On Libya, Will vs. Wolfowitz

by Robert Costa

On ABC’s This Week, columnist George F. Will and Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy Secretary of Defense, sparred on whether U.S. forces should intervene in Libya.

“It is not worth war,” Will argued. “We have intervened in a tribal society in a civil war. And we have taken sides in that civil war on behalf of people we do not know or understand, for the purpose — not avowed, but inexorably our purpose — of creating a political vacuum by decapitating the government. Into that vacuum, what will flow we do not know and cannot know.”

Wolfowitz disagreed. “What we have prevented, for one thing, is a bloodbath in Benghazi, which would have stained our reputation throughout the Arab world at a time when our reputation really matters,” he said. “I understand George’s hesitations. But it would seem to me, if you followed those hesitations, you would say, ‘It is better to keep this devil that we know than the unknown.’ And I don’t see how any unknown could be worse than the devil who is in Tripoli right now.”

“We have paid the price of intervention, sometimes we have paid the price of nonintervention, in Bosnia, for example,” Wolfowitz continued. “One of the things that makes this situation so unique is the monstrous quality of the Tripoli regime, the monstrous quality of Qaddafi and his sons. I know people say, ‘What about Bahrain? What about Yemen?’ This is a totally different case, where a man is actually slaughtering his own people, has no regard for his own people, and uses mercenaries to kill them. It is a unique case and it is being watched around the Arab world.”

“There is no limiting principle in what we have done,” Will replied, commenting on the global implications of U.S. policy. “If we are to protect people who are under assault, then where people are under assault in Bahrain, we are not only logically committed to help them, we are inciting them to rise in expectation. The mission creep began, Paul, before the mission began because we had a means not suited to the end. The means is a no-fly zone. That will not effect the end, which is obviously regime change.”

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