Apotheosis of War

I am not here to discuss costs, nor the legality of the current actions taken by President Obama, however, I will discuss the moral argument towards the end of my post. I myself have not yet decided where I stand on this issue or no, I’m just presenting an argument.

As I see it, the US faces three options with regards to Libya:

1.) Just help to enforce the no-fly zone that is currently in place and quickly hand over command to the Franco-British forces, but remain a part of the Coalition.

2.) Help the rebels to defeat Gaddafi’s forces.

3.) Exit the area and the coalition.

( I have already dismissed the option of siding with Gaddafi as it is incredibly unlikely at best.)

Option one seems reasonable, until you begin to realise the long-term implications. As a no-fly zone has no effect on Gaddfai’s ground forces, he could continue to advance and capture rebel positions, or more likely the two enemies would be locked in a stalemate with each other. The former would make the Coalition forces, and by extension the US, look weak. The latter would tie-up US assets indefinitely and distract from other important issues.

Option two is more direct, by supporting the rebels and engaging Gaddafi’s forces the main conflict would likely be over quickly. However, if this course of action is taken the US forces are almost certainly not going to pack up and leave. They’ll likely remain to support the new government. This would tie-up more US assets for possibly a longer time than option one.

Furthermore, in the aftermath of Gaddafai’s downfall this scenario could take a turn for the worse as old tribal divisions could begin to reassert themselves. The US could have another problem similar to Afghanistan on its hands.

Option three has, in my opinion, the least downsides. Sure, the US could possibly be excoriated in international circles – well, the ones the matter anyway – But, most likely the international public would understand. The US already has four wars on its hands – yes, I’m counting N. Korea and Pakistan – and it doesn’t need another.

Lastly, to address point of those in favour of intervention I shall examine the moral argument:

“The US has to intervene in Libya to prevent civilian deaths.”

A compelling and noble reason. However, I think that the reasoning isn’t as clear cut as it seems. A question must be asked:

“What course of action has the highest probability of producing the least amount of civilian deaths?”

To answer this I shall return to the options laid out above with the addition of one more.

Option one seems like a good bet, but as the conflict could drag on for months or years the number of civilian dead will grow.

Likewise, the same is true for option two.

Taking option three could very well result in a massacre, depending on what other Coalition forces do.

However, I have another idea. What if the playing field between the rebels and state forces could be levelled somewhat? Aside from supplying them with arms what could be the best parting gift that the US could give the rebel forces? What if Gaddafi just died? He is the focal point of the state. The whole regime, the army, would probably split into various factions. Gaddafi is the glue holding the Libyan government together. With the death of Gaddafi rebel forces may have a fighting chance and civilian causalities may be reduced.

I wonder if the US would be willing to supply that opportunity, sordid as it is.

 

“You’ve got to forget about this civilian. Whenever you drop bombs, you’re going to hit civilians.”

~Barry Goldwater

 

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2ndClassCitizenPundit
Member

Okay, let’s actually think this through. What is the goal in Libya? If the goal is to prevent Qaddafi from killing civilians, how does a no-fly zone accomplish that? (channeling Hawkeye: “Wouldn’t fly-paper work better?”) If the goal is preserving the oil fields, wouldn’t gassing the entire country work better? Then we can relocate them all to Greenland and deny any knowledge of what they hell they are complaining about when they wake up. If the goal is to remove Qaddafi, aren’t there better ways to do that? An eviction notice? Tell him he’s won a free Caribbean cruise? Have… Read more »

bito
Member

2ndClassCitizenPundit, There is much more to the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 than the “No Fly Zone.” The coalition is authorized to use what is necessary to end the armed violence by Libyan Arab Jamahiriya on the citizens of it’s country. The “no Fly Zone” is not just stopping airflights, but it is disrupting/destroying the “Command and Control”, supply routes, tanks and armored vehicles (they move- they get fired on) and beginning to allow “humanitarian” supplies in to the country. As KQ mentioned earlier for the President to call for the actual killing of a leader of another country is… Read more »

ADONAI
Member

What about choice number 4?

We nuke that whole desert from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan

And open a giant glass parking lot for India Disney.

2ndClassCitizenPundit
Member

Adonai, don’t be ridiculous.

Do you realize how high liability insurance is for a glass parking lot???

KQµårk 死神
Member

First list the risks and costs of putting boots on the ground. Bob first and foremost the UN mission is humanitarian. 1) Lets start out that 20% of all Al Qaeda came out of the tribes in Benghazi now these tribes are praising the US for defending them instead of warring against us. 2) Yes the objective is to protect Libyan’s civilians who oppose a dictator and that to a great extent has been achieved. 3) The risks and costs are minuscule to the risks and costs you’re proposing in a ground war. 4) The UN with the US is… Read more »

SequimBob2
Member

First, Caru, my apologies for diverting the discussion somewhat away from your points. KQuark: I think you and I are focused on different aspects of the action. I’m looking at things more from a tactical level. Many of your points are more strategic and global. I agree with your point that tie-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan change the equation. I was, admittedly frustrated, by the President’s no-boots-on-the-ground position because I saw that as forcelosing tactical options. I apologize for giving you the impression I was advocating a full-fledged ground war with lots of troops. I do think since the US… Read more »

KQµårk 死神
Member

Actually my apologies. I didn’t mean to imply I was trying to back you into a position. I think out loud often on this site. Frankly I’m still not totally sure what my position is yet on Libya. So far I have no big problems in the way we are cooperating with the world but obviously the situation is very much in flux. Like most of us I’m uneasy any time we use the military.

2ndClassCitizenPundit
Member

Headline: Target Sues San Diego Gay Rights Group

The {{spit}} headline: Gay Rights Group Seeks to Bankrupt Benevolent Corporation

My headline: The Empire Strikes Back, blames Gaga

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=134845091

Chernynkaya
Member

2nd– I actually like this story a lot! That gay rights group is making a serious difference; the story says each store gets dozens of complaints from the public. I have boycotted Target since I learned that they are RW anti-gay –was it a couple of years ago that the news came out? (Heh.) Anyway, it’s been a long time and I’m pissed because I really used to shop there all the time. Pretty soon there will be no place to shop for anything, but that’s OK since I have no money anyway.

2ndClassCitizenPundit
Member

How the hell did this post wind up over here????

I thought I posted this to OT???

I must be losing my mind. Apologies to Caru.

Chernynkaya
Member

YIKES! Sorry, Caru–I didn’t notice either!

2ndClassCitizenPundit
Member

Cher, that happened last year, in the fall I believe.

KQµårk 死神
Member

Obviously removing Gaddafi would make everything easier and clearer but I hope to God the UN comes up with something better than a one contingency strategy. There needs to be a Plan B and C, D, E as far as I’m concerned. Analogous to democracy a multilateral approach to using military intervention is going to be more messy. It’s still the right thing to do in my opinion. Bob talks about Obama losing credibility but I think all his credibility vanishes in the international community if he takes the go it alone philosophy. Oh yeah and that half arsed military… Read more »

SequimBob2
Member

The President has a number of things right in the prosecution of this effort. He got the Arab League on board — at least at the start. He got UN and NATO participation, so he did what he could to minimize the US-invading-another-Arab-country criticism. The President said that Khadafi must go. When he did this, he put his credibility on the line. Given the US resources in comparison to other participant countries, militarily we are still the 800LB gorilla on this venture. I just don’t think he accomplishes much by saying, “The Canadians in charge.” It appears to me we… Read more »

KQµårk 死神
Member

Wait a minute you are changing your tune. Using Special Forces only is not the Powell Doctrine.

Why not the SAS or the GIGN go in then?

Why always the US?

SequimBob2
Member

Not changing the tune, although I may. I’m still working through this whole thing. Anyway, I wasn’t clear. I’m not advocating infantry battalions or brigades. Sorry for the confusion. My bad.

As for Special Forces, I’m OK with SAS. Not familiar with CIGN. I’m just sayin’ when the President said “no ground forces,” he foreclosed an option that tactically I’d like to have seen held open. Understand why he did it.

I’m all for it not always being the US, so I agree with you on that point.

KQµårk 死神
Member

Oh and c’mon about every leader said Gadaffi must go even those who did not join the conflict. So do they lose all credibility too? Again a very American centered view of the situation. Even though we are far from that point the UN does not do long military conflicts. The worse thing thing this could end up being is a UN partitioned state where thousands of lives have been saved. It’s not going to be a simmering insurgency because there is no occupation force. We have become so embroiled in our black and white notions of the world that… Read more »

SequimBob2
Member

I don’t have the impression the US is ‘wringing hands.’ We haven’t lost anything as yet, although by making the move the President is certainly more exposed politically.

The US did not go in alone, so I’m not sure about the point you are making.

As for the credibility issue, this President is under attack from so many directions… so I do worry about it. Allow me the privilege of worrying, OK? 🙂

KQµårk 死神
Member

Wringing hands may not be the best way to express it but it seems like the media especially are again not reporting what is actually going on in Libya and instead looking at everything that might go wrong. They should have asked all these high paid military consultants these pitfalls before but I guess the media is part of a reactionary population.

bito
Member

KQ, I was watching the Pentagon daily briefing yesterday on C-Span yesterday and what was on MSNBC? Speculation on the situation in Libya by some “experts.” I have often wondered if any of them have actually read the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973?
Have we lost all trust in the presidency (thanks to W.) that we do not give an iota of trust to President Obama?

KQµårk 死神
Member

Hey Bito. I was just watching that ahole Spitzer on CNN and he was doing his first segment on the “stalemate” meme. Then when a guest challenged him by saying it’s only a stalemate in our 24 hour news cycle but in reality it’s too early to even start talking about stalemate. Then Spitzer tried to wiggle we were discussing possible stalemate. Again the media is not reporting news but trying to make it.

escribacat
Member

Caru, Excellent analysis (and suggestion). (Are you really only 18????) I know everyone whines about the CIA but I always thought the best solution in Iraq was to just take out psycho Saddam and his psycho sons. (Probably easier said than done, but still easier than what we ended up doing). I think taking out psycho leaders such as however-the-hell-you-spell-his-name is infinitely preferable to war.

escribacat
Member

The idea that this is just a cheap quickie is untrue. Costs of Libya operation already piling up:

http://nationaljournal.com/nationalsecurity/costs-of-libya-operation-already-piling-up-20110321

Khirad
Member

Rescind big oil subsidies. Problem solved.

And I wonder how much cumulative money we’ve spent propping some of these dictators up and subsidizing their torture, just for some perspective.

escribacat
Member

True. I’d rather intervene on behalf of the rebels than prop up dictators (if those are the only choices). In the short run, it’s the right thing to do to end the slaughter and get rid of the tyrant. In the long run, do we make any difference? I dunno.

KQµårk 死神
Member

Yes and no. When you talk about military spending compared to other discretionary spending that’s true but when you compare the costs to what we are already spending on the military it isn’t. I doubt the pentagon is going to have to ask for any additional money because there is enough padding in the military budget for Libya already. They say it will cost over $1 billion altogether which is still less than one 500th of the total we spend on the military before you include spending in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think there are good reasons to be against… Read more »

Chernynkaya
Member

I am against this operation. We have no clear objectives. It’s very possible that this operation will NOT end in regime change. In fact, regime change is very decidedly not the objective here. The U.S. government and British government have made it very clear that after this no fly zone, the political future of Libya will be in its people’s hands… how will that happen? Personally, I would like to just eliminate Gaddafi, but the same thing happened with Saddam–who knows where he is? And the surgical strikes are never as easy as they make it sound–civilians always get killed.… Read more »

escribacat
Member

Cher — even if there is a regime change, who is to say the new regime will be any better than the old one? Reports are coming out of Egypt now that the military commanders in charge there are turning out to be just as ruthless as Mubarek.

Chernynkaya
Member

E’cat, yes, there’s that too.

Khirad
Member

But elections are slated and amendments approved.

Still too early to tell there. Tunisia still looks promising.

And when it comes to guys like Milošević, Saddam, Khamenei, etc. I hate to beg the question, but can it really get that much worse?

Khirad
Member

How much do you really buy regime change *nod, nod, wink, wink* isn’t the objective?

Unless the Brits missed the mark by a wide margin when they hit Gaddafi’s compound.

escribacat
Member

Khirad, Has Gaddafi or son been seen since that bombing? Do we know they are still alive?

Chernynkaya
Member

In a spidey-hole??

Khirad
Member

Yes, Gaddafi has given a speech since. But there’s still a rumor that Khamis, the one with the elite brigade is dead. God I hope that’s true. That would be a pretty big setback.

escribacat
Member

Is Khamis the one who was on TV so much last week? (The one who hired Beyonce for a private showing, or whatever the hell it was).

Khirad
Member

No, that’s the Michael Corleone of the family, Saif.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/03/07/understanding_libyas_michael_corleone

Although one answer has been given in all this. For a long time their had been a bitter feud over who would succeed Mo-Mo between Saif and Moatassem (intelligence).

That once primary intrigue of Libya has long since been overshadowed though.

The other two are Saadi and Khamis (rivals in their own right), both who command elite units. Taking those two out would in itself be a blow, as their units are loyal to the Gaddafi family specifically.

Chernynkaya
Member

I think it was a hail Mary strike. NATO forces must know he wouldn’t be hanging around the palace–heck, it’s been struck before. I’m sure they’d be happy if he were dead, but that’s not the same as actively going after him. Realistically, he has GOT to be um, made gone. He’s not going to reform himself is he? And the big question, obviously, is who takes his place.

Khirad
Member

Oh yes, it was a Hail Mary, but one done to get him, is my point. There was no other strategic target there. Thus the *nod, nod, wink, wink* – it’s not regime change. After all, that’s not allowed *wink*.

KQµårk 死神
Member

I respect your position but it’s not mine. I’m fine with the stated objective of just saving as many citizen’s lives as possible. If the UN has to partition Libya to end a stalemate so be it. That’s really what the UN did in Bosnia. Actually Bosnia really had no cohesive rebel effort for a while so I don’t see that difference at all. You have to remember America entered Bosnia late so that’s where your perspective may start. When did a humanitarian objective not become a valid objective for progressives? We could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives… Read more »

Khirad
Member

The latest I’ve heard, Ajdabiya is split in half, and once in urban warfare, the playing field is leveled – Gaddafi tanks risking shelling their own troops when firing on the city center. The rebels couldn’t even make it to Ajdabiya before the no-fly to have that chance. We still don’t know if the rebels can do it though – to march on Tripoli. I’m easily the biggest cheerleader for the no-fly zone on this site putting me at odds with many, if not most of the liberal media as the reluctant hawk. But, that’s not to say I don’t… Read more »

escribacat
Member

I’m still of two minds on this one, Khirad…but leaning against at this point. I don’t like the idea that the world just stands by while some tyrant slaughters his people. However I just don’t see an end to it all. After Kadafi, what then? After Libya, what then? We can’t fix the world. It’s just too screwed up. And we’ve got our own problems. On the other hand…I truly despise people who see some horror or injustice in their own neighborhood or town and just turn away and say “It’s not my problem.” This is a quandary.

Khirad
Member

I don’t buy the what next thing argument. This was a unique confluence of Arab, European and American agreement. They all thought Gaddafi had to go. You won’t see this happen again soon.

escribacat
Member

Which brings up the question…why not? Why Libya, but why not Yemen next? Or Syria or Jordan or Bahrain? I know a lot of folks have already said it’s because of the oil, which makes this intervention a lot less admirable. Ack. I don’t know. I’d make a terrible president.

Mightywoof
Member

You’re not the only cheer leader for this effort Khirad – I am as well. I think what we all forget is that without this intervention there would have been a blood bath – Qhadaffi has no compunction in wholesale slaughter of his own people. He would have bombed them, fired on them with tanks and if anybody was left he would have lined them up and shot them after a nice piece of torturing I’m sure. We also forget that the rebels were begging for assistance – not on the ground, but for protection from Q’s planes and tanks.… Read more »

SequimBob2
Member

Caru: Thank you for publishing this. Like you, I share your uncertainty about the course of action we have taken. Popular opinion seems to be on the side of having taken the action — for humanitarian reasons. And it may turn out to have been the right thing to do, but I’m skeptical. Murphy’s law is alive and well in all military conflicts. What I am 100% certain about is that this half-assed military approach (air campaign only) that we’re taking is a really bad idea. If countries could win wars from the air, they wouldn’t spend all that money… Read more »

KQµårk 死神
Member

Let me get this clear do you advocate boots on the ground if that’s what it takes?

SequimBob2
Member

KQuark: Nice to hear from you. I’m a devotee of the Powell Doctrine. This probably comes from my being Viet Nam era vet. Here’s the doctrine: “[w]hen a nation is engaging in war, every resource and tool should be used to achieve decisive force against the enemy, minimizing US casualties and ending the conflict quickly by forcing the weaker force to capitulate.” As I mentioned previously, I’m not sure that the President made the right decision in going in. Having made it, however, I believe we should put boots on the ground – no half measures. Having said this, here… Read more »