So here’s a question: Assuming Gaddafi has fallen to a popular rebellion, and Libya is now in the hands of presumable democratic (whatever that means in the region) opposition forces… were the NATO air strikes justified? Morally and financially? Was it worth the cost in both dollars and “collateral damage” to first protect the nascent rebellion, and then to support its offensive?
President Obama has been criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike for our military intervention in Libya, but compared to Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Gaddafi’s ouster appears to have come relatively fast and relatively cheap in both blood and treasure. So does Obama deserve a little praise for his policy, or was this always none of our business?
I do think Obama deserves some praise for his policy here. I supported the initial intervention back in the spring when a massacre of Benghazi was looming, and I think it was morally justified for NATO to see this through until the regime was completely brought down. If the mandate was to protect the civilians of Libya, the only way to truly do that was to get rid of Gaddafi and those loyal enough to him that they’d try to slaughter their countrymen. Did it cost a lot? Sure. But does it cost less than having the world’s most powerful military while only using it for cynical self-interest. Definitely.
As for that last point, I’m still worried that any goodwill generated by the support for the Libyan people is largely overshadowed by our failure to stand up for the Palestinians. The lack of freedom in Gaza and the West Bank is not much different than what others in the region are rising up against. In fact, the Palestinians in the occupied territories are worse off than their neighbors in Egypt and Syria. And our failure to help them will continue to overshadow the times that we get things right in the region.