Human Events entitled my latest piece “U.S. Bombs on Libya May Backfire,” but it’s hard to see how something that lacks a clear objective in the first place can backfire.
As the U.S. fired more than 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya on Saturday, the objective seems clear. Barack Obama declared that “we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy.” He explained: “Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world.” But he didn’t explain how acting forcibly to remove Muammar Gaddafi would indeed be in America’s interests. And that is a case that is not as easily made as it might appear to be.
How could removing Gaddafi, who is undeniably a tyrant and fanatically anti-American, not be in America’s interests? The simple answer is that it is unlikely that he will be succeeded by Thomas Jefferson or John Adams. The fact that Gaddafi is a reprehensible human being and no friend of the U.S. does not automatically turn his opponents into Thomas Paine.
Obama has strongly affirmed his support for “the universal rights of the Libyan people,” including “the rights of peaceful assembly, free speech, and the ability of the Libyan people to determine their own destiny,” but he has never specified exactly who in Libya is working to uphold and defend those rights. He has praised “the peaceful transition to democracy” that he says is taking place across the Middle East, and yet the countries where uprisings have taken place have no democratic traditions or significant forces calling for the establishment of a secular, Western-style republics.
In fact, there is considerable evidence to the contrary. Eastern Libya, where the anti-Gaddafi forces are based, is a hotbed of anti-Americanism and jihadist sentiment. A report by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center reveals that during the last few years, more jihadists per capita entered Iraq from Libya than from any other Muslim country””and most of them came from the region that is now spearheading the revolt against Gaddafi….