Column, 630 words

Let’s Stay out of Libya

Why is it that going to war is the only issue politicians can agree on?

Donald Kaul

Yet again, our leaders think they’ve got a calling to save a country in the Middle East.

You would think with the bang-up job we’ve done saving Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention Kuwait and Saudi Arabia) we could call it a day, wouldn’t you? But no.

Now there’s a bipartisan effort to save Libya from Moammar Gadhafi, the creep who runs it. Why is it that going to war is the only issue politicians can agree on?

Senator after senator–John Kerry, John McCain, Joe Lieberman–as well as former President Bill Clinton have come before the microphones to suggest it might be time to stop the carnage being visited on the Libyan people by their leader.

“We have to try and help those who are offering an alternative future to Libya,” Lieberman said. “We cannot allow them to be stifled or stopped by brutal actions of the Libyan government.”

He doesn’t want us to invade Libya, thereby completing the hat trick of three simultaneous Middle East wars. None of them do. Doing something simple–like enforcing a no-fly zone–would suffice.

It would be easy, they say, and cheap. We’d hardly even notice we were doing it, and we’d be heroes.

And by the time you read this, we very well might have declared just such a zone. Or perhaps Gadhafi has put down the rebellion. Or the rebellion has put down Gadhafi. Whatever.

Do I have a vote? I’m against it.

It’s about time we figured out that “Middle East War” is not our best Jeopardy category.

Remember the Iraq War? Saddam Hussein with all those weapons of mass destruction–that Iraq War?

That was going to be easy too, wasn’t it? A slam dunk. And cheap. No, not cheap–free. Iraq’s oil would pay the whole tab.

That was eight years and 36,000 dead and wounded U.S. troops ago. We never did find those weapons since they didn’t exist. It has cost us $750 billion so far, with the meter still running.

We did succeed in removing the primary countervailing force to Iran in the region, thereby strengthening our greatest enemy in the Middle East at no cost to them–but at great cost in blood and treasure to us.

But surely, one could have no quarrel with the war in Afghanistan. We had suffered the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Taliban was harboring the very people who planned those attacks–Osama bin Laden chief among them. Afghanistan was a war to avenge 9/11 and exterminate bin Laden. It was going to be easy. We had an enemy who lived in caves and tents, in a nation with no air force or navy.

That was 10 years and 12,000 dead and wounded ago. The war has cost $250 billion, with no end in sight. And bin Laden is still on the loose.

Gen. David Petraeus, our top commander in Afghanistan, recently declared that the war was going well and we’ve got the Taliban on the run. His statement came only a week after it was announced we were conducting a strategic retreat from a valley that we once insisted was vital to our success–because we couldn’t control it anymore.

So now we want to save Libya? What if we beat the odds and actually did? There’s hardly a country in that area not in turmoil right now, with people in the streets fighting against their tyrannical leaders.

Who elected us the world’s savior?

I think we should get out of the wars we’re in before we start getting into new ones.

Does that make me a peacenik? Not necessarily. I think war has its place. World War II was worth fighting, as were the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.

I don’t think you should ever have to apologize for being against a war. Ever.

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OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. www.otherwords.org