How Libya may change the international response to mass murder

Discussion in 'Politics' started by olias, Apr 4, 2011.

  1. olias


    The Atlantic Home
    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Apr 4 2011, 7:00 AM ET 5
    How Libya may set a new global precedent for when international military action is -- and isn't -- warranted

    In his speech last Monday, President Obama made the case that the U.S. and its allies had to take military action in Libya to prevent "a humanitarian catastrophe." This raises a political and moral question: With plenty of dictators and bloody rebellions on the global stage, which humanitarian crises justify international action?

    The nature of Libya's crisis may help clarify that problem. It fits a pattern that began to emerge in the 1990s with Bosnia and Kosovo, two other states where a firm allied response curtailed bloodshed.

    Together, the commonalities of these three cases suggest a new standard to guide future actions: Military intervention by an international coalition is justified to remedy ongoing, state-sponsored mass murder when the military plans carry low risks.

    We may be witnessing an historic shift in international norms. After World War II, genocide appeared to be the widely accepted standard for humanitarian intervention. The 1948 UN Convention against genocide defined it as a set of acts "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." This helped hold criminals to account after the fact, but it proved insufficient to halt ongoing atrocities. No one came to rescue those who were being killed in Cambodia in the 1970s (2 million), Rwanda in the 1990s (800,000) and Darfur in the 2000s (200,000).

    Intervention for humanitarian goals cannot justify large-scale risks to our own people.

    The new, emerging standard presumes that even genocide may not spur nations to action if the risks of intervention are too high, as they are perceived to be in, for example, Darfur, where viable plans have called for thousands of ground troops. Yet crises short of genocide, such as the Libyan conflict, justify a military response when it can save thousands of lives with reasonable prospects of virtually no or only very low casualties to international allies.

    Libya clearly met the threshold of state-sponsored mass murder. Starting February 17, about 75 percent of Libya broke away from Qaddafi's rule, prompting a government campaign of suppression using tanks, air power, and heavy shelling of urban areas. The estimated death toll by governments and knowledgeable observers ran into the thousands, with hundreds of thousands fleeing Qaddafi's wrath.

    Bosnia and Kosovo saw similar levels of violence. By March 1993, when the United Nations authorized military action to protect Bosnian Muslims, thousands were almost surely dead and hundreds of thousands were refugees. By April 1999, when NATO authorized military action to protect Kosovar civilians, again thousands had been killed and hundreds of thousands were fleeing. International, morality-driven action almost certainly saved thousands of lives in each case.

    Yet these experiences, and the negative example of the Iraq war, also teach a degree of realism. Intervention for humanitarian goals cannot justify large-scale risks to our own people. Serious consideration of international moral action requires practical, case-by-case assessments of the feasibility of military intervention with very low risks.

    Libya presents as low a risk as any military mission the U.S. has pursued in the past 20 years. Qaddafi's threat to civilians rests on his ability to attack with concentrations of heavy weapons and to cut off supplies into ports -- both of which we can substantially blunt with very low risk to ourselves. The main reason for confidence is, simply, geography. To reach the population centers on along the Mediterranean coast, Qaddafi's heavy forces must expose themselves along easily identifiable routes in open desert terrain, within range of international air power stationed on naval ships at sea or on land bases in Europe and elsewhere.

    Within the first week of international intervention, the threat to Benghazi and the east was vastly reduced at no loss of life to the U.S. or other members of the coalition. Given the large number of Libyans seeking to govern themselves, there is reason to think they can stand on their own and once again secure control over much of Libya. That is likely to require the re-establishment of pre-existing lines of economic shipments to the area -- the crucial next step, and another area where the U.S. and the world can help.

    Again, Bosnia and Kosovo offer hopeful precedents. Both humanitarian interventions ended as among the lowest-risk military actions the U.S. and the West have undertaken. The Serbs themselves toppled Milosevic about a year after he lost Kosovo.

    Many critics of the intervention are calling for a more cautious approach, a standard that could demand a much higher threshold for humanitarian action in terms of civilian deaths and refugees, or could require a military plan with no risks whatsoever. In practice, such constraints would all but destroy the power of international action to save lives.

    These objections underscore the importance of pursuing international moral action as part of a broad coalition involving states from the region. Yes, this means humanitarian action often will occur as an emergency at the last moment and with operations organized in haste. But the burden of building an international coalition with a regional focus provides a crucial check and balance on humanitarian action, precisely to prevent any one case from setting a dangerous precedent.

    As the world's sole superpower, and with unique military capabilities, the U.S. will find itself at the center of many future debates over humanitarian action. The emerging standards for intervention would argue for restraint in many cases. For example, so far in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain, the government responses to protests have killed civilians on a much smaller scale than in Libya -- no more than 80 in each case. These acts are deplorable, but the impact is orders of magnitude less than in Libya and so merits an intense diplomatic rather than military response.

    If we are willing to take international moral action at all, the decisions in the Balkans and Libya offer a reasonable standard. It is also a practical guide that helps identify which "problems from Hell," as Samantha Power titled her book on U.S. dilemmas over humanitarian intervention, we can actually solve."

    Robert Pape - Robert Pape is Professor and Director of Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism at the University of Chicago and author of three books, most recently Cutting the Fuse: The Global Explosion of Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It.
  2. We need to bomb Syria next.

    Iran and Pakistan have nukes so we should nuke them before they nuke us.
  3. The OP is one of the most dishonest pieces of crap I have ever read. Briefly, we have committed multiple acts of war against a country that had neither attacked nor threatened us and which posed no threat to us. We have probably killed as many innocent civilians as we criticized other regimes for doing. We have also put ourselves in great peril by poking our hand into Gaddafi's hornet's next. Forget the lie about protecting innocent civilians. We absolutely are committed to killing him now, because the risk of another Lockerbie-type repisal from his regime is very high if he survives. Make no mistake, that blood would be on Obama's hands.

    Gaddafi is clealry a tyrant but he is facing an armed revolution or civil war. What ishe supposed to do, just surrender? What owuld Obama do if opposition to him boiuled over into open conflict? Resign rather than take action and risk killing innocent civilians? By this standard, Bill Clinton and Janet Reno should be on trial in the Hague for the David Koresh-Waco assault, where scores of women and children were burned to death during an assault by federal storm troopers.

    This doctrine of humanitarian intervention, so beloved by Hillary and Samantha Power, is an open-ended invitation to meddling in places where we have no business. At the same time, we will only meddle in small, weak states that cannot defend themselves or retaliate. Is that our new image, the neighborhood bully?
  4. A Community Organizer Goes to War
    by Patrick J. Buchanan


    Now that Benghazi has been spared what we were assured would be a massacre by Moammar Gadhafi's army, why are the U.S. Air Force, Navy, CIA and Special Forces still attacking in Libya?

    If our objective was to spare the defenseless people of Benghazi from slaughter, why, mission accomplished, did we not stop bombing? Why are we plunging deeper in?

    Did Gadhafi attack us? Did he attack a NATO country, thereby triggering Article 5 of the treaty requiring us to go to war? Have his forces carried out massacres of such magnitude in recaptured towns and cities as to morally mandate our humanitarian intervention?

    Where? What has Gadhafi done in any rebel city that has fallen to him to compare with what Syria's Hafez al-Assad did in Hama, when he rolled up his artillery in 1982 and slaughtered between 10,000 and 20,000 to teach the Moslem Brotherhood a lesson in loyalty?

    Not a decade after Hama, Assad was the welcome ally of George H.W. Bush in Desert Storm.

    With Benghazi secure, by what right did we attack the Libyan soldiers defending Ras Januf, Brega and Sirte? What crimes were they committing by defending their cities from rebel attack and their government from being overthrown by force and violence?

    Is this not what all soldiers take an oath to do?

    None of this is written in defense of Gadhafi, a loathsome man and murderer of innocents, but to ask: Why is this small civil war in a North African desert country America's war?

    The White House will not even concede America is at war. And understandably so. For that would trigger follow-up questions.

    If we are at war with Libya, who started it? What was the casus belli requiring us to go to war? Did Libyan troops attack U.S. citizens or ships in the Mediterranean? Who is the aggressor in this war?

    The truth: America is fighting another war of choice in Libya, and this one without any constitutional sanction. Congress not only did not declare this war, Congress was not even consulted.

    Yet, once begun, wars create new political realities.

    Now that Obama and Hillary Clinton have declared that Gadhafi must go, and U.S. military power has been put massively in on the side of the rebels, Gadhafi cannot win without Obama losing face and the United States being humiliated.

    Saving Obama's face and preserving our superpower image may be the cause for which we kill a number of Libyans who did nothing to us.

    There is, however, a more compelling reason Gadhafi must go.

    Should he survive our drive to dethrone and kill him with that cruise missile into his compound the first night of our attack, he is likely to return the favor, as he did at Lockerbie after Ronald Reagan's 1986 attack on his compound.

    Should Gadhafi retain power at the end of this war, with friends and family dead, how safe will U.S. airliners be on the North Atlantic run? If, as Reagan rightly said, Gadhafi is the "mad dog of the Middle East," can you leave such a wounded and rabid animal alive?

    Our intervention raises other questions that should have been asked and answered before Obama plunged us into this civil war.

    Absent some lucky air or cruise missile strike, how do we remove him from power? How do we de-claw him so we do not awaken some morning to a horrific reprisal on U.S. citizens for what we did to him?

    The rebel army is not up to it. It did not just retreat from Sirte after tribal forces joined the Libyan army to repel them. It fled in a Mad Max rout, abandoning town after town until some rebels had fled all the way back to Benghazi.

    Even with the United States and NATO imposing a no-fly and no-drive zone on Gadhafi's army, the rebel army is not a force that can march to Tripoli and depose him. And it is unlikely to become such a force anytime soon. The rebels lack the arms, training, equipment and numbers to march 600 miles and capture and hold half a dozen towns along the way against hostile tribes and Libyan troops.

    Who, then, is going to do it?

    Obama has said we will not put boots on the ground. But if we don't put U.S. advisers in, who will train, arm and lead the rebels? The Germans and Turks want no part of this war. The most bellicose allies, Britain and France, had a hellish time in Bosnia before the Americans came and pulled their chestnuts out of the fire.

    As for the Arab League, Qatar has sent a few planes, but where is the Egyptian army, half a million strong and right next door? Why is Arabs fighting Arabs an American rather than an Arab problem?

    The truth: There is no "international community." There is Uncle Sam. He does it, or it does not get done.
  5. Larson

    Larson Guest

    +1 This country is losing it's way, very sad time.
  6. Did this country find its way in Afghanistan or Iraq?

  7. Iraq had neither attacked the US, and posed no legitimate threat to the US, but that did not stop you from being hawkish on the Iraq war.

    You were a huge Coulter/Limbaugh apologist and a practicing neocon...and if Bush had attacked Libya claiming that they were sponsoring terrorism, you would be on the bandwagon.

  8. Larson

    Larson Guest

    nope. just one more mistake to add to a growing list.
  9. pspr


    "Each of them, frankly, is nationally motivated. It's not an international thing," said Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough. "So we don't get very hung up on this question of precedent because we don't make decisions about questions like intervention based on consistency or precedent. We base them on how we can best advance our interests in the region."

    So, Obama, we just fly by the seat of our pants with no consistency or criteria before attacking another country? Great, who's next?
  10. This is much more accurate than the OP's post.


    March 30, 2011

    "Humanitarian" seems to be the Democrats' new word for "absolutely no national interest."

    The Democrats were not so interested in a "humanitarian" intervention against a much more brutal dictator in Iraq. But, of course, taking out Saddam Hussein, a state sponsor of terrorism who harbored one of the perpetrators of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, would make Americans safer.

    Democrats are furious whenever American boys (girls and gays) are put in harm's way -- unless the troops are on a mission that has nothing whatsoever to do with defending the United States.

    Obama ignored the murder, imprisonment and torture of peaceful Iranian protesters demonstrating against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's theft of an election in 2009. But he was hopping mad about Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak getting rough with a mob in Tahrir Square with less distinct objectives.

    We knew what the Iranian students wanted: a stolen election overturned.

    What did the Egyptians want? At the time, liberals angrily cited the high unemployment rate in Egypt as proof that Mubarak was a beast who must step down.

    Have they, by any chance, seen the recent employment numbers for the U.S.? The only employment sectors showing any growth are Hollywood sober-living coaches and medical marijuana dispensaries. Are we one jobs report away from liberals rioting in the streets?

    As The New York Times recently reported, since Mubarak stepped down, the driving force in the new government is the Muslim Brotherhood. America is worse off because Mubarak stepped down, which was Obama's exact foreign policy objective.

    On Monday night, Obama gave a speech intended to explain America's mission and purpose in our new Libyan adventure. He said: "Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different."

    He forgot to add: "However, the United States of America will be turning a blind eye to atrocities in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, the Ivory Coast and Bahrain."

    One searches in vain for a description of some American interest in supporting the rebels in Libya.

    True, Gadhafi was responsible for numerous terrorist acts against Americans in the 1980s, including blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 270 people, including 189 Americans.

    Soon after President Bush's 9/11 speech vowing to go to war not only with terrorists, but those who supported them, Gadhafi accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and paid the victims' families $8 million apiece.

    After Bush invaded Iraq, Gadhafi suspended Libya's nuclear and chemical weapons program, inviting international inspectors to verify that the programs had been halted.

    A few years after that, Gadhafi paid millions of dollars to the victims of other Libyan-sponsored terrorist attacks from the '80s. In return, President Bush granted Libya immunity from terror-related lawsuits.

    Only Fox News' Bill O'Reilly thinks Obama is intervening in Libya to avenge the Lockerbie bombing.

    However far off the mark Gadhafi is from being the Libyan George Washington, he poses no threat to the U.S. -- whereas the rebels we are supporting might.

    But Democrats couldn't care less about the interests of their own country. Indeed, if there were the slightest possibility that our intervention in Libya would somehow benefit the United States, they would hysterically oppose it.

    When it came to the Iraq War -- which actually served America's security interests -- Democrats demanded proof that Saddam Hussein was 10 minutes away from launching a first strike against the U.S. They denounced the Iraq War nonstop, wailing that Saddam hadn't hit us on 9/11 and that he posed no "imminent threat" to America.

    What imminent threat does Libya pose to the U.S.? How will our interests be served by putting the rebels in charge?

    Obama didn't even suggest the possibility that our Libyan intervention serves the nation's interest. Last weekend, his defense secretary, Robert Gates, said the uprising in Libya "was not a vital national interest to the United States, but it was an interest." So, not a vital interest, but an interest. Like scrapbooking, surfing or Justin Bieber.

    When it came to Iraq, liberals proclaimed that invading a country "only" to produce a regime change was unjustifiable, contrary to international law, and a grievous affront to the peace-loving Europeans.

    But they like regime change in Egypt, Libya -- and the Balkans. The last military incursion supported by liberals was Clinton's misadventure in the Balkans -- precisely because Slobodan Milosevic posed no conceivable threat to the United States.

    Indeed, President Clinton bragged: "This is America at its best. We seek no territorial gain; we seek no political advantage." Democrats see our voluntary military supported by taxpayer dollars as their personal Salvation Army.

    Self-interested behavior, such as deploying troops to serve the nation, is considered boorish in Manhattan salons.

    The only just wars, liberals believe, are those in which the United States has no stake. Liberals warm to the idea of deploying expensive, taxpayer-funded military machinery and putting American troops in harm's way, but only for military incursions that serve absolutely no American interest.
    #10     Apr 4, 2011