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It’s been bugging me that the State Department hasn’t taken more heat for what happened to the Ambassador in Libya. Part of their job is contingency planning and protection of U.S. personnel. The former ambassador in Kenya was interviewed and mentioned that she had been asking for additional security at their Nairobi embassy for two years before the 1998 bombing there. Why wasn’t the “safe room” in the Libyan consulate safe? Why wasn’t there oxygen and masks available against smoke inhalation? I hear there was a security waiver, approved by the ambassador, because it was a temporary facility. Well, security isn’t a temporary condition!
When I was a young staff officer in the Army, I was responsible for contingency planning at a facility that was supposed to survive nuclear attack. I inventoried and determined that supplies weren’t current or complete, and I raise cain about it. My superiors thanked me. People have to care about contingencies. Why the hell did the State Department fail in Libya? And what are they doing to see it doesn’t happen again?
Here’s something to keep in mind as we mull over how and where to cut Federal spending.
I remember a quotation from Isaac Asimov I’d seen at the foundation museum in Gernika, Spain, site of Franco and Hitler’s carpet-bombing atrocity during the Spanish Civil War, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
Amidst all the discussion about the convoluted and deteriorating status in Libya, the U.S. has lost sight of the compass. We should get out and stay out. We never should have gone in. Don’t we ever learn anything? Our hollow promises of help and support will only result in death and agony, not just for our enemies, but for our friends there.
And while we’re at it, let’s start to dismantle the imperial war machine, and bring back troops from Germany, Japan, S. Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, if for no other reason than to stop increasing the national debt and putting the financial stability of our nation in hoc. I’d sooner see us pull back our military than strip the retirement and health care system in the U.S. just to keep Wall Street afloat, which seems to be where our Congress and even our President are heading.
We need a proper defense, yes. But I bet we could do that on less than 50 cents on the dollar of what we are spending now on defense. Let’s put those soldiers coming home to work on restoring our national domestic infrastructure, if you want to talk about strategic security and strength. And let’s institute a draft, and put our out-of-work young people to work rebuilding our country with their brawn and brains, and not with guns.
See my other blog entries on Libya, defense and Congress. And while we’re fixing America, lets abolish the Electoral College so the people of the U.S. actually can elect their own Presidents.
President Obama’s Libya strategy is sketchy, to say the least, when it comes to the question of what comes after the UN, and NATO’s and America’s “humanitarian intervention.”
One of the best and most succinct discussions I’ve seen on this question to date is in this NPR article — http://www.npr.org/2011/03/28/134920431/foreign-policy-what-happens-if-libyas-rebels-win
— in which Lisa Anderson, President of the American University in Cairo, says, “Any military and political intervention that will bring an end to the Gaddafi regime should be accompanied, from the beginning, by mobilization of the resources of political reconstruction.”
I see that the U.S. is dispatching a senior diplomat to meet with the opposition, whoever they are, in Libya, and that the Brits have such meetings scheduled in London. Will these early efforts bear fruit and lead to any realistic reconstruction, if total civil war can be avoided in the interim? Big question. We’ve blown efforts to deliver practical help towards reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do we even begin to understand the tribal dynamics in Libya? Do we understand the role of their military, and the basis of political power through Libya? I don’t think so.
Now that the air war has been brought under control and Gaddafi’s tanks have been knocked out in the East, and the opposition forces, if we can call them that, have been stopped by armed civilians in Gaddafi-controlled towns. Is this the beginning of a civil war, in which “humanitarian intervention” becomes more and more difficult to achieve, as civilians become the combatants and victims, on both sides?
Is this the dawning of tribal war and revolution? Will the U.S. be on the winning side of such a conflict? Will tribes previously loyal to Gaddafi switch sides to the opposition? Will an opposition coalition of tribes, towns and forces be formed, with a recognizable leadership widely supported by the population?
Will a new generation of terrorists, who hate the West, and one another, be spawned? Well, that’s probably already a given.
Will we regret the day we entered into “humanitarian intervention” in Libya? Or will we celebrate the victory of successfully imposing our U.S./Western ethos on another African/Middle Eastern culture? In what year, or decade, or century, will that “political reconstruction” be celebrated? And by whom?
One last comment: I fear that Obama has again, ala Afghanistan, been romanced by the military into believing that a limited armed intervention will likely produce successful political results.
The invasion of Libya by the West has been coming for a long time. Since well before Lockerbie. Perhaps since the 7th century. What a bad idea it is now is yet to fully unfold, but if it proves to be a step forward, I will eat my shirt. The chances of it being successful militarily, for the West are slim in the short run, and non-existant in the long run. In the U.S., the American people remain almost wholly uninvested in the decision to invade — less than 1% of Americans are involved with the military (see my blog on how bringing back the draft could save our democracy), and therefore our Congress is uninvested and broadly uninterested in the unilateral decision by the White House and Pentagon to go to war. Historians will one day say that there were wise people in America and the West in these times, but that they were naive and impotent, and could not resist the military cravings of their society for revenge and domination in Africa and the Middle East.
We should have stayed out of Libya. We should have learned more about what makes their tribal society work, because we’re not engaging a country, but tribes. Should we have learned those lessons in Iraq and Afghanistan? Of course. Did we? Of course, not. As we continue these invasions, we are creating the terrorists and despots of the future, and no one seems to know or care. Though our weapons are louder, we are as dumb and arrogant, and doomed, as were the Crusaders, and when the Libyans, and the Muslim community and the Russians call us and our “coalition” that, they are correct.
I’ve been a supporter of Obama. But his lack of vision regarding Libya and his entrapment by the insane aggression of our military establishment is lamentable. We should unravel ourselves on Libya, which will likely doom Obama, which is too too bad, but seems increasingly inevitable.
Imagine that a far right or far left or other faction in the U.S. were to actively attack their own government (for example, if the union protests in Madison had gotten out of hand and escalated in violence, resulting in a crazed governor ordering State Police and State Reserve forces to push back protestors, with injuries and some deaths). Then, China sits down and decides this is unacceptable, and drafts a U.N. order that commands the “allies,” in this case the military of China, Cuba and Libya to respond by enforcing a no-fly zone in Southern Wisconsin to prevent the government from further attacking and suppressing its protesting citizens. How would we, the people, feel about these violent assaults by foreign nations against the sovereign U.S. government, even if our government was wrong and had made big mistakes (what’s new)?
A crazy and totally inappropriate analogy, you say. It could never happen. Sure. But put your shoe on the other foot.
But how would you, as an American citizen loyal to your government, feel about such bombing and strafing of U.S. forces by China, Cuba and Libya? Of course, as Americans living in the real world, we are well prepared to determine how Libya should be organized and led politically, and we are more than willing to send our sons and daughters to die to make Libya conform to our vision. Right?
See my previous blog post, “Leave Libya alone.” I hope upcoming events prove me to be wrong in my cynical view of our foreign policy decisions regarding Libya, but our U.S. track record in such things is not very strong. P.S. I served in Vietnam.
All the rumblings regarding intercession in Libya have me deeply concerned. Creating a so-called “no fly zone” strikes me as equivalent to a declaration of war. All this talk of coordination with our “allies” is reminiscent of our conversations at the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and of course, it was the U.S. that was really out front and accountable for what happened. We can disapprove of internal issues in Libya, provide humanitarian support, act as diplomatic intermediaries, and exert influence over Libyan assets abroad. But militarily, if we don’t learn from our mistakes of the past years, and stay out of their country, we should just fold our own tent and disappear into the desert, along with the Roman legions.