Moreover, the odor of bad faith hangs over the whole enterprise. The pretext for intervention was to prevent “genocide,” yet the real reason, obvious as the conflict wore on, was to remove Gaddafi from power. We heard the pleasing “Arab Spring” rhetoric about supporting “freedom and democracy,” yet we have no clue about whom we have put in power. Are they liberal democrats or Islamists? Who knows? We do know that the National Transitional Council’s Draft Constitutional Charter says, “Islam is the religion of the state, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia),” a statement that negates all the subsequent protestations of respect for human rights. We do know that all the jihadist outfits have been supporting the rebels, and are pleased at Gaddafi’s removal. We do know that tons of weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, assault rifles, machine guns, mines, grenades, antitank missiles, and rocket-propelled grenades, are now floating around north Africa, many no doubt destined for jihadist factions. We know that eastern Libya, ground zero of the rebellion, has sent thousands of terrorists to Afghanistan and Iraq, where they have learned valuable terrorist skills. We know that Libya is still riven with ethnic, sectarian, and tribal conflicts, all worsened by the recent war and the inevitable avenging violence to follow, and all to be financed by revenues from the export of 1.3 million barrels of oil a day. Given these realities, it is delusional to think a stable liberal democracy favorable to Western interests is going to arise on the ashes of the Gaddafi regime.
Finally, the pretext that NATO power intervened on the lofty principle of preventing genocide is repudiated by the ongoing nearby slaughter of Syrians by Bashar al-Assad, who is actually carrying out what Gaddafi flamboyantly promised, undeterred by Western condemnations and sanctions. The only consistent principle that arises from the Libyan campaign is that logistical convenience and political cost trump concerns for human rights and suffering, the same calculation that allowed the West to stand by as millions were slaughtered in Rwanda and Darfur. National interest is still the ultimate determiner of foreign policy, and it’s hard to see what interests of ours were served by participating in this war.
Rather than building European NATO’s geopolitical prestige, the Libyan intervention has reinforced its hypocrisy and weakness, in addition to exposing the NATO nations’ willingness to put into power an unknown regime just to gain some moral prestige on the cheap. As for the U.S., a president who thinks a guilty America should cede authority to a bumbling transnational organization and flabby international law has implicated our country in the same hypocrisy and weakness.
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