Costs Of War


Add a crashed F15E Strike Eagle to the bill of attacking Libya. It wasn't shot down, but rather "mechanical failures" are being blamed. I was just thinking, can you imagine the reaction if an F22 fighter had gone down? Oh, the agony of losing a $120 million plane instead of this aging $30 million plane. And of course, the cost of "overseas contingency operations" will continue to rise, stressing both men (and women) and machines to the breaking point. The good news being, of course, that this means the US government can't possibly afford to cut defense funds now.

I had an interesting comment on a previous post: "Who is suppose to be in charge of this war, non-war, no-fly zone, whatever?" That's right, it's not NATO or the EU, that would really complicate getting authorities to actually bomb something. It's not USAFRICOM, there is no Coalition Air Force command here. Best I can tell is that this is a loose multi-lateral coaltion between France, UK, and United States, with potential involvement by other supporting nations. That is to say, the United States is in the lead (despite comments to the contrary by SecState Clinton), and may someday soon hand over responsibility to a joint Franco-British coalition. You know, after we run out of legitimate ground targets.

Some conservatives don't like that. "America, F--k Yeah!" they holler. Fortunately we have Adam Serwer to counter the brainless yells.

Most of the arguments for why the U.S. should be seen as “taking the lead” seem to hinge on little more than the fact that so doing would be emotionally satisfying to those who have been agitating for intervention in Libya since hostilities began. On the other hand, Ross Douthat takes a different tack,arguing that the U.S. multilateral approach facilitates a “caution that shades into tactical incompetence.” But since the U.S. is still extricating itself from President George W. Bush’s unilateral invasion of Iraq, which didn’t exactly amount to “tactical competence,” this too is less than persuasive.

There are several reasons why the U.S. shouldn’t be seen as taking the lead. For one thing, the U.S. is already occupied with the aftermath of one war in Iraq and attempting to bring a more than decade-long operation in Afghanistan to its conclusion. The U.S. does not have unlimited military resources, and other countries that demanded intervention should take responsibility and offer contributions rather than free-riding off of the United States. The statements from the Arab League — which asked for intervention but then wavered when operations started — suggest that there really is a short shelf-life for the legitimacy for this operation in the Arab world, even though intervention initially had global support. If the operation goes badly, or takes far longer than advertised, it’s frankly in the U.S. interest not to be seen as having led the attack on a third Muslim country.

Of course we are, in fact, leading the attack on a third Muslim country, and the interesting thing is that there were those on the National Security Staff who warned the President that there were no vital national security interests in Libya and that we really didn't understand what the rebels would do or expect after the fighting stopped. No, our government went into Libya because of remorse from a few key players that we didn't send military troops into Rwanda to stop the genocide there. Not that there's any remote connection between Rwanda and Libya, but hey, they reasoned, at least there's a better case for international intervention than the Bush administration had. Because "Better than Iraq" is the new low bar that all of our foreign policy adventures are now judged.


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