Saturday, March 26, 2011

Are we the chosen people?

By Don Klein

The headline in Saturday’s New York Times said, "Libyan Intervention Is Costing the U.S. Less Than Expected, Analysts Say." Yippee. I suppose we should all cheer. A fighter jet in action costs a mere $13,000 an hour and a Tomahawk missile is priced at a rock-bottom $1.4 million apiece.

What a bargain! At these rates we should consider engaging in two or three more wars. Of course we could be spending nothing if we kept our noses out of the Gaddafi upheaval. But no, we are super Americans and problems around the world become ours eventually.

The cost is minuscule in military terms. Imposing a no-fly zone should amount to anywhere between $400 and $800 million. In the first days of attacks on Libyan forces the US fired 178 Tomahawks, costing the American taxpayer some $250 million.

I remember Sen. Everett Dirksen’s remark many years ago. "A billion here, a billion there, and soon we are talking about real money." There are those who believe that such expenditures during a period of economic strife is absurd.

We are cutting down on teachers pay, taking cops and firefighters off the line, slimming medical costs and unemployment funds and our infrastructure is falling apart, all because we have no funds and suddenly out of nowhere we are concerned with the welfare of a bunch of strangers whose fate has no impact on our lives.

Shouldn’t we be spending money on the well-being of American citizens rather than worrying about the welfare of unapproachable, illiterate, undependable, disorganized outlanders who probably will turn against us at first opportunity.

The first question that must be answered affirmatively before going to war should be is there any national interest of the United States in the fate of Libya? The answer is an emphatic NO.

Think of this for a change. Suppose the US had withdrawn all it forces from Europe and Asia some time ago, would we be involved in all these so-called "humanitarian" issues? If we didn’t have bases in Europe would we bother with Libya? It is easy to contemplate intervention when you have aircraft carriers cruising nearby and air force bases a hop, skip and a jump away from the troubled areas.

US troops should not be based in Europe and Asia any longer. The big war ended 66 years ago, the Soviet threat is gone, foreign nations can handle their own defenses, why do we remain there at great cost to taxpayers? But that’s a subject for another time.

The American military should have one purpose only, One and just one. To defend Americans from attack at home. To stop an enemy from doing harm to us. Not to act as the world’s protector and conscience. We have no more business in Libya than we do in providing advanced dental care for the Eskimos in Antarctic.

For 42 years the Libyan people endured under Gaddafi and we stood aloof from their plight. Even when the dictator was behind the killing of Americans in Europe all we did was a single bombing sortie over Tripoli and that was all. Today Gaddafi has harmed no Americans, has made no threats against us, and we launch an all-out attack.

It is senseless, except to demonstrate to the rest of the world that we are the moral leader of nations. That’s a tired old argument. Quoting the frustrated poverty-stricken Tevya in "Fiddler on the Roof" when speaking to God asked, "You say we are the chosen people. Why not choose someone else for a change?"

Alas, He did choose others to help. The British, the French, the Arab League. Hah. In the past only the British has shown any real support for US in the Middle East. Remember the French introduced the UN no-fly over Iraq resolution, then reneged after it was passed and implemented.

The Arabs? Having Arab allies reminds me of my cousin Herb. He lived in Arizona and dropped by Baltimore years ago when my daughters were kids and promised them both stylish cowboy boots once he returned home in a couple of weeks. My daughters now have children of the age they were when the promise was made and still have not received the boots. Herb was as reliable then as the Arabs are today.

Qatar promised to send four (yes, you read it right, FOUR) jets to the combat area weeks ago. We are still awaiting their arrival. Whatever we get from the Arab League will be too little and too late. Suicide bombing is their forte, not a stand-up fight.

The biggest surprise here is that President Obama agreed to this brutal incursion in the first place. He ignored his own words opposing such interventions when still a member of the Senate and Bush took us into Iraq. Another promise broken.

Whoever said that women are the peacemakers and men the warriors got it all wrong. The reluctant Obama was persuaded to enter the fight by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security Advisor Samantha Rice despite calls for restraint by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael Mullen.

As Maureen Dowd writing in The Times said, "...everyone is fascinated
with the gender flip: the reluctant men — the generals, the secretary of defense, top male White House national security advisers — outmuscled by the fierce women around President Obama urging him to man up against the crazy Gaddafi."

This war – or whatever the president wants to call it – is wrong and should never have been mounted. If one American is killed (none so far reported) it will be blood on the hands of Obama the same way that more than 4,400 American deaths in Iraq remain eternally on George W. Bush’s bloody hands.