The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 23, 2011

Libya lunacy prevails on Capitol Hill

Zachary Hubbard

— Earlier this month, two senior U.S. senators, both former presidential candidates, demonstrated they are certifiably insane.

John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) both endorsed U.S. military action to establish and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to protect the forces currently opposing Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. In recent weeks, these opposition forces have come under intense attacks by Gadhafi’s air forces.

One might have expected such highly decorated Vietnam veterans to display better judgment when considering the possibility of sending more Americans into combat.

Kerry served in the Navy in Vietnam. McCain, a former Navy pilot, was shot down over North Vietnam and held as a prisoner of war for 5½ years.

Now President Obama has joined the insanity and agreed to support a U.N.-led no-fly zone in Libya. As I pen this column, the media are reporting that enforcement of the no-fly zone has already begun.

I predict this will go down as a dark day in America’s history.

Going to war with Libya is insane – and going to war is exactly what implementing a no-fly zone requires. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained the implications in a statement on March 2.

According to Gates, the first step will be to attack and destroy the Libyan air defenses, consisting of radar and communications sites, fixed missile sites, mobile missile launchers and mobile air defense gun batteries. With these destroyed, U.S. and allied aircraft will fly combat missions over Libya to shoot down any unauthorized aircraft flying in Libyan airspace.

I would like to ask Obama the following questions:

1. What is your plan to mitigate the impact of the United States attacking an Arab country? As a nation, the United States already has a horrible reputation with many Arabs and Muslims around the globe. Even though you are stressing that the current operations against Libya are not American-led, how will you explain this to the Arab world, Mr. President?

Since the first Gulf War, al-Qaida propaganda has painted America as an invader of Saudi Arabia, site of Islam’s holy cities of Mecca and Medina. America’s ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been characterized by our enemies as a war against Islam.

Complicating the matter, Gadhafi is widely accepted as legitimate by many Arabs and Muslims.

Libya is a member of OPEC and, until being suspended on March 1, was a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

How will OPEC respond to the United States and its allies attacking one of its members?

How will Arabs respond to more Arabs being killed by western forces? Remember that blood is thicker than water in that part of the world.

2. How will the United States pay for enforcing a no-fly zone? Read the newspaper, Mr. President. America is broke! We can’t afford to pay for ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The military services are currently being compelled to trim their budgets with chain saws. The discussion has devolved to the point that there is talk of stripping military retirees of some or all of their health-care benefits.

That should make good talking points for military recruiters as they try to convince more young people to sign up for what could eventually evolve into a ground war against Libya.

3. How will you justify committing U.S. forces to yet another overseas war? Bear in mind that we have been at war for nearly 10 years since attacking Afghanistan in 2001.

The last no-fly zone the United States enforced was in Iraq, from 1991 to 2003. Will America have to keep aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean in perpetuity to support a no-fly zone? Or will we have to base aircraft in allied countries in the Mediterranean region?

Don’t forget that countries offering basing rights will become instant terrorist targets.

4. Just who are we supporting by enforcing a no-fly zone? We’ve heard a lot about national intelligence failures ever since a bunch of whacked-out Saudi Arabians flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently made it painfully clear that intelligence failures are still a problem. He mischaracterized the Muslim Brotherhood as “a secular group that has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaida as a perversion of Islam.”

Clapper went on to incorrectly state the Muslim Brotherhood has no overarching international agenda.

Let the national intelligence community explain precisely who America is supporting by enforcing this no-fly zone. We know who Gadhafi is, but who are the forces opposing him?

Are they freedom fighters or a horde of Islamic extremists wishing to impose Sharia law in Libya?

The fact is, we don’t have a clue, just as we are still unsure who was behind the recent civil uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

5. Why is Libya an American concern? The immediate response from some politicians is that America is morally obliged to support human rights in Libya. If that is the case, then tell me why the United States has not gone to war with Sudan over the abuse of Christian Sudanese in the south part of the country. Why have we not gone to war with China over its human rights abuses in Tibet? On the other hand, if the answer is that Libya has vital oil supplies that must be protected, tell us exactly who these oil supplies are vital to.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy,

72 percent of Libya’s oil exports in 2010 went to Europe. A mere 3 percent went to the United States, while China got 15 percent.

Libya is a European problem, plain and simple. Europe consumes the lion’s share of Libyan oil. Europeans, not Americans, are Libya’s next-door neighbors. Besides the oil, a potentially bigger problem for Europe is the threat of another wave of Muslim refugees who will not assimilate into the cultures of the countries that take them in.

While this issue is barely mentioned in the U.S. media, it is a topic of considerable discussion in Europe. Assimilation is not the only European concern. Opening the door to a large number of Muslim refugees also enables Islamic radicals to infiltrate European countries under the protection of refugee status.

Many Europeans already have a belly full of radical Islam.

Given that Libya is a former Italian colony, many of the refugees can be expected to initially end up there. The Italians, in turn, will pass as many as possible to other European Union countries.

The last wave of mass Muslim refugee movement into Western Europe occurred during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, when thousands of Bosnian Muslims poured into the region. Germany alone took in about 350,000.

The United States assumed the lead in Bosnia because Europeans failed to. We should not get sucked into the same mistake in Libya if and when U.N. resolve begins to fade. Europe is still reeling from the Bosnia experience.

Unlike the Bosnians, the Libyan refugees are non-Europeans and will present even greater assimilation challenges to the countries taking them in.

America should have remained hands-off in Libya.

Now it’s too late. If our political leaders wanted to go shopping for a new war, they should have looked no farther than America’s southern border. The developing civil war in Mexico is spilling over our border daily and, unlike in Libya, the deteriorating situation in Mexico presents a legitimate threat to U.S. national security.

Zachary Hubbard is a freelance writer residing in Upper Yoder Township. He is a member of The Tribune-Democrat Reader Advisory Committee.