Trying to get a gauge on what the proper response to Muammar Gaddafi’s rampage in Libya has been difficult for the Obama administration going forward. Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a House committee that establishing a no-fly zone would be a difficult endeavor, requiring Libyan air defense mechanisms to be disabled and at least two aircraft carriers in the region.
On this weekend’s NPR-affiliate KCRW “Left, Right and Center” program, former Los Angeles Times columnist and Truthdig editor-in-chief Robert Scheer, representing the left-wing perspective, lobbied for no U.S. intervention in Libya, citing Gates, for anything short of genocide.
“At West Point, Gates said don’t do another Iraq,” Scheer said. “Don’t do another Afghanistan. We’ve learned that and as he pointed out, you don’t do another no-fly zone without invading Libya. You have to take out all their installations and you once again inherit a country … you break it, you own it. Again, if you’re going to intervene, it should be to prevent a genocide. You should not use that word loosely and you do it in a way with all other countries that know about this region so you’re not getting the oil for yourself and you’re not making the U.S. the principle actor. I thought that was the sensible sentiment of Gates.”
He claimed some western intellectuals were on the Gaddafi payroll and said that should be a warning for policymakers to be critical of anyone pushing the idea of intervention.
“[T]he Libyans have to make their own history, and short of the exercise of genocidal actions which require international intervention, we should not be the godfather of their change,” Scheer added.
Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post’s “Right Turn” blogger with a neoconservative point of view, gave a passionate argument against Scheer’s anti-intervention sentiment and explained establishing a no-fly zone over Libya wouldn’t be as difficult as it is made out to be based on historical precedent.
“It is slaughter,” Rubin said. “We are standing by. We are not doing anything. This standard cannot be genocide. What, everything up to a million people killed is OK? That’s not a successful geopolitical strategy and it is not a moral position for the United States to take. Secretary Gates, or perhaps its Bob [Scheer] that forgets, we did operate a no-fly zone over Iraq if you remember and we didn’t invade way back when if you remember. We did operate a no-fly zone. So the notion that we have to have a land invasion is nuts.”
Rubin explained she was baffled by the level of ambivalence about Libya.
“Other powers are beginning to move ahead both rhetorically in terms of rescue efforts that are far in excess of what the United States is doing,” Rubin continued. “And right now we just look terribly befuddled as if we’ve abdicated whatever influence, whatever values that we might have. And it’s really I think a shameful display. How many people are going to have to die before it reaches a Darfur level or a Rwanda level to get people upset? You know, I thought the left was supposed to be concerned about people’s, you know the Arab world – their fate. It seems that at this point the only people who are concerned about them are neoconservatives.”