Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Belated Comments on Libya

I posted several times on Egypt because, among other things, it is a U.S. ally and the recipient of large amounts of our aid money. Radical changes there are more likely than not to be a net minus for U.S. interests. But Libya is a far different case.

Unlike our client Mubarak, Gaddafi [I'm going to use what seems like the most popular current spelling] has long been an enemy of the U.S. It is possible that a new regime might be worse for U.S. interests, but it isn't going to be much worse. In my opinion, the odds are actually better that a new regime would be an improvement from the U.S. perspective -- because it wouldn't take much to be better than Gaddafi. Whereas in the Egyptian situation I personally sympathized with the protesters, yet supported Mubarak (and continued rule by the military) for policy reasons, in the case of Libya personal and policy reasons both favor the anti-government forces.

As to the calls for some kind of intervention... Libya is a prime example of the type of situation that is not our problem, in which we should take no action that results in our involvement beyond rescuing and protecting U.S. citizens. It would be nice if Gaddafi were removed, but it appears that he's already been crippled. He's not a big enough problem to warrant direct U.S. intervention. If a new or competing government forms and directly requests U.S. assistance, we should consider it based on the situation at the time, and whether and how it would benefit U.S. interests. Until that time we should watch events play out, while cheering for Gaddafi's demise.

There's a mixed blessing in having a president as utterly clueless about foreign policy as Barack Obama. His instincts toward appeasement, empty talk and wishful thinking can be bad when strong decisive leadership is needed, but those same failings also make him reluctant to step into a foreign policy mess. Dithering and hesitancy can be a good thing when the action under consideration is a bad idea.

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