Jacob Heilbrunn

The GOP's Neocon Addiction to War

 Why has the GOP become addicted to war? The default response of the party to almost any international conflict has been to argue that America should intervene, or, to use a less polite term, intrude into what amounts, more often than not, to a domestic dispute. Add the political capital that congressional leaders and presidential aspirants believe can be derived from pummeling a Democratic president for passivity, appeasement, and you have a recipe for embroiling America in messy foreign conflicts.

Libya is a case in point. My TNI colleague Paul Pillar demolishes the arguments being made by Iraq last-ditchers that the venture was a blazing success as evidenced currently by the revolts sweeping across the Middle East. He notes that, contrary to Charles Krauthammer, Libya's Gadhafi was not quaking at the prospect of being driven from power, ala Saddam Hussein, but, rather, was interested in having sanctions lifted and that moves to negotiate with him date all the way back to 1999.

But I think one could go even further. The neocons who urged America to invade Iraq are now noisily denouncing President Obama for being a wussbag on Libya. At the same time, Sen. Mitch McConnell said that "arming the insurgents" should be considered. And so on.

But there are sound reasons to resist such a course. The last thing that America needs is to become bogged down in Libya. Yes, all power to the rebels for taking on Gadhafi. But frankly, it's their fight and they have to win it. Inserting America directly into the conflict would simply fan, not create, the perception that an outside imperialist power is once more throwing its not inconsiderable weight around in the Middle East. Maybe a no-fly zone could be established with NATO. But this is not the time for America to come swaggering in by itself. America's military may still be top gun, but this isn't a Top Gun moment.

White House chief of staff William Daley correctly noted "this has to be an international effort" on NBC's Meet the Press. Sen. John Kerrry suggested that Libya's runways could be bombed. But that's as far as it should go, if it even gets to that point.

The Wall Street Journal is denouncing "Obama's Libyan Abdication." It predicts,

 

The greatest danger now to U.S. interests—and to Mr. Obama's political standing—would be for Gadhafi to regain control. A Libya in part or whole under the Gadhafi clan would be a failed, isolated and dangerous place ruled by a vengeful tyrant and a likely abettor of terrorists.

 

It likens Obama's alleged passivity to the Bush administration's failure to protect the Shiites in Iraq whom it encouraged to rebel. But there is a distinction. The Obama administration did not encourage Libyans to overthrow the loathsome Gadhafi. Instead, Libyans are doing it themselves. Which is why Obama is right to be wary about inserting himself into a Libyan civil war that Gadhafi is likely to lose, whether or not American forces assists the rebel forces.