Has Bombing Been “Vindicated”?
And what of the cheering crowds in Tripoli as they celebrate the fall of the tyrant?
Well obviously it is good riddance to the Colonel- which is self evidently good news for the people of Libya. They now have the chance to start rebuilding the physical wreckage of their country. I hope none of them underestimates the scale of the damage; or the self interested nature of much of the aid they will be offered.
They will undoubtedly also be offered one of the off the shelf constitutions I was shown when I visited The State Department ( I recommend the cheese cake in the dining room). I do not doubt also that they will be provided with advice about how to start creating the intricate moral and institutional infrastructure on which a free society depends. But here, if not elsewhere they must ask themselves whether those offering the advice can do so without hypocrisy.
In short for the Libyans the fall of Gadaffi is merely getting the engine to turn over on the start of a long drive. They may make it; they may not; but at least there are maps which describe the journey they have now at last been able to start. And of course we must all wish them will as their car pulls out of the drive- “Safe home” as we say in Ireland- “drive safely.”
But we too must take our own advice. We too must drive safely without taking unnecessary risks. They may not realise it but those responsible for bombing the former Libyan regime to destruction have embarked on a journey far more perilous than that of the Libyans.
The blogger Cranmer– who is usually to be ranked among the Archangels of the Internet- believes that the events in Libya have justified the principles of liberal interventionism in general and the judgement of David Cameron and William Hague in particular. But surely it is precisely in this supposed “vindication” – to use the word employed by His Grace- that the danger lies.
Like the Marxist of old the neo conservatives of today are on a mission to reconstruct the world. Just as in the twenties and thirties the Marxist believed that every difficulty experienced by capitalism, and every victory of fascism was a sign that their Utopia was about to dawn, so today our friends at The National Review and The American Enterprise Institute believe that every successful intervention- however special the circumstances- justifies further activity of the same kind.
And it is true that some intervention in Libya was justified if only to prevent the colonel from murdering his own citizens in eastern Libya. But Libya is not a proxy for everywhere. They operations concerned were cheap- and could therefore be sustained- something which is not true of more ambitious projects. Moreover in Libya the operations could be conducted largely from the air and by special forces which meant that British casualties were certain to be low.
Nevertheless President Obama and Chancellor Merkel were right to be hesitant. The one certainty is that force engenders unpredictable consequence, and while the operations in Libya have been apparently successful we have not yet paid the price for them. Conservatives should not forget the paradox that the less literate the society the longer the memory.
There is then the grave danger- that His Grace does not seem to understand- that the bravery, the devotion, the sacrifices, and patriotism of those who freed Libya will be used by the neo conservative theoreticians ( for who interventionism is very far from being a last resort) to justify other more expansive schemes in the near east and elsewhere.
So Yes- I’ll drink to the new Libya- but unlike His Grace- I am more than a little nervous of how it was brought about. Mr Cameron and Mr. Hague may on balance have done the right thing- time will certainly tell us- but they should not imagine that they have discovered a new- or should that be “neo”- foreign policy. Conservatives- and certainly Burkeans- should be doubtful about schemes – as Cranmer puts it- to “usher in an era of justice, righteousness and peace.” I don’t know what version of the bible His Grace is using, but in mine it compares the coming of the Kingdom to the growth of a mustard seed. I had previously missed the bit about tactical air strikes!