To respectfully disagree with Karl Rove and most of the Republican presidential hopefuls, I believe the President’s coalition is the right solution to Moammar Gadhafi and Libya’s civil war.
President Obama probably should have asked for a declaration of war against Gadhafi’s Libya.
But there is a precedent for U.S. police action. Both the Korean War and the Vietnam War were never technically wars for the United States. They were police actions.
The problem, of course, is that our involvement in Libya is undefined and subject to only the President’s whims at this moment.
A declaration of war carries its own baggage. It binds us to one side, as opposed to a mission of civilian protection.
I also believe the coalition that has been formed is a better beast to tackle the no-fly zone with than a single nation’s army.
Pundits like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin expressed distaste, saying Americans should never be “turned over” to the Arab League, Britain or France.
Good news for them: surrendering complete autonomy of American troops to a foreign power is illegal.
According to several retired military personnel, the coalition chain of command is made up of squads from the various member nations that all report to a variety of officers.
This command group always includes an officer from each of the member nations.
In other words, for every American fighter squadron, there is an American officer that is aware of, and takes part in, creating their orders.
Nevertheless, we’ve stirred up the fear that American soldiers are under foreign orders for the first time ever.
This is false.
The first example was the Boxer Rebellion, when American soldiers fought with a coalition of British and Japanese soldiers at the turn of the last century.
Since then, there have been no less than 16 major engagements where American soldiers have been under the command of foreign officers. Never before have we “lost control” of those troops.
Never before have Americans not had a direct chain of command leading all the way back to the president—and that isn’t changing now.
Most importantly, coalitions and multi-nation actions are generally more successful and popular than unilateral action.
In the first Desert Storm, former President George H.W. Bush put together a network of powers, both local and international and moved decisively.
When former President Clinton attempted to police the Balkan crisis, he acted slowly and alone. The result was not successful.
By including the Arab League in this action, we are trying to show the world that we care about local interests and will respect the choices of the Libyan people and their neighbors.
America cannot play the watchman of the world. If nothing else, we need to admit that as a nation we have bias, we make mistakes and that’s the way of the world.
But we can minimize our false perceptions and their effect on our actions by working with other nations—especially those with which we are uncomfortable. Allies keep us as honest as we can be.