Can We Afford to Bomb Libya?


We can afford to bomb Libya, but we can't afford employment or income for millions of Americans.

We can afford to bomb Libya, but we can't afford to launch the green energy and industrial investments we need to recover from the economic crisis.

We can afford to bomb Libya, but we can't afford to pay the pension benefits promised to millions of private and public workers -- our parents, our grandparents, ourselves.

We can afford to bomb Libya, but millions have nothing left to even cover burial expenses.

We can afford to bomb Libya, but we have to cut teachers salaries and medical coverage.

We can afford to bomb Libya, but we can't afford to provide our children the education they need to thrive.

We can afford to bomb Libya, but we can't afford NPR.

We can afford to bomb Libya, but not after school programs for kids.

We can afford to bomb Libya, but 80 million must suffer poor or no health care coverage.

We can afford to bomb Libya, but we can't afford a raise

Actually, voices are being raised from many corners saying we cannot afford to bomb Libya. First from Defense Secretary Gates who clearly does not want to get involved in another Mid-East war with two others with still no "end" in sight. The entire notion of defining an "exit strategy" in a war is identical in my mind to similar to "hunting for a snark", or some other non-existent entity like a Fruminous Bandersnatch, or a Jabberwock. Every use of force has plunged the country into deeper entanglements with peoples and nations of the world against whom we bear arms. And once started, there is no end. For better or worse we, and the nation we assault, are now bound together as never before – and  till death do us part. What war honestly fix an endpoint in advance? Nonetheless we are again, despite ALL recent historical evidence and advice to the contrary, being SUCKED into another war, in another oil rich, failed state.

What is important is having a clear wartime objective. In Libya, however, President Obama and Secretary Clinton have given two, both of which are very ambiguous, and one of which flatly contradicts any short duration to the US commitment. 

1) The Administration, plus Britain, France, most of NATO minus Germany (for reasons obscure) and the Arab League, want a "no-fly" barrier to protect the anti-Gadafi rebels from being slaughtered. Of course US air power is not quite so surgically accurate as claimed. It turns out most of urban Tripoli and all suspected air defense and command and control locations are fair game in establishing the country wide "no-fly" zone. Why this should surprise anyone over the age of 40 is astonishing. Nonetheless, within hours after the air attacks began the Arab League (whom Secretary Clinton had labored to bring on board in support of the  the UN resolution enabling the attacks) backed off their endorsement, leaving the 'West', once again, swinging in the wind in the court of Arab public opinion while launching another war;

2) The administration wants Gadaffi removed from power because "he has lost all legitimacy" according to Secretary of State Clinton. Statements regarding how long the regime change might take have little  credibility,  if Iraq and Afghanistan are any example. And of course Mrs Clinton has no answer to the follow up question "who DOES have legitimacy?"

Further, Dennis Kucinich is asking all the right questions about who has the power to declare war. The constitution says Congress. But I cannot even count the number of wars fought since WWII – and NONE of them seem to have deserved a constitutional declaration of war. Even the alleged "super constitutionalists" on the right wing of the Supreme Court can't seem to muster up a challenge to any of  the 10 presidents since Roosevelt, of both parties, who have decided to skip that step. 

Despite a lot of rhetoric on the subject of distancing US energy from global oil politics, the Obama administration seems barely less hostage than previous ones to the ever more powerful forces of globalization (in this case, oil politics, primarily) that seem to overwhelm nearly everyone's common sense understanding of what our current national interests are. Yes, the administration is committing itself to a more multi-lateral policy around the world. No, they are not "going it alone" and giving the finger to world opinion in the manner of Bush and Cheney. But the forces drawing our country ever deeper and deeper into chaos of the global economy and consequent struggles seem  unstoppable.

Like it or not, the UN and other, perhaps new, international institutions MUST become stronger, not weaker. Do we have to pass through the gates of hell again, as in the first half of the 20th Century, and give up another 60 million dead, to get this done?

Photo by jetalone/cc by 2.0/Flickr

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  • We are bombing a country with health care with money we could use to provide health care to our citizens. Libya also had one of the highest standards of living in Africa.

    Posted by Matt Smith, 03/27/2011 10:27am (13 years ago)

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