Sunday, March 20, 2011

To the Shores of Tripoli - War? and Peace?

Yikes! I look at my last blog title "Paved with Good Intentions" and worry about the standard meaning coming true with the turn of events of US involvement in Libya. Yet I hope and pray that this Libyan conflict truly is still the way I understand it. So far, and hopefully it will continue to be that no US or other outside troops will engage on the ground in Libya. To this point, it is enforcement of a no-fly zone by first taking out the capacity of anti-aircraft action by Qadafi's forces which seems to be working as a united effort sanctioned by the UN. There appears to be much more international support and authority than there was with the control and manipulation of the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq only covered by a fig leaf of legality.

The right criticizes the President for "dithering" but is in general support of the action. The "dithering" charge certainly has its surface appeal, but we do not want to leap into a conflict like this on our own and it takes a few days for the UN to act. And while we want to maintain some influence in the UN, we shouldn't be running every show. In fact, that would tend to work against rather than to promote a successful outcome when outsiders intervene in the Arab World. The UN resolution was introduced by France and only after the Arab League had requested it. The Arab League now may be back-pedaling, claiming that the response exceeded the authorization as civilians have been killed. This is seriously unfortunate, yet that is an expected consequence of any such armed conflict (the civilian casualties not the Arab League backing out). The Administration's caution is at least preferable to the cowboy swagger of the last interventionist gang.

Other criticisms are that we were duped by the League or that Secretary of State Clinton was too anxious for war although one would think by now that she doesn't have to prove her machismo. Also there is criticism that the President isn't making the decisions but is disengaged. Some of these questions can't be answered at present although there certainly is plenty of criticism by the punditry and blogosphere out there.

I still give the President the benefit of the doubt and don't believe the President is uninvolved. He may be following the Lincoln/Eisenhower style of working behind the scenes to lead his cabinet members to his ultimate decisions and placing them up front for the public debate. This allows the President to promote his interests through them yet have movement to adjust if necessary.

So how does this fit my standards for war under "Temperate Pacifism"? First of all, I am seriously concerned that my support for President Obama and his team make me sympathetic and less critical of his decisions. I absolutely did not trust Bush/Cheney/Rumsfield with their rush to war in Iraq because I was already skeptical of them. And history has proved me right in that regard. We don't yet know the outcome of this adventure in Libya. But I still trust and hope that the President and his administration know what they are doing. And I hope these efforts are fruitful, and soon. I even gave Bush the benefit of the doubt once the Iraq war begin and when we saw how quickly the Hussein regime collapsed. I stayed quiet for a while in my objections, not changing my views, but out of respect for our troops, or elected leaders, but mostly out of respect for LDS President Hinckley's Conference Talk of April, 2003. (Although I have to admit that I liked Elder Nelson's talk of the previous October Conference better. But I understand there is a difference in supporting our nation and our troops once war has actually begun.) And it did look like the initial efforts were successful in Iraq only to be squandered by incompetence and W's swagger.

But back to my principles trying hard to maintain them. This current action has clear UN sanction if not exactly a clear mission. And not intending a dodge, but if this is a genuine peace-keeping police action to stop crimes against humanity perpetrated by a crazed dictator, then it really isn't a war. And regardless of how many "police actions" have been named such contrary to actual facts as reviewed by history, this may be the first legitimate one in the history of the UN. (Although the Bosnia conflict comes pretty close.) There is no indication or attempt to even justify a "clear and present danger" directly against the US. Yet there are clearly crimes against humanity and violations of internationally regarded human rights that the UN has authority to address. The US Congress should be consulted, of course. But I'm not sure they have to authorize anything if this is a valid police action by the US Commander-in-Chief in response to UN Resolution. Of course the President must be ultimately responsible to the people as reflected through Congress (and at the ballot box 11/2012).

Anyway, the UN authorization tier of my principles is met. Yet, there is no urgent matter of national defense or "clear and present" danger to the US. There is certainly a valuable commodity at stake in Libyan oil even if that does not directly accrue to the benefit of the US as it does to Europe and to the global oil market which does affect us. But I do not think a war for oil would be justified. The only way I can justify this is to characterize it not as a "war" but as a police action against a dictator committing crimes against humanity. He isn't the first and likely won't be the last, and we have failed to intervene in so many other places. But if there is UN will and authority here and now, then we ought to do the good that we can. There is certainly a civil war in Libya, but there is no intention on the part of the US or UN authorization to conquer and occupy. In fact, the UN Resolution specifically forbids occupation by any outside force.

My hope and prayer, as always, is for a quick and relatively safe, positive conclusion with the Libyan people. May they be favored in their justified attempt to throw off a crazed and dangerous dictator to promote their own destiny. May the charter nations of the UN be successful in establishing and enforcing a no-fly zone to prohibit Qadafi from using air power against the Libyan people.

Feel free to respond to address my errors of judgment or points I have missed. I may be able to be persuaded as my views are still tentative.

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