After President Obama’s March 28 address to the nation on the U.S. and NATO military intervention in Libya, many questions remain.
We have already spoken in these pages about our opposition to the intervention. Now that it has begun, the question is: how long will it continue?
Our lengthy military engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq should warn us that once begun, operations expected to require only a limited period of time can easily stretch into the indefinite future.
An end date should be set.
Another question is what role the U.S. will continue to play. President Obama spoke of a significantly lowered U.S. involvement because the main weight of military operations is being shifted to NATO. That is hardly reassuring.
Shifting responsibility for the no-fly zone, arms embargo and protection of Libyan civilians to NATO does not mean the United States no longer plays a significant role in the military effort, for the U.S. is by far the wealthiest and most powerful member of NATO. And if military action becomes long-term, U.S. involvement may well grow again.
In addition, there are divisions in NATO regarding the goals and scope of the operation, raising the risk of possible ground intervention.
Participants in Libya’s uprising certainly deserved protection from the brutal attacks the Gaddafi regime unleashed against them. But military intervention hardly seems the best way to do so, as many countries including some who supported the UN resolution are starting to say.
It is ironic that an international conference of over 30 countries, to consider, in the president’s words, “what kind of political effort is necessary to pressure Gaddafi, while also supporting a transition to the future that the Libyan people deserve,” is being held after the military intervention began.
Had such discussions taken place earlier, one wonders if a consensus could have emerged for more powerful political and economic measures, short of military intervention, to protect Libyan civilians and open a space for a popular uprising.
There is also the obvious contradiction between the UN Security Council’s emphasis on protecting civilians and the aim the president stated, to remove the “tyrant” Gaddafi. And, an obvious question being asked by members of Congress: Why was the U.S. military engagement not brought before that body?
We join those who call for an end to U.S.-NATO military action and a negotiated solution to the crisis. Our country cannot afford to find itself mired in a third military adventure. Call your representative and senators and demand a speedy end to U.S military involvement in Libya. The peace majority in the U.S. needs to be heard.