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Hypocrisy Headache: American Ignorance as a Weapon Against Libyans

Reads: "No Foreign Intervention / Libyan People Can Manage It Alone"

Right now, I’m suffering from a severe hypocrisy headache that no medicine can cure. Across blogs, social media, news outlets, and even conversations with friends and family, we’re hearing calls for a no-fly zone over Libya in the wake of the brutal suppression of the uprising tearing across the country. Not only is this a dangerous call – unless it is specifically requested by Libyans (and to be fair, there does seem to be disagreement among those who are rebelling about whether this is desired) – but it is a completely hypocritical stance for anyone in the United States to be taking.

The logic behind the no-fly zone is that the Gaddafi Regime in Libya is using its air force to decimate the uprising, but, more importantly, it is also killing and maiming civilians as a result of its offensive. This is completely true and indefensible, but there are a number of ways that governments and the “international community” can support the Libyan people’s uprising without implementing a no-fly zone. And here in the U.S., the charge for a no-fly zone is being led by War Hawks and neo-conservatives. Those clamoring for it primarily include notorious war-mongers such as Paul Wolfowitz, John McCain, and Joe Lieberman (go here to read more about the neo-cons calling for the No-Fly Zone). And on Slate.com, Michael Lind sheds light on the reality of the true intentions of those in the U.S. demanding a no-fly zone over Libya, which is essential to understand:

[Wolfowitz’s, McCain’s, Lieberman’s, etc.] implication is that the enforcement of “no-fly zones,” by the U.S. alone or with NATO allies, would be a moderate, reasonable measure short of war, like a trade embargo. In reality, declaring and enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya would be a radical act of war. It would require the U.S. not only to shoot down Libyan military aircraft but also to bomb Libya in order to destroy anti-aircraft defenses. Under any legal theory, bombing a foreign government’s territory and blasting its air force out of the sky is war.

Could America’s war in Libya remain limited? The hawks glibly promise that the U.S. could limit its participation in the Libyan civil war to airstrikes, leaving the fighting to Libyan rebels.

These assurances by the hawks are ominously familiar.

Lind points to the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and argues perfectly that all three of these “quick” wars easily evolved into much larger and disastrous wars – especially the last two. When selling the American public and the world on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars (or “military operations”) less then 10 years ago, the Bush administration repeatedly proclaimed these “military actions” would be simple, smooth, and easy. (There too they promised we would be greeted as liberators). Last time I checked, however, the U.S. is still bogged down in both countries. Lind goes on to explain how many of the arguments that have kept us in Afghanistan and Iraq far longer than promised, despite destroying the nations’ infrastructures and taking the lives of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of innocents, would destine to keep us in Libya as well:

The lesson of these three wars is that the rhetoric of lift-and-strike is a gateway drug that leads to all-out American military invasion and occupation. Once the U.S. has committed itself to using limited military force to depose a foreign regime, the pressure to “stay the course” becomes irresistible. If lift-and-strike were to fail in Libya, the same neocon hawks who promised that it would succeed would not apologize for their mistake. Instead, they would up the ante. They would call for escalating American involvement further, because America’s prestige would now be on the line. They would denounce any alternative as a cowardly policy of “cut and run.” And as soon as any American soldiers died in Libya, the hawks would claim that we would be betraying their memory, unless we conquered Libya and occupied it for years or decades until it became a functioning, pro-American democracy.

The U.N. will ultimately decide if a no-fly zone should be imposed over Libya, as the Obama Administration wouldn’t dare to act alone. And such a decision from the administration would depend on the American public’s willingness (or perceived willingness) to get involved in another international military conflict. Here, the War Hawks are counting on exploiting two forms of American ignorance and cognitive dissonance in their aims for a no-fly zone that, in their minds, would hopefully avalanche into a much larger military campaign. Most Americans: 1) forget (or don’t know) that our military is already involved in numerous conflicts all across the region – ranging from full scale occupations and wars to secretive bombing campaigns and undercover ops; and 2) don’t understand that the rationale for applying a no-fly zone over Libya would require implementing a no-fly zone against the U.S. and its allies in the region as well.

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