Saturday, March 26, 2011
Most people argue that we should intervene in Libya. Although the degrees vary, from declaring war on the dictator to providing weaponry to the rebells to executing air strikes on targets, the common argument for all of these options is that we will help introduce a new democracy, and it is our role as an established democracy to help the emerging states transition into full democracies, as opposed to becoming the next DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo). The Canadian government has decided to go in as part of a coalition for air strikes, and has already executed a few. But before we commited to anything, we should have though the whole thing through. I will present several areas that should have recieved more consideration.
Our Role in the Conflict
Essentially, "Why are we here?" What are we trying to achieve? This will determine the best course of action. For example, if our goal was to prevent massacres, we should go in as UN troops and enforce the Rules of War. If our goal was to aid the rebels, air strikes will probably do the trick, but so would providing training, intelligence, or weapons. But if our goal was to ensure that a democracy is created, it would be helpful to start with talks on both sides about what they will do to ensure democracy, and then to join the best side. This would also help ensure a proper government is set up, as opposed to an autocratic government born out of the leadership of the rebels. It would also protect, to a degree, against the "enemy's enemies", like in Afghanistan (where we are currently fighting our enemy's enemy, the Taliban, who we offered help to).
Who we are Fighting For
Are we fighting for the rebels? Or for democracy? Or both? Or maybe it's the Libyan people we are fighting for. Are we fighting to prevent massacres, or are we picking a side? If we pick the rebels, but mean democracy, we stand the chance of the opposite. We know very little about the rebels, their beliefs, hopes, principles, and plans. It might be helpful to know that they do actually stand for western democracy, and not religious or tyrannical rule. If we say we are fighting for the people of Libya, we must remember that the armies of Gadafi are also manned by civilians, and have grown with volunteers.
Is our objective to remove Gadafi from power, get the rebels in power, or ensure that both parties can fight it out, with the fewest civilian casualties? An editorial cartoon in the National Post summed it up well: "So far, we have achieved all our objectives... whatever they may be." (Friday, March 25). If we don't know what our objectives are, we can't possibly have a plan. If we don't have a plan, there is nothing stopping this operation from dragging on and on.
The End-Game Scenario
When do we win? What is our signal that we're done? If we don't have one, we risk having ours change numerous times, and draw on forever. Like in Iraq, we could end up there for years and years, changing from counter-terrorists to nation-builders (and all the different faces of that). We could have our mission in Libya go from helping rebels to helping democracy to helping a struggling nation, all the while never being able to win. Currently, we don't have an end-game; we could just keep playing.
Our Pull-out Point
When do we lose? when do we say that the costs outweigh the benefits? Is it after X amount of deaths, X dollars spent, or X time elapsed? While I am typically against lose-conditions, this is not our war; it is that of the Libyan rebells and their tyrannical ruler. We might decide that we have helped, but the costs (not just money) have escalated to a point where we can no longer afford to help any longer.
But what's the message? This post is not to try to change your mind. It was written to incite you to fully flesh out your thoughts, to be able to defend your ideas against possible opponents. It was written to help you see any incomplete or incorrect thinking, and to find solutions to them. So if you hold that we should help the rebels gain democracy, think when our help ends. If you hold the opposite view, think when we would help. There's a joke where I come from: mainstream thinking is mid-stream thinking; it is incomplete. Although it isn't always true, make sure you have a complete you can rely on.