Protesters are being violently suppressed in Bahrain and Yemen, the Congo has had the bloodiest armed conflict since World War II, and Israel and Palestine have been bleeding each other for decades. Meanwhile, the international community has come together to devise a special formula that decides when it is time to intervene.
I am in no way declaring my support for the bloodshed that has resulted from the crackdown by Muammar Gaddafi and his loyal soldiers on rebels in the eastern portion of the country. Indeed, it is regrettable that demonstrations have turned violent and killed scores of individuals fighting for a liberalized Libya in this “Arab Spring.” However, injustices have been occurring throughout the world for centuries, and the question at the heart of this conflict is not whether the United States should intervene in Libya at this specific moment in time, but whether the United States should consider itself as the policeman of the world.
My first objection to America adhering to this world-interventionist image is economic. Nine in ten Americans classify the budget deficit as a problem, yet seven in ten support the air strikes on Libya. This type of dissonance is troubling; it appears the foreign policy orientation of the American people does not coincide with a genuine concern over the path down which America is headed.
The United States has dropped over 160 Tomahawk missiles on Gaddafi’s air defenses and utilized its aircraft bombers as well. The operation costs are now in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and talks are swirling that the Pentagon may have to request emergency funding from the Congress should operation costs exceed the $1 billion mark.
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), member of the Foreign Relations committee, has been the most outspoken on the matter, seeing the incompatibility between hawkish tendencies and fiscal responsibility. “Congress has been squabbling for months over a budget to run the federal government for a fiscal year that is almost half over,” Lugar said. “We argue over where to cut $100,000 million here and there from programs many people like. So here comes an open-ended military action with no-end game envisioned.”
It is downright hypocritical for Congressmen on both sides of the aisle to speak in support of this military measure, largely spearheaded by the United States, if they are the same legislators either looking to rein in spending or save millions in entitlement spending. The future looks apocalyptic in this context. There is absolutely nothing irresponsible in saying “no” if it is unrealistic given our economic circumstances to stir the pot in a far-flung area of the world.
Secondly, there is an ideological and a constitutional concern with this United Nations measure. Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution explicitly states that the United States cannot go to war without an official declaration of war. Though it is deemed archaic by some in this day and age, I am a firm believer in this central tenet. Yes, call me a dinosaur, but there is merit in having a national discussion as to whether we should be bombing another nation with our military materiel and personnel. I have been outraged in the past over technicalities such as the “authorization” of force in Iraq and Afghanistan in lieu of a formal declaration-but this is utter nonsense. If the American people have no say in the actions of its military by reaching out to their elected representatives, yet can suffer the blowback (unintended consequences, such as terrorist attacks) all the same, then what is the point of a democracy?
Must the American people tacitly countenance an international system in which sovereignty is usurped by the United Nations, a collective security organization that not only flexes its muscle sporadically at best, but functions on the assumption that United States preponderance will save the world? It seems to be a norm that the United States will devote more soldiers, money, and support than any other nation on the Security Council. Currently, it contributes to twenty-two percent of the Security Council’s annual budget and twenty-seven percent of its “peacekeeping” missions. That would not be so terrible to the average American if the United States were not upward of $300 million behind in UN dues alone. As Jon Stewart satirized on The Daily Show, the United States does more than any other nation in these missions, but if there were more of a consensus, wouldn’t others be willing to participate and share the burden of defending the Libyans’ right to national self-determination?
Third, there are unintended consequences that come with intervention. Gaddafi thrives on casting the West in the light of the old imperialists, such as Britain and France, colonizing Africa once more and inciting internal disarray. The Central Intelligence Agency calls this type of activity “blowback”- unintended consequences as a result of covert or military operations. A classic example of this is the coup d’etat in Iran in 1953 that installed the shah and overthrew a democratically-elected government. The result? The rise of Ayatollah Khomeini and the infamous debacle of the Carter administration over the American embassy hostage crisis in Tehran. The Middle East was not always a maelstrom of endless suicide bombings. Ill-advised American actions, such as the bombing of Iraq in the late 1990s and the placement of semi-permanent military bases in the sacrosanct grounds of Saudi Arabia, have heightened anti-Western resentment while providing fodder for terrorist organizations to increase their numbers. Thus, it is no surprise that Libyan expatriates have already threatened Britain with acts of terror for the casualties incurred in their homeland.
The West’s ignorance of history in the Near East and obsessive interest in serving as policemen of the world continue to be hallmarks of foreign policy. In the case of the United States, though, it is sobering that we have deviated from our Constitutional roots and remain disillusioned with realities staring us in the face. As Senator Rand Paul (R-Ken.) said in a press release, “I do think the questions of war are the most important decisions we make as a country and as representatives, and that needs to be something that is considered and voted on in the Senate and the House. I tell people I won’t vote to go to war unless I’m ready to go or send my kids.”
Without a vision of a postwar Libya (or concrete military objectives) and a solid rationale, this interventionist policy is doomed to fail in the long run. America, please wake up and get us out of there!
Photo Credits: Boston.Com