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Thursday, April 21, 2011

NATO, the U.N. and Humanitarian Wars

“If it be asked, What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic? The answer would be, an inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws—the first growing out of the last... A sacred respect for the constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy of a free government.” — Alexander Hamilton

Humanitarian war-making (an oxymoron, indeed) is on full display in Libya. Reports persist that the Libya intervention, as it's commonly referred to, is bogged down. Is anyone really surprised?

There's been talk of the U.S. sending in ground troops as part of an international force to aid Libyan rebels, among whom are, undoubtedly, jihadists — jihadists, as in enemies of the United States and the entire Western world. But if the U.S. doesn't pony-up troops, NATO may. Never mind that a humanitarian war was supposed to protect innocents, not support rebels. Doesn't taking sides violate a tenet of humanitarian war? Or will the U.N. sanctioned coalition overtly help the rebels in the name of humanitarianism?

Just today Obama signed off on the use of Predators Drones to support062410_drone_20110421_161501 the “rebels’ in Libya. Fox News reports; “The U.S. is not at war with Libya and has not taken sides, but President Obama nevertheless has signed off on the use of armed predator drones in the North African nation that has been torn by a weeks-old bloody conflict, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday.”

"What the president has said that where we have some unique capabilities, he is going to use those, and in fact he has approved the use of armed predators, and I think today may have been in fact their first mission," he said.”

“The president approved the use of two unmanned aircraft around the clock to pick off targets in urban areas in Libya. The U.S. military tried to launch them Thursday but turned them back due to bad weather.”

“Obama already uses the drones to target terrorists along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. Gates said the drones will enable more precise attacks against Col. Muammar Qaddafi's forces.”

“The move carries political risks as it could further alienate the president's anti-war base as he ramps up his re-election campaign. And several members of Congress already feel spurned by the president because he launched "limited" military operations without consulting them first. Stepping up the U.S. effort there could draw more ire from them.”

Who knows about humanitarian war's tenets? Liberals, being good relativists, are situational; aims are always malleable. But we do know this: winning at war — or articulating victory as the goal of war — is to be dismissed. Have President Obama and those mealy-mouthed functionaries at the State Department claimed victory as a war aim? Winning — as in defeating an enemy — defines traditional war, which liberals disdain. Traditional war is about protecting or advancing vital national interests, but national interests are narrow, squalid concerns.

The opening shock and awe phase of the Libyan fight was supposed to either kill Moammar Qaddafi (despite Orwellian pronouncements to the contrary) or send him packing, tail tucked between his legs. Instead, Gaddafi is proving wily and tenacious — to a point. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is warning not to underestimate Qaddafi (as reported in the Washington Times). Of course, neither should anyone overestimate the progressives who are running this war.

Why can't the mighty Western militaries that comprise the coalition quickly do-away with Qaddafi and his humble military? Answer: they aren't tasked to do so. It's not part of the U.N. mandate. Instead, coalition forces pursue a one foot in and one foot out plan that needlessly and inhumanely protracts the Libyan war. Inconclusiveness is the great killer in war.

It Turns out air power’s not enough in heavily populated urban areas, a development that was totally foreseeable, actually. And since no one’s eager to send in ground troops, we appear to be stuck. “We rushed into this without a plan,” a retired Army general told the LA Times. “Now we’re out in the middle, going in circles.”

Says Eli Lake, the Washington Times’ national security reporter, “At this point if NATO was in a fight with the Broadway production of CATS, would you bet on NATO or CATS?”

NATO officials acknowledged that they are having trouble destroying Gadhafi’s mortars and rocket launchers from the air, for fear of inadvertently harming civilians in such strikes. “There is a limit to what can be achieved by airpower to stop fighting in a city,” said NATO Brig. Gen. Mark van Uhm. He said his forces have destroyed more than 40 tanks and several armored personnel carriers there.

Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola, chairman of NATO’s military committee, said that even though NATO operations have done “quite significant damage” to the Libyan regime’s heavy weaponry, what Qaddafi has left is “still considerable.”

Rebels trapped in Misrata grumbled yesterday to the Washington Post that they feel “let down” by NATO’s unwillingness to bomb buildings where Qaddafi’s snipers are holed up. One of them, referring to the UN mandate to protect Libyan civilians, said, “If they cannot do it, they should say they cannot do it.” Today they’re taking a different tack, calling on the coalition to do the one thing no one wants to do:

“We need a force from NATO or the United Nations on the ground now,” said Nouri Abdullah Abdulati, of the city’s 17-member judicial committee, speaking to a handful of reporters”.

“We did not accept any foreign soldiers on our land. But that was before we faced the crimes of Qaddafi,” Abdulati said Tuesday. “We are asking on the basis of humanitarian and Islamic principles for someone to come and stop the killing. The whole Arab world is calling for the intervention of the West for the first time in history.”

“Abdulati said the committee would want British or French troops to fight alongside rebel fighters in Misurata, both to protect civilians and to fight off Qaddafi forces.”

Believe it or not, the EU’s actually toying with the idea of sending in ground troops — but only to escort humanitarian relief convoys, which isn’t quite necessary yet since the port of Misrata remains open for shipments. (Qaddafi’s promising to fight any such force that shows up.) France and the UK are also sending very small squads of military trainers to Benghazi to help the rebels get better organized. It’s escalation by inches, in other words, but escalation all the same to preserve what little remains of European military prestige. A simple question, then, per Lake’s snarky comment up top: At this point, is there any way to really preserve European prestige? The best possible outcome for the EU would be to get cracking on that larger “humanitarian escort” force and send it in to try to intimidate Qaddafi into choosing exile. But that’s a huge gamble: If, as he’s said, he chooses to fight and manages to hold off the European advance for awhile, it’ll be even more crushing to their prestige. He might relish the idea too, given his own ideas of himself as an African king and the European legacy of colonialism on the continent. A gloss:

“By the U.S. taking a back-seat role, it has a psychological effect on the mission,” said Dan Fata, a former Defense Department official who was responsible for overseeing NATO issues during the George W. Bush administration. “If I’m Qaddafi, I’m thinking I can probably wait the Europeans out.”

The humanitarian war in Libya is full of half-measures with incrementalism lurking in the wings. In the U.S., liberals' war-making was previewed in Vietnam decades ago. Didn't liberals learn anything from that long, bloody, losing affair? Also liberals have not learned about high taxes and big spending government either. Americans, however, should know better on both counts. As Sun Tzu, the ancient military tactician and philosopher said; “There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited.” (This can also be said of Afghanistan — another NATO and U.S. debacle).

Barack Obama's humanitarian war gambit in Libya is part of a grander scheme, of course: the transformation of the United States from world leader to just one voice among many. Diminishing the United States at home and abroad is gospel to the left. Obama, the left's long-awaited anti-Reagan, is dutifully going about trying to overturn every demonstrated Reagan success in domestic and foreign policy. This deliberate effort to un-Reagan the nation isn't just unhinged — figuratively, it's criminal. America may end up paying for decades in untold ways for Mr. Obama's and the left's chicanery.

So the United States, under Mr. Obama, has ceded leadership of the Libyan war effort to the U.N. and NATO. Smart anti-Qaddafi Libyans might just want to apply for refugee status now and get out of Dodge, unless they care to continue to gamble their lives on the U.N. and NATO.

The U.N. has its very own ruinous four horsemen: incompetence, corruption, impotence, and fecklessness. Expecting the U.N. to save Libyan innocents is like having expected the U.N. to save innocents in Darfur or Rwanda.

And NATO? The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was charted to stop Russian aggression during the Cold War, not serve as an all-purpose force to save the world. NATO may not have entirely outlived its purpose — one never knows about the Russians — but it's proving what the United States Postal Service proves in the United States: governmental organizations find ways to continue even when their missions no longer exist.

Is NATO being used principally by Western Europe to safeguard its energy interests in the Middle East? If the humanitarian war in Libya is just a cover for Western Europe to protect its vital interests, then the Libyan fight gives the lie to the very concept of humanitarian war, where disinterest to gain or advantage is a premium. But gain or conquest under a guise is nothing new to nations in the annals of history — most definitely in the annals of modern history, where communist regimes waged wars of conquest in the name of the proletariat.

The Libyan intervention (let's get the language straight, shall we?) could well be a mish-mash of intentions, which fit nicely with the inadequate, mish-mashed coalition operations underway; is folly in the offing? Wars without clear-cut aims and a definitive end-game are nothing more than killing fields. Killing fields are moral abominations.

A muddled Libyan war, full of half-measures and partial solutions like no-fly zones and a dictator permitted to slip the noose, is worse than inhumane; it holds out hope — a cruel hope — to a suffering people that may never be fulfilled. But such is the record and promise of progressivism in the world; words and intentions trump hard results. Just doing a little something in Libya should make everyone feel good. Something was done toward righting injustice; some food and medicines were gotten to Libyan innocents; some protection granted. But the hard slog to victory? Missing are the hard sacrifices that come with waging war and trying to build a durable, truly just peace? Heavy-lifting isn't part of the progressive feel good crowd's M.O.

Nor are consequences listed on the progressive agenda. That humanitarian war might leave matters worse than what they were aren't factors to the progressive mind. They don't appear to be in Libya. Long range calculations don't matter a lot; they may force considerations and actions that demand too much.

The United States — President Obama, in particular — had no business committing to what seems to be a travesty in Libya. Doing so is morally inexcusable. Progressives, not particularly God-fearing, haven't accepted that the way to hell is paved with good intentions — or, perhaps, intentions masquerading as good. In either case, progressives' notion of war-making hurts a lot of decent people, spends blood and treasure for naught, and leaves the world in a worse, not better, place.

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