Kinetic disconnect

Good intentions in Libya not sufficient

A NATO airstrike this past weekend, aimed at forces loyal to Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi, instead killed 13 Libyan rebels and injured several others. That single incident encapsulates the dangerous and uncertain course of U.S. involvement in what is essentially a civil war in which the U.S. has few, if any, vital national interests.

A spokesman for the rebels expressed “understanding” of the deaths, telling the Associated Press that such sacrifices are in the nature of a war where “the lines are so fluid going back and forth.”

We wish that President Obama and his apologists were equally forthright in recognizing this nation’s intervention in Libya for what it is: a war.

Enforcing a United Nation’s resolution for a no-fly zone may be a legal gray area that permits a president to commit U.S. forces to military action for a limited time and limited purposes. But the U.S. military role in Libya has already gone well beyond such enforcement, and includes attacks against Mr. Gadhafi’s infantry columns, tanks, supply lines and other installations. To pretend that the U.S. has not chosen sides, and done so empathically, is to deny reality.

Handing over the lead role in Libya to NATO makes no real difference. NATO’s supreme commander is required to be an American — Navy Admiral James G. Stavridis currently holds that position. And NATO does not undertake any significant military operations without the knowledge, cooperation and resources of the United States.

Moreover, a change of command brings no additional clarity to either the military or diplomatic situation in Libya, where neither Mr. Gadhafi nor the rebels appears capable of achieving a decisive victory.

Amid such uncertainties, Mr. Obama has still not sought the approval of Congress for involving U.S. forces in what he has called “kinetic military action” in support of humanitarian goals.

Well, humanitarian crises abound elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East, with mass killings of civilians reported in Ivory Coast, and pro-government snipers gunning down unarmed protestors in Yemen.

Mr. Obama’s instinct to intervene on behalf of oppressed peoples and to protect civilians is laudable. But good intentions and high-flown rhetoric do not satisfy his obligations under the Constitution.

What imminent threat to U.S. interests did Libya pose that could justify the launching of 212 Tomahawk missiles? What legal nicety stays our hand in Ivory Coast, Yemen and elsewhere? And when will Congress summon the courage to hold the executive branch to account?

[Source: News Telegram, London, 05Apr11]

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Libya War
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