Moammar Gadhafi is a really bad guy. But does that justify us going to war against him? Remember Saddam Hussein? He was a really bad guy and we went to war against him. So, how are the people of Iraq doing now? Were the dollars we spent and the lives we lost worth it? And why does Obama want us to get Gadhafi? Why now? Gadhafi has been Libya’s leader since 1969! When President Reagan bombed Libya in 1986, attempting to kill Gadhafi, he was roundly criticized by the left. Many have forgotten that President Carter’s brother Billy was a registered agent for Libya. But why is it alright for us to bomb Libya now? Why are we expected to support the so-called rebels who are fighting against the Gadhafi regime without even knowing who they are or who they are associated with?
We are seeing a pattern of Islamic revolt that stretches from the middle east, across the northern coast of Africa. Obama initiated American involvement in the fighting in Libya and many are wondering why Americans should be in yet another “war”. I qualify the term “war” because it is very problematic. According to our Constitution, it is the responsibility of Congress to declare any war, something we never see happen anymore.
Since the Korean “war”, Presidents (Commanders in Chief) have led us into de-facto “wars” by either calling them something else, such as a police action or conflict, or by initiating “emergency” military actions without a declaration of war. Presidents now determine what military action is in our national interest, leaving Congress to rubber stamp its protracted continuation by passing bills to fund it. The War Powers Act of 1973 (http://www.thecre.com/fedlaw/legal22/warpow.htm) codified this practice into formal law, citing the Constitution. However, in my opinion the War Powers Act redefines the original intent of the Constitution, when it seeks “the collective judgement of both the Congress and the President” in deciding whether or not to go to war. The constitutionality of Obama’s decision to involve the U.S. in the civil war in Libya is discussed at http://downdirtyword.blogspot.com/2011/03/obmas-war-is-it-constitutional-war.html
The Constitution says Congress must declare war. That hasn’t happened since WWII. Although congressional funding has demonstrated political support for those undeclared wars, it doesn’t meet the criteria of the Constitution. I was in the U.S. Army Infantry in Viet Nam in 1968 and 1969. That was a very real war. Congress never declared it. They just funded it. But the people did not support the war and it finally ended when the politicians realized they would not be re-elected if they allowed it to continue.
I think the difference between a declared war and war entered into by the dictates of a President, is that when a nation officially declares war, it becomes a national goal not just to go to war, but to win the war decisively and get out and come back home as soon as possible. Our involvement in WWII lasted less than 4 years and we won. Our involvement in Viet Nam lasted over 10 years, during which time we conducted the war according to political decisions and negotiations, which trumped military decisions, resulting in unnecessary losses and disruptions in operations. Our military has been in Iraq for twenty years and in Afghanistan for ten years. Undeclared wars are longer than declared wars.
If any of these wars had been constitutionally declared by Congress, we would have gone in, won them and then gotten out. That is because Congress doesn’t want to declare war unless America is threatened. And when Americans know they are threatened, they are willing to do whatever it takes to neutralize that threat as quickly as possible. After 911, President Bush announced the “war on terror”. At that time, it felt like a good idea, but militarily it has become a headache. First of all, “terror” doesn’t define the enemy — just the tactics they use. Of course al-Qaeda was named as the organization responsible for the 911 attacks, but since al-Qaeda operates internationally, we could not declare war on a specific country.
Eventually we learned that there are a whole host of terrorist organizations, most of whom are connected to one another, across national borders. The war on terror has changed how we think about war in general. Now, we think of war in terms of a sort of police action within a nation, but not against that nation. Soldiers are now supposed to act like police, avoiding any harm to “innocent” civilians and making sure the civil rights of the “insurgents” aren’t violated. The rules of engagement are written by lawyers and designed to protect everyone but our troops. The sad consequences of this is a high casualty count and record numbers of American servicemen being court-martialed for actually killing the enemy. Militarily, our experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq have gained little. Winning is elusive. At one point the we thought we had defeated the Taliban in Afghanistan. But they came back, stronger than ever. After “freeing” Iraq, the roots of “democracy” don’t seem to be taking to their native soil. After we leave those countries, it is doubtful any lasting change will remain.
Most Americans don’t want to control other countries. We don’t want to have to protect other countries. We only want to protect our own. We don’t want to be an imperialist power who justifies “nation building”. That’s not our responsibility or our right. But the politicians who are our leaders do want to wield military power to gain international influence. They are willing to risk lives and commit billions of dollars for war in Libya, but won’t even seriously consider defending our own borders.
Most Americans saw the enemy of 911 as Islamic extremists from the middle east. Despite the fact that most of the perpetrators of 911 were from Saudi Arabia, we took absolutely no action to restrict or even more closely monitor Saudis coming into the U.S. In fact, the State Department made a special arrangement for Saudis to issue their own visas to travelers from Saudi Arabia to America. Visitors to America from the Middle East are not given extra scrutiny because of the political incorrectness of “racial profiling”. If we aren’t fighting the war on terror to win it, when will it end?
Another reason we should not be deploying our military around the world, whether for “nation building” or for being the world’s defender of freedom is that we can no longer afford it. Our economy is going bust. We can’t even afford to pay off our national debt. Congress has failed to even pass a budget. They are unwilling to make the severe cuts in government that need to be made if we ever hope to become fiscally solvent. The best they can do is to approve continuation bills for weeks at a time. We can’t afford to take any new military actions and we need to end or reduce our current military obligations as soon as possible and bring our troops home. It would be nice if we could actually have our military here at home to protect our own borders from the drug war that’s going on there.
Our federal Government has become so bloated that we are incapable of wielding the type of influence America wielded during the Cold War, when we were a true superpower. We are simply no longer able to afford buying international influence. But the media and the government are trying to paint a picture in Libya (as they did in Egypt) of people rebelling for democracy. They appeal to the American, or at least western ideal that a government should represent the will of the people. But as I pointed out in “Educated Idiots”, the upheaval we are now seeing in Muslim nations is more the forces of Islam rising to establish theocracies under shariah law. Our attacks on Gadhafi’s forces are actually helping them to accomplish that goal. Is this what we should be spending money on, especially when we have to borrow it before we have it to spend?