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U.S. Interventionism

Mark Easley | Thursday, April 28, 2011

Is it just me or is this “war” in Libya really dumb? The hawks and the pacifists are all unhappy with what Obama has gotten us and our allies into over there. It has been weeks and Gaddafi is not only still in power, but also seems to be winning in a campaign against NATO-backed rebels. The stupidest thing is that the Marines could take Tripoli (Barbary wars, redux?) and have Gaddafi dead or alive in 48 hours if we let them. If we decide to kill people in the name of freedom, we should do so decisively. Obama has been far from decisive on this conflict, not a good characteristic of an American president.

Every time a new crisis erupts in the world it makes you think about the great power the U.S. holds in creating change. Take Libya as an example. You feel for rebel forces, forced to live under Gaddafi’s oppressive rule for years. Coming from a rebellious tradition ourselves, it is easy to empathize with those who seek self-determination. But who holds the real cards? Despite the rebels’ relatively impressive motivation and military capability early in the conflict, Gadhafi loyalists are using their superior weapons, organization and greater money supply to pound the opposition into compliance. Not the story book ending we all want.

We could finish this war in less than a week if we really tried, but we are fighting with both hands tied behind our back, our foot in our mouth and our head in the sand. Yet, if we exercise our power to help the rebels, we are seen as imperialists and meddlers. This story can be said for Iran, North Korea, Darfur, Israel, Bosnia, World War II, World War I, Iraq, Afghanistan and all situations that we choose to get involved with or ignore. Where does the ideology of spreading freedom end and the cost in blood and treasure begin?

Throughout human history, the great world powers end up dictating the politics of their neighbors because global security and prosperity is dependent on a stable environment. The U.S. has been the big player in the world for the last hundred years and the lone superpower for the last twenty. Trade is necessary for prosperity and inevitably trade leads to invested interest in the economy and politics of a region. When a region becomes volatile, you can either leave and forget all the progress you have made there, or you can try to fix it. Even in cases where the U.S. doesn’t have direct interest, if our allies or trading partners can be significantly affected, then intervention can be warranted for the greater good.

There are bigger issues at stake. There is a school of thought that the U.S. should not only show restraint in international intervention, but pull out of all the places we are in now and return to an isolationist foreign policy. Essentially we should ignore the outside world. While this may improve our short-term fiscal situation, it is also a pretty shortsighted philosophy. The fact is our ideology and way of life is a model that can lead to global prosperity and peace.

Many countries are poor due to the fact that they are ruled by greedy and oppressive dictators. The system is against the people. If we want to make a dent in world poverty levels, there has to be an institutional change that supports free market capitalism and democratic government. Most of the time (pretty much every time), to get a fundamental change in a society requires military action. The indigenous population usually cannot produce the means necessary to complete a successful revolution on their own (cough, cough, Libya), so outside help is needed to accomplish the goal.

The fact is that if America doesn’t lead the way, other countries are too weak and apathetic to solve the problems that arise. Britain and France, while powerful on paper, are too small to fully commit their forces to winning the war in Libya and initiating regime change. Libya isn’t even a big fish. German Nazism would have succeeded in taking over Britain had the U.S. not stepped in. The USSR would have just bullied its way through Europe had the U.S. not had the resolve to halt the militaristic advance of authoritarian communism. No one would have attacked Afghanistan for us if we didn’t do it ourselves in the aftermath of 9/11.

Yes, America looks out for herself, but she also aids all free people. Who is going to stand up to the Soviet Union when they shut off all the energy resources to Europe? Who is going to stand up to China when it cracks down on its people and manipulates the global economy? Who is going stand up to North Korea when it threatens its neighbors? Who will keep the peace when the forces of darkness rattle the cages in the Middle East? America will. We are morally obligated to fight for what is right and to stand for those that aren’t strong enough to stand on their own. Yes it’s a burden, but it is a necessary one if we really believe in the greatness that free people can achieve.

Even if we buy into my argument above, if we don’t execute it fully we will create a bigger mess than when we started: the Vietnam War, the Korean War, Bosnia, the Bay of Pigs, the Gulf War — the list goes on. America’s greatest mistakes are based on compromising our moral righteousness in defending and extending liberty. I pray this won’t happen with Libya or any other country this president decides to bomb. Maybe that Hope and Change will show up eventually …

Mark Easley is a junior majoring in computer science. He can be reached at measley@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.