Power is wrong on Libya
March 30, 2011
Earlier I complained about Samantha Power’s book about Western powers’ failure to prevent genocides in recent history. Her book had aspects of historical fiction. For example, she asserts that had the US destroyed and jammed Rwandan communications the genocide would have fizzled out. Would those murderers really have given up so easily? Her position assumes that genocide can be averted cheaply with little risk to American soldiers. Now she’s back arguing that the US should prevent mass murder in Libya. Her position will be put to the test because Qaddafi will likely fight to the bloody end. If air support is not enough and the ragtag rebels can’t push towards Tripoli, Libya will descend into long-term civil war. Will the US and NATO provide more assistance to help the rebels, such as weapons, training, communications, air power, etc? How much and for how long will the West support one side in a civil war? It’s been 10 years since her book was published and she still doesn’t have a rationale beyond “genocide is bad, please stop it!”.
I believe that the US must commit to a policy goal and be willing to apply all resources to quickly achieve that goal. But that means you need the support of the people and Congress, which probably requires that it be a direct threat to the US. Obama said it is US policy that Qaddafi must go. Is he willing to commit US troops to finish the job? Are the American people willing to see soldiers die (remember Somalia?) for a civil war that doesn’t threaten us? I doubt it. Afghantistan is the only recent war that was a direct threat to the US and deserved to get smashed. Pakistan’s Waziristan area is IMO looking like another area that deserves to get flattened.
Right now the best NATO can hope for is another Afghanistan. US Special Forces armed, trained and followed Afghan Northern Alliance fighters. They were able to call in air support to destroy Taliban forces and quickly capture the country. It is very likely that the US is threatening and bribing the generals around Qaddafi right now, urging them to give up or die. If I were running things, I’d tell the various tribes in Libya that they’ll get double their current income from oil without Qaddafi stealing all that money. In the end, money talks.