Libya, the US, and the Moral Imperative to Intervene

Shadi Hamid in Democracy Arsenal:

R736921_5990181 Finally, after much “dithering” – which seems to be the consensus word choice for Obama's sputtering Mideast policy – the US has finally suggested that it can, sometimes, do the right thing, even if it does it three weeks later (I looked back to see when I had written my Slate article calling for international intervention – February 23).

The arguments against military intervention struck me as surprisingly weak and almost entirely dependent on raising the spectre of Iraq and Afghanistan. It was somewhat unclear how and why Iraq 2003 should be compared to Libya 2011. Michael Cohen, whose preference for foreign policy restraint is admirable, worried recently that John McCain and Joe Lieberman's support for a no-fly zone portended bad things to come. Just because McCain and Lieberman support something doesn't automatically mean it's bad.

Cohen writes that Iraq and Afghanistan “are daily reminders that the use of U.S. military force can have unforeseen and often unpredictable consequences.” Yes, but that's sort of the point with bold action. It's supposed to be risky (in fact, if it's not, you may not be going far enough). Success isn't guaranteed. And no one is pretending that a positive outcome in Libya is a foregone conclusion now that the UN Security Council has adopted a resolution authorizing military force. But it does make a successful outcome more likely.

More here. [See also this.]