For weeks, American officials have been decrying Gaddafi’s bloody attacks on his people, but does the US really have a problem with dictatorship of his sort? This fact is unknown to Americans, but in the Middle East, and in Arab nations in particular, American commercial interests are regarded as a force for liberation but not the US government. The US has been the key to the power of Middle East dictatorships for decades, among which are Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Yemen. I leave aside the killing of hundreds of thousands of Iaqi civilians to liberate them.
So it is something of a joke that the US would push a war against Libya in order to save that country from dictatorship. More likely, the real issue here is the same one that inspired the wars against Iraq: the ownership and control of the oil. And even if freedom were the driving motivation, when in modern history has war ever actually brought that to people? All war by nation states today ends in massive civilian deaths, destruction of infrastructure, political upheaval without end (see Afghanistan and Iraq), vast expense, and bitterness all around.
War will not achieve its claimed objective. It might even end up entrenching Gaddafi’s power. But let’s say that he ends up dead, like Saddam Hussein. What then? The new government will be handpicked by the victor, and never gain any credibility, just as in Iraq. People resent foreign conquerors even more than local despots, and this resentment is not a good foundation for a future of liberty.
President Obama probably looks at the prospect of war rather lustily, just as Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, et al. did before him. But this time, there is a problem. The US simply cannot afford to be seen as attacking yet another Muslim country, though that is what it is doing, at a time when all the world knows that US foreign policy is primarily based on whipping up anti-Islamic feelings the world over, and taking over the oil.
For this reason, the Obama administration must seek the cover of the UN and the cooperation of other Arab states. England and France have been reliable, but not Germany and not other Arab states, so the operation could end up more tricky than he initially supposed.