Why Is the Libya War a Wrong War?

August 8th, 2011

by John H.M. Smith

NATO Airstrike in LibyaI have been arguing with those who support NATO action in Libya for quite a long time.  Now let’s try a different approach, applying a little logic, asking three questions about the origin of this war:

1.  Did the rebels have a choice?

The answer is “no.”  From the beginning of the uprising, they either had to overthrow the government or be cracked down by it, and without Western military intervention, they would have zero chance to win.

2.  Did Gaddafi have a choice?

The answer is “no.”  The large-scale social reforms that the protesters first demanded would take years to achieve, and the protesters definitely had no patience to wait. The immediately following violence by separatists and Al Qaeda militants left him no choice.

3.  Did NATO have a choice?

The answers are “yes, of course” and “plenty of choices”, all of which were better than NATO killing Gaddafi.  The U.S. had special leverage on Gaddafi personally, and it should have been a golden opportunity for us to show both sides how necessary it is for a country to have democracy in order to solve political disputes peacefully. Meanwhile, we could be friends with both sides, since both sides couldn’t afford to lose American support.

But now, the West has little choice. We have to continue to support the rebels no matter what they do in the future. We have lost leverage.

Moreover, from day one the rebels have never trusted the West. On March 3, the rebels captured a team of British Special Forces and a diplomat tasked with contacting the rebels in Benghazi and detained them for 4 days. According to reports, the rebels were very angry at that time. But why are you angry at someone who sees you are in trouble and voluntarily risk their lives to come to the battlefield only to ask, “Can I help you? What can I do for you?” It is unbelievable.  The only answer is that they saw the West as enemies and crusaders; they are the same as the people who have been fighting us in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Similar scenarios have happened in Bosnia. Bosnian Muslims still blame the West for not doing enough to protect them during the war, despite the fact that, due to supporting them against Serbia, the West lost its most prestigious profit from winning the Cold War, i.e., the Russian ally. Afterward, Russia began to distance itself from the U.S. and NATO and allied with China.

Again, the time is now for China to have plenty of choices in Libya; both sides need China diplomatically, economically, and perhaps militarily. While keeping its relations with the Libyan government, China has no trouble in embracing and being embraced by the rebel side. Only from April 7 to June 21 there were at least four oil cargo shipments from the Libyan rebel side bound to China (but no cargo from the Gaddafi side.)

It’s not surprising; just take a look at who’s got the biggest mineral, oil and reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq. You can predict what will happen in post-war Libya. No matter which side wins or loses, China will always be the economic winner and diplomatic non-loser.  And no doubt American taxpayers’ money will end up in China no matter which side we aid during post-war reconstruction.

Now go back to my question, what’s wrong with this war? Why were our European allies so eager to resort to military action against Gaddafi even after the British suffered a diplomatic humiliation from the rebels?

My answer is, it was the result of long-time, deep-seated resentment in the British and French people’s and politicians’ minds toward Gaddafi’s behavior and personality during the last four decades. It was like a long-dormant volcano suddenly erupted. They prioritized emotion over reason.

Somehow, the European reaction is still predictable and understandable since, after all, they have many interests in Libya geologically and economically.  Then how about America, which Gaddafi had hoped to support him?  Unfortunately, when Europeans are in an irrational mood, we have a boy President and an emotional Secretary of State, both of whom lack intelligent insight and global perspective, putting their short-term popularity over-term time national interest. With this leadership, you knew what the result would be.

Having impressed everyone with quick and decisive reactions on Egypt and Libya, the Obama Administration has, until now, neither explicitly called for Syrian President Bashar al-Asad to step down nor considered calling back the U.S. ambassador from Damascus, let alone military action. Why?

A recent Fox News article tells the reason:

Unlike in Libya, where the U.S. and its allies were able to attack an isolated country with the blessing of other Arab nations, Syria is much more interconnected to the Middle East. An attack on Syria could upend the region. …

David Schenker, the director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said … Syria is also able to “blackmail” other countries into leaving it alone. The government’s support of Hezbollah and ties to other extremist elements means the regime could wreak havoc in the surrounding nations if threatened….

As for why the administration can’t respond to Asad’s violence with the force the U.S. and its allies employed in Libya, [State Department spokesman] Mark Toner cited a couple reasons. He said there was an “immediate threat” in Libya and suggested the “international consensus” against Syria is not as strong now as it was with Libya.

Here I have two more questions to ask:

1.  What was the “immediate threat” in Libya posed by Gaddafi’s government?

Secretary of Defense Gates said it was no threat to the U.S., and several months bombing with zero NATO casualties has at least proven it no threat to the Western militarily.

Was it a threat to democracy?  Maybe; it depends on whether the rebels truly wanted democracy, but no one can prove it at this stage (the Cuban, Chinese, and Iranian revolutions had all been in the name of democracy.)

Nevertheless, Gaddafi was surely a threat to Benghazi because government and armed rebels are always mutual threats to each other.

However, Asad has, too, been threatening the residents of the city of Hama, Syria for months and killing its people every day.  Until now, the Syrian opposition has not taken up arms; the Syrian demonstrators were pure civilians gunned down by well-armed government forces.

By contrast, in Libya it was well-armed rebels versus the poorly armed Libyan army in the early stage of the uprising. The rebels believed that they could easily defeat the Libyan army and overthrow the Libyan government very soon. That was why they had detained British diplomats and expelled them; they had seen the West as an enemy.  Only later when they were going to be defeated did they use the West’s forces.

2.  What kind of international consensus is there concerning the actions of our politicians and diplomats?

I have the feeling that when they say “international consensus”, they often mean “America’s enemies’ consensus”. They mean China, Iran, some Islamic countries, and organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslin Brotherhood. They do not mean countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, etc., which are too friendly with America for their opinions to be counted.

In our diplomats’ minds, the only practicable international consensus may be U.N. resolutions, which depend heavily on the cooperation of an anti-American countries’ group, headed by China, to succeed.  China would veto or threaten to veto any Security Council resolutions (like those of Syria) that hurt America’s enemies and be most happy to pass any (like the Libya sanctions) that are not in America’s interests.

So for a long time the U.S. military has been just a useful tool exploited by China and some Muslin countries to attack traitors like Gaddafi but not allowed to protect Taiwan, Israel, and other U.S. friends and certainly never allowed to attack Sudan, Iran, and Syria or any countries that are currently anti-America enough.

“John H.M. Smith” is a pseudonym of the author’s choice. The author lives “under an Eastern regime” and wishes to remain anonymous.

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