Here’s another indication that there may eventually be US troops on the ground in Libya.
During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island asked Adm. James Stavridis about NATO putting forces into “post-Gadhafi” Libya to make sure the country doesn’t fall apart. Stavridis said he “wouldn’t say NATO’s considering it yet.” But because of NATO’s history of putting peacekeepers in the Balkans — as pictured above — “the possibility of a stabilization regime exists.”
So welcome to a new possible “endgame” for Libya. Western troops patrolling Libya’s cities during a a shaky transition after Moammar Gadhafi’s regime has fallen, however that’s supposed to happen. Thousands of NATO troops patrolled Bosnia and Kosovo’s tense streets for years. And Iraq and Afghanistan taught the U.S. and NATO very dearly that fierce insurgent conflict can follow the end of a brutal regime. In fact, it’s the moments after the regime falls that can be the most dangerous of all — especially if well-intentioned foreign troops become an object of local resentment.
In fact, Stavridis told Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma that he saw “flickers of intelligence” indicating “al-Qaeda [and] Hezbollah” have fighters amongst the Libyan rebels. The Supreme Allied Commander of NATO noted that the leadership of the rebels are “responsible men and women struggling against Col. Gadhafi” and couldn’t say if the terrorist element in the opposition is “significant.” But the U.S. knows precious little about who the Libyan rebels are.
The new prospect of NATO force on the ground in Libya seemed to alarm Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who got Stavridis to say that there’s “no discussion of the insertion of ground troops” in NATO circles. (And “to my knowledge” there aren’t troops there now, he said.) But Stavridis told Reed that the memory of the long NATO peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans is “in everyone’s mind.”
And the US isn’t even running the show – NATO is.
What could go wrong?
According to Bismarck’s best-known maxim on Europe’s most troublesome region, the Balkans are not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. Americans could be forgiven for harboring similar sentiments after the murder of two U.S. airmen in Germany by a Kosovar Muslim.
Remember Kosovo? Me neither. But it was big at the time, launched by Bill Clinton in the wake of his Monica difficulties: Make war, not love, as the boomers advise. So Clinton did — and without any pesky U.N. resolutions, or even the pretense of seeking them.
Instead, he and Tony Blair and even Jacques Chirac just cried “Bombs away!” and got on with it. And the left didn’t mind at all — because, for a modern western nation, war is only legitimate if you have no conceivable national interest in whatever war you’re waging.
Unlike Iraq and all its supposed “blood for oil,” in Kosovo no one remembers why we went in, what the hell the point of it was, or which side were the good guys. (Answer: Neither.) The principal rationale advanced by Clinton and Blair was that there was no rationale. This was what they called “liberal interventionism”, which boils down to: The fact that we have no reason to get into it justifies our getting into it.
A decade on, Kosovo is a sorta sovereign state, and in Frankfurt a young airport employee is so grateful for what America did for his people that he guns down U.S. servicemen while yelling “Allahu akbar!”
The nations that built the modern world decided to outsource their future. In simple economic terms, the arithmetic is stark: In America, the boomers have condemned their shrunken progeny to the certainty of poorer, meaner lives.
In sociocultural terms, the transformation will be even greater. Bismarck, so shrewd and cynical about the backward Balkans, was also the father of the modern welfare state: When he introduced the old age pension, you had to be 65 to collect and Prussian life expectancy was 45.