The Senator and Libya

Libyan Opposition

Last night I had a conversation with a Senator, who I consider a friend, about Libya.  It was a private conversation so I won’t mention his name.  But after listening to President Obama’s speech, he was still very concerned about what the U.S. was doing in Libya. For him, the concept that we were there to protect civilians wasn’t good enough.  Nor was the concept that if the international community didn’t weigh in, then in President Obama’s words, “if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”

When this senator first ran for office, one of the questions I asked him was, “under what circumstances would you vote to authorize the president to take military action?” He viewed, “military action as an instrument of last resort in international relations” and listed 5 standards which I believe are reasonable.  I also believe the UN authorized actions that the US has taken in Libya meet these criteria.  Let me know what you think:

  • Rigorous examination of claims that there is a direct and substantial threat to America's national security or the security of allies.
  • Rigorous determination that appropriate alternatives such as unilateral sanctions, multi-national sanctions, & UN peacekeepers, to military action have been thoroughly explored and evaluated in cost and effectiveness.
  • Persuasive evidence that international diplomacy has failed.
  • Clearly stated objectives for the military action.
  • Persuasive evidence that the type and form of proposed military action fits the level of threat and maximizes the probability of accomplishing the objectives.

The 2010 National Security Strategy clearly spells out the United States interest in preventing mass atrocities. In his March 28th speech President Obama went further and laid out the threat to our allies saying:

“America has an important strategic interest in preventing Qaddafi from overrunning those who oppose him.  A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya’s borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful –- yet fragile -– transitions in Egypt and Tunisia.  The democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship, as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power.... I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America.”

The international community tried and exhausted non-military means before it established the no fly zone.  In addition to diplomatic delegations to Libya, the UN Security Council first authorized sanctions, an arms embargo and even a referral to the International Criminal Court.  Rather than listening to the Security Council, Qaddafi increased his efforts to quash the opposition. This clearly persuaded the Security Council to authorize the use of force to protect civilians.

To quote the President:

“In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners…Moreover, we’ve accomplished these objectives consistent with the pledge that I made to the American people at the outset of our military operations.  I said that America’s role would be limited; that we would not put ground troops into Libya; that we would focus our unique capabilities on the front end of the operation and that we would transfer responsibility to our allies and partners.”

NATO is now in command. The level of force used is appropriate to the mission’s mandate, to protect civilians.  While I would prefer to see an international, UN led, ground force robustly restoring order in Libya, the no fly zone campaign has stopped a massacre. We will need to make sure that the mission doesn’t shift from protection to regime change. But for the moment its objectives are clear and being accomplished.

One final thought: The Senator questioned why Libya and not North Korea where massive human rights violations have punished the population for decades. In a perfect world, North Korea as we know it would already be consigned to the history books, but perfect consistency is not always possible. The fact that effective international action is not always possible in every instance of major humanitarian catastrophe should never be an excuse for inaction where effective responses are possible.

This article was also published on the Huffington Post.  You can find it here.

Comments

All of a sudden the rebels are ready for a cease-fire, ready to negotiate on peaceful terms with their "hated" dictator? Why is this? BECAUSE THEY RECOGNIZE THEY HAD BETTER DO SOMETHING FAST BEFORE NATO AND THE UN DECIDE TO PRACTICE NATION BUILDING IN THEIR COUNTRY!! Those people are in the midst of a civil war, we had no business going in there, and the Libyans are going to turn on us for interfering. It doesn't take a psychic like Kryon or AliceBailey to see that, busybodying is not nation building. Would you dare say no innocent civilians were killed by our missile strikes? It is ludicrous to believe that any of our actions in Libya are justified as global solutions for global problems.

Clearly, you haven’t been following the situation in Libya closely. The opposition asked for international intervention, because Moammar Gaddafi’s forces were gaining vital ground and probably about to massacre the city of Benghazi, population 700,000. The opposition army asked for the no-fly zone administered by the U.S. and now NATO. It is also the responsibility of the U.S. and the international community to protect people when the government is attacking and killing its citizens. It’s called the Responsibility to Protect, and it was adopted as an international norm with the support of the U.S. at the UN 2005 World Summit.

If you had seen or read President Obama’s speech on Monday or followed the news on Libya at all, you would know that we are not “nation-building” in Libya. We are there to protect civilians and hopefully help the demise of a brutal dictator so that the Libyan people can then decide their own destiny.

I see a lot of "abouts" and "probablys" in your post. Legally, we had no business intervening in another country's civil war, period. THAT IS WHAT RUSSIA SAID, ARE YOU GOING TO ARGUE THE LEGALITIES OF THAT MANDATE? No excuses, the politicians hardly speak for the majority of Americans, the US has no business in the UN or any other coalitions that compromise our sovereignty. For you to act like the UN or NATO doesn't have a history of staying longer than welcome is ridiculous.
NO ONE HAS PROOF THAT THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN GENOCIDE. That is just a good excuse to go there. THE US HAS RESPONSIBILITY TO THE US PEOPLE NOT THE WORLD. Only if the US causes damages and harm to other nations do we have a RESPONSIBILITY as you say. US politicians can just keep signing all of those documents, but they won't mean a hill of beans for real wars, they are hardly making any difference in skirmishes.
What is this "we" business that you are talking about, That is not YOU over there, that is not THE AMERICAN PEOPLE over there, that is a handful of military people and politicians doing all of that, NOT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. Get that through your heads, you do not speak for the US people, you do not speak for me, that idiot Obama does not speak for me, that moron Bush does not speak for me, and right on down the line, because for a long time Americans have not been truly heard about the way their government should be conducted.
YOU should stop insisting on how OUR money should be spent anywhere else, except IN the US. Just because someone asks for our help DOES NOT MEAN WE OWE IT. You are acting like the US and NATO HAVE to step into every little piddly skirmish in the world. GET OVER IT, WE ARE NOT THE JUSTICE LEAGUE, BEHOLDEN TO SAVE THE WORLD.
The best global solution is for people to know their place in the world, and not be busybodying everywhere, even at the behest of others. What are you going to say when this little skirmish begins to cost big bucks?! Let's hear it, did you approve the Iraq invasion, did you support the Afghan invasion? Of course you did, because we have a moral obligation to save those people?! IT HAS MADE NOTHING BUT A MESS IN THOSE COUNTRIES!!!! Wake up.
Who asked us to step in? AL QUAEDA OPERATIVES IN THE RANKS?! And we are helping them, and they made off with Ghaddafi's stash of missiles and munitions?! You sound like a robot with a directive that you cannot turn off. Those people over there want us to save them, and then they will turn on us, it happens everywhere the wonderful US government goes now. Thanks a lot, NGOs and UN and the wonderful subservient US Federal government for giving away our precious energies to people who really do not want us in their country. For you to act like the rebels of Libya REALLY speak for ALL THE PEOPLE OF LIBYA is really, really, blind.

Since 1951, Gallup has been asking Americans: “Should the United States give up its membership to the United Nations, or not?” Every time, at least 72% of Americans have responded “No, the U.S. should retain its membership.” The last time the question was asked, 85% of Americans said the U.S. should remain a member of the UN. Lawmakers and the American people alike understand the importance of the UN and value U.S. membership in the organization.

In 2005, UN members agreed to the principle that a nation has a responsibility to protect its citizens. When a nation can no longer protect its people or begins to attack its people, it is the responsibility of the international community to intervene. In the words of Vice President Biden:

“When a state engages in atrocity it forfeits its sovereignty….We’ve made the Responsibility to Protect—the simple but novel concept that states must shield their populations from atrocity—a core element of our national security strategy.”

Rather than shield his population from atrocity, Moammar Gaddafi made clear in public addresses backed up by repressive action that he would commit atrocities against his people until they ceased to protest his oppressive regime. Intervention by the United States and international community with the purpose of protecting the people of Libya was the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.

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