ve walked away from things. The Iranian disaster of Carter. That was a little snafu.

                  And there was Reagan’s adventure in Lebanon; got a couple hundred USMC’s blown up (while asleep in their barracks) and lit up goat-herders etc. with a fucking battleship off the coast amongst other things…and then went home.

                  1. Carter’s disaster was a rescue mission, not a use of military force.

                    Lebanon is one bout of sanity- good example- although we did shoot the place up real good to make sure they knew we were leaving on our terms, not theirs.

  23. On serious note. If there is place in ‘blackfrica’ where we can step in, identify the good guys (as in people running up to USMC and hugging them when they arrive) and secure the seed of something good, its Puntland.

    They love us in Puntland. Have a nascent civil society and government, yearn to be free of utterly dysfunctional Somalia they are on paper part of. We have vast assets in region (Djibouti if nowhere else) to support such a mission, and it gets us involved in significant transnational problem with people on the ground who both will help us and know the local score.

    If USA has ‘opportunity’ in military adventures or ‘neo-colonialism’ or whatever you want to call it, Puntland is it if its got to be in black Africa somewheres.

    Congo? Sudan? Fuck that.

  24. Ken Shultz:

    Obama has explicitly ruled out committing ground troops in Libya, and I think that’s all for the better

    You are naive if you are relying on a commitment from Obama. We have boots on the ground already. The only question is whether we are relying on Brit and/or Froggy forward air controllers or if our own SF are there.

      1. Flown in by Ospreys for sure. With that new toy, politicians are learning all kinds of bad new habits, from the halls of Pentagon’s Penpad to the shores of Tripoli… I couldn’t resist.

    1. Well, suffice it to say I’m against that.

      I’m against putting any troops on the ground in Libya with or without a congressional authorization.

  25. ow that’s a trifecta!) looks at whether “your humanitarian war may be racist.” He runs through the arguments which hold that foreign policy is always inconistent but then asks if huma

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