Friday, 8 April 2011

Libya: The problem with humanitarian war

                                             Too little, too late?

As things stand now in Libya, a stalemate with madman Gaddafi remaining in power appears more and more likely:

The chief of U.S. military operations in Africa says the situation in Libya is moving toward a stalemate that would leave Moammar Gadhafi in power for an unknown period of time.  General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, spoke Thursday to the Senate’s Armed Services Committee.

General Ham faced tough questioning from some members of the committee, particularly Republicans, who disagree with President Barack Obama’s decision not to use the military to directly oust Gadhafi.

The committee’s senior Republican, Senator John McCain, who lost the 2008 election to President Obama, was particularly tough.  He said the United States lost an opportunity to remove the Libyan leader when it sought an international coalition and took three weeks to put it together. 

Senator McCain is right; the delay caused by the creation of the international coalition made the removal of Gaddafi extremely difficult. The coalition was put together in accordance with the principles of an "immaculate" humanitarian intervention, as described by Stratfor´s George Friedman:

I call humanitarian wars immaculate intervention, because most advocates want to see the outcome limited to preventing war crimes, not extended to include regime change or the imposition of alien values. They want a war of immaculate intentions surgically limited to a singular end without other consequences. And this is where the doctrine of humanitarian war unravels.

My unease with humanitarian intervention is not that I don’t think the intent is good and the end moral. It is that the intent frequently gets lost and the moral end is not achieved. Ideology, like passion, fades. But interest has a certain enduring quality. A doctrine of humanitarian warfare that demands an immaculate intervention will fail because the desire to do good is an insufficient basis for war. It does not provide a rigorous military strategy to what is, after all, a war. Neither does it bind a nation’s public to the burdens of the intervention. In the end, the ultimate dishonesties of humanitarian war are the claims that “this won’t hurt much” and “it will be over fast.” In my view, their outcome is usually either a withdrawal without having done much good or a long occupation in which the occupied people are singularly ungrateful.

North Africa is no place for casual war plans and good intentions. It is an old, tough place. If you must go in, go in heavy, go in hard and get out fast. Humanitarian warfare says that you go in light, you go in soft and you stay there long. I have no quarrel with humanitarianism. It is the way the doctrine wages war that concerns me. Getting rid of Gadhafi is something we can all feel good about and which Europe and America can afford. It is the aftermath — the place beyond the immaculate intervention — that concerns me.

Read the entire interesting article by George Friedman here.

Regrettably Obama did not have the guts to "go in heavy, go in hard", which will make it extremely difficult to "get out fast".

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