Behind the Libya War | The Daily Beast
Why are we bombing Libya, when we’re nearly broke and already fighting elsewhere? Peter Beinart on Obama’s endgame in Libya—and how the difficult lessons of Bosnia shape the campaign against Gaddafi. Plus, U.N. jets strike near Gaddafi’s compound and more updates from Libya.
It’s remarkable, when you think about it. The U.S. is already fighting two, deeply frustrating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The public mood is isolationist; the president is by nature cautious; the federal government is nearly broke. Libya is peripheral to core American interests, and most Americans would have trouble finding it on a map, even with the name written in.
So why are we at war there? More than anything else, because of Bosnia.
and you’ll get the kind of answers Jay Leno elicits when he asks passers-by who won the Battle of Britain. But foreign policymaking is generally an elite affair, and Bosnia was the crucible in which a whole generation of American and European elites forged their view of the world. It was Bosnia where Western liberals decided, 20 years after the fall of Saigon, that Western military intervention could be both moral and effective. It was Bosnia where civilian elites learned to distrust the Pentagon’s warnings that limited war was impossible. It was NATO’s success in Bosnia that convinced so many that the West could have intervened successfully in Rwanda, and which set the stage for the humanitarian war in Kosovo in 1999.
Look at the people who reportedly influenced their governments to back a no-fly zone: Samantha Power at the White House, who began her professional career reporting from Bosnia. Bernard-Henri Levy in France, who made a 1994 documentary urging military intervention against Slobodan Milosevic. “Europe’s shameful failure to prevent genocide in the Balkans was a formative experience for a whole generation of British ministers,” explains The Economist. “Some close observers of Balkan suffering now hold key posts in the present-day coalition government.”
As in Bosnia, the West’s motive for intervening in Libya is not purely humanitarian. In the early and mid-1990s, U.S. and European leaders decided that what happened in the Balkans might well determine of the fate of the broader revolution that was remaking Eastern Europe. They decided that taming Milosevic was crucial not only to the fate of democracy and human rights in the former Soviet Bloc, but to the expansion of Western power. That’s the case today as well, both for the U.S., which wants to stay on the right side of the Arab democracy struggle, and especially for Mediterranean countries like France and Italy, whose fates are deeply bound up with North Africa’s. Libya, like Bosnia but unlike, say, Congo, sits on NATO’s doorstep. And Libya, like Bosnia but unlike, say Bahrain, does not reside near the orbit of a hostile regional power
So what are the lessons of Bosnia and the Western air wars that have followed? First, that humanitarian wars are not won purely in the air. What turned the tide in Bosnia—at least as much as NATO bombing—were the arms shipments and military training that allowed the Bosnians and Croats to best Serb forces on the ground. In Vietnam, by contrast, Saigon could never field enough motivated troops to take advantage of U.S. air attacks, which was why American GIs largely had to take over. The Libyan rebels seem to have plenty of motivation. The question is how much weaponry and training America and its allies can get them in a short period of time. Luckily for the U.S., Egypt appears to be facilitating the transfer. If Western governments don’t already have military trainers on the ground in Libya, I’d be amazed.
Second, the more successful an air war is, the less control America has over its allies on the ground. The U.S. didn’t want the Kosovo Liberation Army to cleanse the province of Serbs or to declare independence. They did both. We wanted the Northern Alliance to stop short of Kabul when the Taliban fled the city. They ignored us. If we’re lucky, the Libyan rebels will soon be a much more powerful force, and if we’re really lucky, they’ll be a powerful force capable of unifying Libya behind a reasonably humane regime. But the latter will be mostly out of our hands.
Finally, Western planes will kill innocent people, and the war will drag on longer than Western leaders want. And sooner or later, Barack Obama and his European counterparts will likely confront this question: Would they rather lose than go in on the ground themselves? It doesn’t really matter that Obama has already ruled the latter out. So did Bill Clinton in Kosovo, and according to some accounts, it was only because and Tony Blair reconsidered that Milosevic let Kosovo go.
In a way, that is the question that Bosnia hawks (a category in which I include myself) were always able to evade. Twice in the Balkans, Milosevic caved just in time. We should all pray that Gaddafi does the same. Because if he does not, humanitarian hawks will be forced to face a painful truth: Americans will tolerate a lot of casualties in a humanitarian war, just so long as none of them are ours.
Libya and Yemen Interference may take US in direct War with Russia & China
JNN 28 April 2011 : The US is at the risk of a war with Russia andChina as its main objective behind engineering the Libyan war and Syrian unrest is to remove the two world powers out of the Mediterranean, a former US official warns.
“Washington is all for invading against Libya and is putting more and more pressure to intervene in Syria because we want to … clear China and Russia out of the Mediterranean,” Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant secretary to US Treasury in Panama City said in an interview with Press TV.
On one hand, China has massive energy investments in eastern Libya and is relying on Libya and on the other hand, Russia has a large naval base in Syria and it gives it a presence in the Mediterranean, he pointed out.
“Those two countries are just in the way of American hegemony in the Mediterranean and certainly the Americans do not want a powerful Russian fleet stationed there and they certainly don’t want China drawing energy resources,” Roberts added.
“Once Russia and China come to the conclusion that the Americans simply cannot be dealt with it in any rational way and are determined to somehow subdue them and do them damage, all kinds of escalations can result. This is the real danger and we’re risking a major war,” the former senior US official cautioned.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sharply criticized the Western coalition attacking Libya on Tuesday, saying it had neither a right nor a mandate to kill Moammar Gadhafi.
Putin said the coalition had gone beyond the bounds of a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing intervention to protect civilians and suggested Gadhafi’s actions did not justify foreign interference, let alone attempts to remove him.
“They said they didn’t want to kill Gadhafi. Now some officials say, yes, we are trying to kill Gadhafi,” Putin said on a visit to Denmark. “Who permitted this, was there any trial? Who took on the right to execute this man, no matter who he is?”
Putin spoke as Britain and the United States discussed stepping up military pressure on Gadhafi, who has survived more than a month of NATO air strikes.
“The country’s whole infrastructure is being destroyed, and in essence one of the warring sides is attacking under the cover of aircraft,” Putin said at a news conference after talks with his Danish counterpart, Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.
“When the entire so-called civilized community falls upon a small country with all its might, destroys infrastructure created over generations — I don’t know, is that good or not?” Putin said. “I don’t like it.”
Shortly after Putin spoke, Libyan state news agency Jana said Libya had urged Russia to call an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss “Western aggression.”
In Moscow, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said nobody was available to comment on the report.
Putin called Gadhafi’s Libya “crooked” but said that did not justify intervention.
“Look at a map of this region of the world. … What, is it full of Danish-style democracies? No, there are monarchical states all around. This overall answers to the mentality of the population and the practices that developed there,” he said.
“Is there a lack of crooked regimes in the world? What, are we going to intervene in internal conflicts everywhere? Look at Africa, what’s been happening in Somalia for many years. … Are we going to bomb everywhere and conduct missile strikes?”
Putin has often criticized foreign intervention in the affairs of sovereign states.
He said the resolution authorizing intervention in Libya was “a call for everyone to come and do whatever they want.”
“Why strike palaces? What, are they exterminating mice this way?” Putin said. “Surely people are being killed in these strikes — Gadhafi is not there, he slipped away long ago, but peaceful civilians are dying.”
Permanent U.N. Security Council member Russia abstained from the U.N. vote last month. Putin likened it at the time to “a medieval call for crusades,” a remark that suggested he might have ordered a veto had he still been president.
Russia’s president is head of state and sets foreign policy, while the prime minister manages the economy. Putin steered his protege Dmitry Medvedev into the presidency in 2008 but has said he may try to return to the Kremlin himself in a 2012 vote.
The commander of the NATO operation, Canadian Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard, said the attack on a building in Gadhafi’s compound on Monday was on communications facilities and the Libyan leader was not there at the time.
“This is a military compound, in which there are various houses and residences, but also technical command and control nodes throughout,” Bouchard told reporters in Brussels.
“He was not in the room but the point is command and control, not individuals,” he said
Meanwhile, the US does not want to overthrow the governments in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, where both governments are using violence against protesters “Because they’re our puppets and we have a large naval base in Bahrain,” Roberts argued.
According to Libya’s National Transitional Council, since the revolution against Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi’s regime began in mid-February at least 10,000 people have been killed and another 30,000 injured in clashes with pro-Gaddafi forces in the North African country, while 20,000 more are still listed as missing.
Elsewhere in Syria, scattered protests have broken out since mid-March. Several people have reportedly been killed in clashes between security forces and armed groups.
Roberts argued that “Washington was caught off guard by the outbreaks of protests in Tunisia and Egypt, but quickly learned that they could use and hide behind Arab protests to evict Russia and China without a direct confrontation … so they’ve engineered these protests.”
In recent months, a wave of revolutions and anti-government uprisings has swept the Arab world.
In January, a revolution in Tunisia ended the 23-year ruling of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
In February, another revolution led to the ouster of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after three decades of authoritarian rule.
Other revolutions have erupted in Yemen and Bahrain, while more anti-government upheavals have swept Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, Kuwait and Algeria.
Meanwhile, more Arab countries are expected to witness similar revolts.