Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Air Strikes in Libya

Allowing that there are a huge number of factors related to peace in and the well-being of people in the Middle East of which I am ignorant, I am tentatively in favor of the decision to attack the forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

I hold that the principles and concerns that govern international relations are quite a bit like the concerns that one should have of what happens in the houses of your neighbors.

For the most part, whatever your opinions are on the best way to organize a household, you need to leave your neighbors free to pursue options you disagree with. You may debate with them, argue against them, and even rant against them with other neighbors, but you must stop short of violently interfering with the way they live their lives.

However, there are limits. There is a point at which it is time to say, "Enough. That option is not available."

The patriarch who kills and maims others who share his house has gone past those limits. At that point, it is permissible to send in the police, if necessary, and put a stop to it.

So, each nation has a right to sovereignty that restricts the use of violence against them. There is to be a strong presumption that they are to be left alone. However, when a government begins to slaughter its own citizens, the option – in fact, the moral obligation - exists for others to step in and put a stop to it. Anybody who asserts that violence may never be used and that households must enjoy complete autonomy, is like the neighbor who says that a father’s rape, beating, or murder of a child would not justify sending in the police.

Like I said, there are other factors that would also be relevant in this decision. Will a new government in Libya be a fundamentalist Muslim state harboring terrorist training camps, executing homosexuals, and stoning women who dare not to live according to the dictates of Sharia law? Will one dictator be replaced by another dictator even more violent? These are legitimate concerns, and the answer might well dictate a change in the overall policy.

However, there is at least a prima-facie moral permission, even a moral obligation, to interfere with a government’s slaughter of its own people.


Gingerbaker said...

Why us? Isn't this a job for the U.N.?

It seems to me that validating Bush's deplorable doctrine of unilateral preemptive attacks on sovereign nations is the *last* thing a responsible Democrat should have done.

Doug S. said...

"The U.N." doesn't actually have an air force of its own.

Also, it's being done under the authority of a U.N. Security Council resolution, and there are also at least two European countries (France and the U.K.) are involved in the airstrikes.