For those following the debate on international intervention in Libya here lately, it is clear that I do not support any type of American military engagement in Libya. There are questions of popular will and American capacity; there are reservations of transforming the revolt of the Libyan people into a western movement and fears that western intervention would validate Qaddafi’s wild claims that the protests are backed by foreign agents; there are, of course, concerns about the use of of the American military where American interests are not at stake. Naturally, I find the conduct of Qaddafi, the few remaining loyalists and the hired mercenaries to be atrocious and worthy of war crime investigations, but there are severe consequences and risks to unleashing the western military might. Rather, I support a more diplomatic and economic push to support the protesters; refusing to intervene militarily is far from synonymous with complacency in the face of brutality. Fortunately, it seems like those in charge agree.
President Obama patiently waited for Americans in Libya to be evacuated (for an interesting evacuation story, check out the British special forces) before coming down hard on Qaddafi by supporting UN sanctions and imposing a set of unilateral American sanctions. Both Secretary of State Clinton and Obama have called for Qaddafi to step down, a call postponed until American nationals were out of the country. The recent escalation in American rhetoric and actions against Qaddafi validates the claim that immediate American interests in Libya – unlike in Egypt – were limited to the safety of American nationals. In addition to the many risks of military engagement, the safety of Americans in Libya would have been severely compromised by the US military.
In response to one call for intervention (“Is the United States really prevented by its past from deploying the small number of troops that would be required to rescue Tripoli from Qaddafi’s bloody grip?”) Andrew Sullivan argues that there are far too often subtleties and nuances that interventionists often overlook:
Would risking hundreds of US citizens to become hostages of a madman be a model of “decency”? And the notion that America would actually serve its own interests by military intervention in Egypt, Iran or Libya is simply blind to the sobering lessons of the last decade.
Of course, Sullivan doesn’t go into any consequences beyond the safety of Americans, but it does highlight the obligation of countries to look hold national interests as a primary concern. Indeed, American military intervention would not only undermines the primacy of American interests in US policy, it would actively undermine both American interests in region and the organic national character of the Libyan uprising.
Photo from the Daily Mail