Monday, March 21, 2011

A reluctant defense of U.S. involvement in Libya

The start of military action taken against Libya this past weekend is a bit of a mixed bag. While I consider myself to be a fairly pro-peace, anti-war kind of person, there does come a time when military action becomes justifiable.

The events in Libya warrant military action, especially given Moammar Gadhafi’s willingness to use brutal force on his own citizens. The fact that there’s an international cooperative effort to intervene on behalf of the Libyan people demonstrates the shared belief, globally, that action against Gadhafi is justified.

What’s troubling to me is that this is another war we’ve decided to involve our already strained military in. With progress in Afghanistan going slowly, and our presence in Iraq still significant, it’s necessary to consider all other options available before involving ourselves in war-like scenarios. The effect of this conflict on our budget isn’t anything to overlook either, at a time where lawmakers in Washington are engulfed in a battle of their own.

Another concern is the unilateral approach (in terms of our own government) that President Barack Obama has taken in sending our forces into Libyan territory. Congress, not the president, is responsible for declarations of war – thus officially we’re not really at war with Libya. Still, even if we’re adhering to the letter of the law, it would’ve been more responsible for Obama to have requested Congressional approval before joining the alliance against Gadhafi.

Finally, but most importantly, we have to do our very best to ensure that collateral damage remains small. The true victims of this assault on Libya will be the people themselves. Military action inevitably affects innocents – so as we go into this conflict, we must be mindful of those who are not our concern militarily, doing everything that can be done to prevent inhumane killings, the very reason this conflict started in the first place.

One last point to make: While I understand the rationale against going to war with Libya, there’s also the argument that resisting the call to action might end up being worse for the situation. Gadhafi has shown he’s capable of performing terrible and inhumane acts against his own people. To let that slide, to shrug off the human cost of doing nothing, would be just as irresponsible as being too proactive in going to war, as we were when we invaded Iraq. A balanced approach, of weighing the pro’s and con’s of creating a no-fly zone against Gadhafi, is the best option to have taken; and having made that balanced approach, Obama gains my trust as a leader in this fight against the Libyan dictator (though again, that level of trust would be higher if he had gained Congressional consent).

Keep the people of Libya in your thoughts and prayers. Our actions may be justified, but it’s their lives that are being affected the most. Let us not lose sight of that fact as we move forward in this conflict.

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