The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Grinding On

As the war in Libya grinds on, it’s almost as if the media has forgotten the President’s promise of to end the conflict in “days, not weeks” —a promise made many months ago.

No doubt Barack Obama and his foreign policy advisors believed that the conflict would end quickly. As it turns out, that belief was both naïve and incorrect. There’s also little doubt that in his rush to stop a “humanitarian disaster,” the President and his advisors hoped to use the full force of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague as a lever to remove Mohamar Gadhafi from power and bring him to justice. Sadly, they didn’t realize that the ICC is part of the problem.

Stratfor provides its usual insightful analysis:
Regardless of what a country’s leader has done, he or she holds political power, and the transfer of that power is inherently a political process. What the ICC has done since 2002 — and the ICTY [International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ]to an extent before that — is to make the political process moot by making amnesty impossible. It is not clear if any authority exists to offer and honor an amnesty. However, the ICC is a product of the United Nations, and the authority of the United Nations lies in the UNSC [UN Security Council]. Though there is no clear precedent, there is an implicit assumption that the UNSC would be the entity to offer a negotiated amnesty with a unanimous vote. In other words, the political process is transferred from Libya to the UNSC, where any number of countries might choose to abort the process for their own political ends. So the domestic political process is trumped by The Hague’s legal process, which can only be trumped by the UNSC’s political process. A potentially simple end to a civil war escalates to global politics.

And this is not simply a matter of a leader’s unwillingness to capitulate or negotiate. It aborts the process that undermines men like Gadhafi. Without a doubt, most of the men who have surrounded him for years are guilty of serious war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is difficult to imagine anyone around Gadhafi whose hands are clean, or who would have been selected by Gadhafi if their hands weren’t capable of being soiled. Each of them is liable for prosecution by the ICC, particularly the senior leadership of the military; the ICC has bound their fate to that of Gadhafi, actually increasing their loyalty to him. Just as Gadhafi has nothing to lose by continued resistance, neither do they. The ICC has forged the foundation of Gadhafi’s survival and bitter resistance.

And while Libya comes no closer to resolution, a true humanitarian crisis has exploded in Syria, where government troops are using military weapons to kill thousands and applying military force to imprison an order of magnitude more. We have chosen not to act militarily in Syria—the right move, in my opinion. But then why on earth are we spending a million dollars a day in Libya?

The Republicans have demanded that the President abide by the war powers act (something he refuses to do) for Libya, but they’ve said relatively little to question our current involvement there. Projecting a flawed neocon ideology into a place that simply doesn’t support it, they seem confused.

Even worse, most Republicans insist that we slog on in Afghanistan (most Democrats are uneasy with this approach, but refuse to question the President). This on-going war in an 8th century tribal society is unwinnable by any reasonable measure. Most Republicans (with a notable exception of candidates Ron Paul and John Huntsman) claim it is in our national interest to remain there,expending blood and money in a vain effort to blunt the spread of Islamist control. If only it was that simple.

If we leave Afghanistan tomorrow, bad things will happen. If we leave 10 years from now, bad things will happen. In a country with literacy rates at 23 percent, a culture that stands in the way of modernity, corruption as a way of life, and an economy that is driven almost totally by heroin sales, we face an intractable problem–we should leave Afghanistan in orderly manner, and leave sooner rather than later. We should extricate ourselves from Libya in an orderly manner, and do it sooner rather than later.