Advocates for war against Libya can’t even count on Wesley Clark to support them. Clark has written an op-ed in which he outlines an updated Weinberger-Powell Doctrine. This is fairly remarkable considering Clark’s role as the commanding officer in the illegal war in Kosovo and his later efforts to turn that experience into a political springboard in the 2004 presidential race. Clark’s account of the Kosovo war in the op-ed isn’t very satisfying, but he makes a solid argument against starting a war with Libya. First, a Libyan war does not serve American interests:
How do we apply this test to Libya? Protecting access to oil supplies has become a vital interest, but Libya doesn’t sell much oil to the United States, and what has been cut off is apparently being replaced by Saudi production. Other national interests are more complex. Of course, we want to support democratic movements in the region, but we have two such operations already underway – in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then there are the humanitarian concerns. It is hard to stand by as innocent people are caught up in violence, but that’s what we did when civil wars in Africa killed several million and when fighting in Darfur killed hundreds of thousands. So far, the violence in Libya is not significant in comparison. Maybe we could earn a cheap “victory,” but, on whatever basis we intervene, it would become the United States vs. Gaddafi, and we would be committed to fight to his finish. That could entail a substantial ground operation, some casualties and an extended post-conflict peacekeeping presence.
Clark points out that a no-fly zone isn’t going to achieve the outcome its advocates want, and there would be other means of addressing humanitarian concerns:
In Libya, if the objective is humanitarian, then we would work with both sides and not get engaged in the matter of who wins. Just deliver relief supplies, treat the injured and let the Libyans settle it. But if we want to get rid of Gaddafi, a no-fly zone is unlikely to be sufficient – it is a slick way to slide down the slope to deeper intervention.
The U.S. is wholly unprepared for the post-conflict situation, and we don’t understand what forces we’re enabling:
In Libya, we don’t know who the rebels really are or how a legitimate government would be formed if Gaddafi were pushed out. Perhaps we will have a better sense when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with rebel leaders, as she is scheduled to do this coming week. In a best-case scenario, there would be a constitutional convention, voter lists, political parties and internationally supervised free and fair elections. But there could also be a violent scramble for authority in which the most organized, secretive and vicious elements take over. We are not well-equipped to handle that kind of struggle. And once we intervene, Libya’s problems would become our responsibility.
There is no legal basis for intervention:
In Libya, Gaddafi has used and supported terrorism, murdered Americans and repressed his people for 40 years. The American public may want to see him go. But his current actions aren’t an attack on the United States or any other country. On what basis would we seek congressional support and international authorization to intervene in a civil war? Do we have the endorsement of the Arab League? A U.N. Security Council resolution?
Clark sums up his argument and concludes that the U.S. should stay out of Libya:
Given these rules, what is the wisest course of action in Libya? To me, it seems we have no clear basis for action. Whatever resources we dedicate for a no-fly zone would probably be too little, too late. We would once again be committing our military to force regime change in a Muslim land, even though we can’t quite bring ourselves to say it. So let’s recognize that the basic requirements for successful intervention simply don’t exist, at least not yet: We don’t have a clearly stated objective, legal authority, committed international support or adequate on-the-scene military capabilities, and Libya’s politics hardly foreshadow a clear outcome [bold mine-DL].