The New Thugs, Worse Than The Old Thugs?

As usual, Canadian columnist David Warren gets the new Libyan adventure quite right:

Does anyone remember the Powell doctrine? A relic of Colin Powell’s days in the Pentagon, this held that any U.S. military incursion into a foreign country must meet three criteria of success. It must enjoy broad international support, employ overwhelming force, and deploy a clear exit strategy.

Really this was a relic of the Vietnam War, and America’s horrible national experience of bleeding to no purpose. Powell was never the president, however, and his doctrine was never official policy. It merely looked like a policy, in the absence of any articulate contradiction.

Had it been in force, the U.S. could never have entered the First World War, the Second World War, or Korea. It would also have obviated the American Revolution. It was about right for the Kuwait intervention in 1991, however.

This Powell doctrine was a curious echo of the shopping list that came down to us, from the Middle Ages, as “bellum iustum,” or “just war theory.” According to the Catholic Church, whose reasoning still underpins much of the West’s default public thinking, we may go to war when the enemy is not only an aggressor, but doing grave and lasting damage on an ambitious scale. Every alternative to war must be shown to have failed, or have no chance of success. A realistic prospect of victory must also be established. And it must be achievable without imposing disproportionate evils in turn…

Prudence, in the higher moral sense, cannot be reduced to a formula, yet the attempt by such great minds as those of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to think through the requirements of prudence in war cast much light on our quandaries. Into sin we may fall, but we must try to live justly.

In a way almost touching, the Bush administration tried to meet all the criteria of a just war, when invading Afghanistan, then Iraq. They tried to meet the Powell maxims, too. They went to elaborate and exhausting lengths to leave “democratic” and constitutional regimes, in a most unfavourable region. For this, especially, they endured the contempt of the world’s most aggressively self-righteous people.

Who, in turn, seem to be rallying behind the Security Council resolution of Thursday night, which “authorizes” the enforcement not only of no-fly zones over Libya, but any other uses to which military forces may be put, short of a decisive ground invasion.

The very fact that Russia and China failed to veto this resolution, speaks against it. That it fails not on one, but on every single criterion of a just war, should be noted. That it fails the Powell test is a matter of course.

The resolution was brought as temporary common ground between an American administration that is internally “divided” (the most flattering way to describe a president, and secretaries of state and defence who contradict each other when not contradicting themselves); and several but not all of the European Union states (Germany notably excepted); and a few members of the Arab League who will be seeking favours.

As Britain and France (remember Suez?) have not the ability to project serious military force into the theatre at short notice, the resolution depends for action upon their least willing partner. The U.S. is as ever expected to carry the ball most of the way to an unspecified end zone; after Robert Gates and arguably Barack Obama have gone on record opposing any such scheme.

Sarkozy’s France has, without consulting her European allies, already recognized the rebels in apparent control of Benghazi as an alternative government. No one else knows whom they are supporting, and in point of fact, the most promising internal opponents of Gadhafi’s regime are thuggish tribal chiefs and Islamist ideologues we have no reason to prefer to the monster with whom we are over-familiar…

We don’t know what we are doing. We only know that we have moral support for it on paper, from an international organization that is utterly corrupt, wherein members who do not wish us well are pleased to grant us permission to blunder…

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