On the eighth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein under intentionally false charges of possession of weapons of mass destruction, the American empire struck again, this time in Libya. Though it strikes me as self-evident that this was a foolhardy and wrong-headed plan, apparently my impression is not universally shared.
Here, then, in no particular order, are ten reasons why the US should leave Libya immediately. (For those who don’t think we’re actually in Libya — as opposed to over it — read this.)
1. It’s none of our business. Libya did not attack us and posed no threat to American safety or sovereignty. There’s simply no other way to put it: What goes on in Libya is none of our damn business. If you, as a civilian are (admirably!) sympathetic to the Libyan cause, make like Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell did in the Spanish Civil War and actually go join them. What’s that? A plane ticket is too pricey? Oh, I see. That brings me to my next point:
2. We can’t afford it. The US national debt is at $14 trillion and counting, poised to overtake our GDP within the year — perhaps sooner. That’s more than $45,000 per U.S. citizen and nearly $130,000 per taxpayer. This debt has increased more in the last 10 years than the first two centuries of our history combined. Worse yet, when you include all of the government’s unfunded liabilities (chiefly Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid Part D), the federal government’s obligations top $113 trillion. Our government is, quite simply, broke, and the costs of the Libyan intervention are already piling up. The going rate of invasion is apparently about $10,000 per hour, and as of today, March 21, the invasion "has already cost U.S. taxpayers ‘well over $100 million.‘"
3. It’s illegal. And by illegal I mean the big one: unconstitutional, any way you shake it. Though our government has handily chosen to ignore this provision for more than half a century, the Constitution is pretty clear in its requirement that Congress retain the power to declare war. As Mr. Obama put it before he actually got his hands on the war button, the "President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." (It would have been nice if some of the congressional opposition to this invasion on constitutional grounds had come a couple wars ago, but I suppose we’ll have to take what we can get.)
4. The Libyan rebels don’t want our help. At this point you’ve likely seen this picture floating around.
Those sentiments seem to be fairly common in Libya, where those rising up against their dictator have repeatedly made clear their desire to go it alone. For instance, take a look at what these guys have to say. "The entire population is insisting against US intervention," says one man, "or any involvement of foreign powers within Libya."
In another report from the Associated Press, Ali Zeidan, an envoy for the Libyan National Transitional Council, said he believes "’we are able to deal with Gadhafi’s forces by ourselves’ as long as it’s a fair fight." Interestingly, he also said that the rebels do not wish to kill their dictator, which seems a possible outcome of foreign intervention if Saddam Hussein’s fate is any indication: "We don’t like to kill anybody…even Gadhafi himself." How can we claim to respect rights to self-determination and representative government if we’re ignoring this most basic request?
6. As Libyans and others in the broader Arab and African communities object to foreign intervention, terrorists are surely rubbing their hands with glee. Why? Well, because we just made their recruiting job a whole lot easier. Let’s review the concept of blowback, a term developed by the CIA:
Blowback is the espionage term for the violent, unintended consequences of a covert operation that are suffered by the civil population of the aggressor government…. Generally, blowback loosely denotes every consequence of every aspect of a secret attack operation, thus, it is synonymous with consequence — the attacked victims’ revenge against the civil populace of the aggressor country, because the responsible politico-military leaders are invulnerable.
For a concrete example of blowback, let’s turn to a recent report of nine Afghan boys who were mowed down by a NATO helicopter while collecting firewood. The American military issued an apology, of course, but apologies don’t always make up for mass murders:
"I don’t care about the apology," Mohammed Bismil, the 20-year-old brother of two boys killed in the strike, said in a telephone interview. "The only option I have is to pick up a Kalashnikov, RPG (rocket-propelled grenade), or a suicide vest to fight."
That, my friends, is blowback. That helicopter attack directly created a brand new terrorist. And there’s no way our little $10,000/hour jaunt in Libya won’t do the same. For more on blowback, look under Paul, Ron.
7. The American public actually agrees with Libya, the AU, and the Arab League on this one. While previous interventions were met with stronger American support, now it seems the American public may finally be starting to tire of endless, aimless war. These numbers don’t indicate a unanimous switch to a noninterventionist foreign policy, of course, but they’re a good start.
8. We’ve done enough already. "But we’re only getting started!" you cry. I wish that were true. From the early 1990s to early 2000s, the American government imposed economic sanctions on the country, which "crippled the economy" without toppling the dictator. Alas, such is typically the story with sanctions imposed on nations already suffering from awful governments: The government keeps on being awful, which means it passes the negative effects of the sanctions on to the citizens and to them alone: "As we have learned with US sanctions on Iraq, and indeed with US sanctions on Cuba and elsewhere, it is citizens rather than governments who suffer most." Perhaps without a decade of the cold shoulder from the economic powerhouse of the world, Libyans could have risen up against their government years earlier.
Interestingly, since 2006 the American government has resumed full diplomatic relations with Libya. Maybe we decided they weren’t so bad after all. Or maybe dictators create stability, and stability fosters low prices, and Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa, most of which remain untapped to date.
9. This goes against our founders’ vision for American foreign policy. Let me simply provide a few telling quotes:
"Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none." — Thomas Jefferson
"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
"No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." — James Madison
"The constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure." — George Washington
"All wars are follies, very expensive and very mischievous ones." — Benjamin Franklin
Need I continue?
10. The likely loss of civilian life. As with other invasions, our government is attempting to cast this attack in the form of a mission of mercy. It is not and will not be any such thing if recent history in our numerous other Middle Eastern engagements are any indication. Excess Iraqi deaths as a result of the Iraq War are estimated by reputable medical studies to be as high as 600,000+.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has increased the acceptable ratio of dead civilians:dead terrorists from an already ghastly 29:1 to a horrifying 50:1. 50 to 1! And sometimes we don’t even know who is and isn’t a terrorist. I find it hard to believe that the bombings in Libya will not take their own devastating toll on the Libyan civilian population.
And there you have it: 10 reasons we should get out of Libya now.
Anyone still want to stay?