Just what we need, another Middle East war

March 24, 2011|By Ron Smith

Now what? After attacking Libya "on the fly," as Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it, what's next in this latest chapter of Operation Enduring Blunder? (I like that moniker better than the meaningless "Odyssey Dawn.")

There is more than a little of the surreal in this latest bombardment of an Islamic nation, yet we know it's all too real, and we suspect that our president's claim that we'll be out of there in "days rather than weeks" is more likely to turn into years rather than weeks.

I base this on recent experience. Iraq was going to be the war that pays for itself, in the gospel according to Paul Wolfowitz. (Mr. Wolfowitz, you will recall, was a primary architect of that grand adventure and is still turned to by ABC's This Week as an expert whose advice should be granted some credibility, despite his woeful track record.)

Neocons differ from old soldiers in that they never even fade away. They hold such power in the major media that people like Armchair Army Marshal Max Boot is given prime op-ed space in The New York Times to beat the war drum, even though he is a columnist for Rupert Murdoch's "War Street Journal" — reflexively despised by the folks at the Old Gray Lady in Manhattan.

George W. had his "coalition of the willing," but Barack Obama's looks much more like a coalition of the unwilling this week. Some allies are gung-ho for sure; a British politician spoke approvingly of being in Libya for 30 years. France's Nicolas Sarkozy sounded like de Gaulle resurrected in boasting of France taking its rightful place at this time in history.

But the Germans want no part of a NATO involvement in the Libyan civil war; Italy accuses the French of being motivated by schemes of getting more Libyan oil; the Norwegians are awaiting further instructions; and despite the American insistence that others take the lead, almost all the warships arrayed in the Mediterranean near Tripoli are ours.

The hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of cruise missiles blasting Moammar Gadhafi's armor, airfields and troops are almost entirely ours. The cost of this thing will surpass a billion dollars quickly, and our president tells a Spanish TV network, "This is something that we can build into our budget," adding, "And we're confident that not only can the goals be achieved, but at the end of the day the American people are going to feel satisfied that lives were saved and people were helped."

We must remember that this administration's motives are pure, that this military intervention in the affairs of another nation is being done for humanitarian reasons, and that the seemingly offhand manner in which we decided to do this, mentioned by Secretary Gates, is fine because — well, just because.

If it seems a bit arbitrary, considering the many despots terrorizing their own peoples against whom we take no action, well, that's just the way the cookie crumbles.

If one is suspicious that the pledge of "no boots on the ground" might prove difficult to live up to, considering that the ragtag rebels haven't a chance of success without those boots, the president insists those suspicions are groundless.

Within days, he says, we'll move into the background, leaving enforcement of the "no-fly zone" to our fractious and bewildered allies, some of whom are saying we should stop already with the bombing.

The Arab League was with us as cover for, what, a day?

It's dawning on more Americans that no matter whom you elect, Republican or Democrat, the Empire staggers along the same path that it has for decades, committed to maintaining world hegemony even as its cost becomes unbearable.

I said on the radio after the new Congress agreed to the largest military spending bill in history, "Their opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was pure B.S. designed to wrest power from their partners in governmental crime, corruption and parasitic rent seeking."

We now have opened a third front in our promised Long War. Might it be, as a listener suggested to me, "World War Three on the installment plan?"

The best we can hope for is a massive dose of good luck.

Ron Smith's column appears Fridays in The Baltimore Sun. His e-mail is rsmith@wbal.com.

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