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April 10, 2011

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America needs to break its addiction to war.

Gary, forgive me if my memory has slipped. But I seem to recall that in the case of Libya, America did not exactly charge in. In fact, the French and British were the ones pushing for intervention, and America looked more like it was being dragged along -- not unwilling, perhaps, but hardly enthusiastic, let alone leading the charge.

Granted, this is not the same as just refusing to get involved (absent the various criteria you suggest). But it is a long step away from our approach in the previous decade. And changes in the part of national culture that involves foreign military action, like changes to any other part of culture, generally come slowly and gradually. Since we haven't had one of the major traumatic events which can turn the national mood rapidly, that seem to be to be what we should expect here.

On my phone, But, well thought through. Good post.

Gary: "There was no likely bloodbath prevented in Benghazi."

Human Rights Watch and Juan Cole are among many respected authorities who believe that a human right disaster was imminent (for that matter, in process. Water and electricity were cut off, for example.) Now that the civilian massacre has been averted, it's easy to for critics to claim that it was never an issue.

When is the last time the United Nations authorized specific immediate action, and the United States acted to enforce the action with the help of other nations? And continuing enforcement is being done, not by the United States, but by NATO on the invitation of the countries intervening on behalf of the UN.

This action because of the limited and cooperative role of the United States was worth attempting. Arguably, it already has succeeded in averting the civilian massacre that was legitimately feared (obviously, no one can now prove whether or not it would have happened). Clearly, we hope for an outcome that will allow the Libyan people to live comfortably, without fear. We may not succeed. But the intervention of the UN was hardly attributable to an addiction to war.

I seem to recall that in the case of Libya, America did not exactly charge in. In fact, the French and British were the ones pushing for intervention, and America looked more like it was being dragged along -- not unwilling, perhaps, but hardly enthusiastic, let alone leading the charge.

IMO, level of enthusiasm is of very little import to events on the ground.

That aside; excellent pair of posts, Gary. The way I see it is this: if there's little to no rebel leadership, cohesion, command structure, etc. then there's absolutely no way that NATO forces can coordinate with them or even communicate with "them" (to the extent that there IS a "them").

This combination of disorganization and lack of realtime communication makes a NATO CAS role nearly impossible. About all that could be done is establishing a no-fly zone, and I was and am not optimistic that that could have any kind of salutory effect in the long term.

Much as I dislike Qaddafi, this was not a well-chosen fight.

Well, maybe it will be sufficient enough that Libyan forces run out of heavy ordnance (tanks, artillery, troop transports). Unlike small arms, these cannot be readily resupplied. That may not actually 'calm down' the conflict but it would hopefully reduce the speed and thus the urgency of action.

I continue to follow Juan Cole's take on the situation. He has another interesting post today. I hadn't been aware of the Qaddafi - Darfur connection.

something [Cordesman] calls a “quietly escalating regime kill”

Ooo, ooo! I know that one, you start with the joystick pointed straight down and then roll it to the right while simultaneously pushing the A & B buttons. If you do it correctly you can go straight to the next level!

Wait, what do you mean this isn't a video game? Someone should tell Mr. Cordesman.

I'm not seeing it, Ugh.

I suggest reading the links in my Part one from

Quaddafi fought against pick-up trucks in Chad, remember, and he knows how to fight with them and that you can lose to Toyotas.
I'd have liked to have included a lot more links on a lot more elements of Libyan history, the current fight, many aspects, but, again, then I lose people for being too long and too many links.

I'd also like to take time to argue that there's no remotely convincing evidence that Quaddafi was going to commit genocide or mass slaughter, or anything resembling Bosnia/Kosovo, but I unfortunately I don't have much time at present. I'd suggest that anyone who wishes to present a case that Quadaffi was, in fact, likely to kill tens of thousands of people, let alone the 100,000 people loosely spoken of by Obama Administration officials, give some convincing evdience that this was a credible likelihood or threat, because meanwhile people are being kiled, and that's not speculative.

I acknowledge this is a tricky subject, fast-breaking, complex, and there are an endless number of sources one can follow.

But Expert Authority is easily wrong in any and every direction.

I'm not unsympathetic to the humanitarian intervention arguments. I supported the Balkan intervention myself. I'm not a big fan of genocide.

I don't see much evidence, however, that Quadaffi has been doing "more" than suppressing revolt in indiscriminate and ugly manner, resulting in the deaths of many innocent lives in grossly brutal fashion, which is horrific, and perhaps does argue for an all-out war against him, but then you're up against the arguments I've made. Go all in? And then what?

And if not, then what?

And meanwhile, what's the actual evidence of intended genocide-level slaughter? None that I'm aware of. Let's talk numbers. If anyone has any cite something beside's someone's opinion, be it Juan Cole, or mine or Barack Obama's or someone at National Review Online, or anyone's personal opinion and prejudices, but actual facts and numbers suggesting or indicating that genocide was imminent, I'd very much like to read that cite.

Anyone?

"Human rights disaster" is an immensely vague term. It isn't genocide. What numbers constitute, specifically, a "human rights disaster"? 100,000 dead? 10,000? 1,000? 100?

And how many are being killed as a result of the fighting on both sides?

And, yes, this has to be weighed against what it was and is like to live under Quaddafi.

But this is the Iraq/Saddam Hussein argument all over again. Could we see some consistency? Is it possible to support the Libyan war and not retroactively declare that George W. Bush was right all along about Iraq?

Yes, it's hard to argue such complex questions in soundbites and short blog comments.

But these are the issues: complicated ones. And easy to be wrong about when one isn't a seer.

Which is also why I'm not going to (try not to) harshly condemn anyone in five or ten years for not having been a seer about Libya, one way or another, without knowing in advance what will happen, and why I'm not willing to completely dismiss for the rest of their lives those who got Iraq wrong.

But: first do no harm.

And then we can go to the chickenhawk argument. Is anyone who supports the Libyan intervention planning on enlisting next week?

Not an entirely fair argument, and not a practical one, of course, but: it's easy for any of us to throw up the "but you don't really care about the lives of the rebels" or "you don't really care about the lives of those being killed/suffering/fighting" arguments when we're all very distant from the terrible death and suffering, and yet not so distant that we couldn't, if we could afford it, get on a plane tomorrow, be in Libya in a couple of days, and pick up a weapon and start fighting alongside the rebels ourselves if we're really so jolly enthusiastic about their cause.

Alternatively, there's a part of me -- which would be helped if I could walk better, and even better if I could speak Arabic, but mostly it's the walking thing -- that has a temptation to ask people to send me funds so I could myself book a flight to get into Libya myself, and do some firsthand reporting.

It's not as if it's an impossible idea. Just challenging.

And continuing enforcement is being done, not by the United States, but by NATO on the invitation of the countries intervening on behalf of the UN.
It's necessary because Obama declared that the U.S. would only be involved "for days, not weeks."

That's already long false.

And the A-10s and AC-130s were pulled, since they're not NATO assets, and we already have calls to bring them back as the most effective weapons (which is true, if you're going to go further into the fighting).

The U.S. is either being sucked into the quagmire, or it isn't. And if it is, you need to answer the question of how far in you're intending to go, how many troops you're planning to commit, for how many years, what's the endgame, and are we going to be occupying Libya in 2021?

If not: how will we avoid that? What's the plan? Hope for the best?

Hartmut:

Well, maybe it will be sufficient enough that Libyan forces run out of heavy ordnance (tanks, artillery, troop transports). Unlike small arms, these cannot be readily resupplied. T
Read the parts about just how many weapons Quaddafi has.

Then I could go into more cites about all the support he's bought for decades all over Africa -- which is indeed why the rebels have cause to be doubtful about the impartiality of the African Union negotiators -- and all the mercenaries, particularly from Chad, but also, hell, Africa is awash in semi-trained, and certainly experienced, of a sort, fighters who work cheap, and Kaddafy (let's just use as many spellings as possible) has offers out all over, and the hiring is good, even though the medical benefits are poor, and pay is irregular, and administration a tad chaotic.

But I don't see Kadaffi (yes, I'm having fun) running out of heavy weapons any time in the next month or three. Nor oil. Nor money.

Cut back, yes. But there are, literally, many tons of all squirreled away. The regime has not been poor, nor shy about buying and storing heavy weapons.

For the pruposes of this thread just consider me as saying after each Gary comment, "what gary said". It will save a lot of typing.

As Robert Farley explains, unsustainable rebel advances have set up a situation that is likely to lead to civilian massacres:

If the Gaddafi government persists, it is exceedingly likely to value the recovery of Misrata much more than NATO will value its defense. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if the intervention designed to prevent a massacre in Benghazi set the stage for one in Misrata. Of course, it would have been nice if someone had thought this through before the bombing started.

"....and yet not so distant that we couldn't, if we could afford it, get on a plane tomorrow, be in Libya in a couple of days, and pick up a weapon and start fighting alongside the rebels ourselves if we're really so jolly enthusiastic about their cause."

Love it! right on!

And, I have to agree with just about everything else you've said in parts 1 & 2. Nice work, Gary.

Whoever wins will have to sell us oil at the end of the day. That is all that counts strategically.

I am sure that, in the meanwhile, the cost of intervention would greatly surpass the cost of decreased petroleum production and even toying with that equation assumes that intervention could expedite a return to max production and favorable contractual arrangements. Such a thing should not be assumed; witness Iraq.

Part of the cost of intervention is the risk of selecting the losing side and f_ing up subsequent oil deals because of that.

Wonderful post.

Human Rights Watch and Juan Cole are among many respected authorities who believe that a human right disaster was imminent
I've now read this more carefully.

I don't see anything about genocide, or impending 100,000 deaths, or impending 10,000 people being slaughtered. I may have missed it.

If you could quote the exact phrases that you believe justify a war, I'd find that helpful. Thanks in advance.

(for that matter, in process. Water and electricity were cut off, for example.)
I don't favor the notion of commencing bombing every time there's a black-out, or water cut-off.

I've managed to live through those. I wouldn't have found bombing helpful.

YMMV.

Thank you for your kind words, Avedis.

I do find myself of mixed mind when I see so few comments.

On the one hand, the s-stirrer in me wants to get a good argument going.

The ego in me wants to see a long comment thread. And, heck, there were complaints not long ago that ObWi Was Missing The Boat without an up to date Libya thread. And I'd been trying to get one done for a couple of weeks or more.

But hardly any comments.

On the other hand, the more comments there are, the more I'd feel obligated to reply, and thus even less time to post.

So: mixed feelings. But I'll take what I can get, which is good, because it's all that's on offer.

I won't be launching air strikes against anyone who doesn't respond.

And if anyone doesn't recall, I'm kinda against genocide. So if that seemed in the making, I'd favor intervention to prevent it.

But I don't see any evidence, as yet, of that.

So far I've seen a lot of terrible violence. And a very terrible government.

I could also produce a list, as could anyone paying attention, of similarly terrible violence in a very long list of other countries, with equally terrible, or far worse, governments.

Anyone up for attacking Zimbabwe or Myannmar or Ivory Coast or Sudan or Somalia or more attacks in Yemen or Pakistan, or hey, how about Mexico?

Mexico says 28,000 killed in drugs war since 2006.

It's right on our border. Shouldn't we be sending in troops? We've had so much practice.

I could keep going.

If not: why Libya, and not the rest of the list?

"We've got to start somewhere" isn't sufficient. Neither are any others I've yet run across, but I do keep an open eye and mind, so by all means, if anyone wants to argue... any POV, hey, be my guest!

Sapient, I'd like to direct your attention to this link I included: Did Obama avert a bloodbath in Libya?. I'm not going to embed the many links; click above to see the original full story, with links, please.

But some text:

[...] In his March 26 radio address, Obama said the United States acted because Gadhafi threatened "a bloodbath." Two days later, he asserted, "We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi — a city nearly the size of Charlotte (N.C.) — could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world."

Really? Obama implied that, absent our intervention, Gadhafi might have killed nearly 700,000 people, putting it in a class with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. White House adviser Dennis Ross was only slightly less alarmist when he reportedly cited "the real or imminent possibility that up to a 100,000 people could be massacred."

But these are outlandish scenarios that go beyond any reasonable interpretation of Gadhafi's words. He said, "We will have no mercy on them" — but by "them," he plainly was referring to armed rebels ("traitors") who stand and fight, not all the city's inhabitants.

"We have left the way open to them," he said. "Escape. Let those who escape go forever." He pledged that "whoever hands over his weapons, stays at home without any weapons, whatever he did previously, he will be pardoned, protected."

Alan Kuperman, an associate professor at the University of Texas' Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, is among those unconvinced by Obama's case. "Gadhafi," he told me, "did not massacre civilians in any of the other big cities he captured — Zawiya, Misrata, Ajdabiya — which together have a population equal to Benghazi. Yes, civilians were killed in a typical, ham-handed, Third World counterinsurgency. But civilians were not targeted for massacre as in Rwanda, Darfur, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bosnia, or even Kosovo after NATO intervention."

The rebels, however, knew that inflating their peril was their best hope for getting outside help. So, Kuperman says, they concocted the specter of genocide — and Obama believed it, or at least used it to justify intervention.

Another skeptic is Paul Miller, an assistant professor at National Defense University who served on the National Security Council under Bush and Obama. "The Rwandan genocide was targeted against an entire, clearly defined ethnic group," he wrote on the Foreign Policy website. "The Libyan civil war is between a tyrant and his cronies on one side, and a collection of tribes, movements, and ideologists (including Islamists) on the other. ...The first is murder, the second is war."

When I contacted Miller, he discounted the talk of vast slaughter. "Benghazi is the second-largest city in the country and he needs the city and its people to continue functioning and producing goods for his impoverished country," he said.

Maybe these analysts are mistaken, but the administration has offered little in the way of rebuttal. Where Bush sent Colin Powell to the United Nations to make the case against Saddam Hussein, Obama has treated the evidence about Gadhafi as too obvious to dispute.

I emailed the White House press office several times asking for concrete evidence of the danger, based on any information the administration may have. But a spokesman declined to comment.

Do you have further information on how these "100,000" people might have been killed?

If anyone does, please do let me know. Thanks!

Part of the cost of intervention is the risk of selecting the losing side and f_ing up subsequent oil deals because of that.
I'd like to emphasize that the idea that there will be only two "sides" down the road is an optimistic one.

Sure, maybe "the rebels" will win because Qadaffi will quickly flee and the government will collapse.

Then what? What prevents factional fighting and tribal fighting and regional fighting?

Whose side are we on then?

Do we then occupy to prevent all that (hello, Iraq)?

Or do we then wash our hands, and say, oh, well, not that Khadafy is gone, it's okay if tens of thousands of people are now killed in internecine fighting over the next few years?

Or...? What's the plan for this? Hope?

Meanwhile, we're still all geared up about the Dread Threat Of Iran. And there's plenty of agitation on the right to invade and bomb Syria. And we should change the Hezbollah-dominated government of Lebanon. And those Eqyptian generals aren't apt to work out well.

Where does it all end?

Why are military tools the first to be reached for? When they aren't tools, but the lives of young women and men?

Who aren't playing video games.

Why? Why, because we have them all on the shelf. What a waste not to use such power!

Of course, we could have health insurance for everyone instead, and hell, buy every poor person in America a house, and pay off everyone's mortgage.

But that we can't afford.

Interesting priorities for saving lives.

Tony Karon.

How involved do you want to be in a civil war?

Possible Libya Stalemate Puts Stress on U.S. Policy.

[...] Now with the Qaddafi forces weathering episodic attacks, and sometimes even gaining, the question in Washington has boiled down to this: Can Mr. Obama live with a stalemate?
What's going to happen here are a lot of special operator doing training and infiltration and operations.

"Covert" operations we read about in the journals to the rescue!

Truce Plan for Libya Is Rejected by Rebels. If you'd like to get into the business of agent-for-mercenaries, you have work waiting for you!

As far as Mexico goes, the US could do (or could have done at least) something with comparatively little effort. But preventing the ongoing mass transfer of small arms across the border would require... TO VIOLATE THE SACRED RIGHTS OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE; TAKING THEIR GUNS AWAY, TURNING THE US INTO A FASCIST POLICE STATE, TRIGGER ARMA-GEDDON...eh...doing some background checks and allowing the comparision of data.
No chance of that.
To rethink the War on (some) Drugs would also directly undermine the cartels, save a lot of money, empty the prisons of non-violent offenders etc.
No chance of that either.
What is done instead? I hear there are now drones patrolling the border. Not (yet) armed with Hellfire to deter illegal immigration but that's maybe just a matter of time.

"I'd like to emphasize that the idea that there will be only two "sides" down the road is an optimistic one."

Yes. You are right. Good point.

"What's going to happen here are a lot of special operator doing training and infiltration and operations."

correct again.

"Anyone up for attacking Zimbabwe or Myannmar or Ivory Coast or Sudan or Somalia or more attacks in Yemen or Pakistan, or hey, how about Mexico?"

Perfect. Some people would be up for attacking those countries and some others as well, but they probably don't hang out around these parts.

"On the other hand, the more comments there are, the more I'd feel obligated to reply, and thus even less time to post.

So: mixed feelings. But I'll take what I can get, which is good, because it's all that's on offer."

It is usually disagreement or an exploration of alternative perspectives or even just a sense of a need to add nuance that compells comments. When you have crafted an irrefutably logical and accurate summation, what can anyone say in response (other than, "good job, thanks")? If you want to engage, maybe you should guest post this piece at some neocon blog. I think there might be one or two of these still up and running ;-)

Whoever wins will have to sell us oil at the end of the day. That is all that counts strategically.

Strategy is a plan; a means to an end, no? What counts strategically, then, all depends on what your priorities, your desired ends, are. If your priorities are oil, Libya would not necessarily be your point of focus. If your priorities are to boost up the price of oil, Libya (18th, volume-wise, on the list of oil-producing nations) might be a decent place to introduce uncertainty in the market, but not necessarily the most effective. If your priorities are averting humanitarian crises: again, maybe not the best & most pressing choice.

I'm wondering what our government's priorities are, here. Also: whether they have any that could be clearly expressed, or if they're only something vaguely in the direction of "we should do something". What our current level of transparency is telling me, to the extent that I've noticed, is "we should do something" rules. But that's assuming that we're being told what is really going on, which is not a given at all.

Gary, I read the Steve Chapman link, and realize that there are people denying that there would have been a massacre. (And, obviously, since it was arguably averted, there wouldn't have been evidence of it having happened.)

But there were certainly reports in February and March of hundreds of civilians being killed, and people being deprived of food, medicine and critical aid (in addition to electricity and water - not as blackouts, but as an ongoing deprivation). Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented atrocities (if you prefer murder by firearms to deprivation of necessities), but have said that much of the country is inaccessible to journalists.

The fact that the UN was convinced, along with many international agencies and experts that I have long been trusted, is a good indication that there were troubling indications of an imminent human rights catastrophe. The massive exodus of refugees, the fact that other nations were rescuing their nationals, that Doctors Without Borders reported trying to cope with "high numbers of injured people" even though they were generally barred from most of the country .... It's useful to browse the al Jazeera blog entries for the days in February and early March.

I understand that some people want photographs of corpses, etc., but that would be evidence that intervention came too late, no? There certainly were reports of ruthless things going on:

"7:30pm
The UN Security Council has begun urgent deliberations to consider imposing sanctions against Libya for violent attacks against protesters. The sanctions under consideration at Saturday's session include an arms
embargo against the Libyan government and a travel ban and asset freeze against Gadhafi, his relatives and key regime members.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging council members to take concrete action to protect civilians in Libya where some estimates indicate more than 1,000 people have been killed in less than two weeks.

7:15pm
The New York Times reports that Qaddafi forces were seen shooting from ambulances and using antiaircraft weapons against crowds, as protesters recount brutal tactics of Libyan regime.

"They shoot people from the ambulances,” said one terrified resident, Omar, by telephone as he recalled an episode during the protests on Friday when one protester was wounded. “We thought they’d take him to the hospital,” he said, but the militiamen “shot him dead and left with a squeal."

Reading al Jazeera's blog reveals scattered reports of scores of civilians here, scores there - no piles of corpses photographed though.

Of course, there are people who still deny the Holocaust - (a genocide that actually occurred, rather than one that was averted), so it's certainly easy to contend that, when lives were saved, they must never had been in danger.

Gary, you're apparently not moved by the fact that the UN, the only organization that legitimately represents the international community, is behind this mission. I find that quite persuasive. Obviously, the Texas Republican Party and others would disagree.

Silly of you to bring in unrelated issues such as the drug war and health care. Would have thought that it would be beneath you.

Silly of you to bring in unrelated issues such as the drug war and health care.

Silly of you to assess Gary as silly without the barest mention of why you thought e.g. discussion of tens of thousands of people killed in a country adjacent to ours, in the context of questioning what conflicts we ought to be involving ourselves in, to be silly.

Sapient,

While I am sure there were civilian casualties, the idea that a human rights disaster was imminent due to violent attacks against protestors was not the reason given. That reason would have applied to any number of countries at the time, before and since in the last several months.

The reason given was the impending attack on Behghazi. As Gary has aptly pointed out there was little, if any, justification for believing there would be any higher level of humanitarian disaster there than in any civil war zone, probably less than most based on Qaddafi's mode of retaking the towns he had retaken up to that point.

The UN's involvement is as unconvincing on determining whether there was a legitimate reason for the intervention as the African Unions involvement is on formulating a peace plan, except the African Union has more standing.

"Silly of you to assess Gary as silly without the barest mention of why you thought e.g. discussion of tens of thousands of people killed in a country adjacent to ours, in the context of questioning what conflicts we ought to be involving ourselves in, to be silly."

Really? Do you think that the President and Congress are presented with a menu of wars to be involved in and choose based on what kind of cuisine they're interested in that day? Obviously (or maybe not, to you) there are different issues, problems, questions, urgencies, possibilities, strategies, considerations, etc., in every case, not to mention the very important consideration that in the Libya situation, the US is enforcing a UN resolution.

"While I am sure there were civilian casualties, the idea that a human rights disaster was imminent due to violent attacks against protestors was not the reason given."

Not sure what you're saying here. Qaddafi had major cities under siege. Placing cities under siege is a classic way for civilian loss of life to occur. Perhaps the case wasn't made with enough photos of corpses, but the situation was getting worrisome.

As to the UN, you're not convinced. I am.

" Do you think that the President and Congress are presented with a menu of wars to be involved in and choose based on what kind of cuisine they're interested in that day?"

Yes, each morning in the National Security Briefing.

Do you think that the President and Congress are presented with a menu of wars to be involved in and choose based on what kind of cuisine they're interested in that day?

No, but we do have a certain amount of choice about what actions we involve ourselves in, no? I mean, "we" being the people who can actually make such choices, which of course does not include me.

OT, here's a video of a couple of air-to-ground missions. From the translated text, the first is against a light truck that carries missiles, and the second one is a weapons depot, which explains the secondary explosions. The secondaries are large enough that it looks as if they hit a decent-sized cache of ordnance.

"No, but we do have a certain amount of choice about what actions we involve ourselves in, no?"

Well, it depends first on who "we" is. I think when "we" is the United Nations Security Council, "we" usually have a lot of trouble getting agreement as to which country "anyone is up for invading" to use Gary's phrase. In this case, it was clear to many of the countries that we should be up for invading Libya. As to whether we, the U.S., is up for invading random places, I would generally say no (unless there's a national security threat or an ongoing war).

Having a revolution topple a government can happen in a few days or weeks. But historically, that is not the usual case. (Anybody remember how long the American Revolution took? And how things went for the first year or two?) A group of rebels probably needs a year or more to sort out chains of command, and get a reasonably sized force trained up enough to be effective. The only reason a revolution can happen quicker is if a substantial part of the military decamps to the rebels.

I could see American involvement in Libya over the next couple of years being similar to French involvement in the American Revolution: constraining the old regime's ability to get resources to the battle, and perhaps a few people on the ground to help the rebels (ala Lafayette). That constraint could, fairly quickly (if probably not in a matter of days) reduce to a naval blockade, no-fly zone enforcement, and shutting off Qaddafi's oil revenues. Then let the rebels get themselves together and fight their own fight over time.

Not saying that things will necessarily go that way. But it is a scenario which seems more plausible than some I have seen written about.

In this case, it was clear to many of the countries that we should be up for invading Libya.

I don't think it was invasion that they decided on, was it? The UNSC resolution authorizing the no-fly zone had no dissenters.

That is: the US voted to act. That it was clear to most UNSC voting members that action was needed...well, I'm not sure what point you're making here. The UN has never made bad decisions? Or something else?

If you want to engage, maybe you should guest post this piece at some neocon blog.
I still have emeritus status at Winds of Change. Marc and I are friends. I suppose I could cross-post there again. :-)

I quietly disappeared from there during the run up the 2006 election, when I became extremely uncomfortable being surrounded by posts with what I regarded as hysterical attacks on Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Democrats, liberals, the left, and so on.

No hard feelings, though. But I wasn't the best of fits.

Slart:

I'm wondering what our government's priorities are, here.
Can't tell for sure, yet, but at least some of it seems to have been Samantha Power being actually excessively alarmed by the genocide argument, and leaning too sharply towards "humanitarian intervention," combined with various bureaucratic pressures from France and Italy, generalized confused concern that we Do Something to Show Support for the Middle East Wave Of Freedom, and, hey, we've got all these shiny military assets, so what's the first thing to reach for? Air strikes!

If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Sapient:

Gary, I read the Steve Chapman link, and realize that there are people denying that there would have been a massacre. (And, obviously, since it was arguably averted, there wouldn't have been evidence of it having happened.)

But there were certainly reports in February and March of hundreds of civilians being killed, and people being deprived of food, medicine and critical aid (in addition to electricity and water - not as blackouts, but as an ongoing deprivation).

I don't have much time for repeating myself. Is your argument that the U.S. should launch massive air campaigns against every country where "hundreds of civilians being killed, and people being deprived of food, medicine and critical aid (in addition to electricity and water - not as blackouts, but as an ongoing deprivation)," then?

That's what you seem to be saying. If so, I don't agree. Do you have another argument? If not, could you explain why we shouldn't be doing the same with the other countries I listed (and, as I said, that was just for starters)? If not, what's your argument?

It's useful to browse the al Jazeera blog entries for the days in February and early March.
I've tweeted many of them, and read them all. Make your point, please?

As for the UN, yes, the U.S. dominates, as do the other permanent members, and Russia and China abstained: you're begging the question. The U.S., France, Italy, NATO, and allies should launch attacks because they voted in the UN, and arm-twisted the Security Council, to launch attacks? That's circular.

Gary, you're apparently not moved by the fact that the UN, the only organization that legitimately represents the international community, is behind this mission.
I find it less distressing that the U.S. and NATO were able to get 1973. Have you read it?

How about the official release on it?

[...] Adopting resolution 1973 (2011) by a vote of 10 in favour to none against, with 5 abstentions (Brazil, China, Germany, India, Russian Federation), the Council authorized Member States, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory — requesting them to immediately inform the Secretary-General of such measures.

[...]

The Council stressed the need to intensify efforts to find a solution to the crisis that responded to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people, noting actions being taken on the diplomatic front in that regard. It further demanded that Libyan authorities comply with their obligations under international law and take all measures to protect civilians and meet their basic needs and to ensure the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance.

[...] Speaking after the vote, representatives [...] stressed that the objective was solely to protect civilians from further harm.

Lebanon’s speaker stressed that the text would not result in the occupation of “one inch” of Libyan territory by foreign forces.

[...] The representatives of China and the Russian Federation, explaining their abstentions, prioritized peaceful means of resolving the conflict and said that many questions had not been answered in regard to provisions of the resolution, including, as the Russian representative put it, how and by whom the measures would be enforced and what the limits of the engagement would be. He said the resolution included a sorely needed ceasefire, which he had called for earlier. China had not blocked the action with a negative vote in consideration of the wishes of the Arab League and the African Union, its representative said.

The delegations of India, Germany and Brazil, having also abstained, equally stressed the need for peaceful resolution of the conflict and warned against unintended consequences of armed intervention.

Yes, I find that persuasive. You?

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging council members to take concrete action to protect civilians in Libya where some estimates indicate more than 1,000 people have been killed in less than two weeks.
Yes. Your argument is that the U.S. and NATO should launch air strikes in every country where more than 1,000 people have been killed in less than two weeks?

Please clarify: yes, no, other? If "no," what, specifically, are your general criteria, with numbers, or other quantifiable measures so we can tell what general policy it is you are advocating.

Or put it in any terms you like: what general doctrine should the U.S. adopt to begin no-fly zones over countries?

Perhaps the case wasn't made with enough photos of corpses, but the situation was getting worrisome.
I find many things worrisome. My first impulse isn't to launch air strikes.

It's not even my second or third impulse.

I'd prefer you not imply I don't care about the Shoah, or genocide. I'd strongly prefer that.

CCDG:

Yes, each morning in the National Security Briefing.
To clarify, Congress doesn't get a daily national security briefing, and neither does the Congressional leadership, or any committee leaders. This was one of the objections to the intervention, by members of both parties, and I can give plenty of links: there was no consultation with Congress whatever.

There were plenty of complaints from both Democrats and Republicans alike.

wj:

[...] Not saying that things will necessarily go that way. But it is a scenario which seems more plausible than some I have seen written about.
Yes.

"I'd prefer you not imply I don't care about the Shoah, or genocide. I'd strongly prefer that."

I never said or implied that. What I don't understand is why you believe that there should be a formula for intervention based on number of people already dead. And, no, I don't believe in a formula, because it would be impossible to apply one based on the various circumstances that occur, and the wide divergence of opinions by various nations who, for their own reasons according to each scenario, would be in favor or against intervention.

Why I believe it was justified in this case was 1) there were cities under siege; 2) human rights and relief organizations (some of which I support and regularly donate to, therefore trust) believed that there was a humanitarian crisis because of the siege, had trouble getting medical care to victims, saw that food and essential medicine was not getting to civilian populations in the beseiged cities; 3) some substantial (but unverifiable because of lack of access) number of civilians had already been killed by airborne suppression of "rebels" (and protestors, and other people resisting Qaddafi's central government); 4) the crisis seemed bad enough for countries to be evacuating their citizens; 5) because of his history, many nations were convinced that Qaddafi was a menace; 6) Qaddafi was threatening his people (and although he didn't threaten them himself with bombing, he had used air bombardment against the rebels [protestors]).

And yes, the UN can certainly make bad decisions, but if it's making a decision in support of quelling a potential humanitarian disaster, one that the United States (reluctantly, but on principle) supports, I give it great credence. The UN is supposed to be the body making these decisions, and I'm glad it stepped up this time. It deserves support.

If you think it's more prudent to wait until 100,000 are dead, when there's a lot of evidence weighed by people who are experienced with similar situations that 100,000 people will soon be dead, fine. That's your opinion. I feel that it's justified to prevent a massacre when people and organizations I trust believe that a massacre is imminent, and are begging for military intervention. These people were not begging for intervention in Afghanistan or Iraq.

UN:

[...] PETER WITTIG (Germany) said [...] his country was particularly concerned by the plight of the Libyan people and believed it was crucial to tighten existing sanctions to “cut [the Libyan regime] off” from the funds that had propped it up for so long.

Decisions regarding the use of military force were always extremely difficult to take. Indeed, in the implementation of the resolution just adopted, Germany saw great risks, and the likelihood of large-scale loss of life should not be underestimated. Those that participated in its implementation could be drawn into a protracted military conflict that could draw in the wider region. If the resolution failed, it would be wrong to assume that any military intervention would be quickly and efficiently carried out. Germany had decided not to support the resolution and would not contribute its own forces to any military effort that arose from its implementation. Germany had abstained from the vote.

[...] MANJEEV SINGH PURI (India), explaining his abstention, expressed great concern over the welfare of the population of Libya and supported the appointment of the Secretary-General’s Envoy. The report of that Envoy and that of others had not yet been received. As a consequence, today’s resolution was based on very little clear information, including a lack of certainty regarding who was going to enforce the measures. There must be certainty that negative outcomes were not likely before such wide-ranging measures were adopted. Political efforts must be the priority in resolving the situation.

MARIA LUIZA RIBERIO VIOTTI (Brazil) said [...] hat while Brazil stood in solidarity with all movements in the region expressing their legitimate demands for better governance, and had taken into account the Arab League’s call for strong measures to stop the violence through a no-fly zone, it believed that the resolution contemplated measures that went beyond that call. “We are not convinced that the use of force as provided for in operative paragraph 4 of the present resolution will lead to the realization of our common objective — the immediate end of violence and the protection of civilians,” she said, adding that Brazil was also concerned that the measures approved today might have the unintended effect of exacerbating the current tensions on the ground and “causing more harm than good to the very same civilians we are committed to protecting”. No military action alone would succeed in ending the conflict. Protecting civilians, ensuring lasting settlement and addressing the legitimate demands of Libyan citizens demanded a political process.

[...]


VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said he had abstained, although his country’s position opposing violence against civilians in Libya was clear. Work on the resolution was not in keeping with Security Council practice, with many questions having remained unanswered, including how it would be enforced and by whom, and what the limits of engagement would be.

His country had not prevented the adoption of the resolution, but he was convinced that an immediate ceasefire was the best way to stop the loss of life. His country, in fact, had pressed earlier for a resolution calling for such a ceasefire, which could have saved many additional lives. Cautioning against unpredicted consequences, he stressed that there was a need to avoid further destabilization in the region.

And the Security Council President, and the not unimportant Permanent Member of the Security Council, a tiny country known as China?
Security Council President LI BAODONG (China), speaking in his national capacity, said that the continuing deterioration of the situation in Libya was of great concern to China. However, the United Nations Charter must be respected and the current crisis must be ended through peaceful means. China was always against the use of force when those means were not exhausted. His delegation had asked specific questions that failed to be answered and, therefore, it had serious difficulty with the resolution. It had not blocked the passage of the resolution, however, because it attached great importance to the requests of the Arab League and the African Union. At the same time, he supported the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Envoy to resolve the situation by peaceful means.
Yes, that's what "the UN" said.

Let's perhaps not be selective as to what we think "the UN" was "persuasive" about.

More things than the devil lie in the details.

Sapient:

In this case, it was clear to many of the countries that we should be up for invading Libya.
Please quote which sentences of any UN Security Council resolution support your assertion. Thanks!

"Yes, that's what "the UN" said."

Wonder why they didn't veto it then.

Why I believe it was justified in this case was 1) there were cities under siege;
Cities remain under siege in Libya. Where do you draw the line at how far the United States military should go to relieve such seiges? Should we send in land forces to overthrow Quadaffi? How long do you suggest we occupy Libya? How do we not occupy Libya if we overthrow Quadaffi? What's your exist strategy?

I've previously asked you a number of questions. I've repeated them. You've failed to respond to them.

When you respond by answering the questions I've previously put to you, and these, I'll respond further. So far simply repeating yourself without being responsive. This isn't supporting an argument with any facts or responses to queries: it's repetitive assertion.

If you think it's more prudent to wait until 100,000 are dead
Please withdraw this assertion.

Earlier:

[...] I understand that some people want photographs of corpses, etc.
Please name these people. Hae they posted to this thread? If so, please quote them. If not, whom are you referring to, by name, where have they said this, and what's the relevancy to what I wrote?

Reading al Jazeera's blog reveals scattered reports of scores of civilians here, scores there - no piles of corpses photographed though.
Why do you keep demanding photographs? No one in this thread has mentioned photographs but you.

And, again: you're asserting we should invade every country where there are "scores of civilians" dead? You want us to invade half the world?

Why do you not argue for us to invade Zimbabwe? Or Pakistan? Are you unaware of how many countries slaughter their citizens, or do you not care, or is there something special about Libya, or what is your general doctrince you are advocating?

Invade anywhere Sapient finds "worrisome"?

"Please quote which sentences of any UN Security Council resolution support your assertion. Thanks!"

Gary, I admire you a lot but don't be such a pedant. I was responding by paraphrasing your "up for invasion" rhetoric. The UN authorized creation of a no-fly zone and all necessary measures to protect civilians. It excluded the possibility of foreign occupation forces, so I didn't mean "invade" literally, and since that's not what's happening we need not banter about it.

"Where do you draw the line at how far the United States military should go to relieve such seiges? "

We draw the line at what the UN Security Council Resolution allows us to do, which doesn't include invading Libya.

"How do we not occupy Libya if we overthrow Quadaffi? What's your exist strategy?"

There are many leaders who are overthrown without foreign occupation. How do we not occupy Libya? By not occupying Libya. Exit strategy? Go home. We're not committed past enforcing a no fly zone.

Quit hectoring me what my "general doctrine" is. I have no duty to formulate a "general doctrine." I don't have one. I said that. I agree with what happened in the circumstances of this case, especially because of the rare event of a UN resolution authorizing action. I've written more about why on other threads. This situation presented us with the possibility of assisting other countries to protect civilians in a crisis situation, and doing so without invading, without occupying, and without even leading.

because of his history, many nations were convinced that Qaddafi was a menace

I've heard this reasoning before. I may have even used it before. Nowadays I'm looking askance at it.

"I've heard this reasoning before. I may have even used it before. Nowadays I'm looking askance at it."

I'm just thinking that we recently had the worst president (possibly) in the history of the country. He incompetently invaded one country, and illegally invaded another based on lies, and a scheme that was cooked up by a bunch of neocons calling themselves PNAC. As a result of his disastrous wars, people now believe that all intervention of any kind is always wrong, even if it is to provide humanitarian assistance to people who are desperately asking for it, people whose pleas are supported by highly respected and politically neutral NGO's and aid organizations. We are all always suspicious now. We think everyone always lies in order to justify using military toys.

I'm just not there yet. The people and organizations who have been in favor of this humanitarian military intervention don't all have a history of jumping at the chance for war.

We think everyone always lies in order to justify using military toys.

I'm not sure if I am being included in this "we", but just to be clear: I am not suggesting anyone is lying.

We draw the line at what the UN Security Council Resolution allows us to do, which doesn't include invading Libya.
I'm sorry, but the U.S. government writes the proposed resolutions, and negotiates with the other members what can pass.

Neither was Congress consulted in this.

You're saying that the President of the United states should be allowed to order the U.S. Ambassador or substitute representative to present a draft Security Council resolution, and that whatever passes as regards any military action should be followed, without consultation with Congress, because the resolution, which always has extremely vague weasel wording, precisely so every country can choose a different interpretation -- and would you like to go into some history on this, and if so, how much? -- doesn't get vetoed, therefore everything is hunky-dory?

Again, where do you draw the line?

There are appear to be three main possibilities here:

1) Either you simply like the idea of a no-fly zone over Libya, because you found news reports and stuff you've read "worrisome," and this is a special case where you can't describe any criteria for your reasoning, save that you personally like it.

2) You have some general principles.

3) Other.

I've invited you several times to outline either your reasoning behind 1 or 2, or present 3, and all you've done is go circular on saying that since the U.S. got a vague Security Council resolution passed, and you prefer to ignore what many of the members of the Council said about it, and because you believe a "civilian massacre" was imminent, but can produce no facts or cites to demonstrate any such case, you merely like the fact that Human Rights Watch and Juan Cole approve, then "critics" (whom you can't name) "claim that it was never an issue" (but you can't say where these claims were made), and unnamed "some people," who apparently are imaginary, "want photographs" (but you can't cite any such people), and therefore people reading your arguments should be persuaded... why, exactly?

We are all always suspicious now. We think everyone always lies in order to justify using military toys.
Do you have a gerbil in your pocket? Or are you royal?
[...] people now believe that all intervention of any kind is always wrong
Which people? Who? What statements do you have in mind?

Can you name them, or are you just bringing up imaginary people, or what is the relevance of these unnamed people to anything written by anyone in this thread?

There seem to be at least four major possibilities:

1) You have specific people in mind who aren't me and who haven't posted to this thread, but have some reason you won't or can't name them.

(Maybe you just can't think of who you are thinking of, maybe... the possibilities are endless; it's up to you to say, not for me to speculate).

2) You don't have specific people in mind, and are generalizing based on... I don't know what.

3) You have me in mind, but prefer not to say so. (Why?: again, many possibilities; possibly you might recognize that, in fact, I've written none of these things, but there could be any number of other reasons: it's up to you to bother to say why.)

4) Other.

Do feel free to clarify.

Meanwhile, if you can't answer, you're engaging in classic straw man fallacy by refuting unnamed people you won't specify.

If you're not arguing with straw folks of your own creation, then I invite you to dispel this misunderstanding, and state who you are arguing with, where they said these things, and quote who and what you're arguing with.

If not, your choice. But I'll make hay with straw presented to me. I have an allergy to it.

And if you're going to speak on behalf of a "we," then I invite you to present evidence that you've been elected to represent more than yourself, or present evidence that you're speaking on behalf of others, and to clarify who is this "we" that you are describing.

Because, personally, I'm not part of your "we."

I invite you to clarify that I'm not "we," that those of us who are not "We" are not, and therefore clarify who "we" are that you happen to agree with.

Myself, I stick to speaking for myself, save when I'm specifically appointed to speak for others, or elected to. I find it saves being accused of making false claims of speaking for others, or of attempting to cloak my personal opinion and foolishness in the guise of some generic belief, or of attempting to attack the arguments of others by, again, using the straw man fallacy. YMMV, as may your preferences in arguing with straw.

The people and organizations who have been in favor of this humanitarian military intervention don't all have a history of jumping at the chance for war.
This is simply the Argument From Authority.

That's all you've presented here.

There was a vote from the Security Council, but let's pay no attention to the details of the resolution, how the mechanism works, who wrote it, who voted for it, what the voters said about it, because what matters is the authority of the final vote for a vague resolution.

Human Rights Watch said some vague things that don't back up the Administration's stated claims of "100,000 people" in the slightest.

And you like Juan Cole.

That's all fine, but it's not an argument.

What's your argument that we should find convincing, other than that Sapient is impressed by the Authority of these three Authorities?

Juan Cole is a guy. I'm a guy. I happen to think for myself, and I respect my own opinion on these matters at least as much as I respect his. I read him with interest, and I respect his opinions.

But I don't substitute his for mine. If you want to convince me to change my opinons, you'll have to do better than "Juan Cole has a different opinion."

Lots of people have different opinions. So what?

I find arguments, and facts, and logic, convincing, not authorities, myself. Call me wacky, but I regard myself as just as much a reasonable analyst of these matters as Juan Cole, no matter that I don't have a title and position. I've read lots and lots and lots on the relevant issues for decades.

I'm also perfectly happy to change any of my opinions when presented with good reasons, good arguments, new facts, things I hadn't thought of. And I'm perfectly happy to agree that I may be wrong: it happens all the time.

Meanwhile, though, my opinion for this minute is what it is. I'll let you know when it changes, if I have a moment.

I'll put on some pajamas if you like, except, darn, I don't have any.

[makes note to self: must buy pajamas]

Gary, I do trust authorities who are knowledgeable and informed. It's one reason I read (as much as I can - they're voluminous, and I don't want to devote my entire reading life to them) your work. I do think that Juan Cole has more knowledge than you do about the Middle East - he appears to have devoted his professional life to the study of Middle Eastern affairs and speaks Arabic and Persian. Perhaps you also speak those languages and have devoted your entire life to the subject, and maybe visited the countries.

Certainly you are entitled to think that the "guys" you cite, such as Steve Chapman, and the abstainer nations (not vetoers, as well they could have been), are more authoritative (since they doubted an imminent bloodbath) than are the "guys" I cite (who believe that there would have been one). Unless we have personal inside knowledge about the intent and capabilities of Qaddafi, we must rely on experts. I trust the ones I mentioned.

Other "guys" you cited, such as Alan Kuperman, certainly suggests that Obama was not being truthful about an imminent humanitarian threat. If you disagree with him on that point, why did you cite him? Since you seem to dispute my suggestion that you might be among those who think that we should never intervene, what are your criteria for intervention? I suggested that you required lots of bodies as proof. What evidence is good enough for you if it's not lots and lots of bodies?

"As a result of his disastrous wars, people now believe that all intervention of any kind is always wrong, even if it is to provide humanitarian assistance to people who are desperately asking for it..."

No. As a result his (perpetuated by Obama) disastrous wars we are broke and can't afford new wars.

Gary, Winds of Change...that'd do it. Marc "armed - cough cough - liberal"? Well, since he's a friend of yours........what was the name of that little hasbara 20 something year old puke that used to post USA uber alles crap over there...wore a beenie and hung out with michael ledeen, but said he wasn't jewish? I have wondered what sort of mischieve he has been up to recently.

A "beenie?" Are you kidding me?

I'm just not there yet.

You will be.

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Whatnot


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