Good Questions, Admiral Smith
If Snuffy Smith is worried about Libya, we all should be worried about Libya.
Smith, who now lives in Pinehurst, knows more about no-fly zones than perhaps anyone else, because he commanded one. As a four-star admiral in charge of Operation Deny Flight during the Bosnian civil war, he learned — the hard way — some lessons that can be of value today in this war-by-committee in Libya.
For one thing, Smith learned what it is like to work with varying interpretations of the mission. Back then, he had to deal with “only” 16 member states. Today, NATO is nearly twice as big and even more cumbersome.
NATO assumed command of the no-fly zone late Thursday, but the 28 nations currently making up that organization were still uncertain what role to play in protecting civilians. That, however, is the sole reason for the thin authority offered by the United Nations for military action.
Plenty of Other Despots
Among the troubling questions that emerged from The Pilot’s interview with Smith:
— Did French President Nicolas Sarkozy con Britain and the United States into supporting this venture? Those three countries now control combat operations. Sarkozy said NATO should take that over as well but wants the coalition in “political control.” Just how is that supposed to work?
— We are now engaged militarily in yet another Muslim country, this time without any hostile act from that country against our own. Yes, the despot Moammar Gadhafi attacked his own people when they rallied in the streets for liberty. The carnage outraged the world. But is it the foreign policy of the United States (as determined by President Obama) that Gadhafi “must go”?
— What about the rest of the world’s dictators? There are dozens of other countries where intervention would be at least as warranted under the standard used in Libya. People are marching in Syria. Tens of thousands marched in Yemen’s capital Sanaa. The same demands for liberty that spread from Tunis to sweep over ancient Carthage and wash quickly across the land of Egypt are breaking on other shores. Despots fled at first but are shooting protesters now, and they aren’t using rubber bullets.
This selective interventionism looks to much of the world like hypocrisy on a massive scale.
After Gadhafi, What?
We face the prospect of a widening war with no clear end in mind. The president might have asked Congress for a declaration of war a week ago. He did not. Of course, no president since FDR has taken that step despite the unequivocal constitutional delegation of go-to-war decisions to that body.
As candidate Obama said when seeking the office he now holds, the president should ask Congress for its blessing, as he ought to have done beforehand. At the very least, the president must tell the American people more clearly what he means to do, how he means to do it, who will pay for it, and most important of all, what it will achieve.
Among other questions from the admiral that cry out for answers:
— Who are we helping?
— Who is going to take over if Gadhafi is deposed, and is he going to be worse?
— What is the endgame? Or are we headed for another quagmire?
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