Stephen Chapman interviews experts who don’t buy a central contention in Obama’s case for the Libya war: a looming “bloodbath” in Benghazi.
Alan Kuperman, an associate professor at the University of Texas’ Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, is among those unconvinced by Obama’s case. “Gadhafi,” he told me, “did not massacre civilians in any of the other big cities he captured — Zawiyah, Misratah, Ajdabiya — which together have a population equal to Benghazi. Yes, civilians were killed in a typical, ham-handed Third World counter-insurgency. But civilians were not targeted for massacre as in Rwanda, Darfur, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bosnia or even Kosovo after NATO intervention.”
The rebels, however, knew that inflating their peril was their best hope for getting outside help. So, Kuperman says, they concocted the specter of genocide — and Obama believed it, or at least used it to justify intervention.
Another skeptic is Paul Miller, an assistant professor at National Defense University who served on the National Security Council under Bush and Obama. “The Rwandan genocide was targeted against an entire, clearly defined ethnic group,” he wrote on the Foreign Policy website. “The Libyan civil war is between a tyrant and his cronies on one side, and a collection of tribes, movements, and ideologists (including Islamists) on the other. … The first is murder, the second is war.”
Now, these experts could be wrong. Libya is run by a dictator whose character is certainly consistent with mass murdering dictators of the past. But the Obama administration has supplied far less evidence for its case for war than the Bush administration made for its reasons for going into Iraq (and we remember how well founded some of those reasons turned out to be). Maybe that has something to do with the fact that Bush deigned to get congressional approval for his wars.