The United States is about to vote on a UN Security Council Resolution calling for measures — including armed intervention — to protect the Libyan people from Moammer Gaddafi’s tanks, planes and guns. In other words, the US and allies are on the edge of yet another war in the Middle East.
There are different scenarios possible. Perhaps Gaddafi’s forces are a house of cards and that a few bombing runs, hopefully outfitted mostly with planes flown by Arab pilots from Arab nations will stop the progress of Gaddafi’s tanks. Perhaps collapse will come easily. Perhaps someone in his own guard or among his trusted command staff will decide to take Gaddafi out.
The rule of this kind of military engagement, however, is that one can’t plan on rosy scenarios. In fact, it’s vital to put forward the many different worst case scenarios. And on that front, the US could be in another pot of quicksand in which it struck out emotionally and with a lot of power — but sees that strength tapped and sapped.
America’s stock of power is low now — and depending on how the vote goes at the United Nations in the next hour — America’s commitments abroad may become even more extensive while we are slashing school teachers, cops, fire responders, and other programs throughout the budget-battle weary states of the nation. Pilots could be shot down and held by Gaddafi.
If things don’t go well, the US will become embedded in a civil war with the frame of CNN’s and Al Jazeera’s and MSNBC’s cameras focused on Western air power and whether they will deploy boots on the ground. The inspiring protesters of the region — who seem to have won in Egypt and Tunisia — will be of secondary significance.
If we bomb, this becomes our war more than their war. And it will be very hard to leave. And yes, it may end up costing another trillion dollars over time that the US doesn’t have.
— Steve Clemons