Is a Second Libya War a Good Idea?

 

I happen to think it might be. So in one way, I welcome this news:

The US is considering a new campaign of military action in Libya against ISIS, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, amid worries that the jihadist group could seize control of a larger slice of territory in the country.

Peter Cook, Pentagon press secretary, said the US was “looking at military options” for Libya “in the event” that ISIS “becomes more of a threat than it is even today”. Officials said the potential options would include concerted air strikes against ISIS and limited operations by special operations forces.

The new plans for potential military action in Libya come four years after the civil war and subsequent western campaign to topple Muammer Gaddafi. The chaos and instability in the country since then has created space for ISIS and other militant groups to prosper.

Alarm in western capitals about Libya has grown in recent weeks as ISIS, which already controls a long strip of coastline around the city of Sirte, has used heavy weapons to launch attacks against a series of oil facilities. US officials say there has been an influx of ISIS fighters into Libya, partly as a result of the stronger controls on the flow of fighters into Syria from Turkey.

Yes, this is causing alarm in Western capitals — I’m alarmed, and I’m in a Western capital, so I can vouch for that. But I very much hope that the military action they’re thinking about is prudent, because the wrong kind could make this situation worse, not better. The problem in Libya is not ISIS. ISIS is there because of the problem: The problem is that Libya no longer has a functional state.

I assume the Pentagon has asked itself why it doesn’t and drawn wise and appropriate conclusions. If it hasn’t, I hope Congress in its wisdom will decline to declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water, raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years, and all the other decisions we naturally expect Congress to make.

But wait …

I know. It’s a joke. But you know, it does happen to be in the Constitution of the United States. Maybe they put it there for a reason? If we go to war in Libya, it will be the second time in four years that we’ve gone to war in Libya without legal authorization from Congress. And the first time was not widely reckoned a success.

Some form of intervention is — in my view — absolutely necessary and prudent, based on what I understand of the situation. (For those of you who’d like to know more about what’s happening in Libya, Jason Pack’s Libya Analysis might be a good place to start.) But that intervention needs to leave Libya with more of a state, not less of one. More importantly, Claire Berlinski’s opinion about whether this is necessary and prudent isn’t the point.

The point is: What happens if the next president, or the one after that, wishes to prosecute an unnecessary or an imprudent war? Is there any special reason, based on the evidence of this election campaign, to believe our presidents will always be wise and prudent enough to make this decision without any check on one man’s power? Or one woman’s?

What’s genuinely the greater danger to us and to the world: ISIS, or the constitutional precedent we’re setting — one that will be with us for generations to come?

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  1. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Send the State Department. They like nation-building, they scoff at the military, and the military has to do their jobs for them. Man, that’s win-win, and it doesn’t take a declaration of war. Sending ambassadorial staff is entirely at the discretion of the Executive. And since there’s already a precedent set in Benghazi, the military won’t have to go clean it up, either.

    What difference, at any point, does it make?

    • #1
  2. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    It has been difficult to tell when the first one stopped.

    • #2
  3. David Sussman Podcaster
    David Sussman
    @DaveSussman

    But, Arab Spring!!

    While I am not knowledgeable of the numerous Libyan tribes and their sympathies, I find it telling that ISIS’s attacks on the Oil Crescent and pipeline is what is now moving the chess pieces.

    Thanks for the article. Something to follow.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Ball Diamond Ball: And since there’s already a precedent set in Benghazi, the military won’t have to go clean it up, either.

    Yes, send in the whole State Department. We’ll need lots of wingtips on the ground for this one.

    • #4
  5. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Ball Diamond Ball:Send the State Department. They like nation-building, they scoff at the military, and the military has to do their jobs for them. Man, that’s win-win, and it doesn’t take a declaration of war. Sending ambassadorial staff is entirely at the discretion of the Executive.

    Looks like it says “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate” to me, and the word “staff” isn’t in the Constitution at all. But that reminds me — what would you think of folding State, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security, as well as all the foreign intel agencies, into the DoD? Might get a more coordinated foreign policy with fewer bureaucratic turf wars out of that.

    And since there’s already a precedent set in Benghazi, the military won’t have to go clean it up, either.

    What difference, at any point, does it make?

    This thread’s a no-nihilism zone. Otherwise we get an infinite regress into meaninglessness and despair. And look, I’ll join you there, I promise, if the evidence leads me to it. If I wake up and discover I’m not alive anymore and neither is anyone else and there’s nothing afterward and it was all meaningless and I was never alive in the first place and neither was anyone else, I’ll post it on Ricochet. Until then, nihilism doesn’t seem a well-justified position to me.

    • #5
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: But that reminds me — what would you think of folding State, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security, as well as all the foreign intel agencies, into the DoD?

    Yes, we could call it the Department of Dealing with Furriners..

    • #6
  7. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Now, the more serious answer. I think State and War (DoD) serve two separate purposes, although related purposes to be sure. Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, as well as all the foreign intel agencies into the War Department? Maybe. War already has various intel agencies beneath it, or did. For something like CIA, though, perhaps fold that into State?

    I’m a firm believer that we can pretty much get by with only State, War, Treasury, and the Attorney General’s office (Justice). Surely we can fold what we need in these areas into either State or War and trash the rest?

    • #7
  8. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:Is there any special reason, based on the evidence of this election campaign, to believe our presidents will always be wise and prudent enough to make this decision without any check on one man’s power? Or one woman’s?

    No, none. In the top three priorities thread, I very nearly had something to the effect of “A clear, purposeful revision of war powers.” We’ve been avoiding this part of the Constitution for 70 years and it’s long past the tolerable stage and the current mechanisms do not work.

    • #8
  9. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Arahant: I’m a firm believer that we can pretty much get by with only State, War, Treasury, and the Attorney General’s office (Justice). Surely we can fold what we need in these areas into either State or War and trash the rest?

    I wonder if you’d get better performance by putting them all under the same roof, or if there’s a benefit we don’t appreciate in having constant inter-agency turf-warring — is it conceivable that it helps to minimize a tendency to groupthink?

    • #9
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I wonder if you’d get better performance by putting them all under the same roof, or if there’s a benefit we don’t appreciate in having constant inter-agency turf-warring — is it conceivable that it helps to minimize a tendency to groupthink?

    I think rivalry helps, but one only needs two: State and War. One does not need thirty different agencies at all levels of the administration.

    Besides, the two really do have separate goals. They support the same vision, but they are the good cop, bad cop. The one asks you politely, “Wouldn’t you like to work coöperatively with us?” The other breaks knee caps. Then State can ask again, “Wouldn’t you rather coöperate?”

    • #10
  11. dbeck Inactive
    dbeck
    @dbeck

    I would not expect anything from Obozo in this last year dedicated to screwing the American public indiscriminately regardless of race, national origin, especially Christians and Jews. Any action will depend on who the next CIC happens to be. If the Abuela is the boss we have her prior history of success which is dismal. The Donald wants to make a deal with everyone so who knows how that would go. The other candidates are unknowns, no military back ground to reference, so hard to know who their go to guys would be for advise.

    I’ve thought for a while we should keep our hands off all of it. Let ISIS become a country and then let their neighbors deal with them. We have a massive debt, infrastructure falling apart, a weakened military that has served too many consecutive tours in that armpit of the world and a disaffected population that would not support another war. We don’t need this. We ought not to let anyone suck us into this whirlpool. The people over there need to cowboy up and handle it.

    • #11
  12. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: But that reminds me — what would you think of folding State, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security, as well as all the foreign intel agencies, into the DoD

    There are serious Constitutional problems to begin with. Since the end of the Civil War and the signing of the Posse Comitatus Act (1878, rev. 1956 and 1981) the US military may not be used as a domestic force except where National Guard units are under the direct command of a state’s governor.

    There are also rules about the CIA operating domestically. The lines are blurred to be sure but shall we set off a massive turf war over the assets and control of the NSA, CIA and FBI?

    As for the VA, that would be a return to form. Ronald Reagan moved it out of the Pentagon and gave it cabinet status because it was so poorly run by the DOD.

    • #12
  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    dbeck: The people over there need to cowboy up and handle it.

    It’s either that, or time to fix things once and for all:

    • #13
  14. dbeck Inactive
    dbeck
    @dbeck

    Arahant:

    dbeck: The people over there need to cowboy up and handle it.

    It’s either that, or time to fix things once and for all:

    Love it!

    • #14
  15. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Turf wars are called competition. The problem with all Departments, agencies, field offices or embassies is size, lack of direction, careerism. That doesn’t change by putting them all under one more layer. When we combine we add a layer, nothing more. Everyone in an embassy is theoretically under the Ambassador and the Ambassador is under the President. Or so the story goes, but unless the Ambassador is strong, backed up by a strong Secretary of State who is backed by a White House that actually pays attention it’s still everybody going in their own direction pushing separate headquarters goals or personal career goals. Embassies are invariably too large, over three quarters of the personnel are not from the State Department and if you remove the administrative and security staff, it’s less than 10%. How many of those people are needed? When there is a crisis, three or four. We need these people, but generally we need only a few and unless they’re really good and well trained, they aren’t needed at all.

    • #15
  16. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    I Walton: We need these people, but generally we need only a few and unless they’re really good and well trained, they aren’t needed at all.

    Amen. I’m all for getting rid of a whole passel of the tax-eaters as we consolidate, rather than just adding layers.

    • #16
  17. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    It’s my understanding that one of the drivers of conflict in Libya is the attempt of tribes from different parts to control the whole. (Sounds familiar, yes?) A stable North Africa is without doubt in theUS’ (and Europe’s) vital interests, but does that mean trying to keep the Libyan borders as they are (in which case you need to back another strong man) or to recognise the divisions? Recognising the divisions may result in a more achievable mission statement, but changing the borders opens pandora’s box across the region.

    • #17
  18. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: what would you think of folding State, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security, as well as all the foreign intel agencies, into the DoD?

    Totally against. I’d be for firing all of State, barring them for getting rehired and letting the DoD take over their job but you don’t need that many more pie-eyed liberals let loose in the military infrastructure.

    Our military policies are bad enough as it is.

    • #18
  19. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    The United States military cannot do a single thing in Libya or anywhere else until the Congress votes to authorize it do so. Any act in this regard without Congressional approval is an unconstitutional act. We need to start getting a handle on our constant war economy and that begins by getting back to the constitutional authority of Congress to determine when the President can use the military. If Libya is a problem in Paris, then let France deal with it. Ditto Rome, London, Berlin, etc. If Libya is a problem in the Middle East, then let them deal with it. I am sick to death of expending U.S. capital, both human and materiel, on rescuing countries from their own cultures and societies. Let the Libyans stand on their own two feet or fall on their own backs.

    • #19
  20. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Austin Murrey:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: what would you think of folding State, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security, as well as all the foreign intel agencies, into the DoD?

    Totally against. I’d be for firing all of State, barring them for getting rehired and letting the DoD take over their job but you don’t need that many more pie-eyed liberals let loose in the military infrastructure.

    Our military policies are bad enough as it is.

    Reform State, improve VA, and disband DHS.

    • #20
  21. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Zafar: …but changing the borders opens pandora’s box across the region.

    Still, I’m more for that idea. The divisions and borders have seldom through history remained stable. The idea of stable borders, in general, is a fiction that would put globe makers and cartographers out of business.

    • #21
  22. dbeck Inactive
    dbeck
    @dbeck

    Arahant:

    Zafar: …but changing the borders opens pandora’s box across the region.

    Still, I’m more for that idea. The divisions and borders have seldom through history remained stable. The idea of stable borders, in general, is a fiction that would put globe makers and cartographers out of business.

    I’m for letting the tribes carve out their borders any way they can do it, treaty, war, what ever. Just not with us involved. I buy a new world map every couple of years, Eastern Europe and Africa sure does change a lot.

    • #22
  23. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    I would focus on Iraq/Syria situation first. We’re probably going to need 40,000 troops there if we want to do that right. Do we have the resources for two theaters? I’m skeptical, and frankly this president is the wrong president to manage any military effort, let alone two simultaneous.

    Until we get good leadership, my gut reaction is to not support any military action.

    • #23
  24. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Robert McReynolds: If Libya is a problem in Paris, then let France deal with it. Ditto Rome, London, Berlin, etc. If Libya is a problem in the Middle East, then let them deal with it.

    As I’m sure you know, it’s not Libya per se that’s got Western capitals worried. It’s ISIS. Everyone from San Bernardino to Jakarta has an interest in eradicating ISIS. The question is how best to do it and who will coordinate it. The United States is the only country that could conceivably coordinate such an effort.

    • #24
  25. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Manny: Until we get good leadership, my gut reaction is to not support any military action.

    The constitutional problem remains. Should this kind of decision ever be made without an explicit public debate and explicit authorization by Congress? Isn’t it time to decide this?

    • #25
  26. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Should this kind of decision ever be made without an explicit public debate and explicit authorization by Congress?

    No, it should not.

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Isn’t it time to decide this?

    I thought it had been decided back in 1787 or so. We just need to elect more officials who know how to read.

    • #26
  27. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Arahant: I’m a firm believer that we can pretty much get by with only State, War, Treasury, and the Attorney General’s office (Justice). Surely we can fold what we need in these areas into either State or War and trash the rest?

    I wonder if you’d get better performance by putting them all under the same roof, or if there’s a benefit we don’t appreciate in having constant inter-agency turf-warring — is it conceivable that it helps to minimize a tendency to groupthink?

    If they were merged, they’d be merged lock, stock, and barrel. There’d be no reduction of overlapping personnel, and the present glacial decision-making processes would seize up entirely. And the turf wars and other dysfunctions would become even more deeply hidden from the public’s eye.

    We got along fine, too, for nearly 100 years without a DoJ, only an AG and a couple of staffers. DoJ was created to handle a plethora of Federal laws; today they simply exacerbate each other. There’s a hint there.

    More related to OP, Churchill wanted to nibble around the edges of NAZI conquerings rather than strike for the heart. Maybe that would have worked, too, but in the realization, a more direct path was taken. I think it more useful, with a suitably formed intervention and a clearly defined set of victory conditions (as opposed to “exit strategy”), to strike at the heart of the Daesh first, with a better thought out and executed followup against the fragments than we had regarding al Qaeda.

    Eric Hines

    • #27
  28. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Some form of intervention is — in my view — absolutely necessary and prudent, based on what I understand of the situation. (For those of you who’d like to know more about what’s happening in Libya, Jason Pack’s Libya Analysis might be a good place to start.) But that intervention needs to leave Libya with more of a state, not less of one. More importantly, Claire Berlinski’s opinion about whether this is necessary and prudent isn’t the point.

    It was a bit disconcerting to find how comparatively little in the way of situational reports are to be found on the internet concerning ISIS in Libya, in contrast to ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The one link you provided was about the only serious (non-pay-to-read) source that Google came up with. How is the public to know what action to support without more data?

    • #28
  29. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    Arahant:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Isn’t it time to decide this?

    I thought it had been decided back in 1787 or so. We just need to elect more officials who know how to read.

    The incumbents know how to read. We need to elect more officials who feel bound by something greater than themselves.

    Eric Hines

    • #29
  30. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Manfred Arcane: (non-pay-to-read)

    The could try paying for it … journalists have to earn a living, somehow.

    • #30

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