Regardless of how you felt about the original no fly zone, how you feel about the Gadhafi regime or the armed rebels fighting it, we should all recognize that the United States, United Kingdom and France are going further than a no fly zone and are intervening in a civil war for their own reasons that have nothing to do with defending democracy or other humanitarian goals. Already we are seeing evidence of the broader mission beyond a no fly zone and beyond what President Obama said would be a few days with no troops on the ground.
- While in Egypt this week Secretary Gates hinted that the war in Libya may be open-ended.
- There is confusion about the goals in Libya. Does it include removal of Gadhafi as President Obama and Secretary Clinton have said? Putting in place a democracy? Reaching those goals is beyond the UN mandate and will get the U.S. into another quagmire.
- While President Obama promised no troops on the ground in Libya, there are reports that there are already 2,000 marines on the ground in Libya.
- Special Forces are developing a role in Libya. Even before the UN resolution there were reports of U.S. “advisors” on the ground in Libya in early March and Special Forces fighting with rebels in late February, a month before the mandate.
- The U.S. is planning on sending National Guard troops to Libya. Is a longer war planned than has been admitted?
- It is becoming more evident that this is a foreign intervention into a civil war and we've had enough experience with that to know that it will not end well. And, there is strong evidence that if this is not already one, it will become a civil war because of foreign intervention.
- Due to the expansion of the attack beyond a no fly zone, which the Arab League originally called for, the Arab League now opposes the intervention because it is not a legitimate “no fly zone.” As the Arab League president said, “What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians.”
- The “hidden agenda” of oil is rearing its ugly head again. Would the U.S. be in Libya if it produced asparagus? Why isn’t the U.S. opposing dictators in Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia? Now that the Libyan Air Force has been made unable to fight, what is the purpose of the ongoing bombardment?
- And, how many civilians will the U.S. kill to save civilians from being killed? Already there are reports of widespread civilian deaths as well as mistaken civilian deaths. Secretary Gates’ denial of civilian deaths are hard to believe when nearly 200 missiles have been launched into Libya.
The Libyan attack raises a persistent issue in U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. trained the Libyan military and provided them with weapons, including $15 million in arms sales in FY 2009 alone. Now the U.S. military is destroying that same military and the weapons the U.S. sold them. Should the U.S., the largest arms merchant in the world which sells nearly 70% of all weapons, be selling weapons to despots, dictators and royalists who do not have the support of their people? Doesn’t this ensure rebellions seeking democracy will be met with lethal force and the U.S. may need to intervene for “humanitarian” reasons? President Obama has produced record arms sales, in particular the largest arms sale in history to one country with $60 billion in sales to Saudi Arabia, another unpopular regime among its people.
Finally, the Constitutional issue of unilateral military attacks on countries that are not a threat to the United States was violated by the attack on Libya and needs to be faced up to. When he was running for office, candidate Obama correctly said: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution wrote in 1795 that Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which put the power to declare war and fund war in the hands of the legislature, was the most important clause of the constitution.
“The Constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the Legislature the power of declaring a state of war [and] the power of raising armies. A delegation of such powers [to the president] would have struck, not only at the fabric of our Constitution, but at the foundation of all well organized and well checked governments. The separation of the power of declaring war from that of conducting it, is wisely contrived to exclude the danger of its being declared for the sake of its being conducted.”
The founders had seen monarchs unilaterally declare war resulting in mass deaths and economic ruin. Indeed, the U.S. with an already fragile economy and stretched thin military faces those risks with the Libyan war. Already the U.S. has used more than 150 Tomahawk Cruise missiles against Libya, each one costing $1.5 million. On the first day the U.S. spent an estimated $100 million on the Libyan attack. And, people are estimating that the U.S. will spend $1 billion in Libya in a very short time. This will all be borrowed money and comes at a time when austerity measures are being put in place by state and federal governments cutting basic services.
Please call President Obama and give him your thoughts about Libya. Tell him to avoid mission creep and another military quagmire. The White House switchboard is 202-456-1414.