The United States is over-extended in its global military operations, incurring potential liabilities against our economic and political future. That is one of my chief reactions as American forces strike in Libya today. With planes all the way from Whiteman Airforce Base just a couple miles from Knob Noster, Missouri.
There may be entirely legitimate reasons for taking action in Libya. The armed forces may have the operational capacity to flawlessly execute their assigned mission with minimal casualties or collateral damage. That does not change the fact that we have become the world’s policeman, at an enormous cost to us in terms of lives lost and financial obligations.
Our foreign policy when it comes to the use of force seems completely schizophrenic. Can you imagine if somebody else was president? A year and a half from now, Barack Obama or somebody like him would be bashing the commander-in-chief for dragging us into a needless war. (So long as he’s ordering the bombing, it’s apparently okay).
My opinion on Libya has nothing to do with who occupies the oval office, however. Though the current administration has seemed to handle it oddly – perhaps badly – from the beginning. The fact is we are everywhere in the world. The question is, why?
Why do we still have forces in Germany? Twenty years after the cold war and sixty years after the second world war, shouldn’t Europe be providing for its own defense? Why are tens of thousands of soldiers on the DMZ in Korea? Why do we have bases in Bulgaria, Italy, Brazil, Greece, Australia, Greenland, and Singapore? How about the Netherlands, Portugal, and the Philippines?
There may be perfectly good reasons for any one of these. But it seems strange that there would be a perfectly good reason for every one of them along with the many other U.S. military installations around the world.
I am not against the projection of American firepower abroad. America has done incredible good in the world because of its willingness and ability to use force when others could not or would not do so. So don’t get any ideas that I’m going isolationist or anything of the sort. (Or heaven forbid, liberal).
But I’m definitely not an interventionist, either. Not now. I don’t think we can afford to be. It’s not always our place, either. As the song goes, we’ve got troubles of our own.
I’ve got to think that leaders in China, and perhaps India and other rising powers, silently sit back at times like this and enjoy watching America struggle to manage the entire world and its problems. It weighs us down and gives them free reign to focus on boosting their own fate and fortune.
Our country is massively in debt with no end in sight. And our politicians – our so-called “public-servants” – twiddle their thumbs and farm out the hard work to powerless blue ribbon panels of their old pals. I’m talking about the debt commission a little while back, which has since receded into oblivion.
No, our politicians would rather raise money, court votes, and talk about what country to bomb next rather than deal with problems at hand. These people are children, and it’s ticking me off. The entire country should be demanding that these clowns get to work cleaning up the messes they’ve created.
So, do I think we should go after Ghadafi, aid the opposition, encourage or manage some sort of regime-change, assist in a democracy-building effort, and on and on? Sure, why not. But let’s not act as if we still care about our future. Let’s not act like we’re a responsible country with a responsible government.
In all seriousness, let’s definitely, definitely not lie about why we’re doing it. (Actually, is it possible to lie about why you’re doing something if you don’t know why you’re doing it? As noted earlier, the administration has seemed a bit confused). If we do much in Libya, sure, it’s in part – maybe even in large part – because there is a humanitarian interest at stake and democracy to be promoted. Ghadafi’s an unrighteous tin-pot dictator if ever there was one.
Without a doubt though, it would also be in part because of the significant oil interest at stake. It’s just a fact of life that the world runs on oil and that Libya’s got a lot of it. No problem with that. And definitely, the free flow of that oil is important to ensure.
If if we go in there for that reason though, or if we spearhead an international effort to that end, let’s be honest about it. Let’s treat citizens like adults and say: “Hey, oil is important, we need it, there’s a lot of it here and we want to stabilize the situation so we can keep driving our cars and turning on the lights.”
(Btw, I think Obama realizes it wasn’t the adults in this country who elected him, so I doubt this sort of approach would ever occur to him. But wouldn’t it be ironic if he ended up taking the country to war for oil? That would have to mess with him).
If you haven’t guessed by now, this post is basically off-the-cuff, and I reserve the right to revise and extend my remarks. Obviously, there’s a lot to analyze and a lot to consider, and hopefully our decision-makers are doing exactly that. I reiterate my initial point that whatever the merits of action in Libya might be, it is also the case that we are now flung out across the globe.
As global policeman, our guidelines seem murky as far as when we do or don’t take action in any given hot spot. All of this doesn’t seem to be a recipe for continued peace and prosperity, let alone a sustainable solution for long-term American exceptionalism. Somebody – particularly somebody who’s pushing the Libya strikes – tell me why I’m wrong.