Military action against Qaddafi rests on shaky ground

When President Ronald Reagan ordered American F-111 fighter-bombers, assisted by F-18 and A-6E fighters, to strike at Libyan targets in April 1986, he did so based on strong and clear evidence that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s government had directly ordered the bombing 10 days earlier of a night club in Berlin in which U.S. servicemen were killed. In other words, it was a surgical strike against government installations in a country linked directly to contemporaneous terrorist action against American personnel. It was a successful military operation, even though Qaddafi had been warned of the impending strike by one of his diplomatic supporters, and was able personally to escape the bombs by a matter of minutes.

Now, almost precisely a quarter century later, another American president apparently is contemplating military action of sorts against the very same foreign leader. This time, however, the reason for military action is far more vague — amorphous, even — and therefore far less likely to achieve an identifiable and defensible result if carried out.

Here are a few relevant facts. Fact — civil unrest in Libya is mounting; by some accounts, the country is in the throes of a civil war. Fact — Muammar Qaddafi continues to use force to defend against opposition forces seeking to oust him from power. Fact — some people already have died as a result of the violence in Libya. Fact — Libya’s long-serving leader rules with an iron, though not always even, hand. Fact — Libyans enjoy few of the civil or political liberties we enjoy in the United States. Fact — Muammar Qaddafi is not, at least by most accounts, a nice guy. Fact — many Libyans don’t care much for the United States. Fact — Libya poses no meaningful military threat to the United States. Fact — we are not at war with Libya. And, fact — there appears to be no evidence directly linking the Libyan government to any recent terrorist actions against the United States or American personnel.

So why are there reports that the Administration of President Barack Obama is contemplating creating and enforcing a “No-Fly Zone” over the country of Libya, or taking other military action against the country? Establishing and enforcing a No-Fly Zone is by any measure, a military action; one that requires the enforcing power to disable the target country’s air defense systems and capability, and then shoot down any unauthorized aircraft in that country’s or that area’s airspace.

While it may be the case that Washington is considering military action against Libya essentially because we just do not, like Qaddafi, no one wants to or would ever admit as much. Therefore, the explanations offered are more lofty; even if far less concrete. Many of the explanations in support of calls for military action against Qaddafi center around, or at least include charges, that the Libyan leader has committed “crimes against humanity?”

“Crimes against humanity?” Neither U.S. nor international law incorporates a single, clear definition of exactly what constitutes such an action. But all seem to include in a definition, the notion of a widespread, systemic practice of atrocities against a large population. U.S. civil law, such as the Alien Tort Statute found in Title 28 of the U.S. Code, invokes language referring to “genocide, large scale raping, torture, enslavement, and human trafficking.” While there seems to be little dispute that Qaddafi is employing military action to defend his regime, and that this has resulted in some deaths, including among those taking up arms against his regime; there is far less evidence, if perhaps any, the government in Tripoli in engaging in systemic and widespread “crimes against humanity,” however.

Even if it there existed a consensus that Qaddafi had committed a crime or crimes against humanity, the question would still remain how does that — or should that — provide a justification for U.S. military action, when the “crimes” are not targeted against the United States or American citizens?

And, while we’re at it, does anyone see a bit of hypocrisy in clamoring for military action against Muammar Qaddafi, when other leaders — such as North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, who systematically enslaves and starves the population of that country, thereby committing what would appear to be a much clearer “crime against humanity” — do not appear to be current targets of planned military action because of such deeds? In the North Korean leader’s case, in fact, the United States could be seen as complicit in his atrocities because we periodically provide shipments of food aid to North Korea.

Perhaps these inconsistent calls for action against leaders who engage in “crimes against humanity” have something more to do with the relative military power of the target country than with what the leaders are actually doing to their citizenry? Regardless of what’s really going on here in the behind-the-scenes decision-making, taking military action against a regime for reasons that appear thin and poorly-defined, at best — even if the target regime is an international pariah of sorts — does not provide the firm and consistent foundation for military action that serves the United States, or any nation, well in the long run.

By Bob Barr — The Barr Code.

78 comments Add your comment

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 11th, 2011
1:04 pm

Dear I Know @ 11:21, “how in the world are you connecting the dots between Gadhafi’s rule and a present-day, imminent threat to American security interests? By the way, I’m keenly aware of our history with Libya, but more particularly, with our recent (Bush era) “friendship” with Libya that was transformative…until the recent uprisings.”

Every fact you affirm is true. “How I connect” however is that which is eternal, “character.” The US invasion of Iraq undoubtedly terrified Qhaddafi, and while it motivated good behavior for a period – seemingly only until our current president engaged his world-wide apology tour – the dictator has equally-clearly reverted to form.

Dear McGroot @ 11:37, “I gotta call BS on your sua spontaneity.” You wound me to the core. I begin each day with the assumption that leftists have changed form, and I am always disappointed.
Re: 12:11, “leftists like credentials,” I don’t really perceive that as epithet, although I admit I am not above hurling epithets where appropriate. I have never encountered a leftist who did not argue against logic with a “who’s your daddy?” argument. For relevant example, earlier today someone asked me, “When did you become an expert at military tactics?” To arrest such regular concerns arising from my lefitst friends, I now willingly and readily cite source for ideas not my own, and I cite basis for expertise where I rely on testimony (or in rare cases from my own vast experience. The “vast” part is conservative self-deprecating humor.) “Your son’s job sounds interesting and, dare I say it of being in harm’s way, even fun!” I agree, I envy my younger son. He is everything I wish I were

McGroots

March 11th, 2011
1:05 pm

Are there a lot of 60’s radicals hiding out in Japan?

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 11th, 2011
1:09 pm

Dear McGroots @ 12:11, “I’m curious about the authorship of the article, but as I said, I’m tired of research.” I should have anticipated your curiosity, as leftists always want credentials.

Mr. Thomas is vice president for studies and Mr. Cooper is a senior research analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

McGroots

March 11th, 2011
1:19 pm

Ragnar: Regarding your 1:04

“Re: 12:11, “leftists like credentials,” I don’t really perceive that as epithet, although I admit I am not above hurling epithets where appropriate. I have never encountered a leftist who did not argue against logic with a “who’s your daddy?” argument. For relevant example, earlier today someone asked me, “When did you become an expert at military tactics?” To arrest such regular concerns arising from my lefitst friends, I now willingly and readily cite source for ideas not my own, and I cite basis for expertise where I rely on testimony (or in rare cases from my own vast experience. The “vast” part is conservative self-deprecating humor.) ”

I can’t argue with that!

I’m not sure that I can even deconstruct this composition sufficiently to figure out exactly what you’ve said.

If nothing else, we can agree on the merits of self-deprecating humor.

Regarding your son – Congratulations!

Who says you don’t get second chances in life!

McGroots

March 11th, 2011
1:27 pm

What is it that right-wingers want, in the absence of wanting credentials?

SaveOurRepublic

March 11th, 2011
1:30 pm

Hillbilly Deluxe & McRoots, good catch. I think Jefferson echo’d Washington’s sentiments by stating…

“Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto.”.

Randy

March 11th, 2011
1:40 pm

Ragnar Danneskjöld: You need to do some research before you talk about the capabilities of an aircraft carrier and the aircraft/weapons/tactics that are needed to enforce a no-fly zone. Heat-seeking missiles have a range of about 2 miles. Radar missiles around 30. To actually patrol, intercept and prevent a country from flying is aircraft you have to get up-close, and that means going to where they are. Of course you have to take down, and continue to suppress the air defenses. If you have never been a part of this process (and I have, many times) you have no idea of how complex, costly and difficult it is. This is not a video game.

McGroots

March 11th, 2011
1:46 pm

Randy, what are your credentials?

[...] Military action against Qaddafi rests on shaky ground | The Barr Code. This entry was posted in Libya, Opinion and tagged civil unrest, evidence, Fact, facts fact, fighter bombers, government installations, Ground, humanity, impending strike, leader, libyan leader muammar, MUAMMAR, muammar qaddafi, opposition forces, political liberties, president ronald reagan, Qaddafi, result, Strike, War. Bookmark the permalink. ← Double Take ‘Toons: Gitmo Used To It : NPR [...]

Randy

March 11th, 2011
1:58 pm

I flew in U.S. Naval aircraft over Iraq and Bosnia during the periods those no-fly zones were active, and I worked at USCENTCOM helping to monitor the Iraqi no-fly zone.

McGroots

March 11th, 2011
2:03 pm

Yes, yes…but do you believe in self-deprecating humor.

In all seriousness – Thank you for your service!

False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR)

March 11th, 2011
2:05 pm

And as a past War Planner on the USCINCPAC staff, I can tell you that with 2 wars in progress, ANY type of force deployment exercise must be clearly planned and prioritized against current events.

Randy

March 11th, 2011
2:16 pm

McGroots: I used to believe in self-deprecating humor, but I don’t think I have it in me anymore….;-)

Thanks for the thanks, but anyone who has been there will tell you it was our pleasure.

Flush with Flourish

March 11th, 2011
2:23 pm

Do any of you geologists and oceanographers realize that if that Jap Sunami collides with the regular ebb and flow of the lunar tide at exactly the wrong moment it could create a wave so huge that it would sink not just Hawaii, but the entire Alleutian Archipelago. The only remedy would be to have a national flush. If all 300 americans flush their toilets at the exact RIGHT moment, we could absorb the hit and diminish the damage from the wave.

If not, we’re finished.

TBone

March 11th, 2011
2:30 pm

Let’s see I teach physics and I think it will take more than 300 toilets; especially if they are of the low flow variety.

Hillbilly Deluxe

March 11th, 2011
2:40 pm

I have a septic tank and I fail to understand how flushing my toilet is going to affect anybody but me, in the short term.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 11th, 2011
2:49 pm

Dear McGroots @ 1:27, “What is it that right-wingers want, in the absence of wanting credentials?” The difference goes to the core of our ideologies. Leftists believe in the “Superman,” that some individuals are superior leaders by virtue of their backgrounds, and that the rabble should yield to the leadership. Conservatives are less respectful of the genius of the individual, believing that all men are flawed, and are more likely to parse the program of any overlord.

Dear Randy @ 1:40, good afternoon, you err in assuming I did no research. I outlined my research in the several posts today. I know enough to know that I don’t know what weapons exist in our arsenal today; I know enough to know that my son knows what weapons he has at his disposal. I also know that I don’t ask my son about what weapons he has at his disposal. The “heat seeking” argument – to the extent that my adjective is possibly wrong – is my own error. For all I know my son shoots spitballs at the enemy.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 11th, 2011
2:54 pm

Dear Randy @ 1:40, the most accurate affirmative representation I should make is that I presented the Thomas-Cooper argument to my son, and I asked if this would work. He said this is within his mainstream capacities. He did tell me that he had minor quibbles with some specifics of the essay, but that the core argument was sound.

killerj

March 11th, 2011
3:40 pm

Roberto

March 11th, 2011
4:08 pm

Hey old shoes,

If you listened to Beck ( and heeded the financial advice) back in ‘08–before the big crash–you saved yourself a whole lot of money. He was practically pleading with people to get their money out of the market.

I wish I would have heeded.

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Flush with Flourish

March 12th, 2011
2:50 pm

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