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Yet another form of moral hazard

My June 17 Commonweal column asks some question about the whys and wherefores of "humanitarian intervention." Exactly how humanitarian has it been in Libya?When Libyas Muammar Qaddafi is finally deposed, the world may agree that alls well that ends well. But first, some questions: Why did France and Britain lead the way? Why did the United States join the effort? How humanitarian is this humanitarian intervention? Is Qaddafis fitting end being achieved by doubtful means?A somewhat wonky analysis of why "Qaddafi won't go: Libyan Limbo: Six reasons why it's been so tough to get Qaddafi to quit." Foreign Policy

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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" Is Qaddafis fitting end being achieved by doubtful means? "Not sure about in moral terms, but in Constitutional terms, Obama's refusal to abide by the War Powers Act by pointedly ignoring the requirement to obtain Congressional approval within 60 days of such an intervention is the very definition of not just doubtful, but illegal means.

Yes, illegal. Not that the Republicans are terribly concerned: "House Republicans are interested in admonishing the Obama administration for its handling of military operations in Libya -- but they're not interested in going so far as stopping U.S. participation in the war."Republican leadership today postponed consideration of a resolution from liberal Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, which would require President Obama to remove armed forces from Libya."

Initially there was a humnanitarian edge to a political decision that fits within the broader context of changing our stance tlowards the midle East as it was and is changing.The morality of the action in itself may not be the same as viewed then contextually.

What the Lybian intervention shows is that when the politics are against you, meaning your country and world opinion oppose you, you better run for cover. As long as you don't possess nuclear weapons. The possession of nuclear weapons have allowed North Korea and Pakistan powers to survive.

" The possession of nuclear weapons have allowed North Korea and Pakistan powers to survive. "Which is why the United States should - somehow - be more aggressive toward denying Iran the Bomb.And, yes, shame on the Republicans for not pressing Obama more on the Libyan intervention.

Why bother addressing the merits of an argument when you can always deflect and attack someone else?President Obama is president, not the Republicans. But I guess that in itself is enough to acquiese and remain silent, no matter how egregious the legal and moral questions might be. A state of war does not exist between the United States and Libya, and yet the United States is committing acts of war.

Not only is there an "illegal" war between the U.S. and Libya, which Congress is dilly-dallying around, there is the war between the House Republicans and the President. In spite of my serious misgivings about the war with Libya, the war between the Repubs and the Pres is probably far more dangerous to the Republic. I wonder if we could invoke a constitutional provision against it.

."Why did President Barack Obama finally agree? Consider the following: (1) pressure from advisers who feared another Rwanda; (2) a quid pro quo for British and French support in Iraq and Afghanistan; (3) a promise to the Pentagon of no boots on the ground to quiet military objections; (4) an opportunity to support multilateralism in which the United States did not have to take the lead; (5) everyone hates Qaddafi."Is it that hatred that gives the coalition its cohesion? Certainly many will say good riddance to Qaddafi. But how long before another heart-rending appeal comes from a struggling rebel force citing the responsibility to protect? How long before humanitarian intervention becomes another reasonable excuse to start a war and kill thousands of people?"Nicely put..Bill Mazzella  (06/02/2011 - 1:27 pm)  writes:"What the Lybian intervention shows is that when the politics are against you, meaning your country and world opinion oppose you, you better run for cover."Yep. Heavy is the head that wears any public crown these days. The political mob rules. But it's probably always been that way. Perhaps the difference is that today, small wars are a lot easier to start than they used to be. Today, it doesn't take a world war to depose the equivalent of a king of Prussia - just a few big bombers. So the politicians with the bombers rule the world. Morality has been mechanized..

Thanks for bringing this up this topic again, Margaret. This is part of the reason why I opined against the intervention from the beginning. Although you rightly point out that the collusion not to ask questions about this is more threatening to our democracy as both parties and the President seem to be largely waiting on NATO interventions and defections as an an ersatz foriegn policy to effect change, I still fear the tribal bloodletting that may happen when it seems inevitable now that Qaddafi will be killed or at sometime abdicate. Can I say that I never believed that NATO bombings were going to be limited to "the protection of civilians?" Although I greatly esteem Gen. Romeo Dallaire whose pain from Rwanda brought him to near despair, I don't believe allied actions were much more than opportunism rather than true rescue or remediation of the situation.

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