More providently, President Obama commendably joined the NATO effort and armed it properly, supplying hundreds of missiles and rockets to the British and French and leading the alliance. The war was conducted in the dubious tradition established by NATO in the war against Serbia over Kosovo — no boots on the ground, and aircraft rarely within shooting distance of opposition anti-aircraft missiles — but the pinpoint accuracy of American air ordnance allowed accurate fire against Libyan targets, which are confined to relatively few sites on a ribbon along the Mediterranean shore. It was yet another war worth killing for, but not worth dying for. This is an understandable concept for a conflict intervened in originally chiefly to shake up the polls in favor of the French governing party eight months before an election. (The American campaign is well under way for an election over 14 months off.) It is nice work if you can do it, but the implicit moral ambiguity in such a morbid fear of a two-sided war could be disquieting.
What is more disturbing are official and Republican noises in Washington and such frequent amen corners of sophistical pusillanimity as the Council on Foreign Relations, where there has been an unbecoming ambivalence about a successful outcome of the Libyan intervention. After its reluctant start, and invaluable participation, it is shocking that most senior people in both parties are so ambivalent about whether they really wanted our side to win. Qaddafi was responsible for the Lockerbie Pan Am airliner bombing that killed 273 innocent people in 1986, and many other atrocities. He is wicked and deranged and it is shaming that there is any lack of rejoicing in and around the United States government about his political demise.
There had been some fatuous intercessions from the State Department in the middle of this war about granting Qaddafi asylum within Libya after his retirement. This in the part of the world where the favored method of evicting a deposed leader is to drag his corpse along the streets of the capital for a while before stringing it up for public desecration (Nuri as-Said in Iraq and Najibullah in Afghanistan), or at least to wheel the retired chief of state on a stretcher into a trumped-up trial, as happened to America’s reliable ally Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, at the age of 82, a few weeks ago. The administration was a good deal more enthused about disposing of Mubarak than Qaddafi. At least the French and British, militarily impoverished though they have become, recognized the moral preferability of the Libyan rebels.
There appears to be a schizophrenic division in the U.S. foreign-policy establishment, between those still wanly celebrating the fraud of the Arab Spring, like people on the line between being intoxicated and being hung-over, and those so afraid of getting into another Near East war even before Iraq has been vacated that they fail to recognize the U.S. national interest. Almost anything is preferable to Qaddafi and the Assads (Syria), especially if the U.S. helps to install their successors. The country harasses its allies, imperfect though they may be, and mollycoddles its enemies. The fall of Qaddafi should embolden Washington to assist the removal of Assad, which would be a severe setback to Iran. Someone prominent in the country’s foreign-policy leadership should remember FDR’s concept, in reference to Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, of “our son-of-a-bitch.”
For good measure, in addition to coming to the rescue of Bernard-Henri Lévy’s mission to Benghazi, the U.S. has done France another favor. The almost criminal irresponsibility of U.S. prosecutors in New York may bring French affairs full circle and make Dominique Strauss-Kahn a prime candidate for the 2012 French presidential election. He is infinitely preferable to President Sarkozy’s other current rivals, and anyone who exposes the habitual abuses of the American prosecutocracy performs a great and brave service to this country, and should be honored in his own.
NOTE: Thanks to readers Edward Finglas and my eminent friend Leonard Lauder for pointing out to me that “The public be damned!” was a reflection, not of J. P. Morgan, as I wrote last week, but of William Henry Vanderbilt. I apologize for the error.
— Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom and Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full. He can be reached at [email protected].