In his remarks to the nation tonight on Libya, President Obama tonight won’t make much of a case that our national security interests are served by the attack on Libya. Instead, he’ll stick to the humanitarian argument that the United States, a great and moral nation, could not sit by while Muammar Qaddafi gorged himself on the blood of his own people.
I agree with the president on this. I know many of you don’t. Not because you care less than me about human lives, but because you you think this operation is bad for the United States in the long run. You believe we are overstretched already, that intervention is potentially costly and dangerous, that the rebels could turn out to be bad guys, and that America has to focus its limited resources on its own problems.
I share all these concerns and respect your views. But for me, the risks are worth taking. Not just to prevent the killing of thousands, but because stopping Qaddafi is in the VITAL NATIONAL SECURITY INTERESTS of the United States. Despite the view of the Secretary of Defense, who should have resigned if he thinks otherwise, which he said Sunday he does.
Here is why I believe the Libya action is a national security matter:
1. The policy of the United States is to increase freedom and democracy throughout the world, not only because we like it, but because regimes that tolerate greater freedom tend to be allies and helpers of the United States. By allowing Qaddafi to crush the rebellion against him, we would signal to the rest of the world that we are not serious about these goals and undermine those throughout the world who seek to advance them in their countries. We would empower a culture of savagery around the world as other leaders operated from Qaddafi’s playbook.
The message would be clear: respond with ruthless violence to your opposition, and the United States will let you succeed. This is a very bad idea to give countries like Syria and Iran, where replacement of the current regimes – both under internal pressure – is an imperative. It could also discourage the opposition in China, where we also tacitly seek regime change, telling democracy advocates the United States is not serious about their goals.
2. If we simply sat and watched instead of intervening while a tyrant with American blood on his hands rampaged through his own country, we would be viewed by our enemies, from the mountains of Afghanistan to Tehran and points East, as weak and unwilling to act. We cannot intervene everywhere there is mayhem and murder, but if we ignored not only the pleas of those being massacred but the importuning our allies when we could act at relatively little cost and without the logistical hurdles presented by crisis spots like the Sudan and elsewhere, our worst enemies would be emboldened.
3. Having won by slaughtering his own people, Qaddafi would again be an international pariah. Isolated but cocky with victory, there is every reason to assume he would resume supporting the various terrorists outfits he has backed in the past. It would be clear to him that the United States means him no harm, removing the incentive he had to end his nuclear weapons program and giving him every reason to restart it. It has worked quite well for Kim Jong-Il, who need not fear any external threats to unseat him.
4. A Qaddafi victory would result in sprawling refugee camps of Libyans in Egypt, a perfect breeding ground for Islamic terrorists and a destabilizing force within a country that we need to get on a stable, non-Islamist path.
Obama is right in the action he has taken, even if it was done way late and incompetently executed and led. And he is our commander in chief during a time of war. He deserves our moral support – even if we criticize and disagree with him – and our wishes that the operation is successful and that it ends with the death of Qaddafi.