ot all revolutions are created equal. Generally speaking, before I decide to support a particular revolutionary movement, I’d like to know the general aims of the revolutionaries.
Who can list two goals of the Libyan revolutionaries? Yes, we know their key ambition is to oust Gadhafi. What sort of government will replace him? There is limited organization in this movement. There’s also been a paucity of democratic rhetoric. John Brennan, the American counterterrorism chief, voiced concerns that certain Libyan revolutionaries possess ties to Al Qaeda.
In Egypt, many activists demanded an overhaul of Egypt’s political system on an institutional level. The United States had allies in the Egyptian military and government that could ensure stability after Mubarak’s ouster. Conversely, we have few reliable friends in Libya.
The international community was at a crossroads: There was concern that not interfering in Libya would indicate tacit support for Gadhafi’s violent repression of the rebellion. Therefore, the international community not only decided to provide a no-fly zone (air cover), but it promised air strikes against Gadhafi’s offensive ground units. I fear this commitment was a grave mistake. I am concerned that this action establishes a precedent that mandates humanitarian interventions in every conflict. Before militaries had the capacity to project power globally, we lacked the means to quickly intervene in conflicts halfway around the world. Now with international bases, carrier groups, military alliances and modern military technology, no one can deny that certain countries possess the capacity to intervene in any conflict.
I will not suggest a specific doctrine here that delineates the circumstances that should merit foreign military interference. Nevertheless, I’m sure most of us would agree that a key starting point to warrant any foreign involvement is that the foreign involvement be absolutely necessary and that it will provide a certain amount of “good” (in a utilitarian context).
If you are skeptical about the use of such vague standards to justify violent action, I share your skepticism. On the other hand, I feel that it is a fair starting ground to insist that the use of military force must have some merit from a strategic or humanitarian perspective. In my mind, active intervention in the Libyan conflict promises neither a safe, stable Libyan society, nor any strategic returns to what seems like a potentially costly investment.
Josh Kornfield is a junior majoring in international studies and political science. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.