Clark Opposes Libyan No-Fly Zone
In a sort of rebuttal to Sen. John Kerry’s affirmative case yesterday Gen. Wesley Clark has an op-ed in the Washington Post opposing military intervention in Libya:
To me, it seems we have no clear basis for action. Whatever resources we dedicate for a no-fly zone would probably be too little, too late. We would once again be committing our military to force regime change in a Muslim land, even though we can’t quite bring ourselves to say it. So let’s recognize that the basic requirements for successful intervention simply don’t exist, at least not yet: We don’t have a clearly stated objective, legal authority, committed international support or adequate on-the-scene military capabilities, and Libya’s politics hardly foreshadow a clear outcome.
We should have learned these lessons from our long history of intervention. We don’t need Libya to offer us a refresher course in past mistakes.
In the op-ed he considers U. S. military interventions since Vietnam and applies the same standards to them: is there a clearly stated objective, legal authority, committed international support or adequate on-the-scene military capabilities, and the local political situation. In some cases the interventions meet the standards; others fail. Libya fails.
He does not argue for complete passivity:
In Libya, if the objective is humanitarian, then we would work with both sides and not get engaged in the matter of who wins. Just deliver relief supplies, treat the injured and let the Libyans settle it. But if we want to get rid of Gaddafi, a no-fly zone is unlikely to be sufficient – it is a slick way to slide down the slope to deeper intervention.
Gen. Clark’s views approximate my own. I’d add another standard to his criteria: political support for the intervention at home and the willingness and ability to sustain it for the duration of the intervention.
I also think he’s premature in pronouncing U. S. intervention in the former Yugoslavia successful. The situation there remains politically unstable and is likely to do so until EU and NATO forces are withdrawn (if ever).
However, I agree with him that the situation in Libya does not meet the national interest and prudential standards necessary to wage war.