March 22, 2011
Remind me again why we’re bombing Libya? Let’s run through the possibilities.
Humanitarian Reasons: No one believes this is the most effective way to save lives in other countries, unless Libyan lives are somehow more valuable than, for example, other African lives. The price for missiles alone on the first day of attacks is estimated at $100 million. For that amount of money we could buy a lot of water purifiers, food, and vaccinations. When the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation starts attacking Libya, I’ll believe that bombing is a good humanitarian investment.
Getting rid of a Dangerous Dictator: Isn’t Libya the country that renounced nuclear weapons and apparently meant it? Gaddafi’s Western-influenced son, who doesn’t seem crazy, has apparently taken an increasingly active role in government. That was a good sign for sane leadership in the future. And compared to other Muslim countries in the neighborhood, Libya is relatively good on women’s rights.
Supporting Democratic Movements: Sounds good in principle, but do the member states of the Arab League, who originally supported the military action, understand that they’re next? That doesn’t pass the sniff test.
Oil: You can never rule out oil as a motive for war. But if the military was doing the bidding of the oil companies, we’d be attacking Saudi Arabia.
Terrorism: You don’t reduce terrorism by bombing a Muslim country that didn’t start a fight with you.
My theory is that the military action in Libya is the first phase of war with Iran. It sends a signal to the young people in Iran that if they organize a popular uprising against their own regime, they will get military support of the same sort they are seeing in Libya. You might argue that we’re sending that same message to every dictator in the region. But remember that the Arab League supported military action in Libya, and that group includes a lot of dictators. Iran is obviously not part of the Arab League, given that being Arab is sort of a requirement for the club. My conclusion is that the no-fly zone in Libya is intended as a message for the young people in Iran. The world has a far bigger strategic interest in Iran than Libya.
Here I remind you that cartoonists don’t know much about world affairs. You’ll see more insightful ideas in the comments below. I’m just getting the ball rolling.