Bombs over Tripoli

8 04 2011

The following is a reflection of the ongoing discussion and debate regarding New Jersey Peace Action’s position on the ongoing conflict in Libya, especially with regard to United States’ involvement.  With further discussion, commentary and clarification of ongoing events, a clearer picture will surface.  We invite your commentary and insight into this conflict. It will help us develop our official position.

 Please watch for New Jersey Peace Action’s official position on Libya and the United States in the near future.  For the moment, the following represents some of the ideas and questions we are grappling with.  In addition, there are concerns about whether or not the U.S. Congress should have been able to discuss/debate U.S. involvement in Libya, since by the U.S. Constitution, only the U.S. Congress has the power to declare war.

I must confess I was a little hesitant to take a certain position on the matter of military intervention/action in Libya by international forces.

Rebels had called for an international intervention, and had pleaded with the international community to come to its aid in battling Qaddafi’s forces.  Qaddafi’s time has certainly come- or it did a long time ago- to step down and relinquish power to the Libyan people.  There is no denying the cruelty and oppressive force with which he has ruled Libya for nearly forty years.

But the ensuing course of events which came as a supposed response to these pleas have convinced me to take a firm position in standing against these acts of military aggression, albeit purportedly spawned from a concerted desire to save civilian lives.

International consensus (as well as domestic consensus) has deteriorated rapidly, and the United States is now standing at odds with those who were originally in agreement with its agenda.  The Arab League has expressed displeasure.  The African Union has throughout expressed discontent.  The number of abstentions and votes against the UN resolution passed reflects the actual lack of consensus from the get-go.  However, these abstentions also reveal the amount of pressure that was exerted on member-states who were overtly against the ambitions of European and American delegates from the start, but failed to express their dissent by voting against the resolution.  It was also weeks ago that we first heard Defense Secretary Gates expressing his concern over the discussion of entering Libya, even if just to enforce a no-fly zone.  This kind of agreement, or lack thereof, is hardly grounds for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to insist on going ahead with pushing for the drafting and implementation of the proposal approved by the United Nations Security Council.

The original goal of enforcing a no-fly zone has morphed into an effort to combat Qaddafi’s forces directly in an act of war designed to help the rebel army win its battle.  The UN resolution passed authorizes the use of “all necessary measures” to ensure and maintain the security of the civilian population, welcoming efforts to carry out an operation that far exceeds the initial proposals to take out Qaddafi’s airpower.  This action begs for the answers to several questions.

How long will this continue?  We recently passed the eight-year mark in the nation of Iraq, and the tenth anniversary in Afghanistan is just around the corner.  Are these really the kind of statistics we would like to have when entering another country with military force?

Why has the United States decided to go ahead with military action in this conflict as opposed to a whole host of other international conflicts with similarly devastating effects?  Unfortunately for the United States’ reputation in the region, its decision to act militarily this time comes yet again in the region often referred to as the Middle East, with a heavily Islamic and Arab population, as well as in yet another country that sits atop large quantities of oil.  Neither of these facts do anything to help the United States maintain the moral high ground it desires during this conflict, but leave the matter of its true intentions subject to debate.  The question of what is really at stake here for the United States is a question that is in need of discussion and investigation.

How much has this cost the American taxpayers in addition to their contributions to the largest military budget in the history of the planet?  A current report out by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments reveals that enforcing a no-fly zone in the nation of Libya could cost between $100 to $300 million per week, with the possible additional cost of between $500 million and $1 billion to ensure the destruction of Qaddafi’s air defense systems (Cooper and Harrison, http://www.csbaonline.org/publications/2011/03/selected-options-and-costs-for-a-no-fly-zone-over-libya/).  How much of these costs will be doled out by the United States is unknown, but it is safe to say that given the United States leadership position in the early and present stages of the operation, it will certainly be a large contributor.  The F-15 fighter which recently went down inside the country will cost $30 million to replace.  Almost two hundred Tomahawk cruise missiles have been launched by U.S and U.K. warships into the country, each carrying a price tag of $1.2 million.  And it costs $80,000 per hour to operate one B-2 bomber; of which one had already made the twenty five hour trip to and from the United States.

All of these questions being even partially answered reveal the precarious situation in which the United States has been able to strong arm itself into, and the outcome will likely be less gratifying than the public hopes.  We all want Qaddafi and his cronies to end their rule and retreat into history, but only after they are held to account for the crimes committed during their reign.  We all want a better life for those suffering from oppression and mistreatment in the nation of Libya and elsewhere.  It is simply the means with which the United States is attempting to achieve such goals that leaves many feeling quite uneasy.  The appropriateness of these means must be drawn into question. And, whether or not this is indeed the end goal remains to be seen.

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