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Friday, March 25, 2011

 
Getting Lucky and fearing the worst

by digby

Joe Klein has a nuanced and thoughtful piece in Swampland on the Libyan operation. (Yes, I said nuanced and thoughtful --- it's very good.) I certainly agree with him about this:

I hope that we'll "get lucky" in Libya--and Gaddafi will pack up his famous tent, settle somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa or be murdered by one of his retinue. It may happen. And if it does, all my fears will have been proven groundless--if, that is, the next Libyan government proves moderate and humane.

But a decade of watching our heightened interactions with the Islamic world has led me to fear the worst. The one thing I've learned, above all others, is that there are always unintended consequences--and those consequences are almost always negative.


Among other things, he points out the obvious fact that nobody seems to want to admit which is that NATO is the United States. We have ensured that we are the only real military power in the world and certainly among our Western allies and so no matter what label you put on these wars, it's really us.As Wesley Clark put it on CNN a couple of days ago, this "hand off" amounts to a change of flags. It's fairly insulting to pretend otherwise.

But this is key:

The most powerful argument for intervention is humanitarian, to prevent a massacre. But where and when does this responsibility stop? Syria just massacred at least 25 protesters; Yemen has massacred hundreds. There are the enduring horrors in Zimbabwe and the more recent inhumanity in Cote D'Ivoire. Well, you might argue, we should intervene when we can. (This is usually when Rwanda enters the argument.) Sure, if genocide is about to be committed by a force that doesn't have air defenses or much of a military, it's probably safe to intervene--but how often is that the case, and at what point does our intervention impede the ability of local forces to come to a settlement? (As it may be doing, now, in Afghanistan.)


Obviously, I agree with this. And I am more convinced than ever when I watch exchanges between Villagers like this one:

MATTHEWS: Is there a doctrine? In the first segment of the show tonight, we had McDonough on trying to find out if there is a doctrine. Is there a vision—what did G.W.‘s father call it, a vision thing? Is there a vision thing here?

MITCHELL: Well, I think there is a vision. It‘s emerging, and I think people have questioned whether there‘s a strategy.

The president tried to outline that in answers to our own Savannah Guthrie last night at the news conference in El Salvador. And basically what he says is, when you have a catastrophe that you can avert and the benefits outweigh the costs, and you have international or multilateral support, go for it.

MATTHEWS: OK.

MITCHELL: You cannot stand idly by. That‘s what I would call the Obama doctrine.

MATTHEWS: It has conditions, too. We have to have friends who will join us, and we have to have an enemy who we can go after.

MITCHELL: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: We‘re not going after our friends in this regard yet.

(CROSSTALK)

MITCHELL: (chuckling mordantly) We‘re not going after the crown prince of Bahrain.


"You cannot stand idly by" ... unless it's your friends who are doing it.

I recognize the complexity of these circumstances and don't have any fantasies of a Bushian "moral clarity" but the morality of that particular "doctrine" is more than a little bit obscure. It is, in fact, morally bankrupt.

Klein ends his piece saying that the punditocracy is divided among foreign policy specialists and domestic specialists who rarely see the world through the same lens and he promises to try to do that in the future. That could be interesting.

But this is nearly revolutionary from a beltway mandarin like Klein

I thought that decisive action against the Islamic extremists who attacked us was necessary after 9/11--but I've learned since that decisive action was (a) nearly impossible and (b) that the threat was not nearly as dire as I feared. The problems in the Middle West are far more important right now than those in Libya...


I don't think I've ever heard a Villager say that before. I hope he's writing a book.



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