Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Well, son of a bitch! Here we are dropping bombs, lobbing cruise missiles and just generally blowing the hell out of another country in the Middle East.
I think I know what I think about it.
But I’m not sure I’m sure.
Yes, careful readers, the preceding two sentences give the game away: I’m another lily-livered, vacillating liberal who just can’t make up his mind how he feels about issues of right and wrong.
A little history: I was fiercely opposed to our invasion of Iraq. No lily-livered vacillation there. I knew it was wrong from the moment all the eager-beaver war-criminals-to-be in the Bush administration began dropping veiled hints that made it clear that Saddam Hussein was going to get what he had coming. No matter what anyone outside the White House thought about it.
So, for the simple sake of consistency, I suppose I should be just as fiercely opposed to our intervention in Libya – but I’m not.
Of course, if we’re looking for consistency, maybe we should toss in feelings about Afghanistan.
That seemed like a good idea – and maybe it would have turned out that way, if we hadn’t dropped the ball in our eagerness to go rushing off to play Whack-a-Mole in Iraq.
And then, of course, there was Bosnia, where I thought it was a great idea for us to be dropping bombs on the Serbs.
But wait! How about Rwanda, where I really wished we had done something – except I knew we couldn’t because we can’t get involved in every damned slaughter everywhere in the world, can we?
And there was … well, you get the idea. So let’s take a deep breath and remember that these things are complicated. (And yes, that’s a trite thing to say – but no one seems to be saying it quite enough.)
It isn’t as if there’s no clear-cut right and wrong here.
There is certainly some clear-cut “wrong.” Colonel Muammar Gaddafi (may a thousand camels defecate upon him) is certainly, obviously and unarguably wrong.
But then it gets tricky, because the existence of obvious wrong doesn’t mean there’s an equally obvious “right.”
It’s like paint. It’s easy to buy a bucket of black paint; but try to buy a gallon of “white” and you’re suddenly facing a hundred different choices – all of them “white,” but none of them the one and only “white.”
So Gaddafi is evil, but does that make bombing “good”? Does it mean the rebels are “good”? Does it mean we’re “good”?
For the political right – where consistency is not a problem, hypocrisy is not a flaw, and nuance is not a word – there’s no problem evaluating the situation.
Their answer is simple: Obama is wrong.
Obama is wrong because he’s always wrong. If he does something they agree with … he’s still wrong. He did it the wrong way. Or he did it for the wrong reason. Or he did it too slow. Or too fast. Or wearing the wrong color necktie.
And, along the way, they get the super-nifty bonus (“Hey kids! Call now and get one Free War with your order!”) of insisting that any attack on Libya proves that invading Iraq was the right thing to do and any liberal who supports Obama on Libya has to shave his head, tattoo an elephant on his scalp, open a vein, and send a quart of fresh blood to the George W. Bush Exoneration Fund.
But I don’t think I’ll be doing that.
Just to be clear: Gaddafi and Hussein were/are both evil dictators. But we are not sending tens of thousands (not to mention hundreds of thousands) of ground combat troops into Libya. We are not invading and launching a war in a country at peace (albeit an evil peace). We are not acting essentially on our own, backed with a bit of grudging support from countries dragooned into supporting us.
And, while the cost of any war is high (and I’m talking money here, not lives), we are spending hundreds of millions of dollars, verging on a billion, in Libya – not hundreds of billions, verging on a trillion.
And the reasons for action this time were, at least, very clear.
No lies were told – or, if you still want to tip-toe around an inconvenient truth, no “faulty intelligence” was relied upon.
Action was taken in Libya because a brutal dictator had launched a vicious counter-attack against rebels who had almost toppled his dictatorship. And, as he launched his attack on the last major rebel stronghold, he announced, “We will show no mercy and no pity …” Rebels would be “hunted down in every neighborhood, every street, every house. … We will find you in your closets.”
Not much ambiguity there.
And so, at that point, the choice was clear – for the United States and the entire world.
Perhaps acting sooner would have been better in military terms. But it would have been worse in international political terms.
Gaddafi was stopped because an international coalition took action. That coalition could not have been assembled and persuaded to act any sooner.
Of course, as I said, those who always find Obama wrong – surprise! – found him wrong again.
I can’t resist quoting a charming writer for the National Review, who declared, “Our commander-in-chief is an effete vacillator who is pushed around by his female subordinates [who] nagged him to attack Libya until he gave in.”
Now that’s some reasoned discourse for you.
And so, I realize that nothing will be clear until we see how this all ends (and if anything is clear even then). But still I have to say that I am deeply sorry we are again in the middle of a war (yet another war), but, at the very least, I am glad we have a calm, intelligent president who resisted hysteria and nagging (from right-wing pundits) and is trying hard to find the “least worst” path through this impossible thicket.
And I sure hope he’s right.
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Sean Beckwith is taking advantage of his column space this week to inform the public of the Best in Jest.