April 16, 2011
I’ve been meaning to post some thoughts about what’s been going on with Libya. I finally decided to get around to it today after reading Orson Scott Card’s essay This Tricky Business of War. First, a quote:
Before Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush went to Congress and made his case for war. In both cases he got resolutions authorizing the use of force, and however much Democrats might have pretended afterward that they opposed the war “all along,” the support was bipartisan. Each such resolution was in fact, if not in wording, the declaration of war that the Constitution says that only Congress has the power to issue.
I actually think this is one thing Bush should have done differently: he should have asked Congress to pass formal declarations of war. Our country hasn’t done that since World War II, and that’s been a problem.
After hearing about Korea and growing up during the Viet Nam war and watching as an adult the war in Afghanistan and the two wars in Iraq, not to mention smaller affairs like Lebanon and Somalia and Grenada, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a practical mistake and a moral error to get involved in a war unless you’re committed to fighting it to the end. Unless you have a clear goal that won’t be accomplished until your enemy surrenders unconditionally or ceases to exist as a political entity, and you’re willing to put all necessary resources into achieving that goal, you have no business using military force.
I didn’t always think that way. At the end of the first war against Iraq I thought Bush 41 made the correct decision to stop once Kuwait had been liberated. Also, like many people, I expected his defeat would lead to the end of Saddam’s regime, but as the years went on and he still continued in power and the people of Iraq suffered more and more, I concluded that that had been a mistake.
Choosing to command the military to begin hostilities has to be one of the most difficult decisions any president may be called on to make. While no president is above criticism, any disagreement should be humble and respectful. However, once the decision has been made, it should be pursued firmly and aggressively and not in half measures.
The case in Libya does not provide easy answers. On the one hand, Qaddafi is a sociopathic thug and the world would be a better place without him in power. On the other hand, he’s hardly unique in that regard, and we shouldn’t try to solve all the world’s problems through force. But if we are going to do something about it, we should have done it quickly and thoroughly, with “boots on the ground” and not just bombs from the skies.
So I’ve probably rambled on enough about this. I highly recommend that you read Card’s entire essay.