Ross Douthat makes sense when he turns his attention from policing vaginas to the question of intervention in Libya. Of course, Daniel Larison has been hitting this hard for the last week or so. Here’s one example:
It is “essential” to American credibility and the stability of the region that Gaddafi be overthrown? The last time that interventionists were warning about the de-stabilizing regional effects of a dictator, we ended up with the Iraq debacle in which millions of people were displaced or driven into exile, and hundreds of thousands were killed. Widening and escalating Libya’s civil war into an international one are more likely to contribute to regional destabilization than anything currently happening in Libya. When did Gaddafi’s downfall become “essential” to American credibility? When Obama said that he “must go”? It wasn’t a good idea to say that publicly if there was no intention of following through on it, but this is a bit like saying George Bush was required to attack Iran because he included them in the “axis of evil” or else undermine American “credibility.” Careless rhetoric is unfortunate, but that doesn’t mean that U.S. policymakers have to treat it as if it were an ultimatum.
There really is no way to have a “no-fly” zone without airstrikes, which come with the risk of US casualties or prisoners of war, as well as collateral damage injuring innocent civilians. And if we miss a Libyan jet or helicopter that participates in civilian slaughter, the pressure for further intervention will increase. There are lots of places were application of American force could help overthrow dictators. In the Ivory Coast, for example, the same kind of slaughter of civilians is being perpetrated by a callous dictator. The only difference is that he hasn’t publicly thumbed his nose at the US for decades, so Bill Kristol and the other neocons’ don’t feel butthurt enough to demand his ouster by force.