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Ross Douthat


Quote of the Day–liberal war ideal edition

Ross Douthat, who I rarely quote, manages to nail it in terms of Libya and the left:

In its opening phase, at least, our war in Libya looks like the beau ideal of a liberal internationalist intervention. It was blessed by the United Nations Security Council. It was endorsed by the Arab League. It was pushed by the diplomats at Hillary Clinton’s State Department, rather than the military men at Robert Gates’s Pentagon. Its humanitarian purpose is much clearer than its connection to American national security. And it was initiated not by the U.S. Marines or the Air Force, but by the fighter jets of the French Republic.

One minor correction, there is no – none, zip, nada – connection, not even a tenuous one, to American national security and the war on Libya.  There may be afterward, if Gadhafi survives and decides he needs to find a way to strike back at the US in the “long war” he’s promised to wage.  But going in?  Nope – none.

The quote above fought with this other Douthat quote for top QotD honors:

But there are major problems with this approach to war as well. Because liberal wars depend on constant consensus-building within the (so-called) international community, they tend to be fought by committee, at a glacial pace, and with a caution that shades into tactical incompetence. And because their connection to the national interest is often tangential at best, they’re often fought with one hand behind our back and an eye on the exits, rather than with the full commitment that victory can require.

And keep in mind that once the first Tomahawk flew, whether we call our participation limited and of short duration, we’re into it up to our hips as far as the Arab world is concerned.  So whatever happens there which might turn the “Arab street” against the US yet again, any argument made by the administration that most of the mission has been conducted by others isn’t going to change a single mind.

Also keep in mind, as Douthat implies, that this “consensus war” depends on the committee who are conducting it staying together.  Can’t have them deserting and then renouncing the Western powers committed to seeing this through – can we?  Already the Arab League is a bity antsy.

Finally – watch for mission creep.  The ostensible reason for this little foray is humanitarian.  But then, so was Somalia, Kosovo and Yugoslavia. 

I predict there will be boots on the ground, whether ours or others.  It will become necessary if I have any read on Gadhafi at all.  Why?  Because he will precipitate a humanitarian crisis of some sort – on purpose.

Then what?  What if he forces a “put up or shut up” moment?

Well the fair weather supporters will go home, that’s a given.  And those who see a downside risk politically will go home.  And I promise you the Arab members will say bye bye.

And who will that leave to deal with it?

The two quotes from Douthat are very instructive in understanding the liberal philosophy of war and why it is dangerously utopian, likely to fail and not at all in the best interests of this country, or any country, to pursue.

If you haven’t met your irony quotient for the day, here’s our present Secretary of State while a former Senator talking about the “civil war” in Iraq and how we should not take part in what is going on no matter the level of the violence:

“No one wants to sit by and see mass killing,” she added. “It’s going on every day! Thousands of people are dying every month in Iraq. Our presence there is not stopping it. And there is no potential opportunity I can imagine where it could. This is an Iraqi problem — we cannot save the Iraqis from themselves."

Of course that was then … apparently Libya is an international problem, not a Libyan problem, and we can save the Libyans from themselves, unlike the Iraqis.

Of course …

~McQ

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