Moral Outrage
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War in Libya a Failure

Seven months after NATO’s misguided war in Libya began, Moammar Gadhafi has been killed. Conventional wisdom seems to be that this outcome has proved the intervention to be right because it “worked.” However, far from vindicating the decision to attack Libya, Gadhafi’s bloody end represents much of what was wrong with the intervention from the start.

Instead of protecting the population of Libya — which is what the U.N. authorized — the West’s intervention allowed the conflict to continue and consume perhaps as many as 30,000 Libyan lives, including many thousands of civilians, in addition to tens of thousands wounded and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Libya has confirmed every skeptic’s worst fears that in practice, the “responsibility to protect” is little more than a pretext for toppling vulnerable governments.

Equally troubling from an American perspective is the ease with which the current administration launched a war against a government that had abandoned its former hostility, renounced unconventional weapons and terrorism, and provided some degree of security cooperation to the U.S. Pariah states now have no incentive to negotiate similar deals with the U.S. and its allies, and they have clear incentives to acquire the means of deterring a future intervention. This reduces diplomatic and political options in coping with these states in the future and makes conflicts with some of them more likely.

U.S. foreign policy has already become very militarized in the last decade, and the quick resort to the use of force in this instance significantly lowers the bar to justify future military action. The president now appears to be free of all constraints as to when and how to use force abroad, so long as the action can be deemed a success. And there are evidently no consequences for openly waging an illegal war.

[Excerpt of Yahoo News article by Daniel Larison]

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