Monday, April 04, 2011

Supporting NATO

Juan Cole argued yesterday that we should remain engaged in Libya based on our obligation to support our NATO allies, and invokes their support of us in Afghanistan under Article 5. That article, to refresh your memory, is the one that says “an attack on one is considered an attack on all,” and brought NATO into Afghanistan because of the 9/11 attack on the US.

I certainly respect Juan Cole and defer to his knowledge and opinions on the Middle East. He is, in fact, one of my frequent sources for information on that subject. And I would agree with him that, insofar as humanitarian concerns might be the determinant, our intervention in Libya might be worthwhile. I am of the opinion, though, that there are factors other than the well being of the Libyan people at stake here.

First, I consider his argument about supporting NATO to be rather circular. Article 5 is irrelevant because no NATO nation has been attacked by Libya. Saying that we should support our allies in what they decided to do is just plain weird, since NATO cannot act unless all 28 members agree to that action. No member was forced into this action, and NATO can bail out without cost to itself if it finds the going too tough, which rather limits our obligation to our allies under the concept of “mutual defense.”

In any case, with NATO being a mutual defense treaty, urging support of allies which are engaged in attacking a nation which has not attacked anyone is a bit odd, to say the least.

I have been claiming from the very beginning that the idea that we “prevented the slaughter of hundreds of thousands” was questionable, since we were merely going into action based on the ranting of a madman, and Daniel Larison has an analysis today which supports that position.

So, NATO aside, while this adventure may be helpful to the Libyan people, I’ll take Juan Cole’s word for that, it’s highly questionable that it qualifies under the UN mandate of “responsibility to protect,” and it is seriously harmful to America in many ways.

It harms our standing in the international community because it demonstrates that once again we have started a military adventure that we cannot finish and, in this case are unwilling to even try to finish.

It harms our military because, support role or not, it is another theater in which we are engaged and strains our forces by putting them in conflict on three fronts.

It harms the people of this nation because they are being subjected to cuts in social programs in order to support the bloated military budget to support endless wars overseas that are not in defense of this nation, that are not in pursuit of clear national interests, and that are neither explained to or supported by the people of this country.

As a final touch, this war is initiated by a president using circuitous rhetoric and evasive language to avoid calling it a war and to avoid acknowledging that it was not begun in accordance with the constitution of this nation, a move that is supported by Congress and the media and which confirms that we are no longer a nation of law but are ruled at the whims of men.

Update: See Glenn Greenwald on "endless war."

And it adds the the climate of endless war which furthers the deepening of the erosion of civil liberties and the permanence of the climate of fear and intolerance bred by war. Remember that the background of Orwell's 1984 was the endless war with Eurasia, and it was that war which permitted the excesses of that totalarian, "Big Brother is watching" state.

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