Conservatives debate the war in Libya

Here is a good summary of the debate among conservatives about whether or not to support the war in Libya:

Ron Radosh » Our Libyan War: What Position Should Skeptical Conservatives Take?.

Neoconservative William Kristol is calling the president Barack H. Reagan and saying conservatives should back off in their criticism and support the president in war time.  He believes that America should always be on the side of freedom and that protecting the Libyan rebels and working to overthrow Gaddafi is something that Americans should just do as a matter of principle.  All Kristol is saying, according to his turn of phrase, is “give war a chance.”

Some Congressional conservatives, such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio says that congress should pass a resolution not only authorizing the war but taking it further, making it official policy that our goal is to remove Gaddafi, which would permit sending in troops if necessary.

Meanwhile, paleoconservatives and libertarians are arguing that we should not intervene in other countries, that we have no national interest in Libya and that we cannot be the world’s policeman.  Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is articulating that position, making this argument:

Intervening in a civil war in a tribal society in which our government admits we have no vital interests to help people we do not know, simply does not make any sense. Libyan society is complicated, and we simply do not know enough about the potential outcomes or leaders to know if this will end up in the interests of the United States, or if we are in fact helping to install a radical Islamic government in the place of a secular dictatorship.

Consider the various arguments.  What do you conclude?  (Though this post focuses on the different conservative positions, liberals may weigh in too, saying which kind of conservative they agree with.)

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    If a wildfire is threatening your house, you have to expend the resources to fight it. Otherwise, it’s okay just to let it burn itself out. Al Quaida, in Afghanistan, clearly has threatened (more than threatened) my house. I was among many who believed that Iraq did, also. In retrospect, it appears that Iraq was not as much of a threat as we thought. I think Rand Paul’s take on the Libyan situation is the correct one.

  • Pete

    If a wildfire is threatening your house, you have to expend the resources to fight it. Otherwise, it’s okay just to let it burn itself out. Al Quaida, in Afghanistan, clearly has threatened (more than threatened) my house. I was among many who believed that Iraq did, also. In retrospect, it appears that Iraq was not as much of a threat as we thought. I think Rand Paul’s take on the Libyan situation is the correct one.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    My take is that it’s very odd how until very recently, nobody in the media was bothering to ask who was fighting Gaddhafi. They, on the other hand, were not shy about asking the same questions in the run-up to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Selective curiousity depending on the party of the President?

    Also, it’s very interesting how many promises have been broken already. No boots on the ground = “CIA has been there for weeks training these guys” (it was also promised that we wouldn’t train or arm them). “Gaddhafi must go” = “we are only trying to ….”

    In other words, the guy at 1600 Pennsylvania is making Clinton look honest by comparison, and that’s saying something.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    My take is that it’s very odd how until very recently, nobody in the media was bothering to ask who was fighting Gaddhafi. They, on the other hand, were not shy about asking the same questions in the run-up to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Selective curiousity depending on the party of the President?

    Also, it’s very interesting how many promises have been broken already. No boots on the ground = “CIA has been there for weeks training these guys” (it was also promised that we wouldn’t train or arm them). “Gaddhafi must go” = “we are only trying to ….”

    In other words, the guy at 1600 Pennsylvania is making Clinton look honest by comparison, and that’s saying something.

  • Cincinnatus

    Pete, you really thought Iraq threatened your house?

  • Cincinnatus

    Pete, you really thought Iraq threatened your house?

  • mark†

    Exploit our own natural resources, which would lessen if not eliminate the importance of the Middle East.

    Stay home and mind our own business.

    Only when fight when we are attacked or our legitimate national interests are at stake.

    No nation building. Go in. Win (however that is defined) and get out.

  • mark†

    Exploit our own natural resources, which would lessen if not eliminate the importance of the Middle East.

    Stay home and mind our own business.

    Only when fight when we are attacked or our legitimate national interests are at stake.

    No nation building. Go in. Win (however that is defined) and get out.

  • kerner

    Pete:

    Good analogy. But consider the following. The fire in Afghanistan may have been started by people who threaten our houses, but if it is contained in Afghanistan, it really is not much of a threat. The problem in Afghanistan is that we may very well be incapable of putting it out. Afghanistan just keeps on burning, and sucking up our resources. And to what purpose any more?

    In Iraq, we were concerned about the fire spreading. We woefully underestimated the resources necessary to put out the fire in Iraq, but we may have brought it under control. In Iraq, we might actually spread some fire retardant over the whole area. Ironically, Iraq may be the fire that was more in our interest to fight. Or, it might still blow up in our faces I must concede.

    Libya threatens the oil supply of our European allies. This does not threaten our own supply directly, but it does drive up the cost of oil on the world market. The problem I see with intervening in Libya is that we don’t know wat the consequences of our intervention will be. Sen. Paul is right about that. We know what is wrong with Gadaffi (a lot), but we have no assuance that his opposition won’t be worse.

    I’m really reluctant to support the Libya opposition forces unless we have enough information to indicate a fair probability that Gaddafi’s replacement will be better for the Libyans, and for us, than Gaddafi.

  • kerner

    Pete:

    Good analogy. But consider the following. The fire in Afghanistan may have been started by people who threaten our houses, but if it is contained in Afghanistan, it really is not much of a threat. The problem in Afghanistan is that we may very well be incapable of putting it out. Afghanistan just keeps on burning, and sucking up our resources. And to what purpose any more?

    In Iraq, we were concerned about the fire spreading. We woefully underestimated the resources necessary to put out the fire in Iraq, but we may have brought it under control. In Iraq, we might actually spread some fire retardant over the whole area. Ironically, Iraq may be the fire that was more in our interest to fight. Or, it might still blow up in our faces I must concede.

    Libya threatens the oil supply of our European allies. This does not threaten our own supply directly, but it does drive up the cost of oil on the world market. The problem I see with intervening in Libya is that we don’t know wat the consequences of our intervention will be. Sen. Paul is right about that. We know what is wrong with Gadaffi (a lot), but we have no assuance that his opposition won’t be worse.

    I’m really reluctant to support the Libya opposition forces unless we have enough information to indicate a fair probability that Gaddafi’s replacement will be better for the Libyans, and for us, than Gaddafi.

  • DonS

    In the case of Libya, I don’t yet see a U.S. national interest in engaging militarily, and I’m not really sure our government does either, given the mixed messages it is signaling. http://www.myfoxla.com/dpps/news/gates%3A-libya-not-%27a-vital-interest%27-for-us-dpgapx-km-20110327_12506971 We don’t have any idea, even, if the rebels are any more well intentioned than Ghaddafi. They might be much worse. This is a fight for our European allies, should they choose to take it on.

  • DonS

    In the case of Libya, I don’t yet see a U.S. national interest in engaging militarily, and I’m not really sure our government does either, given the mixed messages it is signaling. http://www.myfoxla.com/dpps/news/gates%3A-libya-not-%27a-vital-interest%27-for-us-dpgapx-km-20110327_12506971 We don’t have any idea, even, if the rebels are any more well intentioned than Ghaddafi. They might be much worse. This is a fight for our European allies, should they choose to take it on.

  • Porcell

    The trouble with American wars since Korea is that we try to win them with limited means. We need to carefully consider whether any war is crucial to our vital interests; then, if the decision is war overwhelming force is necessary.

    As to Libya, as Don remarks, Europe has a much more vital interest, though the truth is that Europe has lost the ability to fight with unrelenting, overwhelming force.

    However, If Obama has decided that defeating Gadhafi is in our vital interest, then he should declare so to the American people and Congress and then prosecute the war with full force. Instead, he has declared that our only interest is preventing the slaughter of civilians and that America will follow European and UN leadership on the issue. He is as effective on the Libyan issue as with the spending issue that has the potential to cripple the country.

    In my lifetime Eisenhower was the best president on this issue. He knew what it took to fight a war; though under much pressure to get drawn into wars on the issues of Lebanon, Formosa, and Vietnam, he told his advisers that he would not be drawn into any limited war, though, if he decided that war were necessary it would be fought hard, with unrelenting strength. In fact he made this clear to Stalin and Mao, both of whom feared America under Eisenhower.

    Eisenhower, also, was a tough fiscal conservative, as he understood that America’s real strength had most to do with the private economy.

  • Porcell

    The trouble with American wars since Korea is that we try to win them with limited means. We need to carefully consider whether any war is crucial to our vital interests; then, if the decision is war overwhelming force is necessary.

    As to Libya, as Don remarks, Europe has a much more vital interest, though the truth is that Europe has lost the ability to fight with unrelenting, overwhelming force.

    However, If Obama has decided that defeating Gadhafi is in our vital interest, then he should declare so to the American people and Congress and then prosecute the war with full force. Instead, he has declared that our only interest is preventing the slaughter of civilians and that America will follow European and UN leadership on the issue. He is as effective on the Libyan issue as with the spending issue that has the potential to cripple the country.

    In my lifetime Eisenhower was the best president on this issue. He knew what it took to fight a war; though under much pressure to get drawn into wars on the issues of Lebanon, Formosa, and Vietnam, he told his advisers that he would not be drawn into any limited war, though, if he decided that war were necessary it would be fought hard, with unrelenting strength. In fact he made this clear to Stalin and Mao, both of whom feared America under Eisenhower.

    Eisenhower, also, was a tough fiscal conservative, as he understood that America’s real strength had most to do with the private economy.

  • Pete

    Cincinnatus (@3):

    Saddam was behaving like he had WMD’s. We know, in retrospect, that he didn’t. But, prior to our invading Iraq, almost nobody was opining that he didn’t have them. And, if he did, then he was at least threatening my house’s interests, if not my house itself. But I do concede that (knowing what we now know) the threat was minimal.
    Not much apology though- post 9/11, a surly attitude towards potential “firestarters” was (and still is) in order.

  • Pete

    Cincinnatus (@3):

    Saddam was behaving like he had WMD’s. We know, in retrospect, that he didn’t. But, prior to our invading Iraq, almost nobody was opining that he didn’t have them. And, if he did, then he was at least threatening my house’s interests, if not my house itself. But I do concede that (knowing what we now know) the threat was minimal.
    Not much apology though- post 9/11, a surly attitude towards potential “firestarters” was (and still is) in order.

  • helen

    Are you sure you don’t do 04/01 jokes, geneveith”

    I think the joke’s on us proles in this little caper.
    We’ll send the troops and the “designers” will count their profits, as in the preceding three.
    When the Bush dynasty and the bin Ladens are in the same investment group, the rest of us lose.

  • helen

    Are you sure you don’t do 04/01 jokes, geneveith”

    I think the joke’s on us proles in this little caper.
    We’ll send the troops and the “designers” will count their profits, as in the preceding three.
    When the Bush dynasty and the bin Ladens are in the same investment group, the rest of us lose.

  • Porcell

    helen, it is true that sometimes paranoids have real enemies.

  • Porcell

    helen, it is true that sometimes paranoids have real enemies.

  • helen

    I know, Porcell.
    The Texas Legislature is in session. :(

  • helen

    I know, Porcell.
    The Texas Legislature is in session. :(


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