Shades of Vietnam and even Somalia in Libyan crisis…

April 21, 2011

Pretending a war is not a war and suggesting that regime change was not the goal, when of course it was, has only served to move the Libya action into a stalemate (if you can’t even admit to yourself what you are trying to do, how can you be successful?).

And shades of Vietnam, but this time the British and the Italians and the French, not the United States, yet, are going to send military advisors in to help the rebel forces. I think the last I read is that the Obama administration is still maintaining no U.S. ground troops will be sent in. Would that be like Lyndon B. Johnson’s famous quote that he would not “send American boys in to do what Vietnamese boys should do for themselves”? And then he of course committed a half million troops, almost 60,000 dead, thousands gravely wounded for life, and you know the rest.

It does not seem, fortunately, this time around that there is much chance of that, at least not for the United States. I can’t imagine the electorate countenancing another all-out war, with at least one and half going on now. I would think everyone is concerned about events in Libya causing gasoline prices to spike moving into the $4-per gallon-plus and toward 5 and higher (due not to supply but the usual speculation in the market during crises — always a good opportunity for providers of oil-based fuels to jack up the profits), and if the face of that keeping themselves afloat in a stagnant economy (for the bulk of us). If we were being attacked sacrifice for survival would instantly be the order of the day.

But that begs the question as to why we are involved at all (little to gain, everything to lose).

There is some hope that the continued pressure on the Gaddafi regime by the NATO air assaults (under a UN resolution) and from the rebels on the ground might force those around Gaddafi to force him out to save their own skins — but it is not happening a month into this thing, and it is still unclear whether Gaddafi can’t actually hang on anyway.

Following the Vietnam syndrome, one of these advisers will get shot at — gee how strange in a war zone — and then there will be the call to send in the troops for real. Actually as I recall, what happened in Vietnam is that the U.S. had advisors on the ground for years and was not getting anywhere. And then we began air assaults and introduced a limited number of Marines to guard airbases, and wouldn’t you know? in a war zone they got fired at. So we sent in the whole shebang and got nowhere after a decade (that is the danger in third parties getting involved in essentially civil wars).

If the NATO coalition forces go the troops-on-the-ground route, it would seem that Obama would be pressured to send in his own commitment.

Trouble is, I don’t recall the United States ever taking a second banana-role in a military adventure. We’re just too big for that.

We should get out and stay out of Libya and not get sucked into what one pundit labeled the Vietmalia Syndrome, combining the Vietnam and Somalia fiascos (Somalia of course minor compared to Vietnam) in which there seems no great public support or interest and where there seems no way out (especially judging from recent history).

In my previous blogs I have suggested that Obama is wrong both on committing us at all to Libya and since he did, then not going all out. Maybe he is doing something right in that he is letting some of the Western European powers, most notably Britain and France, carry more of the burden, since they seem to have such a keen interest in Libya.

Maybe Gaddafi can be squeezed out, but right now it is looking like military ground action is the more likely route.

It was while fighting on this very ground, North Africa, to include Libya, where the Allies in World War II made the decision that total defeat and total surrender of Germany, which they were battling in the deserts of North Africa, would be pursued.

Strangely it seems as if liberals support the Libya action more than conservatives, even though liberals are usually tagged as military wimps. But that was kind of the case before we got into World War II. The liberals saw it as a fight between human rights and democracy and fascism and Nazism (right-wing autocratic ideologies).

American conservatives of course support democracy and the right of the individual but sometimes have a strange fascination for strong, very strong, leaders who can keep the rabble, who they fear might get some of their money and property, in line.

In the current Libya case, though, Republican conservatives don’t quite know how to play it. They don’t like Gaddafi any more than anyone else, but they don’t see any political gain from a war in Libya just now, and they would not want to be supporting a Democratic president in anything if they don’t have to (especially with the 2012 presidential election looming large). They criticized Obama for not moving fast enough on Libya and then said he overreached his power by committing American naval and air forces.

Right now, too, it’s back to the Bill Clinton idea of “it’s the economy stupid” that is on everyone’s mind. Libya seems to have fallen off the news cycle for the most part.