11 June 2011

The Crude Narrative on US Military Intervention in Libya

When President Obama announced that we were going to intervene in Libya, the standard narrative was that this was a victory for what The Guardian called "foreign policy moralists" [1] [2] in the administration. The irony of liberals seeking military intervention! But today Glenn Greenwald has this nice post suggesting that the decision to bomb the Qaddafi regime was prompted by a rather large dollop of standard-issue realism. The Libyans were messing with access to oil.

In the explanation he offered for why he OK'd the bombing, Mr. Obama indeed acknowledged multiple factors at work [3]. So now we need to sort the relative weight of the various considerations that led to the decision to intervene. Perhaps American liberals should see that they get their way only by hitching their cart to the mule-team of narrow national interest. Likewise, the folks at The Guardian need no longer be quite so perplexed about the "troubling selectivity" of intervening in Libya but not in the myriad of other places where authoritarian leaders are rampaging to protect their prerogatives. The President's decision to protect the insurgents and civilians in Eastern Libya seems to have been lubricated with crude.

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