In addition to not plunging needlessly into another country’s civil war, the Obama administration’s restraint on Libya so far has had another positive effect: it has revealed just how unhinged and fanatical many of the advocates of intervention are. Do these people really believe that every event in the world is the responsibility of the President of the United States, or is it just hyperbole to get the war they want? It seems that some of them really believe it. Laurent Gbagbo hasn’t given up his hold on power in Ivory Coast. Is the violence by Gbagbo supporters in Abidjan Obama’s responsibility, too
Such people are are thrilled by Sarkozy’s recognition of the Benghazi transitional government, because this is the sort of diplomatic mistake that obliges Western governments to become more involved, but it is telling that many other European governments see Sarkozy acting recklessly and foolishly. Fresh off the embarrassment that was the exceedingly cozy relationship with Ben Ali and his cronies, and on the heels of dumping the foreign minister responsible for a sizeable part of that embarrassment, Sarkozy is trying to re-invent himself as the zealous supporter of Libyan rebels. Naturally, interventionists here in the U.S. don’t see this as a desperate attempt by Sarkozy to change the subject, but instead treat it as serious moral leadership, which tells us a lot of what we need to know about what they think morality and leadership mean.
The only thing that bothers them about what Sarkozy is doing is that the French beat America to the punch in engaging in dangerous grandstanding. Of course, Sarkozy can afford making these statements, because no one, not even his American cheerleaders, expect him to follow through on it. France meddles in its former colonies’ affairs quite often, but meddling in Libya would be something different.Western military intervention in Libya’s civil war doesn’t make much sense, no matter which government is calling for it or leading it, but if any Western governments should be taking the lead in responding to a civil war in North Africa it should be European governments. Some European governments have something at stake in the Libyan civil war, and the U.S. has nothing at stake, so if there had to be outside intervention it would make a lot more sense if Europeans and other states from around the Mediterranean and North Africa were bearing most of the burden.
Greater allied burden-sharing is something that ought to be appealing to Americans regardless of what one believes the U.S. role in the world should be. It can relieve the U.S. of outdated or unnecessary commitments, but it also helps keep the U.S. military from being spread too thin. Letting regional powers and organizations take the lead in these situations isn’t just a good way to keep the U.S. from getting bogged down in conflicts in which America has no interest, but it is also a good way to begin the process of offloading some of the responsibility for regional security that the U.S. has had for much longer than necessary.